The American labor movement was known, historically, for both political moderation and political effectiveness. But private sector unions are in a state of apparently terminal decline, as currently only 6.4% of private sector workers are union members. Perhaps shrinking membership and political clout explains why unions have become shriller and more radical. The AFL-CIO is a case in point.
Yesterday, the AFL-CIO posted this bizarre tweet, which consists of a video starring someone named Dan Whelan, who is identified as “marxist, roofer.” The video is funny in all the wrong ways. Whelan tries to update Marx, who was wrong about everything 150 years ago and not worth the effort. Whelan says there is no such thing as a middle class, since everyone who does not own the “means of production” is a “worker.” What, exactly, are the means of production in a 21st century economy? This is my favorite howler: Whelan identifies three: factories (fair enough), plantations (we don’t have a lot of those anymore) and skyscrapers. Seriously. So you are a “worker” or a “capitalist,” depending on whether you own a part interest in the building that houses your office.
The AFL-CIO’s comment? A throwback to the glory days of the 19th century: “We all need to seize the means of production.”
— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) May 14, 2019
This is mostly for entertainment value, but it is a serious matter that unions, like so many other institutions in American life, have gone around the bend.