Labor associations - not unions

Inspired by this thread, but I don’t want to hijack that one.

I think there is a need for a new type of labor organization. I support unions, but I really don’t like them since it perpetuates the artificial divide between owners/management and labor and is too focused on individual work places and employers. But labor does needs a voice to counteract the power of management and other interest groups.

I have in mind ‘labor associations’ similar to professional associations for accountants, doctors, etc. While those organizations focus on professional certification and practice development, they also provide a strong political lobby for those groups as well. They don’t provide collective bargaining, but concentrate on legislation and issues that will benefit the entire profession.

So while they would not offer binding representation, though could offer arbitration services and legal funds for members to use.

Labor associations would be focused on broad classes on general occupational classes - retail workers, office workers, restaurant and food service, construction, etc. Membership would be voluntary and would not be tied to employment. I think major services they could provide would be health insurance, pension funds, credit unions and other benefits traditional unions provide. They could possibly offer certifications for certain types of jobs. But most importantly, they would provide a political voice and encourage solidarity among members of their particular occupation. It would also focus on individual worker empowerment and professional development not tied to any specific employer or workplace.

Another important function would mirror industrial trade associations, providing their membership with information on industry developments and trends, but focused on the occupations, not firm management as trade associations do. A cross between trade journals such as the Journal of Accountancy andLabor Notes is part of what I have in mind as far as the type of publication.

I think nursing associations are the closest model to what I have in mind, as a hybrid between a professional association and a trade union.

Would associations like this work? Do other countries have organizations like this?

Why do you call it an “artificial divide”?

I view the division of labor based upon occupational skills as a natural development, something I envision these associations as promoting. The division of labor based on hierarchical authority is an artificial construct enshrined through legislation. Rather than encouraging cooperative (either formal or informal) solutions with shared authority, unions helped foster the antagonistic relationship where a person could be pro-labor or pro-management, but not both.

I have spent significant amount of time on both sides of the divide, and I believe that it is pointless - all members of a firm should have equal authority, though some may have different technical skills and operational responsibilities, which includes operational and strategic management. They are skills that can be learned the same as learning to operate a register or keep the books. For me, management is just another form of labor, but based on different skills. That does not entitle or earn me any rights to greater authority over my co-workers.

But most occupations, the majority of which are non-management or non-professional positions, lack the institutional support those other positions have with the exception of labor unions. I think that model was sufficient historically, but I don’t think it is now.

So I am curious if an alternative arrangement is possible.

Co-operative systems weren’t popular with capitalists and landowners. So much they colluded to crush them, from the Diggers forward.

The job of management is to serve the owners, oftentimes themselves. As such the interests of management and labour are fundamentally divergent and opposed.

I want to give this a bump due to events of the last few days. Just to be clear, I am not advocating employee-ownership (in this thread anyway), or discarding unions as collective bargaining units.

But I think in the age of Citizens United, labor needs a much stronger political voice beyond what unions provided. Yet labor associations would also need to provide more services for workers beyond political action.

The business community has trade and industry associations, chambers of commerce and several other avenues which lobby for their political views, as well as provide non-political services.

Labor is incredibly fractured in this country, and is no longer an effective counterbalance against business and other special interests. We need something to level the playing field again, so all actors can benefit from the productivity gains of both those past and those in the future. Employers and their bankers have shown over the last decade that they have no desire to share those gains. Give them another decade, and we can say goodbye to the middle class.

No, they are not. They are oft divergent, but there is a common interest in keep an endeavour going in general, and may even be aligned together against the interests of the owners in instances where management does not have significant equity in the endeavour.

You mean perhaps akin to the European model of works councils and codetermination systems (at its zenith in ["]Germany](http://[URL)).

Co-determination - US unions wet dream! It might happen here in about, oh , fifty years.
The umbrella organization DGBI think is similar to what I have in mind. Let unions represent workers in the workplace, but we need organizations that will represent workers outside of the workplace, and open to anyone. I think structuring them by occupation would work best, but this is still a work in progress.

My question is primarily what would one expect from being a member of this type of association? Political activism? legal help? financial help?

Well, the closest thing I can think of in the United States is the Wobblies. Especially if you understand a lot of their recent campaigns as a meta-campaign to reverse diminishing labor density and to fight back against the co-opting narrative of union disparagement that management-side law firms, lobbyists, and PR organs have crafted, and which have been, regrettably, uncritically accepted by much of the working class. (Including especially that part of the working class that doesn’t recognize it is part of the working class; but see how far talking about class consciousness will get you these days.)

