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justafarmer On February - 14 - 2011

From a union worker family standpoint…

I really want to know what the right wing and the Tea Party has against unions?

Is it so bad that we can’t make little children work in sweatshops? Is it so bad that we are human enough to ask for basic safe and healthy work conditions? Is it so bad that we do not want our coal miners to die in mine accidents because the companies want to save money on safety standards? Or that our farm workers can have porta-potties so they don’t have to relieve themselves from dawn to dusk in the same fields where they are picking our fruits and vegetables on corporate farms? Or that our meat is not crowded into feedlots or cages pumped up with antibiotics, steroids and hormones to “pump them up”?
Is a starting wage of $12 an hour outrageous? Is a wage of $24-$30 and hour for experienced power linemen outrageous? (disclosure here, my spouse is a power lineman who was union for many years, but the IBEW jobs are gone, so he works non-union now at age 55 for $24/hour, but there are benefits!)

So, let’s do the math.

Starting wage is around $25,000 a year. Spouse, after more than 30 years, is doing comparable with the IBEW job less the union dues (which are only about $35/month, but his less than impressive IBEW vested-pension is in limbo for now) but he’s bringing home at least $50,000 a year now (as opposed to relying on my steady job here on the farm with my own pension and part-time journalism job that altogether grosses about $12,000/year and we struggled but made it work with just that).

The Republicans and Tea Party people want to make us feel guilty that we’re “raking in” $50,000 a year while my spouse is away from home working in all sorts of horrible weather keeping their electricity on or restoring it when it goes off?

And gawd forbid that we have some sort of a retirement nest egg?
Oh, and did I mention that spouse’s job is one of those stimulus jobs that the Republicans claim don’t exist? After being laid off during GWB’s tenure, he’s out there now as of this past October in all weather upgrading the electrical grid in Greater Cincinnati and it IS a stimulus job paying his wage.

Thank you President Obama, and I really REALLY mean that!

113 Responses so far.

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  1. SequimBob2 says:

    “I really want to know what the right wing and the Tea Party has against unions?”

    As an active duty Army officer, I was somewhat surprised to find myself transferred to a Civilian agency in Detroit, MI. (A great assignment, by the way.) Anyway, I recall waiting for a phone to be installed. The installer arrived and promptly sat down upon my desk. Not a good sign, I figure.

    “You here to install the phone?” I asked.
    “Uh huh,” says installer.

    But he doesn’t move. So after a couple of more polite inquiries, I ask him why he isn’t working. Answer: “Waiting on the union guy to come move the desk.”

    At this point I got a bit annoyed, and said “I’ll move the @#$# desk.” I’ll never forget his response. He hopped off the desk, visibly paled and said, “Don’t do that. The union will file a grievance against me.”

    And that was my first introductions to unions. After leaving the military, I went to work for General Motors in Flint, MI. UAW country, big time.

    To make a long story a little bit shorter, I quit after having three requests to meet with my Director were refused. I had been promised certain things as part of the hiring process and wanted to discuss these promises. Three requests followed by three refusals to meet with me followed by a resignation. In contrast, I’d never once in my military career been refused the opportunity to speak with a commander.

    After only four months, I ended my career with the auto industry with the ironic understanding that had I been offered the opportunity to join a union, I would have been first in line.

    Now, understand as a military guy, it wasn’t as if I was unfamiliar with working in a structured environment. But while I never chafed under the military’s regimen, GM’s management practices were another story. I now understand on a personal level why there are unions — to protect workers. I get it. Didn’t always get it, but I do now.

    Have unions abused their role? Absolutely. But American the so-called captains of American industry have shipped jobs overseas, raked in huge profits, decimated the American middle class and now are bound and determined to finish-off the unions.

    Why attack the unions? The unions are an organizing force for Democrats. Destroy the counter-balance union campaign contributions provide and, as Rachel Maddow said last night, the Republicans can run the field — giving us Karl Rove’s much desired permanent Republican Party.

    It’s not so much that the Right hates unions, although they do, because unions are perceived as more costly, less flexible, etc., it’s that the unions threaten the wealth power structure.

    If you watch how the Governor of Wisconsin reacts to the protests, he’s angry. He’s indignant. He’s outraged. He just wants his way --or rather the way of those that funded his campaign. He gives 150 million in tax cuts and then claims he’s got to reign in the evil union contracts to get the looming fiscal crisis under control. It’s a con job — just like the Republicans having rammed through the Bush Tax Cut extensions through are now railing about the deficit. It’s a con.

    This is not to say the debt and deficit aren’t real problems. They are. But the math associated with solving these problems is not that complex — nor are the objectives of the Right’s power structure. They want to keep the Military Industrial Complex booming. To do this, they are currently spending roughly 20% of federal spending, $665B annually. (Canada by contrast spends $21B.)

    But the right feels threatened. We’re running a deficit, boomers are retiring rapdily and Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements expenditures will be rising. All this, plus the spectre of rising interest rates, threaten what the Right wants to do with your tax dollars. Solution -- attack entitlements. What stands in their way? In part, unions stand in their way.

    But unions are just the first step. A Republican controlled government will lead to radical reductions in entitlement programs — no doubt more tax cuts for the rich — and bring about a different America than the one in which I grew up. I find this prospect very disturbing. Again, just wait. This is just the beginning. States will use the same arguments to break their pension obligations to state workers. Meanwhile, the stock market will be perking along and the wealthy will just become more so.

    Does the Right hate unions? Yeah, but the real issue is money. It’s only business from the Right’s perspective, but its impact on Americans will be very painful and very personal.


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