It is another Labor Day, a day when we celebrate American workers. America is a country that believes in work. Hard work will pay off. Hard work will win you a better life. People who don’t work hard are lazy and un-American. Even Labor Unions are suspect to some, as we know. They are organizations that target employers and try to milk concessions from them that slurp up profits and kill businesses. They are sops for lazy workers who can’t suck it up and do their jobs. They are the mommy that kisses boo boos and tucks possible sources of worker injuries away, ‘nickel and dime-ing’ employers until they have to keep building new bookcases to house the books of regulations and hire new lawyers to protect the wealth of business owners. Many say that Unions drove business out of America by making it too expensive to do business here. It is the fault of the Unions, they say, that Americans now languish in sloth, making impossible demands on the Federal Government and still managing to reduce the profits of serious men of business (who have obviously earned their rich and luxurious lifestyles).
We, the workers of America and the former workers of America, recognize that this is a ridiculously one-sided view of Unions and/or the American worker. The very reason Unions exist is to protect workers from employers whose only interest is their bottom line (which, most likely, is not all employers). We learned about corporate greed the hard way and if we keep an eye on Southeast Asia and on China and other newly industrialized nations we see that they are learning those tough lessons that we learned decades ago. Workers must have a way to protect themselves from businessmen who practice a ruthless form of Capitalism. These new workers are in a far worse state than American workers were. There was pushback against unionizing; it was sometimes a bloody and brutal war, but we lived in a Democratic nation where people who believed in the ideals of the American nation offered support to unionizing and a counterpoint to stubborn business owners. How difficult will it be for people living in dictatorships to ever do anything to protect workers?
People are trying to bust our unions in these divisive days when our economy looks somewhat bleak. They are having some success by using ‘right to work’ laws which say that unions cannot charge dues to non-members. It seems logical that someone who is not a union member should not have to pay a fee to the union, but it robs the union of the power to bargain, and when a union bargains with an employer and succeeds the benefits accrue for all workers, not only union workers. We also have seen how employers can use non-Union employees against Union employees. ‘Right to Work’ laws only ‘seem’ to benefit workers. The laws are a tool of the owner class used to break up unions.
There is another aspect of Union busting which should concern us. Union busting is being used by Republicans and their wealthy corporate donors to suppress the vote and to rob Democrats of the very powerful support they have received from Labor Unions. With our factories gone we may not need our Unions right now as desperately as we once did, but we should not let them be disemboweled by Big Business and their minions in Congress. Whatever your connection to your union, continue to pay your union dues if you can. We at least need our unions to offset the huge injections of cash into elections by the donor class. We need unions to insure that American workers still have a say in elections.
By Nancy Brisson