Almost every time we write about a union in anything other than glowing terms we hear from a few folks, not many at all, that we should avoid criticizing unions in public, that union flaws should be kept private, and/or that we are hurting their union. Well, respectfully, we disagree.
Most of the time what a reader or two takes as criticism, is not. For example, the piece on NTEU above does not criticize the union, but merely addresses the difficult reality it faces. We have the same thing to say about the recent “E-Harmony-NFFE” post. Other pieces have reported already public facts posted on government web sites that the commenting reader would rather believe no one else in the entire world would know about if FEDSMILL had not mentioned it. Even those posts we agree have been critical have been very gentle pokes. A while ago we posted, “How Union Leaders Kill Partnership Potential.” It took considerable editorial restraint not to accuse those national union leaders demanding partnership or pre-decisional involvement from agency management of being outright “union-strangling hypocrites” when they simultaneously maneuver to limit local leader involvement in their own decision-making.
Beyond that, unions desperately need to reverse their seven-decade decline and that is not going to happen without sharing the good ideas already out there, generating new ones, moving both kinds around, and triggering hopefully positive discussions. But, in case you have not noticed, this country’s media has given up on unions. Except for an occasional Labor Day piece about what unions need, the professional media has little to offer unions.
Finally, maybe it will help those troubled by our work if we share a perspective we have. If you hear union leaders accusing us of hurting their union without pointing out how in tangible terms, you might want to remind them that union leaders are democratically elected officials operating in a constitutional system. They are not royalty entitled to govern as they see best for their subjects. Moreover, collective bargaining is not about replacing managers who make major decisions unilaterally without any employee input with union leaders who do the same thing—and collect our dues to do it. Unions are about opening up the workplace to more involvement.
There is a desperate need for what good unions have to offer. Tragically, we have not figured out how to meet that need given all the obstacles in our path. No one is going to do it for us. In fact, it is a job we should gladly report to everyday.