…A strike, though, acts as a check on that imbalance of power by inviting a very powerful third party to the table. Rahm Emanuel, perhaps, would be happy to tell teachers to fuck off. When Rahm Emanuel has a million angry parents calling his office demanding that he fix the god damn teacher’s strike so their kids have somewhere to go all day, things change. Mike Bloomberg, perhaps, would be happy to tell the NYC subway employees to fuck off. But when they go on strike and the subways stop running and the entire commuter-driven metropolis grinds to a halt, eight million people collectively demand a solution, and fast. Verizon would surely be happy to tell its employees to fuck off and take what it gives them. When nobody can get their cable fixed in time to watch the game, Verizon will feel the wrath of the world, pressuring it to find a solution. The public is awesomely powerful, and self-interested. The public wants things to work. The details of how that’s accomplished usually get drowned out in the primal scream of “fix it now!” This pressure mostly falls on management. Sure, people get angry at the unions, but unions, excluding corrupt ones, are not primarily concerned with PR (at least not to the extent that corporations or politicians are, by necessity). They’re concerned with improving the lives of their members. They are the only thing standing between workers and the “good will” of management, which is often the same as oblivion.
…As John Cook wrote about Chicago’s teachers, they are “participants in a labor market. They are free to organize and to withhold their labor if they don’t like the deal they’re getting. They will either get what they want, or they won’t. This is how things work.”
… Of course, in order to have strikes, we need unions. That’s another thing to work on.