Republican Marco Rubio Endorses Amazon Unionization Drive

The enemy for Republicans is increasingly Human Resources Departments.

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It’s hard to overstate the importance of what Republican Senator Marco Rubio did in supporting workers in Alabama over Amazon, as it has been an article of faith since the 1970s that unions and the Republican Party are mortal enemies. What’s fascinating is how Rubio approached the problem in cultural terms. After saying that “the days of conservatives being taken for granted by the business community are over,” he then went on to attack human resource departments. Here’s Rubio:

Uniquely malicious corporate behavior like Amazon’s justifies a more adversarial approach to labor relations. It is no fault of Amazon’s workers if they feel the only option available to protect themselves against bad faith is to form a union. Today it might be workplace conditions, but tomorrow it might be a requirement that the workers embrace management’s latest “woke” human resources fad.

Here’s what I wrote in February about HR networks.

When we think about race, gender and power, what usually comes to mind is protest, discrimination, culture, epithets, political disputes, police and criminal justice issues, and so forth, with a legacy of the civil rights movement and longstanding legacies of racism as the backdrop.

In reality, that’s all fairly abstract. The power relationship most of us experience in our life is at work, as an employee working for someone else, as a boss, or as both. Workplace policies and their enforcement, whether it’s time cards, anti-harassment guidelines, pregnancy and leave, diversity training, compensation, rules for romance with co-workers, are the primary quasi-legalistic regime most of us experience on a daily basis. In other words, human resources departments organize the rules by which we manage questions of identity and power.

Modern HR policies come from a mash-up of vague civil rights laws passed in the 1960s and 1970s that had to be operationalized by workplaces at the very same time as monopolies rose and unions died. To that end, sociologist Frank Dobbin’s book, Inventing Equal Opportunitydescribes their creation as the sort of lost history of the civil rights movement, of activism and legal fights in the Selma era turning into HR compliance regimes blessed by judges in the 1980s and onward. After I read Dobbin’s book, I started paying a lot of attention to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for Human Resources.

SHRM is this insane mash-up of corporatist lobbying mixed with social justice rhetoric, and it convinced me that corporate HR departments are what a civil rights movement looks like when labor has no power.

It feels like the era of neoliberalism, which includes a specific view of race and corporate power, is really ending.