I agree with you. Union membership is on the decline. I think that has more to do with a Labor Board that sides with corporations instead of being fair, with unresponsive, bureacritized, corrupt unions, and the move in employment to temporary, part-time, seasonal workers, franchised capital, dispersed work environments, and pro-capitalist press. Further, most unions sign away their right to strike (a no-strike pledge) in exchange for a dues-checkoff (where union dues are deducted from your paycheck). This means unions give up one of their only defenses in return for a steady flow of cash. Stoppage in work, means a stoppage in dues. The IWW doesn't believe in dues-checkoff.
My definition for parasite refers more to the actions of those who are willing to take from another without providing something in return. Managers do work. Some owners do work. Its not their being rewarded for their work that I criticize. Rather its PROFIT off the work of others which is wrong. Managers are generally paid a salary and the amount of profit the receive is usually limited to some stock option plan that is similar to non-management employees. Owners, however, don't necessairly have to work to receive their profit. Many owners who do work, also pay themselves a salary in addition to the profit they receive. Profit, is that money left after cost of sales (which includes all wages and salary) is deducted from sales. Profit, unless distributed on the basis of work, is theft.
Many managers pay dearly for their increase in salary, often working well beyond their 40 hour work weeks. They get a bit better health plan and more cash in the week, but the sacrifice both their own time; and the interests of their subordinates... to the interests of their bosses, the owners. Managers are in the middle, it'd be much better of them to side with the workers, but somebody always thinks its good to be the little boss. Its always easier hold up your boss, if your standing on another guy's neck.
I did my time working fast food. I put in over a year. I never got my 6 month evaluation. I never got a raise. I closed, I worked grill, chicken, prep, did stock, cleaned, and even learned enough of the finances to know I was getting screwed. The entire management of the store left before I gave up on the place at a bunch of management which was much worse than the first. The entire time I worked there I was at minmum wage, with my hours being constantly jerked around, while trying to meet my expenses for living independently. There were many people at my store much older, particularly during day shift. They needed that money and worked hard for it... any profit that was made was rightfully theirs, not some member of the Board of Directors we never met.
The IWW is firmly committed to organizing the unorganized. Infact one of our members of the General Executive Board go his start trying to organize his crappy gas station/convience store. The IWW trys to help anyone who wants to improve their working conditions, thats included bookstores (both chains, and indepedents), food co-ops (thats producer co-op mind you, not a worker-owned co-op), the American Friends Service Committee, modular housing construction, migrant farm workers, pharmacetuical factories, small trucking firms. Infact the IWW puts most of its resources not into organizing in major companies at all since most of that is usually already unionized by the AFL-CIO.
As far as I know, the IWW has gotten zero media coverage from trying to organize McDonald's. We have, however, got some notice for the drive at Border's Books and Music; most notably the store in Philadelphia.
I generally only talk about restraunt organizing on this board because thats what the focus is here.
I disagree with your perception on the relation between unions, companies, strikes and wage increases. Most strikes are not held these days to increase wages, rather its usually to try and hold onto what they already got. Infact, thats one of the problems with the labor movement these days in that all their fights are reactionary ones. Take, for example the recent UPS strike... it was about trying to have many of the part-time employees be eligible for full-time employment, with full-time employment would come benefits and better wages. However, it kind of misses the point on why there are so many temporary employees these days... permatemps and part-time workers who have two jobs mean people are loosing ground.
You point out to places like Mexico and Taiwan where unions are needed.
I agree with you. However, you claim that we have laws that will protect our workers... many of those laws only came about by militant labor struggles. Unions don't just improve the conditions at the one place they are at, but as mentioned by the folks up in Canada, they can improve conditions where there aren't unions. Unions got us the 8 hour day, the weekend, living wages, health care, pensions, all things that are being rolled back by corporations.
Many unions are corrupt. Many unions are authoritarian. Many unions are a racket. Infact, the labor movement is largely in the state it is in because of bad unions. The AFL-CIO has advocated a doctrine on appeasement and non-adversial relationships with the employer for decades.
Labor Board only exist in the first place because of union struggles.
Business unions, the labor party, and various socialist groups campaigned for years to get labor boards. Ultimately, labor boards serve to minimize conflict between workers and bosses. However, increasingly, the National Labor Relations Board serves more as a tool for bosses to crush organizing drives.
Your elected offical is of little use about improving your job. After all, who do you think can give him a bigger campaign contribution... you or your corporation, particularly since increasingly unions are being discouraged and disallowed from using union dues for electoral politics. Personally, I think unions should stay out of electoral politics and should instead concentrate on economic action. If people want to play politics, they can join a party.
As to getting the police to help, I don't know if you've noticed but police have been pretty involved with breaking strikes, and if the cops won't do it the companies call in private security, if that doesn't work they call in the army. It happens all the time. The general strike in Puerto Rico earlier this year by telephone workers resisting privitization had quite amount of violence being dished out by law and order.
Ultimately, if we want things to even stay they way they are (much less, improve!) we have to organize as workers to protect ourselves. Nobody is going to do it for us. It can be in worker-owned co-ops, mutual aid socities, coalitions, alliances, unions, syndicates, whatever... hell, we'd all be better off if we just got together after ork for ten minutes and discussed what we could do to improve it. Unions can be a good way to improve things. But sometimes it just takes agreement. The sit-down strikes the CIO is so famous for was largely opposed by the CIO "leadership"; infact most strikes in the US are wildcat strikes done without union permission. This is a problem with unions, not the workers. They've got to be democratically controlled by the rank and file.
I think I've got a pretty balanced perspective on the goods and the ills of unions. I'd still rather have one, than have no protection for my job.