The wider question on trade unions' collective power in the workplace was in the news again last week following the News of the World closure announcement. Donnacha Delong is largely right that, while not a complete solution, the NUJ code is a good starting point for a newspaper and the absence of NUJ recognition leads to a culture of journalists being unable to stand up to managers demanding unethical behaviour.
Along with being allowed to enforce our own rules, here is another example of something our movement lost after Wapping*: the right to impose a pre-entry closed shop if a majority of workers desire it. The closed shop challenges basic capitalist assumptions about power: who decides staffing levels, who recruits for vacancies?
Of course, the usual arguments will always be wheeled out about corruption and nepotism, but all we have instead is corruption and nepotism upstairs instead: executives' slush funds and Murdoch Jr getting groomed for his dad's job instead of a printer's son getting his. Every horror story about wasteful spending in the print rooms pre-1986? You can guarantee ten times greater waste takes place in the boardrooms these days.
Corruption is inevitable under capitalism (arguably under any system): the pertinent question is who benefits from it? And whether there is a better chance of combatting it through the democratic channels of trade unions or relying on the bravery of individuals standing up to senior editors?
And who has benefited in the long run from the smashing of the newspaper unions? Do readers have better quality journalism to enjoy these days than thirty years ago? Are journalists better paid? Printers? The population as a whole? Are we better informed? Has our political system improved?
Can anyone - this week of all weeks - claim with a straight face that the Murdoch Revolution has proved to be good for anyone but him, the shareholders and a handful of other senior figures?
(Apart from Toby Young, of course. The loon.)
* Not a dispute, as the rewriters of history would have it, about whether to use new technology; but about who operates it and who decides.