There seems to be general disbelief by many of my GOP friends that I, of all people, could affiliate myself with labor unions. The labor union question is one I am asked about more by my former GOP colleagues than any other question. To listen to them, you would think I had taken up child sacrifices as my new hobby.
I guess the GOP is so myopic that they don’t see what has happened to their own party? Who do they think Donald Trump sold himself to as the Messiah of The Working Man? It was white, working class males. They are now the puppet masters of the GOP. It has yet to sink in on the rank and file of the GOP who the new masters are.
The GOP’s “useful fools”
Many grass roots Republicans are still living with the myth that big business is calling the shots and that the blue collar, white, male workers that entered the party are merely useful fools. I’ve heard local GOP officials use those exact words. “Don’t worry about them, we can control them. They’re just our useful fools.”
They said the same thing about the Religious Right. How’s that working out for you, GOP? It appears to not be working out too well for the GOP which has become a vehicle for those who want to tear down the wall between Church and State and create a Christian Taliban.
My view on unions
My Father owned an Iron Foundry. It was a union company. On the outside, that would appear to make me anti-Union from the cradle. There is more to the story than the outward appearance.
I recall riding down the main street of my hometown one evening with my Father. I was a young boy growing up in the color neon sign era in America. There was one sign I remember that stood out as we passed by one evening. It was hung on a light brown brick building. The sign in green neon said “AFL-CIO.” The colors were pretty against the brick in the fading sunlight.
I must have been only 8 years old or so. I can remember that sign like I saw it yesterday. I asked my Dad what the letters represent? He said, “American Federation of Labor, Communist Inspired Organization.” That startled a young kid raised in the cold war who had learned “Duck and Cover” in school like that was going to save you from an atomic blast. As kids, we had been taught anything communist had to be bad.
My Grandfather on my Mom’s side was a union electrician. He had worked in Southern Illinois coal mines during the mine wars in the early 1900s. He had witnessed men dying for the right to organize. One of my Mom’s earliest memories was of a man being stabbed in front of her. The man was a union organizer in their little coal mining town.
I told my Grandfather what my Dad had said. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on much except both belonged to the GOP. In Illinois, in the 1950s it was not odd to find working class Republicans outside of Chicago. It is the Land of Lincoln after all.
I thought my Grandfather was going to explode. He explained that he had grown up in a time where a work day in the coal mines was sometimes 12 hours long. There were no health benefits, and the wages were low. The Unions changed that.
He had black lung disease that he had contracted in the mines. Because of the Union’s political clout, he received black lung benefits. Old Ben Coal Company, his former employer didn’t care that he had Black Lung. That was just a risk of the business the coal company said. “Too bad, we all die of something,” was the company’s attitude. You can see that same attitude in the GOP Healthcare debate.
My Grandfather explained to me the workers at my Dad’s plant had benefits and fair wages because the Union negotiated a contract for them. I asked my Dad about what my grandfather said and I will never forget what he said. His words that day formed the basis of my views on unions that right up to today.
He asked me why I was asking these questions? I was a young kid and should have been interested in baseball and my friends instead of Labor Unions. I told him about the neon sign and his comment about communists made me want to know if my Grandfather was a communist. I loved my Grandfather and was worried.
My Dad said no, he is not a communist and then apologized to me for his flip answer. It was obvious that his offhand remark had bothered me greatly. He then told me what he really thought of Labor Unions which has formed my opinion for my lifetime.
Dad said they do perform a useful function in society. Management doesn’t like them because they often make companies spend money on workers and pay them more. He then told me the union contract was good for his company. It meant he only had the union wage negotiator to work out the pay based on a formula instead of having to negotiate with 500 workers individually.
I didn’t know what a formula was. But I remembered his words and I also was relieved to know my Grandfather was not a communist.
My Dad’s factory didn’t have strikes. He said we were all on the same team of advancing the business and strikes lead to hard feelings that never end. I learned in later life just how unique and visionary my father was.
What Unions are doing today that has my full support.
I stated in my article that I was not in love with unions but collective bargaining is a right. Many Republicans who don’t know the Constitution they profess undying love for took me to task about whether collective bargaining is a right. I pointed them to the Freedom of Assembly and the Right to Free Speech. Because strict constructionists, a polite term for people who don’t know what they are talking about, can’t find the words collective bargaining, and unions in the Constitution then it must not be a right. There is not much to say about that other than they’re wrong.
CBS 2 News in Chicago ran the report below. It shows how Unions are giving hope to the downtrodden. A local Chicago Church is running training programs for people who have been on the street or that have no hope. The Unions in Chicago are open and are hiring those who go through the program. They are getting people into the trades and getting them jobs so they can support their families and have dignity. Here is the video, please take the two and a half minutes it takes to view Jim Williams’ report.
How can I lay down with the unions? After looking at that video, how could I not? This is a program that is transforming lives and it isn’t management and the GOP who is running the program.
Have there been crooked unions? Of course, there have been. Barack Obama knew about it and swept through the Northeast a few years back and arrested and convicted a bunch of them on racketeering charges. Those are no more representative of Unions than the KKK speaks for the whole of Southern Christian Churches.
Yes, I am laying down with the Union Thugs.
Those labor thugs are the teachers who are teaching our children to become our future leaders and healers. Those union thugs are the nurses who took care of me and showed me such compassion when I was in the hospital last year. They are the people who respond when we call 911 and we need a lifeline.
They are the people who have our backs when we have trouble, need to be healed, need something fixed, built, or maintained. They have our backs, and I am proud to have their backs.
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