Let’s Get Rid of Those Unions!!!

February 28, 2011 at 10:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I begin by telling you about my grandfather, Jim Dodds, and my father, Joe Ronan. “Poppy,” as we called my grandfather, was as a young man a weaver in the textile industry in Chester, Pennsylvania. At a certain point, however, the textile industry “went South,” as they say, to avoid paying union wages in Pennsylvania. In the American South, they had (and still have) something called “Right to Work” laws, so unions couldn’t organize, and the owners of the textile mills could get away with paying the workers less money. Eventually the textile industry moved from the South to Mexico, and after that, to China, where, one assumes, they don’t pay union wages. After he lost his job as a weaver Poppy became a security guard. He died of a heart attack at the age of 59. He wasn’t awfully motivated to eat right, as I recall. Since he had no pension and no savings, my grandmother, Dommie, had to move in with us and had only a tiny little Social Security check with which to pay her doctor bills and buy the occasional pair of shoes, etc.

My Dad had dropped out of high school during the Depression to join the Civilian Conservation Corps so as to be able to eat (so much for the evils of Big Government). But after World War II he went to work for the Philadelphia Electric Company, which was unionized. And it wasn’t possible to move generating stations to the South in those days. Under the contract the union negotiated each year, he got “time-and-a-half” for working two shifts, and double-time for working three shifts, something he did fairly often, if memory serves me. My brother is now a partner in a law firm and I have a Ph.D. And when our mother died, thirteen years after Daddy, she left my brother and me more than $100,000.

Now you can argue that things had gotten a lot better after World War II, and that my parents were so traumatized by growing up during the Depression that they saved money like a pair of lunatics. (Even when she was in an assisted living facility, my mother still put money into her savings account from her Social Security and Daddy’s pension every month).

Be that as it may, the gap between working people and the rich in this country has gotten steadily wider in the last 30 years. Now things are so bad that Republican governors–elected by working people–are trying to deprive the government employees’ unions, the only unions that still have much power, of the right to collectively bargain. Government employees are doing too well (Teachers making $80,000!! The scandal of it!) while others are poor. What a lot of people don’t seem to grasp is that the wages of non-union employees are yoked to the higher wages union members are able to negotiate. Abolish the right to bargain and the people at the bottom are going to drop even further down the income scale, hard as that is to imagine.

Meanwhile the same governors, and their mirror-image mayors and Congresspeople, are trying as hard as they can to eviscerate the public schools.  Pretty soon the average American will be so badly educated, sh/e won’t be able to grasp the notion that their wages and benefits (should they have any) are yoked to the wages and benefits negotiated by unions.Workers will then all share equally in the right to go line up at the food pantry.

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