In the days when I was a union member and worked in a closed shop, I liked the fact that all the people who worked in management were former union members and therefore the environment was not toxic. We were able to avoid a lot of the nastiness people encounter among those who think of collective bargaining units in the same way they do terrorist cells.
One would think with the obvious greed exposed in the financial arena that led to our current economic crisis, people would get over the attitude that labor unions are nothing more than gangs of pirates.
Before this recession, the wages of the working class were stagnant even though the economy was booming. And let’s face it, most employers like it that way. Most of them are not interested in creating a fair playing field; they believe in winner-take-all. A lot of them don’t see the point in paying their employees benefits when workers can sign up with the state welfare office for health care, food stamps and subsidized housing. Why shouldn’t the executives take home fat bonuses and let the public foot the bill for their employees? I truly don’t think there is any way the Employee Free Choice Act could be written so that these business owners wouldn’t object to it. They don’t want their employees to unionize, and it’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, no matter how prosperous some businesses and industries become, many of them would rather ship the jobs overseas than pay their workers an adequate wage. The days when Americans had the best interest of other Americans at heart have long gone. The working class will have to fight for every dime it can get.
Apparently, these business people don’t even understand the importance of maintaining the middle class. They seem to be hellbent on wiping them out as well. When they look at Third World countries where there are only two classes, the very rich and the very poor, can’t they see that at the rate they are going, the country is heading in that direction?
When we had to walk the picket line to secure pay increases and benefits, I never heard anyone complain about the fact that our fellow employees who lived in states that didn’t have closed shops, many of whom didn’t belong to the union, also gained the same privileges as we did. The thing union members have in common is that they think workers should receive fair wages for the work they do. And it pleases me to know that those who remained with the company until retirement are now enjoying good pensions and good health insurance. After all, these people worked hard for years for these benefits.
When workers began to walk away from union membership and thought that they could bargain individually on their own, how many years did they have to wait for an increase even in the minimum wage? I hoped they learned something and will write letters to their senators and representatives urging them to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act. While there are some employers who value the work their employees do, I doubt they are in the majority. And I honestly think that most workers waiting to organize a union will have retired before their employers grant them that right.
The way some members of Congress and business leaders talk, you would think Chrysler and General Motors executives never made a dime and all the money they made selling cars went into the pockets of members of the United Auto Workers union. The jets in which automakers rode to Washington D.C. on that first trip to meet with Congress belonged to the union members, right?
Anyone watching television has obviously witnessed the absolute disrespect many members of Congress have for the people who work on assembly lines. I would be absolutely ashamed and embarrassed if anyone in my family displayed such despicable manners toward people who actually work because they have the nerve to ask for fair wages for the jobs they do.
As a former union member, I’m pretty sure that when the automakers signed the union contracts, they were confident they would make enough money selling cars to pay workers' salaries and make an adequate profit. Otherwise, they would still be negotiating. And, of course, no one seems to mind that foreign automakers have come into America and undermined American carmakers and automobile workers.
Unfortunately, as sad as it is, this has become the American way.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.