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Middle Class

Unions: The Folks That Brought You the Weekend

Not going to lie, I’m a union girl born and raised. Dad was very active in his union (AFSCME) and he instilled in me that it’s not enough to work hard at what you do but you have to work to make certain that you put in place the mechanisms for everyone to be able to work hard and prosper. For him, that meant strong, robust unions.

I remember when I was a kid, Dad was always supporting some union or unionizing effort somewhere. At various times I remember not being able to eat grapes and peanut butter. I think he gave up coffee for a bit. All of our clothes and cars had to be not just union made but American made as well.

His overriding belief, and the one he passed on to me, was that strong unions mean a strong middle class. You remember the middle class, don’t you? We’re the group that built America and made her strong and proud. We’re the group that works hard to make our lives and the lives of our children better. We’re the engine that drives the economy. Well, that’s who we used to be. Right now, we’re the group that’s barely hanging on.

I’ve been reading the coverage, including the comments, of the Entergy lock-out and what I find troubling is the argument that is being made that because of the state of the economy the Entergy workers should be thankful that they have a job and shouldn’t pushing for “extras” since so many people are out of work; similar comments were made during the recent Verizon strike.

Let me see if I understand this “reasoning”.

Because the economy is poor, those who are “lucky” enough to be working should shut up and be happy that they have a job. They should continue to shut up even if their employer is trying to roll-back benefits and/or wages. I guess you should only fight for decent pay and benefits if everyone else in America is employed.  

Honestly, I’m flabbergasted at the idiocy on display here.

How about this: how about we show the union workers support. How about we tell them that we have their backs. Unions are, after all, the reason workers have any type of benefits and security. They are the ones that are standing up for workers and workers rights. They are the ones making sure that the strides of the last SIXTY YEARS aren’t erased.

Like the weekend? Thank the unions.

Like a 40 hour work week? Thank the unions.

Like safe working conditions? Thank the unions.

Like vacation and sick time? Thank the unions.

Because unions fought for these rights as well as many others, they are standard in workplaces around the country. However, they are being slowly eroded.  Let’s not help the erosion by turning on them when they need us.

There is a lot that needs to be fixed with our economy and how America does business, fixing it by breaking the backs of the employees is not the answer.

I really believe that, as the unions go, so goes the middle class.

Michael O'Connor June 20, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Great article, Barbara. As a member of 3 unions, (SAG-AFTRA, AEA and IATSE), I fully support making unions stronger and workers rights. More people need to read your article, so that they know what unions are for and about. Thanks, Barbara
Larry Dorman June 20, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Wonderful article Barbara. I intend to share with my Connecticut union members. Thanks much for writing this.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh June 20, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Thank you Michael! Pass it around! Hopefully more people will recognize that union efforts help everyone!
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh June 20, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Thank you Larry! Please pass it to as many people as you wish!
Pamela McCosh June 20, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Barbara as a Verizon employee and IBEW local 2222 member I applaud you in taking the stance of pro-union in this very union unfriendly society I find myself living. Everyday I find myself defending unions, benefits and workers rights to the likes of "I don't have it, why should you". History shows that this country was built by the middle class but yet we are kicked, abused and made to feel sorry for corporations that are prosperus to the point of greed. As you stated, thank a union member for the sacrafices made to which standards are set. We deserve everything we have and worked hard to gain. Solidarity sister in this ongoing fight!
Bill June 21, 2012 at 06:15 PM
As a 20 year nuclear utility worker at both union and non-union plants (including Pilgrim) I have to say that every single non-union nuclear plant I have worked at has better pay and benefits for their hourly employees. I agree unions helped the American worker through an era of big businesses taking advantange of workers, but now the labor laws are in place for those protections. There is no longer a need for the unions, and the current work force does not owe the unions anything. They served a purpose just like many other things in US history and are now outdated and have far outlived their usefulness. the mere idea that someone should be paid a certain wage based on time of service is ridiculous. Your pay should strictly be based on your performance and if your performance is in the bottom 10% you should not only be paid less but be put on a plan to get bettor or be terminated.
Dennis Lassige June 21, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Barbara, great article. Like you, I have also heard the comments about how the Entergy employees are "lucky they even have a job." I agree. They are lucky to have a job. But that doesn't mean they should meekly allow their employer to use the pretense of difficult economic times to drive down their wages and benefits. They are lucky they have a union that gives them some parity with their employer and the abilty to negotiate equally the terms and conditions of their employment. And like the previous commenter, I also hear, "I don't have a pension, why should you? I don't have health insurance like that, why should you? I don't make this much money, why should you..." To that I ask, "When did YOUR crappy job become the benchmark for MY compensation?" Of course hard work, education, and ambition should be the cornerstones of any career, but competent, consciencous professionals deserve jobs that afford them an equitable salary and benefits that allow them to maintain their health, security, and dignity. Newsflash: unions aren't trying to tear down your job, your pay, or your standard of living. Unions strive to raise the standards for all employees within the context of their industries and economic conditions. And in the most prosperous nation on the planet, that is whole-heartedly appropriate. I resent the misinformed attacks on unions, especially by those who can and would benefit the most from them. Got a crappy job? Get a good one, join a union!

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