Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Making a Stand in Michigan

My dad was a member of the UAW (United Auto Workers) for more than 35 years, and at one point was Union Steward.

I was a member of the Ornamental and Structural Iron Workers Union for about 5 years myself. My Mom's Dad was a member of a Union, although I can't recall which one, but I do remember it was his Union picnic that took us all to Coney Island one Saturday a year when I was a kid. I believe My other Granddad was an Iron Worker as well, because of where he worker in the 1940's, but it wasn't something that was ever discussed. I've also had Uncles in the Steelworkers and the UAW and a son who is a Teamster.

I doubt any of them could explain what happened in Michigan today. I know I sure can't.

I am, as you probably know, a student of history. I am well aware of the bloody struggles it took to gain Union recognition back in the '30's. The UMW- United Mine Workers and their struggle in the Appalachians; the UAW and the sit-ins at GM. The Bloody Battle of the overpass at Ford. Union men fighting- and sometimes dying- in the physical battles against company thugs.

All for an ideal; a purpose. God knows they needed it. I can't imagine a situation desperate enough for me to climb into a mine shaft to earn a living in 1930, stand an assembly line or run steel on the Empire State Building. Jobs were short, Labor was begging for jobs and the companies were still in the early Industrial Age mode; Life was cheap. Use them up; spit them out move on to the next man- or woman; boy or child- in line and make another dollar.

Workers needed a voice; and the only way they got that voice was through Union representation. Life- All lives- have value, and it was only through Union activity that that value was recognized.

And then... something went wrong. Maybe it was the labor shortage of the '50's, or the Cold War days of the '60's. But Unions went from NEED to WANT. 6 weeks; 8 weeks; 10 weeks of vacation. 8-10-12 holidays a years. Add another dollar; add another buck-fifty; no, a buck seventy-five an hour. And sick days. Insurance; Medical, life, dental, long term care, short term/long term disability. 2 breaks, no 3 breaks a shift.

Absolute power corrupts; absolutely.

The UAW is probably the poster child for Union over reach. The center of automobile production in the world was Detroit, Michigan. Every automobile on the road in this country for 30 years had a UAW sticker on it somewhere.

And now? I'd have to guess that less than 10% of the cars on the road are Union made, and probably less than that have a Union hand in their production.

The number of private sector Union workers in this country is rapidly approaching single digits, and today didn't help that at all.

Yes; Michigan made it easier to have a job and not pay Union dues. Did that hurt the UAW; King of Michigan? Maybe; maybe not.

But video of 4 guys in Union jackets beating up a reporter and tearing down a tent with a woman inside most definitely did.

The UAW had control over one of those events; but not the other.

Guess which one will get the least attention in the Union halls?

And Union approval will drop another few points. The Unions will wonder why; why is membership shrinking? After the fine job we did not giving into the bastards at Hostess. After our spirited defense of Union rights in Wisconsin and Michigan. Why are people no longer supporting us?

And the four thugs who are criminals to us will be heros to them.

And they will never figure it out.

No comments: