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December 10, 2003

More on unions in Iraq. Reader Carlos, commenting on this post, makes a point that sent me (via Google) to this op-ed column from last July’s Los Angeles Times, co-authored by a former Secretary of Labor:
When Gen. Douglas MacArthur was given the task of creating a democratic system in Japan after centuries of imperial rule, one of the first things he did was encourage the creation of independent labor unions. To achieve this goal he incorporated the U.S. National Labor Relations Act verbatim into Japanese law. Unions in both nations remain a key element in the stable fabric of society. […]

There are many reasons why dictators hate unions and why they are needed when dictators fall. Unions are an independent source of power and almost always bring together groups that totalitarian regimes seek to keep separate and antagonistic—for instance, whites and blacks in South Africa and workers, intellectuals, miners and farmers in Poland. In Iraq, real trade unions would inevitably unite Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish workers. […]

There is reason to doubt that the Bush administration will follow the path taken so successfully by its predecessors.

One suspects so. [01:31 PM]
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Comments on More on unions in Iraq.:

Nicholas Weininger ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:41 PM:

The author paints an overly rosy picture of the history of unions and race. In South Africa in the first half of the 20th century the (white) unions often supported apartheid policies, as such policies kept their members from having to compete with black workers. Some may later have come around to an anti-apartheid stance, but claiming that unions have always been natural anti-racists is misleading.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 08:23 PM:

Here, too, the early history of unions was marked by racial animus from unions.
After that, though, they were, and remain, a force for integration, valuing seniority, skill, and human dignity over the whims and prejudices of the bosses.

Martin Schafer ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 07:10 PM:

While I normally think of myself as being rather anti-union, the article is clearly correct. Another example would be the crucial role the Korean trade unions played in South Korea's transition to a real democracy.