Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scabs are Writers, too

I think this shovel belongs to you.
—"Few Clothes" Johnson, Matewan

One of the reasons I hate strikes is the peer pressure to keep scabs from crossing picket lines. People cross picket lines because they see opportunity to work, they need the money, and probably because they think it's madness to walk out on an employer.

The thing is, scabs are potential union members. Thus, as contradictory as it might seem, a union is best served if they can convince scabs to join the union, too. In the words of Matewan's Joe Kenehan, "You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker. Any union keeps this man out ain't a union, it's a goddamn club."

How do you convince a scab not to be a scab? They usually have their reasons, and from their perspective, they're good reasons. Perhaps they risk severe litigation for breach of contract. Perhaps their career is on the line. Perhaps they're teetering on the brink of personal bankruptcy. All good reasons. How can a picketer reasonably ask someone to set those considerations aside, and let them be superceded by a strike's uncertain future?

Yesterday, I posted that the WGA suggests their members, "report to the Guild the name of any non-member whom you believe has performed any writing services for a struck company and as much information as possible about the non-member's services."


So that "the Guild can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership. This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many would-be strike breakers to refrain from seriously harming the Guild and its members during a strike."

Okay... that's the stick, but where's the carrot? What incentive would a scab have to join a union other than this brutish iron gauntlet? What can they take home with them as comfort that they actually did the right thing because they chose to, not because they were forced to?

If I were running the WGA, I'd delete that "or else" clause from the strike rules. If people want to cross the picket line, let them—it's their choice. But if they did cross the picket line, I'd immediately dispatch my hand-selected PR rep (probably a nice old lady whom everyone would immediately respect and want to agree with) to gently convince them—one at a time—that the Guild will never sanction a scab for crossing a picket line and that the WGA will still fight for their rights as writers. And that the union is stronger as a group. And that they can continue working if they want and the WGA won't ever judge them. Finally, most importantly, the door will always be open to them.

Remember Aesop's Fable of The Wind and The Sun?
The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: "I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin." So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

Kindness effects more than severity.

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