Monday September 3, 2012, 10:21 am
For most of my early life I considered Labor Day little more than a day off at the end of summer. That’s because I am not a union man. I have never belonged to a union, nor has anyone in my family. So what has the labor movement done for me? I have learned what organized labor has done to improve the lot of all American Workers, and I have come to understand that Labor Day is a celebration of Union labor, and one that is well deserved.
I am a life member of the NEA or National Education Association, aka teachers union. No matter what people are told about the reasons for unions being bad for business, they actually have a vested interest in business being successful. Without the business being healthy the workers suffer the greatest loss. Workers know this and the unions know this. Without workers the business is an idea with no where to go, the republicans may chant, "We built this..." but not with out workers they didn't. The entire infrastructure of this country was built with tax money and workers - if you can read, thank a teacher, if you drive on a road, have plumbing in your home, walls around you, cable for the Internet, a car, bus or subway you ride on to get to work....Thank the workers of this country - THEY BUILT IT!
Monday September 3, 2012, 12:21 pm
I'm the only member of my family that that is not a union man as I worked in the medical field and here were never any health care unions at the institutions I worked at, but had there been I certainly would have joined. Myself and this whole country owe a lot to union workers in all professions.
Monday September 3, 2012, 1:34 pm
My journey with labour and unions.
When I was a child, Labour Day meant going to or participating in the Labour Day parade. Floats and bands celebrating Labour Day, not labour as such in my child's mind. Neither of my parents were union members so unions were not a topic of conversation in the house, not that it was banned, it just wasn't a topic of conversation.
Fast forward 15 years. After moving from Ontario to BC, unions became a topic of conversation. My stepfather was in a pulp and paper workers union so we encountered strikes etc. My mother worked for the municipality and then the provincial government so she became a union member. But me, I went into banking, a non unionised industry, and not one known for a living wage or benefits at the time. Benefits started to be looked at 'seriously' by management in 1975 with company pension changes that were more equitable for women. At the time, I thought this was a good move by the bank, but the following year, I came to see what prompted these changes — formation of 2 BC bank workers' unions. So much for the company's concern for my welfare. But I was still young and undeterred. I had heard that seniority was the norm and I was not going to be held back by someone who had more seniority but less ambition. And I was not going to be told I was working too hard or that I had to stay home because 'this is a strike'. So I maintained an anti union stance. I became a manager about that time and was now officially out of the clutches of the union. It was a rough time, an antagonistic time. The unionisation move in the banking industry escalated but has since dramatically retreated. I believe there are still some small pockets but you rarely, if ever, hear about them any more. But through all this, one thing I gained was a more balanced view of unions and the motivations that often drive large employers like Canadian banks.
Now, when I think of Labour Day, I think of all workers, unionised and non unionised. There is no doubt that unions have contributed much to the labour movement. Many non union workers have benefited equally as union 'fought for benefits' became societal norms and were adopted into national, provincial/state legislation.
But one area that still needs recognition and help are the farm workers. There is the United Farm Workers Union but still problems remain. Read this article from Wikipedia on the United Farm Workers Union. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Farm_Workers And this Care2 article on farm workers. http://www.care2.com/causes/no-day-of-rest-for-americas-farmworkers.html
There have been many deaths of farm workers in BC. Many have involved the deaths of workers in highway accidents as they were being transported to the fields by contractors in vehicles licensed to carry 10 people but crammed with 15 workers. To my knowledge, all East Asian workers, some elderly but still going into the fields to pick crops. Another was an explosion that killed 3 Vietnamese workers at a mushroom farm — unsafe working conditions with the employer at fault. The families of these 3 men are left out in the cold because the farm owner declared bankruptcy. This was still in the spotlight last week. And there are still many deaths and injuries around the globe to farm workers. And remember this, these are workers that help to get food into our bellies.
