Last week, BART workers went on strike, shutting down the region’s major mass transit service for a few days. The strike has ended with what will ultimately be a victory for labor. What’s notable here though is the response from the Silicon Valley plutocrats who actively wanted the union crushed.
Sarah Lacy, founder of tech news site Pando Daily, which is based in San Francisco, said “If I had more friends who were BART drivers, I would probably be very sympathetic to their cause, and if they had more friends who were building companies they would probably realize we’re not all millionaires, and we’re actually working pretty hard to build something.”
She said the BART strike exacerbated what she sees as a philosophical divide in the Bay Area. “People in the tech industry feel like life is a meritocracy. You work really hard, you build something and you create something, which is sort of directly opposite to unions.”
If I only cared to know working people, maybe I’d understand. But I’d never slum that much since my vision of meritocracy sees working-class people as below contempt. It’s hardly a wonder that Sam Biddle at Gawker calls Lacy “a free market monster.” But at least she has the right friends for a free market monster!
Anti-union views aren’t unique to Silicon Valley gazillionaires — they’re shared by free-market boosters everywhere. But comments like Lacy’s and White’s in response to the BART strike revealed something new. Namely, portions of the tech community are not only observing the destruction of unions as a long-term sociopolitical trend, but actively cheering it on as an example of an intellectual “maker” class beating out working-class “takers.” The old Silicon Valley anti-unionism came from narrow corporate self-interest; the new seems more broadly ideological.
“The notion that ‘These workers are expendable’ is a fundamentally different attitude toward workers than ‘Let’s make sure they have these benefits so they don’t want to unionize,’” Berlin said.
In other words, it’s not Silicon Valley’s rejection of organized labor that should surprise us. It’s the class hostility that now often rides along with it.
The anti-union libertarianism that coincides with the workplace culture of Silicon Valley that also demands tremendous sacrifices from their own workers is a terrible plague upon the United States and the world, in part because it facilitates sociopaths like Steve Jobs to not care if the workers making his products in China are killing themselves and in part because of the attitudes toward workers shown by Silicon Valley during the BART strike.