Union massacre
Police attack strikers outside Chicago’s Republic Steel plant, killing 10, on May 30, 1937. (AP / Carl Linde)

Employment is a negotiation between the employer and the employee.

Negotiations depend heavily upon your position.

Businesses have great negotiating power and thus a strong negotiating position. When they hire you, they control the interview. They are positioned as the ones making the decisions. You have to compete with dozens or sometimes hundreds of other candidates. They have all the information, you have practically none. They are portrayed as the ones doing you the favor. They have authority over you. Job interviews are designed to intimidate, to make you feel small and powerless, begging for the position. This is not a natural imbalance; it has been very carefully cultivated to give them all the power and you virtually none. 

The same goes for what happens to you when you are employed. After you get hired, you know that you could be fired at almost any time, if the employer so decides. Employees are forbidden to exchange contract details that could give them negotiating power. Anything you gain has to be begged for, and even with exemplary service, bonuses or raises are rarely guaranteed. And don’t even think of trying to unionize; you will be treated like crap until they find a way to fire you.

Even after you get fired, many employers don’t even give you a letter of recommendation, forcing you to list them as a reference, where you know nothing about what they will say about you, making you rely upon their good graces when you look for jobs in the future. It is as if they hold all the cards, and you have none.

All of that gives employers frighteningly unequal power over their employees.

For the worker, there are only two real negotiation tools that could possibly fight against all of that: unions and government regulations.

Is it any mystery that these are two things that businesses have worked for decades to degrade and destroy? Two things they have striven endlessly to vilify, denigrate, and smear?

“Unions are corrupt! They only take your money and give you nothing! They are run by organized crime!”

“Government regulations cost jobs, obstruct good and honest businesses, are useless bureaucratic power grabs, and only make things worse!”

“Minimum wage hikes will only raise prices, get people fired, and make businesses go bankrupt and close!”

And they get people like you and me, regular working people, to spread and perpetuate these lies.

And they are hypocrites. They claim that the “free market” will treat everyone fairly. That if they don’t pay workers enough, they won’t get people to work—something that only happens in rare cases like 2022, and even then, they fight like hell against paying higher wages, and complain about how “no one wants to work anymore.”

They claim that the “free market” will not only give fair wages, but that it will provide for workplace safety and other abuses—but we have seen all too painfully what a wretched lie that is as well.

Unions are the biggest “free market” mechanism to balance employer abuses… and so businesses go to any expense and the greatest efforts to crush any union from starting or practicing, vilify and attack any existing union, and pay off politicians and plant pro-corporate judges to make laws which undermine any chance of fair union representation.

“Free market” my ass.