Every now and then the company I work for has a series of meetings, (one per shift), where management hands out awards, updates the employees on what’s in the future, and answers questions. Yesterday we had one such meeting. I work Swing Shift, or as the company calls it, Second Shift, so our meeting was at 2 p.m.
During the question and answer period one individual got up and began asking management what we, (the employees) can do about our union. This employee stated that he had called numerous people and agencies regarding our union’s failure to adequately represent the hourly workers. He then went on to explain to his co-workers that their pension plan is underfunded; that some would be lucky if they even got anything from it when it came time for them to retire.
Management, by law, is restricted from offering suggestions as what the employees can do in cases such as these as it might be grounds for a unfair labor practices lawsuit. I think this employee just wanted to let his co-workers know what the hell is going on with their union and felt frustrated in regards to two things; first that he could not get his union to do the job it was supposed to be doing, and secondly that there was a certain amount of apathy among the hourly workers the union represents.
Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I think this employee has some legitimate concerns; things that people should be aware of and take action upon.
That being said, Welcome to my world!
I wonder if this employee ever stopped to consider how I feel on a daily basis regarding the fact that the people who represent me, both at the state and federal levels, are not doing the jobs that THEY are supposed to be doing, and that the majority of the people in this country are apathetic and complacent about it.
If you think about it what my fellow co-worker was asking for was a redress of grievances; a resolution to problems or complaints. He had some legitimate complaints and was not getting any satisfactory answers, or resolutions, from the union and the various agencies he had contacted. He was feeling angered, frustrated, and let down.
Honestly, I can relate; as I feel the same way about my government; both at the State and Federal level. Yet had I got up and delivered and emotionally charged speech like him, changing the word union to government, instead of a round of applause I would have been met with dead silence, or boos and jeers.
Yet if you think about it both situations are similar; we have a body which is supposed to represent another body which is not doing the job they are supposed to be doing, and we have an individual who cannot get resolution for his complaints, nor can he get more of his co-workers to notice that there is, in fact, even a problem with this body of representatives.
Yet I would be willing to bet that my co-worker will be more successful in getting people’s attention and garnering support for his complaints than I would be for getting people’s attention to the abuses of power and resulting loss of their freedom by their government.
Why is that? Is either problem less serious than the other?
I think it is human nature to procrastinate somewhat when it comes to things which could impact people’s lives. Typically people are reactive instead or proactive; instead of taking measures that would have prevented problems in the first place they wait until they begin feeling the impact of things before they take actions to remedy the problem. As Jefferson once so famously said, “Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
Like I said, I’m pretty sure people will get more involved in my co-workers cause than they will mine. Union representation, or the lack thereof, has an almost immediate and direct impact on their daily lives; and people feel these things in tangible ways such as loss of benefits or insufficient compensation for work performed.
The affects of improper government, however, are not so tangible and are not immediately felt by the people. You get a paycheck every week and you see that; you can hold it in your hands. You don’t, however, get a statement from your government showing you the security of your liberty, the status of each of your unalienable rights. Therefore, unless you try to exercise a right beyond the limits which the government has proscribed it, you won’t even notice that they are slipping away a bit at a time until it is too late, and they are already gone.
I see so many similarities between the two situations that I could write for days about them. If someone were to suggest that we severe our ties with, or abolish the union, the general mass of the people would oppose that suggestion as they depend upon the union for their continued employment.
I can only speak for those who do the same job I do, but it is my belief that without the protection of the union the company would be free to fire a great many of my fellow co-workers because they perform sub-par work; or no work whatsoever. If pay raises were based upon merit, upon performance, there are a great many who do the same job I do who would never see another pay raise the rest of their lives. But, seeing as how we have a union, and how pay raises are mandated by contract, they get a pay raise every year; whether they deserve it or not.
Labor Unions, in certain instances, are much like governments in that they provide a safety net for the people they represent. In both instances, Unions and government, the people they represent are given things they often do not deserve; benefits/pay raises, a secure job when they are not qualified for, or can perform to expected levels.
I’m not saying unions are entirely bad; they have their purposes. But it is my belief that as in anything, unions have become more about generating revenue for themselves and increasing their political power. I think unions have shifted from protecting employees from abuse and mistreatment by their employers to groups who seek to shape and influence what laws are passed at the state and federal levels. We are taxed much like our government taxes us, by way of our union dues, and we don’t get proper representation.
Isn’t that EXACTLY what the catch phrase of the American Revolution was, “Taxation without representation?”
Again, let me make it clear, I am not criticizing my co-worker for bringing these matters up during the meeting yesterday; I think he has some legitimate complaints that should be addressed.
I am, however, saying that those who applauded his speech should take a moment to stop and consider that what he said is representative of what I’ve been saying all this time; only on a much smaller and more immediately felt scale.
Every week when you open your pay stub and see how much is being taken from your pay for union dues and health insurance, and how few remaining dollars you have left over for your bills and groceries, you can see and feel immediately.
You don’t see and feel the things your government is doing so immediately and directly. But believe me, one of these days you will. One of these days your apathy and your complacency is going to turn around and bite you in the ass.
When that day comes you are going to be asking why someone didn’t stand up and warn us; just as my co-worker stood up yesterday and warned his fellow workers about the problems with our union. Please, for your own sake, don’t ask that question when I’m around; because that is exactly what I’ve been doing; and you haven’t paid one damned bit of attention to what I’ve been saying.
So to my co-worker who feels so much anger and frustration, I have but one thing to say; Welcome to my world.