There’s a lot of talk these days about “creative destruction”, where old markets are destroyed for the sake of the new. The theory holds that entrepreneurial innovation leads to long-term economic growth even if, in the short-term, the economic value of established enterprises is destroyed.
There are instances where the theory holds true, i.e. the development of MP3 players (e.g. the IPod) virtually destroyed the portable CD player market. The effect of creative destruction on unions, however, has been far less benign.
Entrepreneurial innovations can lead to perceived redundancies in the labour market, which “creates” weakened unions and shrinks the middle class. While creative destruction is often presented as a basic fact of capitalism that can’t be resisted, some unions are proving that creative organization can provide a counterbalance to the forces of creative destruction.
We would like to share a creative approach to organizing that was recently used. Some non-union workers became concerned for their futures after their company was sold to a European group. Workers sought the support of a union, but feared they would suffer reprisals from the employer. These concerns were not unwarranted. Years earlier the workers had tried to organize but the employer had retaliated, firing some of the organizers. Naturally, the workers were afraid to talk amongst themselves on the floor. The situation didn’t look good.
Instead of giving up, however, organizers got creative. They set up a special blog, a place where the workers could discuss, debate, share concerns and strategize, free from any employer coercion or union-busting tactics. The blog discussion amongst the workers was completely anonymous, so there was no one the employer could pressure. In part due to the freedom this blog provided, the workers were able to organize, join the union and protect themselves.We applaud the organizers for their creativity and courage in the face of union-busting and job insecurity. The workers have gained new respect. They have gained job security. They have taken steps to ensure they can continue to provide for themselves and their loved ones. They have answered creative destruction with creative organization