Union Bashing; “Frauds and the Fools they convince….
Union Bashing; “Frauds and the Fools they convince….
Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012 4:45 pm | Updated: 4:54 pm, Mon Jul 23, 2012.
Union bashing frauds and the fools they convince
By FRANK P. ARCOLEO JR.Calkins Media, Inc. | 55 comments
I continue to read attacks on the Neshaminy teachers union and, in fact, all unions. That view is embodied in this newspaper, which prints anti-Obama and anti-union cartoons, such as the one in the June 10 edition depicting a voter saying “Enough of this slop bucket” in front of a trough labeled “union benefits” about to be gobbled by a huge pig labeled “public unions.”
I am not in a union, public or private, nor have I ever been. However, after fighting for this country in World War II as a Marine at Guadalcanal, Okinawa, and other bloody battlefields, my father joined a union and worked as an instrument repairman at an aluminum smelting plant near New Orleans for 25 years. That job allowed us to live in a small three-bedroom ranch home not too far from the aluminum plant. It allowed us to eat nutritious (but not very fancy) meals, though we couldn’t eat out much, nor could we take real vacations.
That union job allowed him to pay for my education and that of my siblings at local Catholic schools. That union job allowed him to not worry about whether any of us got sick, because it came with good health care benefits. And finally, that job allowed my mother and him to retire modestly on his union pension and Social Security. Without my father’s union job, who knows what would have become of me? It’s hard to imagine that I would have the great fortune to live life as part of an upper middle class family in Bucks County.
From that perspective, I want to make several observations about unions and their relentless critics.
First, instead of condemning unions, we should extol their historical accomplishments. Unions have brought us laws against child labor. Unions have brought us the 8-hour work day and overtime pay. Unions have brought us safer workplaces, so that getting sick or maimed was no longer “just part of the job.” Unions have brought us pensions, employer-paid health care, vacation pay, sick leave, etc. Though currently under attack, these same benefits are enjoyed by nearly all full-time, nonunion employees, too.
Second, as so many Vent writers have rejoiced, union membership is in substantial decline as powerful companies and now Republican-controlled governments attempt to break any semblance of union power. But such union critics also should notice and acknowledge that as unions have declined over the last 30-plus years, the income of the entire bottom 90 percent of all Americans has stagnated. Notice that I didn’t say that just the income of blue-collar Americans has stagnated; instead, even as the top 10 percent (and even more so, the top 1 percent) has flourished, EVERYBODY ELSE has stagnated or declined. Instead of consistently raising the bar for labor compensation, so that the benefits of increased technology and productivity are shared between labor and management/capital, unchecked corporate power is keeping virtually ALL of these benefits for shareholders and top management.
Until recently, unions remained strong in the public sector, and union power had continued to raise the compensation bar in that sector. Some reasonable people might believe that teacher salaries and benefits are too high. But what is undoubtedly true is that the reason such compensation seems high is that the rest of America’s labor force has lagged behind. So the combined forces of big business and their Republican politicos are accomplishing a long-term goal: having defeated private sector unions by threats of relocating to non-union states or outsourcing abroad, these same oligarchs are working their magic on public unions. But for this last task, they’re actually using humbled private sector workers to do their bidding. They’re pitting the unions against, well, everybody else.
In this regard, there are only frauds and fools. The frauds know that unions have benefited, and continue to benefit, middle-class Americans, but they’re trying to convince others that unions are bad. The fools are those who are convinced by the frauds to go against their own interests by attacking other members of the middle class who belong to unions. And the media help the frauds convince the fools by endlessly repeating the same discredited arguments and depicting the same prejudiced nonsense in political cartoons.
If you’re not a fat cat fraud who has something to gain by busting unions, think twice before attacking your neighbors — teachers, school bus drivers, or other middle class workers who happen to belong to unions. Unions are by no means perfect; but over the last 30 years, hurting them has actually hurt you.
Frank Arcoleo, Yardley, is a CPA, an MBA, and a a management consultant specializing in business strategy, process redesign, and technology implementation. He loves business and free markets, as long as they both function properly.
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