Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Unions and Strikes

So I hear those unfortunate chuckleheads in the Toronto Transit Commission's union have decided to go on strike, this bringing the city to a standstill (at least for those too poor for cars), all over something just as trivial as the strike perpetrated by the New York transit workers not too long ago. There are a lot of things I could say about this (the phrases 'selfish assholes', 'overpaid bureaucrats', 'cancer on society' and 'criminal' spring to mind) but they're sort've outside the scope of this blog.

It's interesting to compare unions here and there, though. Western unions tend to be for the working classes and occasionally the skilled trades; while there are plenty of professional associations catering to white color workers, they're certainly not unions. The common office worker is almost never unionized.

In Japan, on the other hand, professionals, such as engineers, generally are unionized but - at least according the Japanese union bosses I've talked to at school - the working class usually isn't. These Japanese 'unions' seem a lot like associations: while they might to collective salary negotiations, they don't, as a general rule, strike.

And that seems to be the major difference: the Japanese (unlike, ohhh, say, the French) don't throw a temper tantrum and refuse to work just because every aspect of their dental plan isn't entirely satisfactory. They understand the idea of consensus, of negotiation, of meeting the other party halfway and not expecting to get every little thing you want. This isn't just a union thing, it's a very deeply rooted cultural thing. And, to be honest, it can be a little infuriating at times ... but at least the trains are run well.

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