A historian just told me that when our small town was pre-union, if a new employer came into the area offering better wages than were standard, he or she was met by a contingent of current local employers telling them that higher wages were not allowed in our town.
Yet, already, Labor Day goes unnoticed here and all I hear is that unions are horrible.
Labor author Philip Dine recently recounted this story in the Washington Times:
"Coal- company executives strode into the small West Virginia mining town in 1920 and informed the mayor they were now in charge. If boosting company profits meant paying workers in scrips redeemable only at company stores, then that was just smart management. ... If scaring workers into submission necessitated kidnapping a miner here and there and brutally murdering him in ways that would make a jihadist proud, then that was a part of doing business."
These thing happened within the lifetimes of Americans still walking around. People tell me that all our rights are now guaranteed. If that is true why are wages actually going steadily backward and health and retirement benefits being lost -- while CEO's salaries reach obscene heights?
A manual for Wrong-Mart supervisors stereotyped workers who might be union sympathizers. An employee who was easy going and lived with his or her parents would have the money to go on strike. Another threat would be someone who was educated and made more money before.
It is becoming commonplace for employers to illegally harass and fire people for union activity. It can take three years for employees to even get back pay after being canned. If the workers had that kind of money they would not need to work.
Kate Bronfenbrenner, a researcher on labor law, concludes,"If recent trends continue, there will no longer be a functioning legal mechanism to effectively protect the right of private-sector workers to organize and bargain collectively."
We need to not only celebrate labor heroes on Labor Day -- the generations who suffered, some even giving their lives -- we should be issuing a new call to arms!
In the meantime, thank you labor heroes, for all you do and have done!