Wednesday 13 April 2011

A picket line is easy to cross

I was on strike yesterday [12th May]; the picket started before 7am, when people crossed the picket line I smiled, gave them a leaflet and politely told them that we were on strike over redundancies. Then they went to work. A picket line is easy to cross; physically and, it seems, emotionally. 

This hasn’t always been the case. In 1915 Jack London (Call of the Wild, White Fang) described a Scab like this. The ‘pool of water’ bit and comparisons to Judas are uncomfortable reading and sound unduly harsh in today’s more tolerant world. I have posted it here only to provoke thought;

“After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a waterlogged brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with.

Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab has not.

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British army. The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer.

Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country. A scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.”


Tom May said...

The cult of individualism is the problem. I am as libertarian as they come on many issues, but recognise the need for collective purpose in life and work. The sort of Ayn Rand philosophy peddled by the free-market right seems to arise from a fundamentally suspicious anti-humanism.

Unfortunately, this philosophy permeates many workplaces - staff made to compete against each other rather than working towards a common purpose. We could not have won World War II with the sort of divisive mindset that exists today. Did regiments, local defence volunteers and civilians compete against each other? :)

It seems to me that trade unionism is a thoroughly good thing and I cannot understand why people in a workplace that has an active union would flinch from getting involved. Other than the mindset of fear and perennial insecurity that has been created through three decades of the free-market racket.

Unknown said...

There are loads of reasons staff are not unionised, they think it will harm promotion chances (It can't be allowed to)

They think they cant afford to - this is a common one - (They cant afford not to) and rates for part time staff start at £2.36 a month

They think they dont need to be in a Union they often say, I can fight my own battles, well so can I but one of the reasons I got involved with the Union is to stand up for people who feel they can't.

Anonymous said...

I think there is also a status issue: every workplace I've worked in the attitude has been that 'we' (programmers, engineers) are professionals so don't need a union, unions are for the grunts on the shop floor. It's a convenient mindset for the management, of course, especially as the much-vaunted individual performance-related pay negotiation always turns out to be a chimera.

Unknown said...

Point about status accepted but almost all teachers are in a Union and the engineers union has the best acronym of all UK APE! If all workers were unionised and union stood together (as much as is allowed by the Thatcherite anti Union legislation that is still on the statue book) the the workplace would be happier, safer, fairer and probably MORE productive.