A couple months ago, we did a post about some unions that are hiring nonunion demonstrators to protest work that’s being done with nonunion labor. Last night, this ridiculous story got the Daily Show treatment.
In the segment, correspondent Asif Mandvi pays a visit to United Food and Commercial Workers local 711 in Nevada, where—after hearing about their struggle against Wal-Mart’s unfair wages and practices—he learns that the UFCW protesters are a “bunch of scabs.” Of course, Mandvi then facetiously asks UFCW 711 president Mike Gittings if he’s aware of this. Gittings squirms in his seat trying not to say “yes.” Mandvi initally lets him off the hook, assuming the union treated the hired protesters “like their own.” But, of course, he finds out this isn’t true, as the protesters make minimum wage without benefits. To make matters worse, their hours are getting cut—one of the primary grievances UFCW has against Wal-Mart. So Mandvi helps organize a protesters union, giving Gittings one last chance to set the record straight. But Gittings makes the mistake of blaming Wal-Mart again, saying that a lot of companies are following its example of low-wages and lack of health care–to which Mandvi responds, “Is one of those companies UFCW?”
The emotional journey Mandvi’s correspondent character undergoes in this segement really encapsulates the problem with hiring protesters. While Mandvi was on board with UFCW’s struggle in the beginning, he completely loses respect for them when he finds out they don’t do their own protesting or uphold the same standards they’re seeking from Wal-Mart.
As I wrote before, this shows a complete lack of understanding as to the dynamics of nonviolent action. It’s too bad some unions don’t seem to understand how they’re undermining their own cause because there are certainly a lot of people deeply affected by the poor practices of Wal-Mart. Perhaps the best thing UFCW can do is step aside from the issue until real organizers are able to bring true witness to the struggle.