This is my next installation in my economic series about the coming Corporate Feudalism and how we avoid it.
I was raised in a Christian family, more specifically, a Methodist family. (I’m Catholic now, but was Methodist then.) In our church, while the adults attended services, the children attended Sunday school. In Sunday school, we would be told the stories in the Bible and talk about how those stories applied to our lives today. One of those stories was of David and Goliath.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with that story. Back in the days when Saul was king of the Israelites, a great Philistine army came to their borders. The Philistine general sent word to Saul that instead of the two armies fighting each other, each side could send out a champion to do battle, and if the Philistine champion won, the Philistine army would take over the land of the Israelites, and the Israelites would become their slaves. If the Philistine lost, the Philistine army would become the Israeli subjects. Then they brought forth Goliath. He was a huge man, and he had been supplied by the Philistines with the best weapons and armor that could be forged at that time. He struck fear into the hearts of those in the Israelite army. For 40 days, Goliath came out in the morning and at night shouting this challenge. For 40 days and nights, the Israelite army quivered in their tents and did not send anybody out to meet the challenge. Finally, one day, David (who wasn’t in the army, he stayed home tending sheep) was visiting his brothers in the army and taking them food. Goliath came out and bellowed his challenge. When nobody stepped forth, David said, “I can take him,” and volunteered. He picked up five smooth stones from a nearby stream and used his sling to hurl a stone at Goliath. The stone hit Goliath in the head, and Goliath died. David won, and the rest is history. Or a morality tale. I have no interest in arguing which.
So then the Sunday school teacher began to talk about how this story was applicable in our lives. She said, “You see? David was just a boy, not very big, not trained to be a soldier. But he was able to kill Goliath. If you have faith, and if God is with you, even you can beat the big bullies you come up against. You can beat the bad guys.” And so it seems, that whenever anybody goes up against a big corporation and wins, or goes up against a big anything and wins, we recall the story of David and Goliath.
I got to thinking about that story a while back (I don’t know why, I just do things like that sometimes). Today, there is a Philistine army looking to enslave us. It is corporate America. They have an army of Goliaths, in the form of managers. The armor they have given their Goliaths is the power of the corporation. The weapons include, “company policy,” and “it’s the going pay scale,” and “nobody else expects …,” and “if you don’t like it, we can always find somebody else,” and “team player.” Those words have as much bite to them as the sharpest Philistine sword, and they beat employees into submission even more quickly. You have to be quite a David to stand up to that.
And here’s where something about that story began to bother me. Suddenly it dawned on me. The passage in the Bible doesn’t say how big the army was, but in context you can gather that the army was tens of thousands. On top of that army, there were the non-soldiers of Israel, who, like David, were doing normal things. David was tending sheep. Others were also tending flocks, or raising crops, or building houses or whatever people did. So in all of Israel were more than tens of thousands of people. Yet, in all of those tens of thousands, there was only one David. Only one. The odds of that one in tens of thousands being any particular person were really small. Sunday school teachers were talking to the children as if each of them could be that one in tens of thousands. But in reality, there was a higher probability of any one of them becoming a professional NFL player than being that one David. Applying that to today, the chances of any employee being able to stand up to the Goliaths sent out by the Corporate Philistines is really, really tiny. The Corporations set forth their terms, and the employees surrender. Another thing. Saul had chartered David to represent the Israelites. Whatever David gained was gained for and on behalf of all the kingdom. If a single employee does somehow manage to be a David, he is not chartered to represent anybody but himself. Anything he is able to wrest from the local Goliath is only for himself.
Something else occurred to me. There was only one David, but behind him was an Israelite army of tens of thousands. That is a part I have never heard anybody talk about. Recall that every day, for 40 days, Goliath came forth in the morning and at night to bellow his challenge. 40 days. The Philistine Army sat idle for 40 stupid days. Armies aren’t meant to sit in a camp waiting to attack for 40 days. Why didn’t they just attack? Because in front of them was an army of tens of thousands. While the Israelite army was not full of Davids, it was made up of tens of thousands of trained, competent soldiers. Those tens of thousands were standing in solidarity, defending their freedom, defending their families, their land, their homes, their futures. They did not have to be Davids to be good soldiers. They were prepared to put up a good fight. Even if the Philistines were able to defeat that army of tens of thousands, many would die, and many more would be badly injured. And they could lose. For some reason, this feared army that had rolled over other kingdoms en route to Israel did not really want to fight this battle. So they sent their Goliath out in the belief that their Goliath could defeat anybody the Israelites could bring forward. If there had been no Israelite army, there would have been no David. Rather, without that army, the Philistines would have simply run over the kingdom killing anybody who got in their way. That would have included David. Standing alone, the people were helpless.
It is no different when the employee faces the corporate Goliath. If he stands alone, he has no chance. The corporation has all the advantages. It is only when employees band together into an army and stand in solidarity that the power is leveled. Because the union army will be standing in solidarity, defending their freedom, their families, their homes, their futures. When they form a union, join the union, and stand with the union, they are on a common footing with the corporations. It is then that the union can find and charter a David to go to battle on behalf of all the members. And what happened when David killed Goliath? “When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron.” While we don’t expect the union army to kill all the corporatists, we can expect the corporations to back off. Back in the day, before Ronnie the Destroyer broke the air traffic control union and his party began to dissemble unions, unions had won for their members (and for many who weren’t in the unions) pensions, paid vacation, health care coverage, competitive salaries and safer work environments. As unions have been dismantled, all those benefits have either been eliminated or cut back drastically. We need unions to help get them back. Because we can’t do it individually. There was only one David. And even he didn’t stand alone. The Israelite army made David possible.
My next piece will be about how we help our unions regain influence and what unions need to do.