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Look for the Union Label – but Not in New Zealand or Middle Earth

Posted on November 11 2010 9:00 am
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Like the prehistoric beasts of the 1993 science fiction thriller Jurassic Park, unionism, and especially the coerced and government protected “closed shop” unionism of the early to mid-twentieth century may some day be the subject of an intellectual zoological garden featuring representations of long extinct exotic ideologies such as socialism, communism, fascism, and the ever eclectic “progressivism” of the present age.

While American unionism continues to dwindle in the private sector, with only some 12.3 percent of private sector workers being unionized, both it, and the ever more aggressive public sector unions (comprising 52 percent of all unionized workers) continue their historic function: to artificially limit the supply of labor for the purpose of artificially inflating its price.

The rapacity, greed, hair-splitting micromanagement of work itself, and, at times, fevered power madness of both American unions and others, such as the British, German and French, are the stuff of social and political history (and infamy.)  Recently, as director Peter Jackson came on board to fill the director’s seat once more to bring to the screen The Hobbit, the prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed Middle Earth trilogy, union activists, like the rampaging Orc’s of the Lord of the Rings, descended upon the production and for some two months, demanding – well, this, that, and the other.

Unlike, however, most stories of union activism and intimidation to which we in the States are accustomed, this story has recently ended in an unusual way.

The union in question, New Zealand Actors Equity (NZAE) (notice: its all about “equity”, actors as a class being, as we all know, among the most exploited and mistreated of all the world’s proletarians) decided they wanted to organize the production, but never specified just what their demands were.  For two months, the union attempted to force its will upon an unwilling cast, crew and director (Jackson called the whole episode the work of “opportunists exploiting our film for their own political gain” and characterized it as a “blacklist” of The Hobbit and an exercise in “gutlessness” by the NZAE) and tried, in concert with its overseas affiliates and the American Screen Actors Guild, to boycott the production.

Indeed, Jackson could not have been clearer:

The spectacle of NZ Actors’ Equity suddenly cancelling their Wellington meeting, because film workers wanted to express to them their concern at losing The Hobbit, exemplifies the pure gutlessness of this small, self-centred group. They don’t appear to care about the repurcussions of their actions on others, nor are they prepared to take responsibility for decisions made in their name. NZ Equity constantly refer to ‘good faith’ discussions but they have never acted in good faith towards our film.

But the times may be a-changin’, not only in the states, but in New Zealand as well.  The actors didn’t come on board with the Union, and while one meeting was expected to draw vast throngs of unions supporters numbering about ninety, counter-demonstrations attracted thousands of participants.  When all concerned in the production threatened to take their business out of New Zealand, the walls came tumbling down, as the song says, and something interesting occurred, something Americans can only hope might one day take hold here when our own modern guild socialists have pushed too far: the government passed – in one day – significant legislation effectively making film production in New Zealand a private sector affair, and placing union fingers that would normally be in the pie at a safe distance.

Imagine – just imagine – public education becoming a dynamic, competitive enterprise featuring non-union public schools that had to compete for students with private schools that competed with both the public schools and each other for educational “box office”.  Imagine – its easy if you try – American films that cost a fraction of what they now cost to produce in Tinseltown and the revitalization of small, independent producers for the theatrical market (not direct-to-video).

Imagine merit, competence, and the disciplines of the market guiding much more of the American economy than at present.

Well now, that would really be gist for the mill of “hope and change”.

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