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Volume 3, No. 18 - Summer 2000
Scabs - No Free Agents!
Recently, I was involved in a situation in which a nonmember expressed the opinion that, because he was not a member of the NALC, the Union should not be concerned with his activities as a letter carrier - that is, that it was none of the Union's business what he did or didn't do while working.
He was quickly given to understand that the NALC is the exclusive representative of letter carriers whether they are Union members or not.
This Union will not brook any unilateral deals with Management by nonmembers - the Contract applies to all letter carriers, members or not - and the Union's stewards are obligated to enforce the Contract evenhandedly on behalf of those letter carriers.
You have no doubt noticed that I used the word "scabs" in the headline of this article. That was not an accident. The word "scab" is protected by the National Labor Relations Act; as long as it is correctly used to identify a person who is, in fact, a scab. It is improper, of course, to refer to a union member as a scab.
So why did I use the word "scabs"? Well, I recently read an article in another Branch newsletter in which the author differentiated between the terms "nonmember" and "scab". He felt that the harsh term "scab" should be reserved for those people who crossed a picket line during a strike; and that the term "nonmember" should be used at all other times.
There is some merit to his point of view - you probably wouldn't be very successful in getting someone to join the Union by continually referring that person as a "scab"; obviously, it is a derogatory term that is meant to be offensive. Simply put, the old adage about catching more flies with sugar water than with vinegar applies.
But, on the other hand, there is always a societal picket line that is marked by membership in the organization, in place in any organized labor environment. Those failing to become members cross that societal picket line, effectively stating to their peers "I don't believe in brotherhood - I'll go my own way, you go yours." That is exactly the viewpoint of a "scab", taking care of "number one".
The greatest offense that is given by these people to the Union members is that the "scab" sits back enjoys all the fruits of the Union's labor on behalf its membership without contributing one red cent toward obtaining those hard-won benefits.
They may be friendly people, they may have a plausible "reason" for not joining and believe they are right, they may have a complaint or grudge about a Union officer, member, or grievance - but, until they join the Union's society, they will be "scabs".
I am not saying that you should run right out and create ill will by addressing someone as a "scab" (they might not have been given a chance to join, yet) - but, those who willfully remain outside the Union society should not be surprised to be called one.
Darryl Parker, President