Personally, I was brought into this world to a working man’s family, and I knew immediately that I would be a ‘Working Man’ for my entire adult life, and I was, and am unless I win the lottery. My ‘American Dream’ was to have decent employment, and was not to be a millionaire.
For I was taught that for the head of the family to have to trust an employer exclusively for bread to feed the family was not reliable, and it an awesome responsibility; because a worker in America, and his family are at the absolute mercy of an employer and the employer’s success. Furthermore, employers basically had to follow no rules, relating to a workers employment. Employers are an absolute authority.
Workers can have no self-esteem unless an employer wants to show his gratitude for a job well done, and perhaps reward employees with a compliment, a raise, or a bonus at Christmastime, all of which are rare (and personally, never in my working career did I ever receive a bonus, and the most thanks that I ever got for doing a good job was a short note stating “well done; thanks” and I worked for long periods for the same employers without getting a promotion).
Workers have no choice in bettering their self, or providing for their family except to change jobs which is extremely risky and often impossible.
My father was a union man and he taught me as a child that joining the union was a risk, and striking was putting your family’s ‘bread on the table’ at risk; these were risks that employees had to take to provide for their families. Dad also taught me that the success of the employer or his business is essential for the workers who depended on their employer’s success.
Father took great interest in the Wabash Railroad for which he worked for 42 years and Dad took great pride in the steam locomotives that he helped to build. So, I too was taught to take great pride in the Wabash (that is now defunct) and my own employers.
When diesel locomotives came into being, there were no jobs for workers who built steam locomotives; the skilled workers, some like my dad, of advanced age, were required to find new jobs, often menial labor or to retire if they could. That is simply another risk of employment.
But of most importance, my father also taught me that Labor Unions were the ONLY voice of America’s Working Middle Class and Poor; and he knew from experience.
Further, because of Labor Unions, there are no union workers who stand alone (Labor Unions are brotherhood) and ‘in union there is strength’ (which is also what our Constitutional forefathers uttered when they formed the ‘United’ States in 1776 and 1787).
Above all, my father taught me that for a Labor Union to succeed, the members have to be devoted members, devoted to each other and secondly, to their job and respect for their employer as their only source of income. The success of any Labor Union lies with the degree of devotion workers have for one another and for their cause, which is job security, a decent livable income, and continuing employment.
Today, I see many workers complaining about Labor Unions or about their misgivings for their own Labor Unions; the question to these workers who are opponents of Labor Unions is always, “What have you done about it?” Without a workers devotion to their worker brothers and sisters, there is no union, without union, there is no strength, without strength, workers live in constant fear of not being able to provide for their family and their self.
There is always quandary for the worker; to join a Labor Union is a risk of losing their job and the ability to provide for their family, and not joining the Labor Union is a risk of not being able to adequately provide for the family, or losing your job, or not being able to provide for the family at all. Belonging to a Labor Union requires a worker to take full responsibility for their own behavior and for belonging to their Labor Union or not belonging to their Labor Union. There are no simple answers. There is no one else to blame.
The Reality is that there are good employers and bad employers, there are good workers and bad workers, and there are good Labor Unions and there are bad Labor Unions, however, in the final analysis it is the responsibility of the workers and the employers understanding that success of their mutual endeavor, depends upon both, Labor and Management.
A business or corporation cannot produce products or services; only workers can produce something, or anything. And, Workers cannot work and produce, if they do not have an employers. For both to succeed they must agree to terms of employment, whether it is a Collective Bargaining Contract or a personal contract.
It is irresponsible for workers and employers not to realize this and agree that the two must agree to terms that neither will be totally satisfied. The costs of product or service is the combined costs of raw products and overhead, profits, and labor. The relative costs of ‘profits and labor’ represents the differences between labor and management; this is what labor agreements are all about. In the end, if it is a fair contract, neither will be totally satisfied.
In the process of agreeing to terms of employment, neither employer nor employee, gains by creating bad feelings for the other; attacking each other is detrimental, because once an agreement is reached the two have to work together for the success of their mutual endeavor which both are dependent upon. A vibrant discourse of terms of employment, should not result in attempts to destroy the character of the opponent that you are required to work with for the ultimate mutual success of your endeavor.
Historically, the Labor Unions (or Guilds as they were called in Medieval Times, and some still are in Europe) were responsible for creating the Working Middle Class from the peasantry of the Medieval Feudal System. It’s obvious, that eliminating Labor Unions from society will ultimately be responsible for eliminating the Working Middle Class.
Unfortunately, neither all employers nor all workers were ever taught Labor History or Labor Relations in school; fortunately for me, I was to learn from both my father and in my school.
We Americans extoll sports teams and know that a team not devoted to each other and their success will never be a winner; the same is true of employees. Employees devoted to their job and each other is an inspiring sight to behold; employers would be wise to take advantage of it rather than oppose Labor Unions as their enemy.
Shamefully today, I see Presidential candidates running for office on a platform of eliminating Labor Unions. Pity.