Progressives used to argue that the workers had more moral standing than owners and other elites because they actually did the work than enriched the upper classes. The proletarian status of the working class found favor from Karl Marx to George Meaney, and inspired the modern labor movement. Now its heirs have decided on their own division of labor .. by outsourcing picket lines:
The picketers marching in a circle in front of a downtown Washington office building chanting about low wages do not seem fully focused on their message.
Many have arrived with large suitcases or bags holding their belongings, which they keep in sight. Several are smoking cigarettes. One works a crossword puzzle. Another bangs a tambourine, while several drum on large white buckets. Some of the men walking the line call out to passing women, "Hey, baby." A few picketers gyrate and dance while chanting: "What do we want? Fair wages. When do we want them? Now."
Although their placards identify the picketers as being with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, they are not union members.
They're hired feet, or, as the union calls them, temporary workers, paid $8 an hour to picket. Many were recruited from homeless shelters or transitional houses. Several have recently been released from prison. Others are between jobs. ...
Carpenters locals across the country are outsourcing their picket lines, hiring the homeless, students, retirees and day laborers to get their message across. Larry Hujo, a spokesman for the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters, calls it a "shift in the paradigm" of picketing.
The ironies here are so thick that one could cut them with a labor-produced knife. Does the union offer these workers a chance to organize? Perhaps they should form Picket Line Walkers Local #1 and demand a better wage than $8 per hour. The working conditions sound rather grim as well. Do these workers get paid breaks, health-care coverage, and a safe working environment? Er ... no.
And let's take a look at that wage for just a moment. They're getting paid a whopping eight dollars per hour, almost certainly with no benefits. The Wal-Mart protest site, You Are Worth More, puts the average Wal-Mart hourly pay at $9.26 per hour -- which means they pay better than Labor pays its protest workers by 16%. Another site, Wake Up Wal-Mart, notes that the lowest paid job at the retailer still pays $8.23 per hour, and it doesn't involve hours of pacing in the hot sun during the summertime. And while some may consider Wal-Mart's benefits package insufficient, at least it exists.
The union's colleagues aren't impressed, nor should they be. The carpenters use what are essentially scabs for picket work because they apparently don't have enough out-of-work members to staff picket lines. That doesn't cut it for Wayne Ranick of the United Steelworkers, who says it doesn't leave a "positive impression" for labor. Homeless advocates interviewed by the Post call it an exploitation of the downtrodden, and wonder why the carpenters' union doesn't do some real good by providing these picketers with job training.
It seems that there is a class distinction within labor, perhaps even more pronounced than outside of it. The elites make the big money, while the workers sniff at the proles walking the picket lines.