My father's birthday was September 5th. Growing up, I assumed that the Labor Day picnic we attended annually (with all the free hotdogs and ice-cream one could eat!) was meant for him. Actually, it was, since he was a proud member of the International Longshore Workers' Union all of his adult life.
Daddy's been dead for more than 20 years but I think he'd be proud that his daughter grew up to president of her union, a white collar one at that.
This year has been tough for unions, who seem to be viewed either as an impediment to economic progress in a recession, or, at best, an anachronism--maybe necessary in the dim past but certainly not now.
How quickly we forget. And how easily we are co-opted.
My non-profit employer negotiated a three year contract last year, in the thick of the recession. Oddly enough, my employer has prospered during these hard times because we serve a very needy population that much of the stimulus package was geared toward.
Also, surprisingly to both sides of the bargaining teams, healthcare expenses rose barely 4 percent. My organization has always offered excellent health benefits and good vacation benefits as an offset to less than market wages.
So you'd think that healthcare wouldn't be on the table, wouldn't you?
Not so. Because other employers who were experiencing skyrocketing benefit costs were negotiating packages that included employee contributions to healthcare, my employer jumped on that bandwagon.
It took nearly three months of tedious negotiations to get modest wage increases (less than 1% for me though closer to 3% for those at the bottom of the scale) and fend off increased contributions for healthcare.
That's the union at work, folks!
My non-profit prides itself on good labor-management relations, but when push came to shove, they just couldn't help trying to take advantage of their employees, even when the need didn't exist and the money was there.
There have been times in the past when my union accepted frozen wages and even cutbacks in order to keep everyone employed. Now that times are better for this particular employer, the employer is loathe to share.
Enter the union and collective bargaining. The final result was not quite what either side wanted. But it was fair.
I love capitalism. I think strong unions are an important part of capitalism, notwithstanding the rightwing cries of "Socialism." I think the more accurate cry should be "Fair Treatment."