Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crabs in a bucket

This is a letter in the Strib today. It is not a Spotty winner.

Lots of people would like to have nursing salaries and benefits. Lots of people would just like to have a job.

Nurses had better clean up their acts and weed out bad nurses before skipping work and marching around the streets hiding behind a union.

Have nurses gone onto their own website and seen how many union officials are being paid?

Unions are necessary for trades such as construction workers, but not for professional people who make more $70,000 a year plus benefits. You will force the hand of the hospitals to hire fewer highly paid RNs and use licensed practical nurses and nurse aides.

Stop blaming hospital management and saying this is about your patients. It's about your greed.

This can be worked out without highly paid union officials, but in a professional way, with hospital management. Business professionals do this all the time.

The letter writer here demonstrates the phenomenon called “crabs in a bucket.” Here’s the Urban Dictionary’s description of crabs in a bucket:

A crab bucket is what it is: crabs in a bucket. However, what happens in the bucket full of crabs is what makes it a famous saying. When a single crab is put into a lidless bucket, it surely can and will escape. However, when more than one share a bucket, none can get out. If one crab elevates himself above all, the others will grab this crab and drag 'em back down to share the mutual fate of the rest of the group. Crab bucket syndrome is often used to describe social situations where one person is trying to better himself and others in the community attempt to pull him back down. Also often used in describing the ghettos of America (or anywhere, for that matter).

The writer lays it out in the first two sentences:

Lots of people would like to have nursing salaries and benefits. Lots of people would just like to have a job.

Undoubtedly both true. But that’s hardly a reason to knock the nurses down. This letter simply springs from a sense of grievance, resentment, and envy.

And did I mention the anti-union bile with which the letter is laced? The nurses need to “clean up their acts weed out the bad nurses,” before “skipping work,” and the nurses certainly don’t need “highly paid union officials.” The writer says that nurses should act more like “business professionals.”

In reality, of course, nurses are working people, like, police, fire fighters, mail carriers, teachers, and most of the rest of us, frankly. Nurses don’t get to sit around a conference table and discuss hospital management with the hospital board of directors.

What nurses have, they have bargained for. Without the union, nurses, or any other organized occupation, wouldn’t have the salaries that our writer friend is so envious of. Nurses certainly didn’t used to.

The other thing that struck me about this letter is how you could substitute the word “teacher” for “nurse” and replay all of the recent hot air about teachers’ unions. Teachers are by-and-large public employees, and nurses are by-and-large private employees, but no matter.

The source of the bile is the same: grievance, resentment, and envy.

Here’s where it gets interesting, at least for me. These are also the things that inform and animate the Tea Party movement. A lot of people, perhaps even our letter writer here, have a sense that America no longer functions for them. And for many of them, it doesn’t. Wages have stagnated for decades, good jobs are hard to find, job security, along with live savings, have evaporated. The middle class life is endangered.

Somebody has to pay. Frightened and confused, people are susceptible to the demagoguery of the cabal really behind the Tea Party, agents provocateur like Dick Armey, who say it’s the gummint; it’s the unions.

The Dick Armeys of the world want us all to behave like the crabs in a bucket.

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