Term "Union Boss"

The Worst Thing You Can Call a Union Leader? A Boss

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Article from Canada. Does that apply to US Union bosses too??

I thought union bosses were usually titled “Don”.

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I’ve not heard that term used. The capitalist bootlickers usually use boss / thug / rank and file for the various positions.

Yes. The Dons are the invisible hands hidden safely behind expendable frontmen who win make believe “elections.” Sort of like Government.

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Looks like some main media outlet is using the term “Union Boss”:

Il capo di tutti capi. The boss of all bosses

“Union boss” is the term preferred by capitalist bootlickers so yes, of course it’s used by the media.

It’s explained in the article I posted. Basically the message is blue collar workers are too stupid to elect leadership but must be ruled by bosses. You don’t see media referring to CEOs and the like as company bosses.


This is a naive reading that ignores the emotional loading inherent in “union bosses”.

Written usage of the term peaked in the US around 1960 (in UK around 1980) and has considerably declined since then.

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Why do the most right-wing politicians and corporate news outlets always use the term “union boss”? Because the worst thing they can think of is to say the leader of a labour organization acts like a capitalist? Strangely, one of the main reasons workers seek to unionize is to protect themselves from the arbitrary power of bosses.

The Worst Thing You Can Call a Union Leader? A


“I am not here to take marching orders from union bosses,” said Mr. Poilievre. “I represent taxpayers and frankly taxpayers expect us to keep costs under control so that we can keep taxes down. It is for those taxpayers that we work. Not union bosses.” - May 1 Conservative Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Poilievre

Why do the most right-wing politicians and corporate news outlets always use the term “union boss”? Because the worst thing they can think of is to say the leader of a labour organization acts like a capitalist? Or the capitalist’s lackey?

Perhaps the irony of insulting a democratically elected representative of workers by calling him/her a boss is beyond the understanding of most of the term’s users, but it’s interesting to point out nonetheless. Apparently, right wing editorial page or news editors understand (at least at one level) that most working people are dissatisfied with the arbitrary power unelected bosses have over their lives. By associating unions with widely disliked bosses – the Ottawa Sun , for example, often calls a labour leader “union boss” multiple times in a short article – they act as if they believe this term will discredit labour leaders.

Strangely, one of the main reasons workers seek to unionize is to protect themselves from the arbitrary power of bosses. Often a desire for rules dealing with seniority and discipline, not better wages and benefits, is what prompts people to unionize. Unions fulfil workers’ yearning for some workplace democracy. In the process they challenge capitalists’ control over the workplace. And by bringing some organizational structure to the amorphous working class, unions also weaken capitalist power in the political arena. This, of course, displeases media outlet owners, the bosses they hire and the right-wing editors whose job it is to be the sycophants of the rich and powerful one percent who run the world.

So, to please their bosses and the bosses of their bosses, these professional flatterers call union leaders “bosses.” Am I the only one who finds this more than a little surreal?

Surely a really good capitalist bootlicker could come up with a more insulting word, one that wasn’t in such direct conflict with their professed admiration for our economic system and all the real bosses who run it? But nothing works quite like “boss” precisely because that word challenges the whole idea of workers democratically electing their leaders, which is what happens in most unions.

So, perhaps the epithet “union boss” is not really aimed at the presidents, secretary-treasurers or other heads of unions at all. Rather, it is an insult aimed at all workers, who these right-wing minions think are too stupid to participate in the democratic process of choosing a leader.

These Yes Men of the super rich cannot conceive of workers running their own organizations. When you make your living as a toady you have a hard time imagining anyone else thinking for him or herself. Instead you believe workers always take orders from bosses. After all that’s what you do.

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I think the article works too hard.

“Union boss” is an emotionally loaded term intended as a pejorative in political speech. It evokes images of corruption which is perhaps too easy to find in the history of labor unions.

I don’t think it’s relevant to what caPITalist** bootlickers can imagine, but only to what they hope to accomplish by their speech, i.e. typically the muzzling or destruction of labor unions.

The question isn’t so much whether workers can run their own organizations, but rather that having created an instrument of power, the labor union, can they effectively resist encroachment by those who would subvert that power for their own corrupt purposes. I think the results on that are mixed.

**as pronounced by a Dick Francis character

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Yes, that article is a little over the top, but bootlickers and minions is a good answer to bosses and thugs.

Using the term “boss” is a blunt tool. For one it implies the hopelessness of joining a union only to trade one boss for another. How can a worker escape arbitrary treatment from the company boss by paying dues to another boss? Now he has two bosses instead of one.


Exactly. “Here comes the new boss, just like the old boss.”

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I agree with what the article @Kennebec_Captain referenced is trying to say with regards to the term “union boss”. At the same time the term “capitalists” is being overused as the antagonist. There are many public service unions whose employment are government or pseudo governmental entities.

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Unions are not alone with this problem .Every human organization, be it a mom and pop store, a giant conglomerate or a church has to deal with the principal–agent problem.

agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals,

It would be naive to believe that any organization is only acting for it’s own members interest.

The only reason to believe that unions are special in this regard is the belief that workers are uniquely unqualified to organize their own affairs.

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It seems to me rather more complex than that. On the one hand, unions are large and powerful enough to pose a threat to the interests of capital. Thus it is in capital’s (narrow) interest to subvert them. On the other hand they are internally a guaranteed source of income which is used in aid of an intangible product, the interests of labor. This makes them an ideal target for organized crime or unscrupulous individuals (as are of course many other things). Big enough to be worthwhile, small enough to have limited powers of resistance. And with a built-in tendency for those at the top to become used to a moneyed way of life, which can encourage them to become personally aligned with the interests of capital.

Furthermore their history is steeped in violent reaction to violent attempts at suppression, which can be a convenience to those who wish to denigrate them (perhaps conveniently forgetting the broken heads caused by capital’s attempts to suppress/destroy them).

Yes, more complex of course. But as far as an ideal target? Organizations don’t exist in a vacuum the are the result of many factors including law, in the case of unions Taft-Hartly etc.

We’ve learned recently that real estate is an investment that is more friendly then most to parties seeking to launder large sums of off-shore money. That’s a result of deliberate structuring of the law by politicians, not anything inherent about real estate.

Industries that inherently create more risk to public safety are regulated more strictly to account for that fact compared to less risky endeavors.

If unions are in fact more prone to corruption than the regulatory framework in which they exist should be adjusted to account for that weakness.

It is in capitals interest that unions are seen as corrupt. I’m not sure that Facebook, Google or Goldman Saks or their regulators are looking out only for my interests.


Very well said.