Goodbye Barry - Welcome Home AMERICA!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


The United States has the bloodiest history of labor of any industrialized nation on Earth. It is a story rich in human drama and tragedy. It is also one of progress and hope. For example: Janitors at General Motors are compensated at the rate of about $30 per hour. Assembly line workers are compensated at around $80 per hour. Considering that neither of these positions requires even a high school diploma to fill, there seems to be something incredibly wrong with their pay scales. Entry-level, unskilled labor rarely earns more than the prevailing minimum wage. And, unskilled labor - even with 10 years experience in whatever their field - is lucky if they are earning 50% over minimum wage. Learn a skill or get an education... but, if you fail to do either, learn to enjoy your career at McDonald's.

Pushing a broom and swinging a mop is not rocket science. Running a pneumatic nut driver, placing the same nuts on the same bolts for 8 hours per day doesn't even approximate brain surgery. Granted, they are both necessary and honorable ways of earning a living, but at that level of compensation they are earning two or three "livings". Labor compensation packages are a major part of the price of American-made automobiles... that, and corporate greed. Since 1935 the compensation packages for automotive workers have been negotiated by the United Automobile Workers union (UAW). The UAW is also known as the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union, and is a part of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations). The AFL-CIO is without doubt the largest union organization in the world.

Labor unions - on a relatively small scale - probably began in the USA in 1778, when the New York City journeyman printers united and gained an increase in wages. Apparently the idea of "unionization" didn't catch on right away, because the next notable action of that type didn't occur until 1785, when New York shoemakers struck for three weeks, and in 1786 printers of Philadelphia staged a successful walk-out strike for higher wages and gained a minimum wage of $6 per week. Keep in mind however, that in the 18th century 10¢ per hour was a better-than-average wage. And, in 1792 the Philadelphia shoemakers formed the first local craft union for the purpose of collective bargaining.

Thuggery was a common practice in both union organizing practices and union busting practices. Workers who spoke out or acted against the interests of union organizers frequently found themselves on the wrong end of an axe handle or billy club. Those beatings were simply warnings. If the worker was stupid enough to continue speaking out against union organizers, he might have found himself crippled... or sometimes even converted to a corpse by union thugs. There was an equal amount of blood on the hands of company officials as well, who would hire "special police" (read: "goon squad") to confront the union thugs - either in an all-out donnybrook, or in a 3 (or more) to 1 ratio, in order to explain the company's labor philosophy. Each entity would try to out-thug the other thugsmeisters. Union organization was a very messy undertaking (no pun intended) in the late 17th through the early 19th century.

Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are faced with labor unions being backed - and even being enthusiastically presented - by the current Administration in Washington D.C.
They are stacking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with radical nominees who will put forward the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act via administrative action. Union bosses are pushing forward with efforts to represent airport screeners. One single thread runs throughout: an insatiable desire for money and power on the part of Big Labor bosses. Have they not heard that we are in a depression? We are suffering from a national financial hernia! If we keep applying pressure it will rupture... and our nation will bleed to death. Can you imagine the turmoil if the National Security Agency, the CIA, and the Transportation Safety Administration were to become unionized? Imagine even a brief, 1-hour work stoppage at Kennedy, O'Hare or LAX. Thousands of business meetings, surgical appointments, freight deliveries, etc. would be missed, and some possibly lost forever. Now imagine a 24 hour strike, or a week-long strike... the ramifications are mind-boggling.
Once upon a time, unscrupulous business owners and uneducated workers made unions a "necessary evil". Those times have passed. For the most part workers are no longer uneducated... but, there are still those business owners who would consider attempting to take advantage of the working class. I say "consider" because even the unscrupulous realize that workers are smarter today, and that they are basically familiar with federal and state labor laws. They are also aware that they can leverage businesses into making certain adjustments in compensation packages by simply organizing the employees of that business and initiating a sit-down or walk-out strike at the local level. There is no need for national, dues-collecting unions - they have outlived their usefulness. National unions do nothing but add to the cost of production so they can take (dues) from the workers. If collective bargaining negotiations at the local level cannot resolve issues between management and labor, an arbitrator would be used to facilitate that resolution. If either side refused to comply with the arbitrator's recommendations then an administrative law judge would have the final word. (It sounds like a workable plan to me... but I am also aware that I tend to over-simplify sometimes.)
Union membership was once a symbol of true, demonstrated craftsmanship. Today it is a symbol of security for the barely competent.

1 comment:

Jared said...

I agree - Every Dog Has its Day and the unions should be done!!