I suppose all of you have noticed that Unions have been disappearing since the time Ronald Reagan tried to break the air traffic controllers union. And we see a continuing effort on the part of so-called conservatives to take away an individual’s right to collective bargaining. Well, let us first take a look at what America looked like before workers organized, and let us look at what America looked like during the height of the union movement and where we are today.
Before the advent of unions, especially during the time when our industrial revolution took place, workers had no rights. It was a time when there was no 40 hour work week, there was child labor, there were no benefits outside of company towns. There was no work place safety standards and no environmental standards
and no benefits such as health insurance or pensions.
As an individual worker you had no power to negotiate wages or benefits with your boss. You were at the mercy of your employer. I know that it is hard to believe that such miserable conditions existed as they did for many years when the American worker in many cases was treated no better than indentured servants. Our history is replete with examples of mine disasters, fires, shootings of those who demonstrated and other horrible acts that took place.
I resent the notion that employers are the job creators and workers are called users or worse. If it wasn’t for the employee nothing would be made nor any services to the customers accomplished. We should recognize that the relationship between the employer and the employee is mutually beneficial.
It took the courage of the workers of times gone by to bring about working conditions that became humane. It took the organization of workers to unionize to bring about change. We witnessed the positive results of that change when during the late 1940’s, 1950’s and 60’s, and through the early years of the 70’s, our workers and our economy were the envy of the world.
The owner class of today acts as if there is something wrong with pensions, with having health care and limiting the amount of hours you work during the course of a week or month. There has been rumblings of even bringing back child labor.
Unions were not perfect and their leaders have exhibited human frailties and they have made mistakes like the rest of us. But let us not forget the sacrifices that have been made by those who have fought for worker’s rights that without unions our country would have had a much darker history and our middle class would not have looked the same. We need stronger unions now so that our middle class will once again have the life and hopes and dreams that we all desire for our children and for our posterity.
I remember growing up during the 50’s when a lot of mothers stayed at home because they could afford to. They raised their children, while Dad was at work, earning enough money and earning through the sweat of their brows enough money to support their family. Now I call that family values!
In todays economy both parents often are forced to work just to survive financially. Children in many cases become latch key children with little parental supervision outside of a local school or community center. I really don’t call that family values as children raise themselves unless they are lucky to have an elder relative home to watch over them or a school that provides safety and activities to keep them out of trouble.
Today’s jobs are increasingly lacking in pension benefits and the owner class would have the American public believe that somehow, pensions are not deserved. Bunk!!! If you have worked for a company for years, and have devoted a good part of your life to the success of that company, that worker has earned and deserves a pension that was freely negotiated.
Now it is not uncommon that if a worker reaches the age of 50, they are replaced by a younger worker who is paid less. Gone is that experienced person and he is replaced by someone who by his or her lack of experience is going to be less knowledgeable and efficient.
Robert Reich just the other day stated that the far right wing really wants high unemployment to continue so that wages can continue to go down. Free traders brag about how foreign companies are coming to America and hiring American workers. Well, that is true and we are happy for anyone who is hired in these troubled times. But let’s face it, often these jobs are in states that do not allow unions.
You hear the no union crowd rejoice in that fact that jobs are going overseas. They give the lame excuse that the amount of jobs outsourced is not that many. In a perverse example we had a Presidential candidate Mitt Romney tell the story about jobs he outsourced and how the conditions really weren’t that bad in China.
Today’s cheap labor is a new form of servitude. NAFTA helped the Chinese not the American worker. Conservatives quote employment numbers in the year or two subsequent to the passage of NAFTA, but neglect to tell you that was during our technology boom.
The American worker is still the best educated and well trained worker in the world and we should not return to the days when the worker could not organize. Would any of you, other than those who most directly benefit from the hiring of low wage people, want to return to the days of sweat shops, a 60 hour work week, and unsafe work conditions? I think not!
What we need now is more training and education to prepare our children for the future and to be able to do some of the complicated jobs of today. There a lot of jobs our there that go wanting due to a lack of trained workers for the unique qualifications required for the new economy.
Corporations today, while the stock market soars, and record profits exists, are hoarding money. They are not hiring people and buying new equipment. Some positive activity is finally beginning but our unemployment level is still way too high.
What we need today are strong unions who can stand up to these large multinational corporations and demand a fair and living wage. America does best when all boats rise, and we have the worst of times when the few benefit and are extremely wealthy while the middle class shrinks and the poor remain poor.
I would hope that we can join together politically for the good of all, to help insure that our citizens have a livable wage, and once again see our middle class grow with a future worth living.