Monday, September 07, 2015

1535 Labor Day 2015

1535 Labor Day 2015

That would be today.  Happy labor day, union brothers, those of you who remain.

This is the day we set aside to remember the men and women who built the middle class by organizing and working together, leaders with the best interest of the members in heart and mind and companies that weren’t owned by venture capitalists and controlled by momentary price changes in stock prices or the forecasts of analysts most of whom never had run a company or got anything right.

If you think treating a workforce like machinery or plow horses is new, think again.  It isn’t.  And that’s why unions formed.

If you want to boil the reason down to two words, here they are: Bad bosses.

It’s not that we don’t understand greed.  We’d be that way ourselves, many of us.  It’s not that we don’t understand wanting the best bang for our buck.  We’re pretty much all that way.

The labor movement today is hardly a movement.  And the condition of labor itself is moribund.

So, some guidance from an old organizer.

--When unions lost or gave up the ability to close a factory or a news outlet or a school, they lost or gave up any hope of winning a strike.

Like women’s health rights and other social issues, that lost cause wasn’t lost overnight. It was whittled away bit by bit by union busting lawyers, fearful bosses with ugly emotions, compliant workers taking contracts for granted and the Bush recession followed by the phony Obama recovery.

--When the UFT or the ILGWU or the UAW or the Teamsters were forming, there was plenty of money around and workers wanted enough to live on decently.  Today, there’s less money, even in large corporations.  So money can’t be the central issue, at least money above the minimum wage.

The only thing left to negotiate is working conditions. And that’s become almost as critical as in the days of the Triangle Shirtwaist company.
The union still can help you when you are forced to clock out and continue working. It can help you fend off unsafe conditions at a hot stove or a dishwashing machine. Or a coal mine or steel mill.  It can make sure you get a lunch hour. Or half hour. Or 20 minutes.

But money?  Nah. Not any more.

--Most union “thugs” are not thugs at all.

--Many unions make political contributions to candidates and causes they believe will advance your life. If you don’t like that, think about how your CEO contributes to candidates and causes she believes will prevent your advancement.

If you work in a non union shop, imagine what it would be like not to have to kowtow to every whim of every petty dictator who has any say about when or how you work, for how long and at what rate.

If you work in a union shop, imagine what it would be like to have to kowtow to every whim of every petty dictator who has any say about when or how you work, for how long and at what rate.

Now, which would you chose?  Or more accurately, which would you choose if some lawyer or foreman weren’t standing over you intimidating you into voting “no” when the certification ballots come around.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to

© 2015 WJR

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