Sunday, December 9, 2012

The 'Right-to Work' Issue

There are so many thoughts running through my mind that I do not know where to start.  So, for today, let's start with my union history.

My father's parents worked in the Detroit auto factories.  They, of course, were unionized workers.  But, I really never heard much talk around the table about unions.  My father worked as a tile setter for my uncle and later in a small tool and die shop, neither of which required union membership.

Since the City of Detroit was not hiring when I graduated from college (thanks to a union dispute), I took a job at another hospital, but had my application on file with the city. 

The hospital I went to work at did not have unions.  So, I guess I should not have been outraged when I discovered that two department heads, who graduated at the same time, were paid vastly different salaries.  The reason was simple: the higher paid male employee had a family to raise and the lower paid female employee was engaged to a doctor.  I guess that seems fair - NOT!

A year later I became employed by the City and when I finished my probation was told that I could either join the union as a voting member or just pay the dues in what was known as an agency shop.  Well, I joined.  I figured I wanted a say for my money.  And, eventually, I became the union president.

My presidency was a real eye-opener.  Simply put, the City administration, under then Mayor Coleman Young, was willing to screw us every way possible, trying to take away every benefit we had ever achieved in collective bargaining.  When I refused to take their latest offer to my union membership for a vote, I was called 'an uppity white bitch'.  Our union prevailed, though within a year I was so disgusted by what was going on with management tactics and members who were afraid of losing their jobs if they filed a grievance, that I resigned.

Eventually, I spent eleven years at home raising my family before I went back to work.  When I did, I entered a world where public safety employees were unionized and everyone else was treated fairly.  That lasted under the Republican administration, but changed when the Democrats took over.  Go figure.

The new administration became so antagonistic toward the non-union employees that they all organized.  Morale started to decline and from what I hear it continues to do so.  And when morale is low, so is production and quality of work produced, IMHO.

Now, our crazed Republican legislature and their Governor, have decided to push through so-called 'right to work' legislation in lame duck.  It's as if these idiots were living under the Mayan calendar and need to get it done before the world ends on the 21st.  The reality is they would not have the votes in the new legislature next year to get it done. 

And that's what it really comes down to isn't it?  I can do it because I have the votes and maybe I can also hurt the other party in the process (less union members means less money donated to Democratic candidates).  Show me where you have the proof that companies will rush to come to a state just because they can pay workers less money and provide no benefits.  Where is the guarantee that these workers will not just leave and go elsewhere for work?  (Seems our youngest and brightest have already done so)

Walter Reuther must be doing somersaults in his grave.  I have sat on both sides of the bargaining table.  I know what goes through every one's mind in negotiation.  Businesses want to make money and employees want to feed their families.  And maybe be able to buy the products those companies produce.  Why do I feel we have just taken a huge step backwards?  Shame on all of them!!!

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