I was driving home on the Pennsylvania turnpike early Thursday morning for Thanksgiving with the family, and it happened that the tollbooth workers were on strike. When I’d originally gotten on there was simply a sign that read ‘No Tickets’ and I assumed that meant also ‘No Tolls’ so I may be getting a traffic ticket for speeding through the exit on the other end. (As it happens they’re charging flat fees of $2 for passenger vehicles and $15 for commercial — woe to ye planning short trips).
But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about labor unions, and the sage words of the emperor Trajan.
(I suspect I’ve gotten Eric’s attention.)
When I reached my exit it seemed cars were avoiding the right lanes, but I need to veer off immediately after the booths to get home, so I always try to take the rightmost booth. As I approached I realized why people were steering clear. Two union strikers with large picket signs were walking slowly through the booth toward my car, and in annoyance I hit the horn and gunned the engine.
To their credit (and well-being) they got out of the way.
I have no tolerance for people disrupting my life or inconveniencing me for any reason, the least of which being a work-related dispute. The fact that you pay dues to a thuggish political organization doesn’t give you the right to bring your disputes to my doorstep or to my bumper.
So as I drove away annoyed at the nerve of these men I remembered the correspondence of Pliny and Trajan on the aftermath of a devastating fire (Pliny Letters X.33-34).
Pliny asked the emperor whether it wouldn’t be a good idea, having ordered the necessary equipment, to institute a guild or a union of firefighters.
Trajan warned that such unions invariably become political, and considering the state of the province in question, in which political faction was the norm, establishing a labor union would be inadvisable. Instead Pliny, commended for ordering the necessary equipment, was to employ a sort of volunteer force on an as needed basis.
Today the political nature of labor unions is unmistakable, and the sense of the union above all else results at times in thuggish behavior as simple as attempting to block a car, to making little girls cry.
I suspect many will object, but hey, I could have worse company than Trajan in my objection to the politicization of organized labor.
So I just knocked out this little graphic while chatting with a friend on the phone. Enjoy: