I guess also the problem I have with “people who can fire workers are class enemies” is that, like, wanting job security is totally reasonable, but in practice if you give a union free rein they handle this either by rendering their business nonfunctional, or by intentionally making hiring nearly impossible and having dead-end makework positions where people who would otherwise be fired can get shunted into. Neither of those is really solving the underlying problem, they’re just pushing it around. One of the main sources of anti-union resentment in the general public is their reputation for protecting the positions of incompetent people so that they can’t be replaced by competent people (often because the competent people have the wrong sex, race, or religion), and outright saying “you can’t be part of this or any union if you can fire people” seems likely to exacerbate that, especially if you can be in the union if you have the power to prevent someone from being hired.

You also just run into the problem here that the tendency toward diffusing responsibilities and relying on the “wisdom of markets” won’t stop with firing – you already see workplaces where everyone is encouraged to think of everyone else as their rivals and try to get them fired, and the obvious next step would be to diffuse responsibility for hiring and firing decisions via some sort of vote/credit system, subject to predetermined number and rate of firings from on high. If only someone can figure out a way to determine how good it was to fire someone, you could start giving out bonuses for getting people fired, like they do with recruitment!

Firing is sort of the original sin of capitalism in socialist thought, the fact that you can be separated from what makes you able to make a living, and the reserve army of labor is the way that exploitation happens.

In this school of thought the idea of stack ranking, that you should fire 10% of your employees every year is a formalizing and individualized way of how the economy as a whole works. Employees get sucked into zero-sum competition with other employees and potential employees.

I think then the objection I have to this is that if you want the thing that enables you to make a living to be inalienable, it’s not viable to make that thing something like “I’m a metalworker” unless you’re prepared to put all your points into exclusionism. These things change naturally, and when unions try to prevent them from changing it often just leads to the change happening all at once in a seismic shift that ruins everybody’s lives. (I like syndicalism in theory but my main wariness toward it is that it looks like blue-collar guildism, and this is how guildism went as well, right?)

It seems to me that if you take the idea of all workers having a shared class consciousness seriously, you should focus less on preventing people from being fired and more on making it safer to be fired, making it easier to change what type of worker you are without destroying your life. If the unemployed are non-people in a framework, the framework is fucked, and making it harder for the people under one’s protection to become unemployed won’t unfuck it.

The guildism issue is one of the major conflicts between the more anarchist types and the more communist types, with the communists wanting more centralization and democracy to avoid those issues.

And yeah, reform or revolution the idea is that in the longer term the nature of unemployment itself should be changed, but that only happens in the longer term. Should unions do nothing to help until then?  You sort of creep up on


Yeah I feel the same. For a number of non-revolutionary leftists who oppose communist revolution on the grounds “that’s dangerous and doing nothing to help people in the here and now”, if you point towards militant organizations having some impact now – like unions – suddenly it’s “well if they really cared they’d be trying to end the very concept of unemployment” or something similarly utopian.

Unions are perpetually caught in the PR bind that for anything they do either:

  • It’s focusing on benefiting their members, and thus the public hates them for being selfish
  • It’s focused too much on broader political or economic change, and thus they’ve abandoned defense of the workers who are paying them.

It’s a stupid catch-22. (Similar to the neo-liberal catch-22 that any attempt in the short term to make things better for workers in inefficient, and to address long term structural inequities is beyond the scope of a neo-liberal style government.)

In terms of “who is a real boss”, the reason so many analysts find the divide at the level of the “$30k a year retail drone” and “$60k a year shift supervisor” is because aside from some lucky people, most employees find that shift supervisor is the number one cause of stress and terror in their life. The person who if you give a rude look can deprive you of income for a week really is more important to most people than the machinations of global capital. (The other relationship similar to that for most people is their landlord.) If so many employees didn’t hate and fear their immediate boss that way, unions definitely would not use that point to try to stoke organizing.

Unions are perpetually caught in the PR bind that for anything they do either:

– It’s focusing on benefiting their members, and thus the public hates them for being selfish
– It’s focused too much on broader political or economic change, and thus they’ve abandoned defense of the workers who are paying them.

“You can’t work on this movie because you’re not a dues-paying member of SAC and we’re only hiring SAC members.”

Well that’s simple – it’s a closed shop, we have those too in Denmark too and they’re not any real PR problem over here. Let me just hop on their home page and join up.


Membership Costs

All new members pay a one-time-only initiation fee, plus the first semiannual dues at the time of joining.

The national initiation fee rate is currently $3,000, although it may be lower in some states.

Ah. Check.

Nevermind then.

The thing is, not many people ever really have enough energy to hate on people for being selfish. You hate people who hurt you, or make your life worse. My impression of US unions is that they’re happy to do this if it gains their members something. I have never heard this complaint levied against a Danish union by a non-unionized worker.

Three thousand fucking dollars? That’s my membership dues in my professional engineering association for five and a half years. What the fuck. I hate the SAC already and I’m not even in the movie business.

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