A Place to Belong (after being isolated)
by Dwayne Phillips
Americans are coming out of isolation from our reaction to the virus. One result is a growing trend to form unions.
There is a growing trend in America to form unions for workers in coffee shops, restaurants, warehouses, etc. The obvious explanation is that these places have become rich and have not shared those riches with the workers who enabled the riches. It is time to redistribute the riches!
Here is another explanation borne of old age and perspective: this is a result of our reaction to the virus. Everyone — well, most everyone — stayed home and stayed away from other people. We were isolated. We didn’t belong to anything.
One of the things that a worker’s union does is provide a place to belong. People gather in a room and vote on a union. “Most of us are in favor of forming a group of us. We will all belong to us!” WOW! This is exciting! We all now belong to all of us!
Enough exclamation points, but this is how it is. People stand and shout and cheer and hug. And, well, we haven’t hugged anyone in two years, so this is great fun!
And all this union forming shows a great failure of other institutions. The obvious choice is a failure of the managers to create a workplace that everyone enjoys. You don’t turn a workplace upside down if you like it, right?
Here is another explanation: this is a failure of institutions where they used to belong. Those places practically closed due to our reaction to the virus. People lost a belonging place. They want a belonging place. None there? Form one. In walks a union organizer. Hey! This is a belonging place.
Most folks joining these new unions know nothing of Flint, Michigan and a sit down strike or anything else about the history of organized labor. They just know that they want to belong to something and all their old belonging places ceased to exist.
Sometimes we choose a reaction to an event. Most of the time, we have little thought behind our choices. Odd things happen afterwards. I have yet to find an essay that said the virus would bring back labor unions. As usual, the experts were wrong.