Top Of My Head

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Tag: American Workers

Shutting Down the Unions

Ever since Ronald Reagan fired the striking Air Traffic Controllers, Unions have been getting a bad rap in this country and the newly elected Republicans want to take them down ever further.  American workers need the ability to collectively bargain.  They need to know that they cannot be fired without a reason.  Companies should pay a fair wage for a fair day’s work.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?  We keep hearing from the right that we should get back to tradition values and our traditional country, so let’s take a look at what that means – what life was like for non-union workers at the turn of the century.

People worked in sweatshops with no required breaks for coffee, lunch or even bathrooms.  They worked six or, in some cases, seven days a week for wages that would barely feed their families.  The idea that women stayed at home, tending to home and hearth is a fallacy.  They worked just as hard as their husbands did, maybe even harder, since once home, they had to attend to home and hearth.  Children worked alongside adults for half the money.  This was all before the unions.

Back then, companies hired strike breakers to keep their employees’ wages low and their own profits high.  The government past laws to make it unlawful to participate in unions.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

We forget how far we’ve come.  Instead, we’ve been fed a belief that companies “care” about their employees and they’re willing to look out for our well being.  Oh, there are some companies that truly believe in the American way of life, but they’re rare.

Now, instead of hiring thugs to keep the unions out, companies hire other companies to give talks and lectures on the “dangers” of unions.  They’ve actually managed to convince hard working people that unions are bad and that the big brother company knows best for you.  I’ve sat through these lectures and talks.  I’ve heard these anti-union people speak.  They’re good at what they do.  I sat through these lessons of lies while working for a family owned company (not the one I’m at right now) and heard these speakers talk about making the heads of the union rich with the employees’ dues – totally ignoring the fact that through our hard work and sweat, we’ve made the owner of the company a very rich man.

Now, according to a New York Times article, our newly elected Republican officials want to weaken unions even more than they are.  Our very own “Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.”  That’s just one step away from taking away private workers’ rights.

Doesn’t that scare you?  Even a little?

It does me.

Ask yourself this:  Who benefits when workers cannot form unions?  Is it the worker?  No, it isn’t – it is the company.  Companies do not like unions.  There was a time when the threat of a union could force an employer to give fair raises to its employees.

Company thugs no longer weld baseball bats – they weld laws written by anti-worker politicians.  They’ve come for your fair wages, health care and benefits.  The whole time, they’re lying to you – the American worker – by saying that this is for your benefit.  This will help the workers, this will help the taxpayers.

No, taking away the right to collectively bargain contracts only helps the Businesses.  The government has all ready made it easier for businesses to send our jobs overseas.  Now, they want to make it easier for businesses to pay you less and work you more for the jobs that are still here.

Henry Ford once said, “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”  It is really too bad that our CEOs have forgotten his words.

American Workers – Unite!

There was a time in America where you graduated from high school, started a job at a local business, worked there for thirty years and retired – with a full pension and, in some cases, medical benefits.  That was back when American Corporations still cared about their employees.  It was back before the Supreme Court stated that Corporations are people and should have the same rights.  It was back when unions were strong in this nation.  It was back when “the average CEO of a major corporation made 42 times the average hourly worker’s pay”. (Quote link)

Sadly, those days are gone.

Those of us who are not among the wealthy have been handed a bunch of malarkey from our leaders – the politicians, the management at many companies and even our talk show hosts.  We’ve been told that what’s bad for business is bad for jobs.  We’ve been told that moving factories to Mexico and importing goods from China is good for American companies and, therefore, good for those of us who work for a living.  We’ve been told that tax cuts for the rich and lowering the corporate tax rate will help bring jobs back to our neighborhoods.   We’ve been told that regulating the financial market is bad and deregulation is good.

All of this has been one great big lie.  Case in point: tax cuts.  Corporations are paying lower taxes than they have in half a century and, yet, they didn’t keep people on the payrolls.  Wonder why?  Another case is the financial market breakdown.  We’ve spent the last 30 years (and especially the last eighteen years) dismantling the regulations enacted during the depression that were designed to prevent the exact kind of meltdown our financial market suffered in 2008.  And, we’ve been told it was a good thing.

Now, Mitt Romney, in an opinion piece in USA Today, claims that people on unemployment don’t really want to work.  Does this man have a clue?  Does he get it?  He says (and I’m quoting because unlike Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, I don’t make shit up!), “The indisputable fact is that unemployment benefits, despite a web of regulations, actually serve to discourage some individuals from taking jobs, especially when the benefits extend across years.”

I’ve been on unemployment three times in my life – never for more than six months – it was some of the worst times.  The idea that an American worker prefers unemployment is absurd.  My salary on unemployment would drop by 72%.  I can’t make my bills on that.  Now, I’m very fortunate – I am employed and in the last nine years, I have been unemployed for a grand total of one week – and I was paid by my ex-employer for that week and the one after it.  I have a friend who has been unemployed for a year and a half.  I can tell you that she’d rather be working.  In fact, I do not know one unemployed person who has said, “Gee, I love my unemployment insurance!  I guess I won’t look for a job!”

Romney is trying to convince the American Public that the unemployed are lazy and don’t want to work.  Where have we heard that before?  (Hint: Rush Limbaugh)

He goes on to say this (and the emphasis is mine):

“The system is also not designed for a flexible economy like ours in which some employees move from job to job for short periods, and are therefore ineligible for unemployment compensation when they are faced with a protracted spell without work.

To remedy such problems we need a very different model, perhaps establishing individual unemployment savings accounts over which employees would exercise direct control when they lose their jobs, or putting in place financial incentives for employers to hire and train the long-term unemployed.”

How many people in our economy really “move from job to job for short periods”?  I’m betting not many.  Even contractors work for just one company and, apparently Mitt has never been on unemployment, it is tracked for all of your employment.  Every state is different, but most states ask about your work history for the previous year and then you’re covered.  I believe he’s way off base.

But, his idea of unemployment savings accounts?  What is his problem?  So, now we’re responsible for our own retirement (no company pensions) and we’re going to have to come up with money to put aside in case our employer lays us off?  Just where is the average American worker supposed to get the money?  American Families are hard pressed for cash now, imagine them trying to save for college, health care, retirement AND unemployment.

As far as put in place incentives for employers, please – big eye roll – they all ready have plenty of incentives.  But, I do have a plan – triple their taxes and give them a tax break for every new hirer.  Take away their profits in taxes unless they hire more people.  Make companies that earned a profit, but laid off employees pay 85% of the profit in taxes unless they hire back 50% of the laid off employees.  How’s that for an incentive?  Start putting high tariffs on products made overseas and imported here – include American companies in the mix, so they have an incentive to build plants here.

American companies have had it easy for the last thirty years and take a good look at where it’s gotten us.  It’s time for the American Workers to take back the wheel and drive this bus!

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