Unions gone wrongLabor movements are losing ground on the 20th anniversary of democratization. Citizens and even union members themselves are feeling repugnance for combative labor activism.
According to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, union members and citizens strongly criticized unions belonging to both the federation and the other umbrella labor group, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. One union member’s comment that the “union conducts strikes but the union members receive the damage” hits the spot. Public distrust is also high. Polls show that 74 percent think that labor groups strike too often and 78 percent said that labor unions are hurt by wrong-headed labor movements. People are especially negative when it comes to political strikes, such as opposition to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and the dispatch of forces to Iraq.
The cold shoulder that union members are getting from citizens is surfacing in the midst of some groups pursuing an anti-FTA strike scheduled for the end of this month. The metal workers’ union under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions decided to go ahead with an illegal strike without even conducting a vote among its members. Because they felt they might lose a vote for a strike that is unjustifiable, they are going forward with the action illegally.
The head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions vowed when he was sworn into office earlier this year that he would do his best to be respected by his union members and loved by the people. We are dumbfounded that he would believe that ignoring proper procedures and taking on a political strike that union members don’t even want is the best action for his union. The head of Hyundai Motor’s labor group only recently promised that he would control strikes, but it seems like he will also participate in the illegal strike.
A deformed labor movement that buries the voices of the majority in favor of a hard-core minority will only bring about tragic results. Their tactics will not only make it difficult for union members to keep their jobs, but also inevitably threaten the existence of the unions themselves.
If they do not realize where the people’s hearts lie, soon the labor unions will have to pull down their placards and evict the pointlessly combative forces within. The government must deal firmly with this matter within the law. That is what will put the labor movement back on the right track and restore the faith of anxious union members.