WASHINGTON, D.C. June 20 (DPI) — Earlier this month msnbc.com posted a report on the United Auto Workers attempting to organize the domestic plants of non-US automakers, concluding that the organizing efforts were a long-shot.
But the most powerful and revealing part of the report was its reader comments — comments almost unanimously hostile to the idea of organized labor. Not simply in the auto industry, but anywhere. Readers wrote that they felt there was no place for unions in today’s dynamic global economy, or that government had legislated many of the worker rights that unions long strived for.
Whatever the reason, the amount of opposition to unions is somewhat surprising given a political climate today so fixated on class, wealth and employment disparities.
The top three comments on the msnbc.com string were unsparing:
(Trudat – 59 most popular votes)
“Late last month, the United Auto Workers quietly celebrated the 75thanniversary of its historic confrontation with goons from the Ford Motor Co.
And look at them now, the bullied became the goons, what a cycle.
(Ron – 46 votes) There was a time and place for unions in the US, but that time has passed in most instances. There may still be some places where unions are appropriate, but for the most part they just hurt workers today by pushing more and more manufacturing out of the US.
(Steve – 42 votes) “Yeah…took a while, but now Ford is prospering and the union isn’t. Won battle, lost war. Employers…management…are the best organizers the union has. Tromp all over worker’s rights and treat them like dogs, and unions spring up like spring flowers.
Now most labor goals are the law, and unions are attempting to bargain as if they were the only game in town. They’re not. Why are there foreign cars under every rock, and foreign parts in every American car? Thank the unions. They took themselves out, and most of the auto industry with them. Suicide bombing.”
Many factors — the globalization of the economy, generally rising living standards (even after the 2008 crisis), the rise of quick-changing technology — have contributed to the retreat of private-sector unions in the US.
But there is more to the online hostility than the broader social and global economic trends: Experts have long viewed the internet as home to the “angry anonymous” who post bilious commentary that they otherwise could not express in another forum.
That would explain a small part of the near-unanimous hostility to unions found on comment boards.
Another explanation may lie in the world of modern technology and the people in it. The tech industry — with its ever-changing business priorities, profit models and product focus — will never be home to or compatible with the slow-moving forces of worker organizing. Over the last three decades, not a single technology company — not even the well established Dell Computer or Hewlett-Packard — has any groups of unionized workers beyond groups of independent drivers and teamsters.
And their politics reflect that. In fact, surveys of all stripes reveal that workers associated with technology and the internet are far more likely to be libertarian and politically independent than mainstream workers. As a group, technology workers — engineers, programmers and product designers — are far less trusting of central authority. And since tech and tech-savvy people are more likely to post on comment boards, their voices are heard disproportionately online.