This Week’s Cartoon: “Union Envy”

As unions grow less and less powerful in the US, it seems we’re losing our collective memory of why they are important, and also of what a decent job looks like. As one young person put it recently in the NYT:

More typical was Brett Stephens, 23, who had worked in more jobs since he was 15 than Ms. Rollins has in her lifetime. He had jobs at a snack shop, as a lifeguard, at Little Caesars restaurants in South Carolina and Florida, at a Limited clothing store, with a temp agency, and most recently as a cook in a diner.

He did not go to college, he said, because his grandmother, who raised him after his mother died when he was 9, could not afford to send him. Now he scrapes by on $10 an hour, unable to afford health care for his two children. It is covered by welfare.

“I think they should stop crying,” he said of the protesting union members. Everyone was working hard and tightening their belts, he said, so why should unions be different?

I empathize with anyone trying to support a family on crap jobs like that — but this also illustrates how the working class plays right into the hands of the very elites who want to do away with unions. First, eliminate the good jobs that allow workers their fair share of the nation’s wealth; next watch them turn against each other. On the Slowpoke Facebook page (only 5 more likes till 900!), one reader alludes to a crab bucket, an analogy often used by writer Terry Pratchett:

Anyone as experienced in handling seafood as Ms Pushpram knows that no lid is necessary on a bucket of crabs. If one tries to climb out, the others will pull it back. Crabs fall considerably lower on the evolutionary scale than primates and, certainly, people, so this this seems to be a basic force of life. Petty jealousy or a reluctance to see anyone do better has probably slowed the development of civilisation more than anything.

Fortunately, polls show a majority of Americans support workers keeping their bargaining rights — so our case of crabs is not an epidemic, as some billionaires might have you believe.


Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist for Daily Kos, The Nation, In These Times, Politico and other publications throughout the US. She received the 2023 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning from the National Press Foundation, and is a recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She is also a Pulitzer Finalist.



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