For a change, think about Labor on Labor Day

For a change, think about Labor on Labor Day
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Monday is Labor Day. It is a time we are supposed to honor the American Worker. When I was a Republican, I was expected to hate the AFL-CIO. It was the same story in Business School. I was told to despise labor. Labor was an expense on the Income Statement and we were taught to minimize expense wherever and whenever possible.

The problem was that I didn’t hate the Labor Movement. I am from a family that owned a manufacturing business. I should have been the stereotype Republican that hates organized labor only I don’t hate it. I admire Unions and the work they have done to make life better for working men and women.

Let’s stop with the Labor Stereotypes

I know many people on the right who view Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO and James P. Hoffa, President of the Teamsters Union as nothing more than thugs and gangsters. I view them as great men who are doing a hard job representing workers and putting them on equal footing with the powerful.

GOP blogs and political periodicals love to run stories during Union elections as corrupt, and crime laden. The stories remind me of the tales the GOP like to spread about big city voter fraud. They claim it is rampant, yet no cases are ever brought to the courts by the GOP. Why do you suppose that is?

It is not true is why it isn’t brought to the courts. It is a bit like the left who view everyone on Wall Street as crooks and criminals. That isn’t true either. “Union thugs” is a popular pejorative in GOP circles used to describe anyone who has the temerity to stand-up to management.

In the narrow world of the GOP, Unions evoke images of punks with baseball bats chasing poor beleaguered business owners to take what is not rightfully theirs. For me, Unions always made me think of my beloved Grandfather on my Mother’s side. He was a Union Electrician who worked most of his life in the Coal Mines of Southern Illinois repairing and installing lights in the mines so the workers could see to work.

He died of Black Lung Disease, contracted in those very same coal mines. Thanks to the United Mine Workers, he received Black Lung Benefits. It was a health risk nobody seemed to know about in the 1920s when he started his career.

I know many in Republican-Land who would sneer at my Grandfather for getting those benefits. “It’s just socialism,” they would say. Why should they pay for a coal miner who went of his own free will into the coal mines to work? It goes with the job.

You minimize costs, not marginalize human beings

The reason my Grandfather and thousands of others received those benefits is because it is the right thing to do. One thing that really bothers me about the GOP and Conservatism is how expendable lives are in their world. All except their own are expendable. To them, their own lives are precious.

Unions seem to think Workers lives are just as precious as management. Unions have brought workers a long way. Some in the GOP argue that Unions are no longer needed. Laws have been passed and there is now a general attitude in America that sweatshops are immoral and not in the best interests of a company.

People who hold that view have their heads in the sand. If it was not for unions, things would revert to the way they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Tour some of the Garment District sweatshops in New York City. Then tell me how unions no longer have a place in society.

Management does have an obligation to minimize expenses. After all, it is the stockholder’s money they have a fiduciary responsibility to manage properly. Labor is not like the electric bill, or interest payments on loans, or depreciation although they fall in the same section of the Income Statement.

The line for “labor” is more than an income statement entry. That line represents lives who are working with you, not just for management, but with management to bring a product to market. They are people with hopes and dreams, families to feed, and bills to pay. Even Henry Ford recognized having workers who could afford his products was in the best interests of the company.

Right-to-work is wrong

28 States have Right-To-Work laws. The term Right-To-Work is Public Relations nonsense to try and sell Union Busting. Here is the concept behind Right-To-Work. Two men can work on the assembly line and make the identical wage as negotiated by the Union. In a Right-To-Work state, it is not mandatory for the either of the workers to belong to the union. It is optional, although the non-union worker enjoys the same wages and benefits as the union worker. The union worker pays the freight for the non-union worker.

It is an attempt to harness greed to break unions. If the union has no income then it can’t function. If it has no members, then it can’t call a strike. It’s just a backdoor way to try and eliminate a union.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summed it up beautifully when he said:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining…. We demand this fraud be stopped.” 

Labor Day means more than the end of Summer

Newspapers are inundated with ads for Labor Day sales. One would think Labor Day exists as a National Shopping Day. In a sense, it is. It is a day to remember the men and women who make our products, who toil with their hands, educate our kids, nurse us and our loved ones back to health.

Labor is the backbone of America. My concern is that we no longer think about the working men and women in our Nation. When I read lists of issues, labor seems to be at the bottom of the list, if it is on the list at all.

Donald Trump recognized how we are overlooking those who work hard punching a clock. While we were talking about Women’s issues and the Environment, he was talking about disappearing jobs. As his opposition, it was our Achilles Heel.

There is a lot of talk about Heritage these days. As Democrats, we need to remember our heritage as champions of the working man and working women. We need to pause and reflect on what workers need. We need to do it more than a long weekend in September marking the end of Summer.

We need to put workers back in the forefront of our national debate.

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