Re: What is our art?
"Unions are purveyors of mediocrity."
"As the workplace becomes dejobbed, no institution has more to gain (or lose), more ways that it could help workers (or harm them), no greater chance of evolution (or extinction) than the labor union. Traditionally viewed as an opposing force to the business world, labor unions have usually been seen as political liberal in their platforms. But today they are at least as reactionary as business groups are, for they are equally wedded to the archaic job world.
...Unions became the biggest defender of the job. Job descriptions became their sacred texts, for they were considered the workers' protection against exploitation. Labor contracts spelled out the regulations in stupefying detail. ...
It is time for unions to stop such practices. They not only stand in the way of more flexible work arrangements..., such actions keep unions from playing a creative and useful role in the years ahead. Until unions abandon their focus on jobs, they will not only continue to lose members, but they will not find their proper role. ...
Recall what we have been saying. Tomorrow's workers are going to be more "craft" based than job-based. They are going to be more like independent business people (You & Co.) than conventional employees. They may work for more than one client at a time ...
This new kind of worker...is a portable resource with no fixed job identity. This person needs the information and the learning opportunities that alliance with other, similar workers could provide. This person needs something more like a medieval crafts guild than the labor union of 1860-1980.
...Collective bargaining will be more or less irrelevant. But that does not mean that workers will not have common interests. It just means that those interests will be more often pursued in the halls of Congress than the factory (now, here's where he gets problematic, IMO). Tomorrow's unions will be public-advocacy groups, serving the common interests of workers. ... (Like the AMA), it will be built around the _practice_, not the _job_.
Tomorrow's unions will be...where workers turn when the demands of their work present them with something that they need to learn more about. They will be sources of consultative assistance with more in common with computer users groups than a traditional union. ... The new union can help independent workers protect their interests by showing them what to look for in a contract and how to insist on protective phrasing and terms.
...They will help members arrange to have a grievance against an employer mediated. They will be common purchasing pools where workers can procure insurance and investment counsel more cheaply than they can singly. They will be frameworks within which younger workers can be apprenticed to older workers, and within which workers without a good network of business and professional contacts can find a mentor.
Unions, in short, need to be reinvented. That will probably happen first in the knowledge-based types of work, where traditional unions never made much headway and where the process of dejobbing is furthest advanced.
Adapted from Jobshift, Wm Bridges pp. 190-193
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