Workers of the World: Individualize!

By Steven William
web posted February 1997

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own minds."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

In 1841, in an effort to embolden the hearts of students to act on their newly acquired education, Mr. Emerson, armed with a concern that those who earned an education might feel guilty applying it in practical matters, offered a series of lectures which focused primarily on self-trust and self-improvement. The aim of course was to empower the individual with his or her own tools to understand life and liberty, but the good lecturer also inspired many to be productive, with both mind and body.

Today, specializations within the entire circle of production, where jobs are continuously miniaturized unless resolved by someone's ability to handle multiple responsibilities, create stress on those individuals who attempt to balance their future plans with their current income status. Some prefer to make a fixed income for as long as the job is willing, some prefer to progress along the line seeking to improve their marketability, some take what they get; in all, the individual works and is appropriately rewarded. Or is s/he?

Perhaps the greatest untruth being propagated in Canada is the falsehood that the collective benefits the individual, that somehow the individual would not achieve the prosperity and justice without the presence of others doing the thinking and talking in place, and such untruths are personified in the guise of unions. Where these untruths reside is where you'll find the individual who is unjustly penalized, not rewarded, for his/her efforts.

Consider the individual who happens to be a member of a union with, say, 40 000 members across the continent. The individual pays the dues to become a member, but essentially has no say in what is done with the money, for the collective has already decided what is to be done with it; it is for the greater good. Now, say you voted for Mike Harris last election while you were employed as a public teacher. What possible sense does it make for you to be paying in part for anti-Harris pamphlets and handouts and demonstrations when it is contrary to your interests? You are not holding the provincial government at fault for failing to adapt to a 3 per cent cut in budget. You know better, because you have the facts. And so it only makes sense that you wouldn't want to be forking over money you earned to aid what is not in your regard. But you are not supplied with the option, and therein lies the problem for the individual.

Of course, the union will have the individual believe that each member's input is vital, but unless there is a majority, little does the individual's voice matter. The principle of "we listen to you" is mere window dressing, one that is espoused to keep subordinates in check instead of addressing them with integrity. It is definitely time for each worker to take a firmer stand; not united, but individualized.

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