Britain is now feeling the “octupus.” The virulent tactics of union-busting are admittedly low key in the more sedate and reserved Britain, but the crass, capitalistic, money-making ways of America have a global reach.
British union busters, while secretive about their nefarious tactics, are being hired by some firms salivating over the $5 billion yearly anti-union industry in America.
The Guardian, Britain’s best newspaper, says some U.K. firms are using aggressive, U.S.-style union busters to persuade their employees not to join a union. It quoted John Logan of the London School of Economics: “The basic message is that unions are poison.”
“Employers are told that a union will result in conflict, confrontation and strikes with a consequent loss of earnings,” Logan said. “Unions are said to be interested only in raking in members’ dues so that a small number of fat-cat union bosses can live the high life.”
All of those arguments are blatant falsehoods. But employers use them successfully.
The Burke Group (TBG) of Malibu, Calif., is one of eight union-busting firms operating in Britain. Its Web site brags of its anti-union expertise: “union avoidance consulting, counter-union campaigns, supervisory training, union vulnerability assessments and card-signing mitigation.”
The new British tactics follow the U.S. pattern. As labor specialist Logan points out: “Union busters work through company supervisors who use one-on-one meetings with employees, forced-attendance group meetings and anti-union leaflets and videos. Discrimination against union organizers and firings get the message across.”
If those baleful tactics don’t work, union-destroyers in Britain resort to a trump card: Unionism is communism!
Stewart Acuff, an American AFL-CIO official, has watched in anguish as tactics pioneered in the South have proliferated around the globe. He puts it unassailably: “It’s become an American export, the most shameful American export. We talk about freedom all the time and yet our workers are deprived of the most basic freedom: the freedom to organize.”
Intervention in Russia
It has been many years since I have encountered a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, who has heard of the U.S. military intervention in Russia in 1918. The reason is partly that the teachers themselves don’t know. It’s also because high school texts seldom present the downsides of U.S. history.
Even the usually knowledgeable President Kennedy showed his ignorance, declaring of the Soviet Union: “Almost unique among the major world powers we have never been at war with each other.”
The Cold War actually began with that U.S. invasion, not the Churchill iron curtain speech at the end of World War II.
Bobby Fischer, world chess champion and world class eccentric, may have been the greatest chess player of all time. But he spent a pathetic end game as a mentally sick man full of anti-American and anti-Semitic rants.
Fischer, who died recently, hailed the 9/11 killings as great news. Jews, he said, were “filthy, lying bastard people” who kill Christian children and use the blood for black magic rites.
He abounded in conspiracy theories. The communists were out to poison him. Worried that “secret signals” and “controlling forces” might be channeled through his jaw, he had his dental fillings removed.
Pal Benko, a grandmaster now living in Budapest, once told Fischer that he was paranoid. Fischer’s reply: “Paranoids can be right.”
Nevertheless, Fischer’s skill at the 64-squared chessboard remains his legacy. Personality shortcomings should never dim genius.
And speaking of genius, Mark Fox, University of Nevada, Reno, basketball coach, was a genius last year when he had pro-bound star Nick Fazekas. Without Fazekas, Fox is a mere mortal.
Great lit line
One of the finest lines in literature is spoken by Mr. Bennet to his daughter Elizabeth in “Pride and Prejudice”: “Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins and I will never see you again if you do.”
Listening to Beethoven string quartets, opuses 59, 74 and 95, I thought, as I have for decades, that they are some of the most profound music ever written. If you want music even more profound, listen to Beethoven’s late string quartets, opuses 127, 130, 131, 132, 133 and 135.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.