Trade Union blues

Charles Brown cbrown at
Thu Sep 4 12:20:32 MDT 2003

"For" Labor Day, the Wall Street Journal had an editorial calling for the
annihilation of unions.  The Detroit News had an oped piece headlined
"Unions go the way of the dodo".

The AFL-CIO-UAW cancelled Detroit's Labor Day parade, for a reason unknown
to me.

Woe is we.



Letters to the editor

The voice of labor
Jack Lessenberry made some valid points but there is not enough space here
to tell the whole truth about labor’s ineffectiveness (“Labor and other
pains <>,” Metro Times,
Aug. 27-Sept. 2).
As a former union representative for the United Steelworkers, I speak from
practical experience. I came up through the ranks from shop steward to local
president (1982-1994) and tried to do the job right, only to be told by my
own staff representative that I was “rocking the boat” and “we have to go
along [with the company] to get along.” Some leadership!
It’s been nine years now since my plant was closed and I am still being
harassed by anti-union people who vowed, “We’re going to bury you.”
Companies spend millions of dollars on “consultants” who effectively destroy
people’s lives with rumors and lies, and unions can’t seem to find a way to
thwart these tactics. When I asked my district’s legal representative how to
go about pursuing this matter he said, “go ahead and pursue it if you want
to become a martyr, because that’s all that’s going to happen.” So much for
People aren’t stupid. When they see this kind of crap and how ineffective
union leadership is in battling it, it’s no wonder they shy away from
organizers. I doubt that we’ll ever see another true leader like Walter
Reuther. -Brian Melkus, melkusb at <mailto:melkusb at>,

CB: Actually, some of us would say that Reuther's ditching of a class
struggle theory of trade unionism is why unions are so weak now.


Old-style wisdom
Jack Lessenberry’s piece made me feel sad, because I believe the unions and
their members played the critical role in building the infrastructure of
this country. And like that infrastructure, the unions are crumbling to
nothing. I carry a union card and pay my dues to the American Federation of
In the mid-1980s, a very eccentric retired engineer told me that if we keep
busting up the unions and continue to allow our education system to crumble,
our country would resemble a Third World nation controlled by the
ultra-rich. I was young and full of myself then, and I passed it off as the
paranoia of an old man. Not realizing what I would face in the working world
in the next few years, I was confident that the United States would always
be that comfy place where Walter Cronkite came on the tube every night to
tell us, “And that’s the way it is.” Now I am beginning to think that old
dude wasn’t so wrong after all. -Mark “Mad Dog” Barringer, Farmington Hills

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