In Organizing Campaigns, Unions Fall Far Short of the Truth
Union campaigns calling for 'Dignity & Respect' are just rhetorical rallying points that are really non-negotiable
By Peter A. List, President & COO
As a former unionist committed to combating today's labor union offensives, I find it so extraordinarily disheartening when I hear employees blindly echoing the deception put forth by union organizers that unions give people 'dignity and respect' in their working lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it's easy to prove that there is nothing 'respectful' about going without a paycheck while striking, nor is there anything 'dignified' about yelling "scab" at someone who is taking your job, these are just by-products of organized labor's attempt to deceive America's working people as labor attempts to rebuild its ranks by using any means possible. However, to really understand this, one must understand the concepts involved with the terms 'dignity and respect' as well as the dynamics of labor-management negotiations.
Although union organizers will commonly use the 'dignity and respect' tactic when trying to seduce people into voting for union representation, the trick is probably one of the most viciously deceitful tactics used on employees. The reason, of course, is because nothing could be further from the truth. By paying a union its dues, a person does not automatically acquire "dignity" or "respect."
In fact, those terms have absolutely nothing to do with labor management negotiations. Under the National Labor Relations Act, it is the duty of the employer and the representative of its employees to bargain in good faith about "wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment." Nowhere in the law does it state that "dignity" and "respect" must also be negotiated. In fact, it would be difficult for any two people to define these two terms in even the same fashion.
The term "dignity" is defined in Webster's dictionary as "the quality of being worthy of esteem and honor; the degree of worth, repute, or honor; proper pride and self-respect…[italics added]." Similarly, the term "respect" is defined in Webster's dictionary as "to feel or show honor or esteem for; hold in high regard…"
By their nature, each of these terms can only be ascribed to an individual by another individual. For example, one may have "respect" for another person because of the quality of that person's character, his or her achievements, principles or morals. One would not, however, generally "respect" that person based solely upon his or her membership in an organization (be it a labor union or a political party). In other words, as the adage states, respect has to be earned, it can't be bought.
Likewise, the term "dignity" is something that is bestowed upon one individual by another and can also be maintained within their relationship between one another by their personal interaction. Again, the term does not apply to an individual based merely upon his or her membership in an organization.
So, how do unions get employees "dignity" and "respect" at their jobs? They don't. In fact, unions by their very nature, create a loss of individuality and independence and have the opposite effect on individuals. Instead of being treated as individuals, when people belong to a union, they are generally lumped together into a big, collective "melting pot," where the good is mixed with the bad.
High achievers–those who actually take pride in their work and have self-respect in how well they perform in their chosen jobs or professions and are actually the most deserving of the terms "dignity" and "respect"–get lumped together with the mediocre (those without higher standards). Then, the mediocre get lumped together with the lowest of the collective, or "bargaining unit." Consequently, the best and the brightest of the collective group lose their incentive, their drive to excel, and, eventually, their individuality and pride. Instead of attributes, unionized individuals beginning learning terms like: "it's not in my job description," or "it's management's fault." Instead of being given respect for their attributes, individuals become "just another number"–a part of "the herd," "the masses," or "the mob."
Unfortunately, with a union, the person who takes pride in his or her work and has earned the right to use the terms "dignity" and "respect"–the person who truly knows what those terms mean–gets lumped into the same "pot of stew" as the person who has no pride, dignity, or self-respect. Union organizers know this, but the tactic is, nevertheless, effective on those people who do not understand the concepts behind the terms, or who do not understand that "dignity" and "respect" are just not negotiable.