Monday, September 05, 2011

909 Labor History Day

909  Labor History Day 2011

The New York Central Labor Council sums up the present condition of unions pretty well in the invitations it sent out to this year’s Labor Day parade -- which should be today, 9/5/11,  but will be held Saturday, 9/10.  Confused, thin-ranked, head held high, and five days late.

They used to dock your pay for lateness like that.  Even in the Teamsters.

Now, it’s tradition.

New York is the U-S home of Labor Day, though Canada celebrated it earlier.

Might as well call it Labor History Day, recalling the union movement’s creation of the middle class, and thus American prosperity.  That’s when the Labor Council’s annual parade was (a) held on Labor Day and (b) took all day to pass the reviewing stand.

Recalling the good organized labor has done for disorganized labor:  the 40 hour week, paid holidays, paid vacations, a living wage, health benefits, a retirement plan.  All stuff your boss wouldn’t give thought to were it not for unions, even if there isn’t one in your shop.

Today, unions have become the enemy and are losing the battle to represent workers.  The ranks have been diminishing, the existing contracts have become law school examples of how to not get what you need or want or deserve.  Organizing efforts?  WHAT organizing efforts?  Handing out handbills at Wal-Mart is not what we used to call “organizing.”

You can summarize the reason for the labor movement in two words “bad bosses.”  American workers often don’t want unions as they clearly demonstrate these days.  But they needed them back then and they need them now, maybe now more than ever.  If you’re in a union shop, just think of how things would be without a wall between you and the Simon Legree or Torquemada who supervises you.  If you’re NOT in a union, you don’t need to think about it... you know better than the rest of us.

Blame all troubles on the “worker greed” and union corruption all you want.  But when Boss Moneybags is at the bargaining table these days, there’s no way he’s going to give up his yacht or join a lesser country club just so you don’t have to pay more into your health insurance plan... not without a union.

Unions help workers become capitalists:  they sell their labor and their brains and like any capitalist have a voice in setting prices and conditions.

It’s an imperfect system, but it works.  Or it did.  So remember when celebrating Labor History Day that the executives at GM also signed those contracts, the ones you say put ‘em out of business.


--Customer to waitress:  “You’ve been doing this job a long time, you’re not a kid and you’re obviously sharp minded, sharp-tongued, sharp witted and too verbal to make this a career path. What’s your story?” Waitress: “I raise Beagles.”  Sure beats being an artist or writer, which is what she looks like -- but doesn’t seem like much of a living, either.

--Promo:  The long and winding Wessays™ 9/11 tenth anniversary posting will be here Friday 9/9.  Letting everyone else get a head start.

Wish I’d Said That:  “California has four seasons:  Smog, Mudslide, Brush Fire and Oscar.”  (P.J. O’Rourke in the Wall St. Journal.)

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2011

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