Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

Robert Fitch, who in 2006 wrote Solidarity for Sale: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America’s Promise, passed away recently and has been receiving a bit of positive press for his writing. While the dictum coined by Chilon of Sparta, one of the Seven Sages of Greece, still is wise advice: “De mortuis nil nisi bonum” (“Of the dead say nothing but good”); one may nonetheless let the dead speak for themselves… even if in speaking they might say ‘nothing good’.
Mr. Fitch has written of the vast corruption which is the union movement – not some unions, mind you, but “the unions”.
“The point of this book is not to show that American unions are corrupt. That’s obvious to anyone who reads the daily paper. The real argument is about how they’ve become corrupt, what difference it has made, and why America can’t let it stand. […] and why the movement that’s been organized in [working people’s] name has come to so little after so many years and such great sacrifices”.
Once establishing that ‘the unions’ are corrupt, he paints a view of the working class movement in the US that reads like a page out of Orwell’s 1984:

“Essentially, the American labor movement consists of 20,000 semi-autonomous local unions. Like feudal vassals, local leaders get their exclusive jurisdiction from a higher level organization and pass on a share of their dues. The ordinary members are like the serfs who pay compulsory dues and come with the territory. The union bosses control jobs—staff jobs or hiring hall jobs—the coin of the political realm. Those who get the jobs—the clients—give back their unconditional loyalty. The politics of loyalty produces, systematically, poles of corruption and apathy. The privileged minority who turn the union into their personal business. And the vast majority who ignore the union as none of their business.”

While apathy sometimes arises, the last sentence conjures up an image of workers as little more than sheep.  The author also strangely appears oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of industrial unions actually elect representatives, at the very least local officers, rather than their being appointed by “union bosses”. There apparently is also no awareness of the differences between craft and industrial unions, making the assumption that all unions control hiring through hiring halls as in the building trades.  This would come as a great surprise to the vast majority of union members in the U.S. who were hired not by union hiring halls, but by company management.
More naive views surface in Fitch’s quip about the now-famous Republic Windows & Doors company in Chicago. In 2008, during the Wall Street bank bailout, workers at Republic found out the plant was closing and would not pay them severance, health care and benefits due them, and that the company was violating Federal law. They occupied the plant, making national news.
Mr. Fitch’s book, “Solidarity for Sale”, while not receiving plaudits from the labor movement,  did however get accolades from various right wing web sites:
“Fitch proposes a quid pro quo as the best hope for reform:  Employers must give up resistance to worker representation; unions in turn must give up their twin National Labor Relations Act-sanctioned privileges of exclusive representation and (in non-Right to Work states) mandatory dues payments as a condition of continued employment. […]For someone who still maintains ties to organized labor, that’s an unexpectedly welcome assessment.” (Peter Flaherty is President of nlpc.org and served as Chairman of the lobbying group Citizens for Reagan)
And from an e-commerce website for AntiUnion paraphenalia and literature (www.squidoo.com/AntiUnion):
“Anti-Union Stuff on Amazon:
Solidarity for Sale, by: Robert Fitch”
More revealing are the reviews on Amazon.com, many of them from workers familiar with the examples Fitch poorly understood or misrepresented in his book:
“I was looking forward to a serious study of union corruption and its effects… His factual inaccuracies seem too sloppy to take the rest of the book seriously.”
Fitch is basically saying – some unions are corrupt AND some unions don’t do the things I think they should THUS the reasons unions don’t do what I think they should is because they are corrupt. His logic, if you can call it that, is that simple and skewed. Really, this book is such a disappointment.”
Dishonestly, Fitch promises to do much more than tell us stories about corrupt locals. He claims he can show that corruption is the defining force in the American labor movement, shaping labor history, constraining the behavior of national labor unions, and leading to the declining membership in the U.S. labor movement. But he never delivers.
One expects a coherent attempt to show that corruption is endemic to the entire labor movement and has resulted in its destruction. Instead, this book reads like a collection of short articles about some of the worst abuses in labor, without developing a coherent theory until the final chapter, which is short and without factual support.”
A final review of his book sums up his views on labor.  In the review, Fitch’s book is compared to a well-received book on union corruption: Mobsters, Unions and Feds, The Mafia and the American Labor Movement (New York University Press, 2006) by Jim Jacobs.  The review is by the Association for Union Democracy, a blog where Fitch said one would “find no sharper or more knowledgeable criticism of union autocracy”.  Their assessment was actually quite sharp:
“Fitch’s book is more likely to be ignored as irrelevant.”

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