America's Newest Form of Tribalism: Unions vs. Aboriginals

It’s been said that, as a productive civilization devolves, society will become ruled, not by law, but by special interest groups—each competing with one another to seize control in order to feed on the carcass of society. The more a civilization moves toward collectivism and devolves, the more citizenry will turn to tribalism—fighting over, like a pack of jackals, whatever scraps are left (or thrown to it by an all-powerful government). Eventually, society will get to the point that it will be controlled by whichever tribe (or pack) has the greater number, the sharpest teeth, the biggest club or largest gun.


Tribalism, a form of collectivism in its most primitive form, is the natural result of an abandonment of individual rights and the objective rule of law.

If men accept the notion that the individual is helpless, intellectually and morally, that he has no mind and no rights, that he is nothing, but the group is all, and his only moral significance lies in selfless service to the group—they will be pulled obediently to join a group.

It would appear that America is nearing that point now. We saw it with the auto bailouts and the abandonment of the rule of law in order to appease the United Auto Workers. We saw it with the health care fight, as individual rights were traded away for the backroom deals that were cut.  We see it with the “rich” vs. middle-class warfare being waged in Congress with the debate over tax increases. And, in the true spirit of tribalism, we’re now seeing it in California as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) fights the Aboriginal Blackmen United.

Just what is the Aboriginal Blackmen United? Well, it’s not a union in the traditional sense. Actually, maybe it is a union in the most primitive sense.  The ABU is described as follows:


…a group that’s part direct-action organization, part job placement agency, and all business when its members think employers are abusing their right to work. Its only headquarters is this street corner in front of the Double Rock Baptist Church.


With its 1960s-era Black Power tactics and no-holds-barred approach, it has become the de facto enforcer of the city’s local hiring goals. It is criticized for securing jobs through intimidation and for its narrow focus on its own members, but nobody denies that the ABU gets results.

Behind the Aboriginal Blackmen United is James Richards.

Richards is a big man in his 60s, eyes inscrutable, though seldom seen behind his sunglasses. There’s a marijuana bud on his gold front tooth. In conversation, Richards’ voice can be soft, his responses vague. But when it’s time to make a speech, he can preach social justice with the fire of a Civil Rights–era crusader, railing against chickens**t unions and lying politicians.

When it comes to the so-called “green jobs” of installing solar panels, the non-union Aboriginal Blackmen United are in a heated battle with those “chickens**t unions” (like the IBEW) over their share of the government pie.


Electricians, roofers and other unions are battling over “green collar” jobs that are emerging with the city’s aggressive pursuit of clean energy. In June, protests that led to shouting matches between electricians and other laborers stopped work on a five-megawatt solar power plant in the Sunset district.

Officials mediated that dispute, but the city later suspended about $7 million in similar projects after activists threatened more protests.

“We’re going to protest it every time,” said James Richards, leader of Aboriginal Blackmen United, a group that organized the June protests on behalf of workers from Bayview and other low-income neighborhoods. “We deserve the work.”

The dispute underscores the complexities of how jobs will be divided in the green economy. State regulations provide limited direction for employers trying to determine which workers are appropriate for clean-energy projects.

The above is the essence of tribalism. Special interest groups—tribes—that believe they own the work, regardless of skill, merit, or price.  They believe they own the work because they are entitled to it.

They believe they are entitled to it because it’s work being done on their turf—in their state, in their neighborhood, or on their street corner. They believe they are entitled to it because they hold a membership card in a union, or a race card because of their skin color.


This is America’s newest form of tribalism.  It is, quite literally, a return of the primitive.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.”  Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


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