“I don’t think that the scabs deserve any hugs.”
This afternoon I was in a bit of a debate on Twitter with Stuart Savelkoul, executive director of the North Dakota Public Employee Association. The topic was the American Crystal lockout, and Savelkoul said “I don’t think that the scabs deserve any hugs.”
That attitude about workers who “cross the picket line” to take jobs during a strike or lockout, what the unionists call “scabs,” has always fascinated. To the union folks, a scab is someone who refuses to show solidarity with his/her fellow workers. But isn’t a scab really just someone who is willing to work in a situation the union folks won’t? And what’s so bad about that?
Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine a group of retail stores – Walmart and Target and the like – formed an association together and collectively set prices on the goods they sold. Now imagine that this group of stores attacked other stores who dared sell their products at a lower price, imagine that they accused these other stores of refusing to show solidarity and of being, well, scabs.
Most of us would, rightly, shun these stores as greedy price fixers. But when unions engage in this sort of behavior, many think of their actions as noble. It’s positively bizarre.
I support the right of workers to organize and collectively bargain. It’s free association, free assembly, free speech, etc., etc. I also think that, should companies want to, they also could form associations and price fix. I wouldn’t advise it as a business model, but if they want to that’s their choice.
But what I also support is the right of individual workers, and individual businesses, to sell their labor/products for whatever level of compensation they choose. If that means they’re “scabs” so be it. That’s what freedom is about.Tags: american crystal, collective bargaining, North Dakota News, stuart savelkoul, unions