Anyone who’s spent half a minute perusing my blog knows that I loathe those government-granted monopolies on labor known as unions. Public sector unions in particular are especially ruinous.
You would likely also know that I work in the film and television industry in Hollywood. There isn’t a better city in the world for job opportunities in my field. Problem is, the industry is rife with unions: the actors, writers, directors, producers, editors, costume designers, composers, matte artists, sound technicians, film technicians, camera operators, script supervisors, drivers, set painters, lighting technicians, wardrobe personnel, grips… even set nurses and administers of first aid all have unionized “representation.”
This is why I call it Leftywood. As is expected from so many union employees, the non-leftists are a tiny, tiny minority. Of the potentially hundreds of people I’ve worked with and gotten to know out here, I’ve met no libertarians and can almost count the republicans on one hand. In other words, only my wife is my ideological peer.
I didn’t realize how prevalent unionism was in Hollywood until I moved out here after college. As goes every Hollywood story, I started out trying to “catch a break.” I even snuck onto three separate studios to slip my resume to anyone with an open hand. But no one would look at me unless I was unionized. And make no mistake: save for the rare indie flick or documentary, unions have a stranglehold on most of the good gigs thanks to government interference. Every major studio has contracts with unions, which means anything they touch has to be unionized.
So a young and eager guy (like I was those years ago) can’t even offer to work for less pay or fewer benefits in exchange for a metaphorical foot in the door. I tried. There is no bargaining without collective bargaining; because of unions, the individual is powerless.
So I went the non-union route, and I quickly found success. In less than a year, I reached the highest level attainable in my specialty. Non-union employment allowed me to flourish off my talents and abilities without considering things like seniority or the compensation of others around me. If I was better than my co-worker, I could be paid more. But I didn’t give up a promising engineering career back east to make decent but still relatively meager money (cost of living in L.A. is ridiculous) working on reality tv shows with no artistic value.
The project that served as the last straw for me was actually a cop show. (Cops are another topic you may know my opinion of.) I couldn’t continue watching these government thugs abuse their power and trick individuals to give up their rights, to then make them look like heroes on the air.
I decided to take a step down and use all those hours I had accumulated to join a union and get a union gig.
The irony of a unionized libertarian is not lost on me. Although I’d consider it more of a tragedy that to follow my dream and pursue what I’ve worked for I have to swallow this bitter pill.
I do have pretty good benefits, yes. But I’m confident I could achieve this and good pay without a union (that is, without union coercion through government affecting the market). Indeed, years later my pay is still less than what I made as a non-union worker, though without the health benefits which are almost offset by the union dues anyway (and make no mistake, health care would be far more affordable if not for government inflating the costs). Plus, if this industry-dominated city were free of union manipulations, cost of living would surely be lower for everyone. As is, my ability to advance is hampered. I can’t, for example, negotiate for a promotion with a smaller bump in pay on the condition that I prove myself. Instead, my next step up is a huge increase in pay, so most people in my position languish without promotion for an average of more than ten years, whereas I made three jumps within a year outside of union work. In other words, my personal, individual ability to advocate for myself is made secondary to the group.
Still, I’m in the private sector - which means that, although my employers are forced by government to cooperate with unions, I do not benefit from the government’s monopoly on force to coerce individuals out of their wealth through taxes.
But my union “leaders” don’t see it that way. Naturally, they subscribe to the trite communist credo, “workers of the world, unite.” As such, every union struggle in the world is ostensibly supposed to be my struggle too. Evidence of this mindset is, in addition to the emails supporting leftist policies and politicians, the steady stream of emails about “valiant” strikers.
Here’s an email I received from union “leadership” in November:
The benefits of working union all derive from generations of employees having shown the courage to stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of one another. This principle of solidarity means that IATSE members — even those who are strangers or who work in different crafts within the industry — recognize one another as brothers and sisters. Never is this principle of mutual aid more urgent than when our colleagues are threatened for having bravely stood up for themselves.
The production crew of “The Biggest Loser” remains on strike. The producers stubbornly refuse to negotiate. They instead try to limp along with a skeleton crew of scabs. The livelihoods of our sisters and brothers are still in jeopardy.
