My mother reaped the benefits of a union without being a member. How? The company she worked for had employees who were unionized. Those employees worked hard, paid dues to their union and went out on strike as a last resort when management refused to negotiate with them or bargained in bad faith. Much of what my mother enjoyed in good working conditions and generous benefits were as a direct result of the corporation wishing to maintain parity and labor peace throughout the organization. They also wanted to keep the other branches of the company from unionizing.
When I was around eleven or twelve, one of the unions in my mother’s company had to go out on strike. Mom and her officemates had permission not to cross the picket line. But they were encouraged to come in after hours and work, after the union members had left their picket line. Because the work was backing up, Mom had me come with her. I was happy to participate in these Take Your Daughter To Work evenings. I sorted papers and filed things. It wasn’t until I was older and asked my mother a lot of questions that I understood I had unwittingly been a scab.
I made up for my childhood transgression when I joined the union at my workplace. As soon as I was eligible, I happily signed up and began paying my dues. I also contributed to a separate political fund. In short order I stood for election and became a steward. I never regretted it. To the contrary I was proud of my role in my union. I always understood that unions didn’t just benefit me and my fellow brothers and sisters in my union, but all other workers.
Until this week I had not known the vital role Wisconsin played in the history of unions and workers’ rights in this country. Rachel Maddow did a thorough, excellent and entertaining summary on her show the other evening. (You can watch the video below.) And if you work Monday through Friday and have today and tomorrow off, please tip your hat to the unions and all the members of unions who came before you. Don’t forget to think about the union members in Wisconsin - and across this nation - who are being targeted by the right wingers and the devilishly deep pocketed corporations. Remember, if the right manages to break the backs of the unions and eliminate the right to bargain collectively, we will all lose; we will all suffer. And if unions are diminished or destroyed it will only further erode the middle class, leading to a deepening of the chasm between the very rich and the working poor.
Please click on “comments” to read the contributions from Andrew and Jim.