I’m for industrial unionism, but I think Taft-Hartley may be the actual impediment to a broader labor association rather than the present labor organizations themselves.

You do know that the Citizens United ruling benefits unions as well, right? In fact the AFL-CIO filed an amicus brief supporting Citizens United in their case.


Yes, but their spending power is no match for their opposition. And I really hate that corporations are opposed to unions. That is another reason I think we need a new type of labor organization - one that represents workers regardless of employer, and seeks to use their own collective resources to better themselves, rather than rely on employers for benefits. Hopefully that will start to break the current antagonism between management/owners and labor.

We all benefit from a stronger economy and most people do take pride in their work, union and non-union alike. A new labor movement would encourage that by having workers develop their occupational and professional skills, no matter where they use them. The way I see it, unions are about strengthening workers on the job and using that to negotiate better working conditions, but only for that workplace. Labor associations would strengthen workers off the job, and use that to negotiate better working conditions across the board through the legislative process.

We need to create a mindset where anyone can be considered a professional, no matter their occupation, even the most basic general labor, and deserves professional benefits.

Instead of a race toward the bottom, we need a race to the top.

The more I work on this, I am thinking the first step would be industrial credit unions. Workers need to take back control of their own wealth. That has to be the foundation for everything else.

I have been re-reading the labor laws, and it is unclear if an association would have to register as a union if they do not offer representation. I think that they might, especially if they work with unions, which would have to occur in the beginning at least. It is definitely a hurdle, but I think it can be jumped.

I am also certain the business community would never tolerate the restrictions placed on unions if they were also placed on corporations.

Second step would be to level the playing field. Governor Walker is helping.

First, we already have industrial credit unions; at least my union does. Heck, my credit union is even housed in our same building.

Second, your idea will never work. There are many reasons that unions are formed based on the type of work being done, but mostly it boils down to the fact that people need to have common interests and causes in order to be able to effectively negotiate working conditions and scope of work. A guy working on an oil rig and a teacher in a classroom have very different scopes of work, use very different sets of equipment, have very different work environments, etc. It doesn’t make any sense for people in disparate jobs to band together to negotiate aspects of their respective employments.

This comment makes no sense to me.

Ack! NOT helping. He’s NOT helping. Blah. Too much on my mind right now. I’ll address the rest later.

There was an effort in 1996 to found a Labor Party, but not much came of it.

Depends. Would they have the right to strike?

We have a few credit unions that have very limited mandates. Amazing how with all the deregulation over the previous decade that those were left in place. What we need are national credit unions federations that can combined local control, but pool their assets together to compete with the commercial banks. And then use possibly use that as the base to provide pensions and health care. its a work in progress.

Associations would follow the same lines as unions - one association for restaurant workers, another for retail, another for construction, etc. I imagine each industry and trade will have their own special interests the same as company-based industrial and trade associations. An important aspect would be to publish journals and hold conferences - not conventions (though that could be held at the same time) on relevant topics. Instead of having business information trickle down from management, this would be a horizontal resource for workers to share information and better there skills.

I doubt it, I don’t see them as bargaining units. Unions would still fulfill that role. I am not a fan of strikes, but they do belong in the tool kit. I do like boycotts and this could be a means of broadcasting that information.

Of course with the Koch brothers latest attack, it remains to be seen if even unions will be legal by the end of the year the way things are going. Now there are actions going on in Idaho, Ohio and Indiana. Conservatives spent the last generation decimating the unions, and they decided to go for the killing blow this year for whatever reason.

People keep bitching about ‘overpaid’ government workers not realizing the main reason why is because they allow their wages and benefits to be cut so much over the last ten years. If they Tea Partiers protested even a wee bit against the rise in executive pay and their benefits, I might have a sliver of respect for them. Instead is just proves the cognitive dissonance the leaders on the right have instilled in their astroturf followers.

Welcome to America - the Argentina of the 21st century. That is everyone thought Argentina would grow as fast as the other industrialized nations at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead of a lost decade, I think we are in serious danger of a lost century. I don’t think the average conservative has realized how far our living standards are falling behind Europe, and that Latin America is about to catch up and pass us as well since they are following the EU’s model, not ours. As well they should.

I misunderstood. I thought the associations were instead of unions.

And we already have associations of unions – AFL/CIO, etc.