Notice who the “courageous” heroes and “stubborn” villains are in that email. We’re all in this together. Us vs. Them. Language and symbolism - “brothers and sisters,” “derive from generations of employees” - that demand a responsibility to something bigger than our [individual] selves. Meanwhile, who advocates for the non-union individuals who are subsequently unemployed when those same producers have to find those inflated union wages from somewhere else? Further, the union doesn’t really care about the striking “brothers and sisters.” They care about their dues. It happens all the time: a production finds replacements (scabs) for their striking workers; the stand-off between the production and the union drags out; eventually, an agreement is made and the “scabs” are hired into the union, leaving the original “brothers and sisters” without work and the only resolution was the union increasing its dues-paying membership and closing doors to non-union opportunities.
So this brings me to last night’s email. While the messages are typically about other strikes in the industry, this time the union is branching out:
Throughout the Midwest, our union sisters and brothers are under attack. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and elsewhere, governors and legislatures threaten to strip employees of collective bargaining rights and to otherwise hobble their unions. Although the would-be union-busters use state budget shortfalls to justify their actions, they are really motivated by a fierce ideological antipathy towards organized labor. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker compared his efforts to break Wisconsin’s public employee unions to Ronald Regan’s 1981 firing of striking air traffic controllers, an action universally regarded as having undercut the clout of workers in every sector and industry. Make no mistake: public-sector union-busting in Wisconsin, if successful, will have ripple effects felt in the private sector in Los Angeles and New York.
In the face of these attacks, the labor movement and our allies have closed ranks and mobilized to a degree unprecedented in recent memory. In the tens of thousands, people have taken to the streets and to the statehouses, demonstrating their willingness to fight in defense of the right to a voice on the job. Protests in Indiana have already succeeded in forcing lawmakers there to drop a bill that would have made Indiana a so-called “right-to-work” state. But still greater displays of solidarity will be necessary in order to fight back all of these efforts to undermine the right to organize.
Tomorrow, Saturday, February 26th, the AFL-CIO and allied organizations will hold rallies around the country in support of workers under attack in the Midwest. The rally at L.A. City Hall will begin at 12 noon; the rally at New York City Hall will begin at 11 o’clock A.M. If you are able, please come to one of these rallies to show your solidarity with workers under siege in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
Again note the language of war: “attacks,” “allies have closed ranks and mobilized,” “under siege” - the only violent rhetoric missing is cross-hairs. Also, note the straw men and non-sequiturs or other rhetorical conventions of big government sympathizers: misrepresenting the motives of the “opponents,” claiming that without unions, people would lose their “right to a voice on the job.”
Because of this message, I thought it important to offer a small glimpse behind my self-imposed veil of anonymity. Now, you know a little about what I do. But I do this to serve as a provider of insider information.
Those union workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere aren’t any more my “brothers and sisters” than the taxpayers they are fleecing. And their plight is not more relevant to my well-being than my own desires to bargain for myself.
Finally, the media has lately been shining a spotlight on the scam that is unions in the public sector; how unions (who are one of the biggest “special interests,” despite what the left claims) trade their members’ votes for higher pay and benefits, all at the expense of the freedom, wealth, and prosperity of everyone else.
Tonight, I’ll be posting a roundup of related union editorials worth reading. For now, I wanted to share this anecdotal peek behind the union’s astroturf curtain. They are continuing to assemble a top-down “unified front” to protect their pernicious practices.
The public needs to wake up. Because the unions are right about one thing (in the public sector): it is “us vs. them.”
But the us and them are the tax-feeders and tax-victims. Those government workers who force us to pay for their services… who are net tax beneficiaries not net tax payers… who are difficult to fire, less accountable, and have better pay, benefits, and even extravagant early pensions off the backs of those they purportedly “serve”… will slurp the marrow out of our very bones if we do not put an end to their guarantee of collective bargaining.
Update: See follow-up here.
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- rezby said: But what about the workers? Without unions, the evil bosses will be able to do anything they want to workers, such as firing them or docking their pay or giving them hours seen only in horror flicks about the Industrial Revolution!
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