My journey with unions has changed a lot in my 60 years. We owe many thanks to unions. But we owe each other even more in keeping up the fight for fair wages, benefits and working conditions for ALL people. And the enemy is corporate GREED!
Monday September 3, 2012, 4:25 pm
When I think of Unions and the Laborers I think of what it was like before the Unions......Unsafe working conditions that lead to the tragic Triangle Fire that took the lives of 129 women and 17 men, many of them under the age of 18, before Child Labor Laws.
When I think of Unions and the Laborers I think of the Coal Miners fighting for their rights of safer work conditions, better pay for the destruction their bodies and lungs suffered. Of Florence Reece, wife of Union Organizer that penned the song below after the thugs, hired by her husbands Company, came into her home and terrorized her and her children.
Which Side Are You On
When I think of the Unions and the Laborers I think of the Bread and Roses.....Where workers wanted to be paid enough not to just be able to eat, but to be able to have a wee bit more in life, the Roses of life.
Bread And Roses
More than seventy per cent of those surveyed in a 1937 Gallup poll said they favored unions.
Yet in In 2009, for the first time ever, support for unions in the Gallup poll dipped below fifty per cent.
A 2010 Pew Research poll offered even worse numbers, with just forty-one per cent of respondents saying they had a favorable view of unions, the lowest level of support in the history of that poll.
It is thought that that the gap between workers in and out of unions is the reason. Union workers, on average, get paid more than their non-unionized counterparts—Union workers often still have defined-benefit pensions, which sets them apart from all those Americans who watched their retirement accounts get ravaged by the financial crisis.
The problem is that working people feel increasingly powerless, and this weakens support for the very institutions that would, in better circumstances, come to their assistance: government and unions. Normally one would think that when people see that workers who are in unions have it better they would reach a simple and obvious conclusion: they should join a Union. But circumstances in todays economy have lead people to the wrong conclusions.
Today they see people who try to organize unions fired. They see whistleblowers persecuted. They see fellow employees lose their jobs for calling in sick or taking time off to care for a family member. They see people lose jobs for just reaching "a certain age." Many are even afraid to take vacations using time they have earned.
Many people don't see any way to do anything about it. Unions are unable to organize and workers are told facilities will close or their jobs will be moved overseas. Government inadequately enforces its own laws, or has blatantly favors the wealthy and powerful. People don't feel that elections make any difference. So workers don't see any help on the horizon.
Many public employees still have unions, so as a result they in many cases have pensions, health care plans and dignity on the job. People look at that and the temptation toward "if I can't have it, neither should you" is strong. The corporate/conservative anti-union propagandists see an opportunity to set working people against each other and strike at support for unions.
So the corporate/conservatives pit people against each other, hoping to provoke the behavior of blaming each other, instead of reaching the correct conclusion.
Stop the Lies!
For now we have Laborer against Laborer, and we can see, who now is getting their jobs cut, the Teachers, Police, Fire Depts, all those who serve us and have done so for many years. We will all suffer if we all don't understand it is the Laborer who makes this Country strong! Don't allow the few leeches at the top make you think that only they deserve some pie, a slice getting larger all the time.
Unionize is the only way to claw this back. In solidarity, we must stand. Of all people that should know and be able to understand what the word Union is, is people who have that title in the name of their Country. The UNITED States of America. So Unite.....or perish and have worse than you suffer now. Austerity measures mean death to a lot of people, suffering for many more, while those at the top pick their teeth with the monies they have sucked out of all of us.
Monday September 3, 2012, 7:35 pm
If we didn't have unions, we would still have children working in mines and sweat shops and have to live in "company" houses and buy from the "company" store which would keep you a slave. And if we don't up to the billionaires now, we will go back to this. GETOUT THE VOTE.
Monday September 3, 2012, 9:27 pm
Both my grandfathers and my father worked for union mines, my grandfather marched on Washington with John L. Lewis for te United Mine Workers of America. That union is almost gone now and the standard of living for miners has decreased, as well as other jobs. When the unions are completely gone, there will be no middle class.
Monday September 3, 2012, 9:47 pm
The video says it all and says it well --although I don't recall reading or hearing anything about safety standards. Our country needs strong unions or we'll all be at the mercy of big business!
Here's something to think about:
Why we need labor unions, labor laws, OSHA and Labor Day.
Ceremony set for Hawks Nest victims
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "The Hawks Nest Memorial Committee will hold a ceremony on Friday to consecrate the Whippoorwill Grave Sites, near Summersville, where at least 41 silicosis victims who worked on the Hawks Nest tunnel are buried.
Between March 1930 and December 1931, workers bored through 3.8 miles of nearly pure silica to divert the New River through a tunnel to generate hydroelectric power for Union Carbide's plant in Alloy, long operated by Elkem Metals.
Within five years, at least 764 of the Hawks Nest tunnel workers died from acute silicosis, a respiratory disease caused by inhaling silica dust. Many died while they were still on their six-day-a-week, 10-hour-a-day jobs.
Many workers were buried in unmarked graves, including a cornfield outside Summersville, after their bodies were hauled away from the tunnel area."
Anyone care to return to what many large corporations might refer to as "the good old days"?
Monday September 3, 2012, 11:38 pm
I completely agree with you all - but Susanne, I had never heard of 764 workers dying within five years of a project like the Hawks Nest Tunnel! I am appalled! And that was within the last hundred years too - beyond awful!
I love the video (shades of 'The Life of Brian' - 'Whatever did the Romans do for us?!'
Tuesday September 4, 2012, 5:20 am
Unions had a place for protecting workers in plants that often were akin to slave labor. They have absolutely no place for so called professionals such as public emplyees, teachers, etc. As a result of the latter education costs and schooltaxes are now out os sight. I just paid a tax bill of over 3K to support a schoolsystem that hasn't sent a child to a notable college in years! Too bad militray professionals are banned from unions as we woiuld be as well off as our teacher counterparts were it possible.
Tuesday September 4, 2012, 7:57 am
Thank you Susanne for bringing that other painful reminder of what it was like to live without Unions and safe work conditions. I don't think a lot of people realize how truly bad things were in this Country in the past, there is some sort of comforting feel of living in the past when things were more simple. Those days were hard on the majority of people and if we don't stand in Solidarity soon, we can be sent back to those days real fast.
People work in those terrible conditions today in many of the 3rd world Countries, but our workers banded together to uplift the workers to a safer and better life, do not turn back, if anything in order to compete in this global environment, we need to be bringing Solidarity and Unions to other Countries, not lower our standards to theirs.
Tuesday September 4, 2012, 8:21 am
John, while I don't doubt that the taxes you paid are causing a drain on your wallet, if the Romney's, and others didn't hide their monies in the Caymen Islands, have Swiss Bank accounts, didn't have so many tax loopholes, pay taxes on their investments at the same rate the hourly worker pays on their labor earned wages, then you would not be required to pay such a high tax bill.
You pay for the taxes that the Romney's are NOT paying due to their getting out from under. So to place blame at the feet of other laborers is not fair, they too are in the 60% of only owning 2.5% of ALL that is owned in wealth in this Country, while the 40% are owning the rest of it, and the 1% to 2% own much of that 40%. Don't you think that as Rose Kennedy said "To Whom Much Is Given Much Is Expected" that they very well to do pay more in the taxes to make the schools better and so you don't have to pay as much?
I'm not saying that there is no responsibility within the schools to clean up their own acts, watch their spending to make sure that every dime is well spent, to weed out those who are not doing a good job performance, but to just across the board slice these public servants throats based on misguided policies is also very wrong. Again, it is pitting the 60% against each other instead of asking the 40% and most certainly the top 2% to do more for the over all good of all, not just their personal pocketbooks for themselves and their buddies.