Some Thoughts on Labor Day!

Greetings and Salutations…

In these waining few minutes of Labor Day, I found I had a few things on my mind about it. For a lot of years, I did not have a great deal of respect for Labor Unions. I was seeing too much corruption, to many dirty tricks, and too many fiddly and silly rules.

Well, over time, my attitudes have changed 180 degrees. I came to understand that the Labor Unions that had generated contempt were ones where criminals were in charge, and were using the Labor Union to enrich themselves with dues extortion, excessive contract concessions from businesses, and sweet-heart deals. I also learned that these Unions were very few in number, and their actions exaggerated. I learned that much of the negative press about Labor Unions came less from their actions, and more from the lies and spin put forth by management – who hated the workers having access to the power to make it impossible to exploit them.

This is not the first time I have examined the issue of Unions in America, and what their actions have changed…HERE is another essay, for example. So, I am simply going to provide a list of a number of changes to the business world that Unions have pushed through. While reading the following list, keep in mind that these changes were not to enrich the leaders of the Union, nor to be a good deal for business. Rather they were designed to make the lives of the workers who are the heart of a business better and safer.

  1. Weekends without work
  2. All breaks at work, including your lunch breaks
  3. Paid vacation
  4. Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  5. Sick leave
  6. Social Security
  7. Minimum wage
  8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII – prohibits employer discrimination
  9. 8-hour work day
  10. Overtime pay
  11. Child labor laws
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  13. 40-hour work week
  14. Workers’ compensation (workers’ comp)
  15. Unemployment insurance
  16. Pensions
  17. Workplace safety standards and regulations
  18. Employer health care insurance
  19. Collective bargaining rights for employees
  20. Wrongful termination laws
  21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  22. Whistleblower protection laws
  23. Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) – prohibits employers from using a lie detector test on an employee
  24. Veteran’s Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  25. Compensation increases and evaluations (i.e. raises)
  26. Sexual harassment laws
  27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  28. Holiday pay
  29. Employer dental, life, and vision insurance
  30. Privacy rights
  31. Pregnancy and parental leave
  32. Military leave
  33. The right to strike
  34. Public education for children
  35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 – requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work
  36. Laws ending sweatshops in the United States

Ronald Reagan did many things to attempt to destroy Unions, and break the hold they had on businesses. His actions were despicable, and did nothing but hurt the working class. Today, we are finally seeing a growth in interest in Unions…and they are flexing their muscles. While life is imperfect, I support this effort, as I believe the evidence shows that the good a strong Union does far outweighs any evil it might do.

There is much work to do to get the USA back on the path of supporting ALL Citizens, not just the very wealthy. For example…the minimum wage is still about $7.50/hour. This is unrealistic, as in the decades that it has slowly grown to that amount, the effects of demand and inflation show it should be closer to $25/hour. As an example…here in Tennessee, there is NO place that a minimum wage worker can afford to buy or rent a place to live. In his 1933 economic speech, FDR – Who created the FIRST Minimum/Living wage defined it as this “…by living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.” [emphasis added]” A more complete discussion of this is located HERE FDR’s Living Wage was $0.25/hour, but, because the above definition is aiming at the moving target defined by FDR, the “Living Wage” over the years has been raised a number of times.

In one other example…the Screen Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild are currently striking and have been for quite some time. Why? Technology has caused changes in how their work is created and distributed. I recently wrote a short essay about this issue and what is going on, that delves into the situation more deeply.

Over the 90 years or so since FDR implemented the Minimum Living Wage, the attitudes of management have evolved in a very negative direction. Now, it is right out in the open that management, in general, despises the workers; considers them an expense, rather than an asset; and have increased the levels of exploitation of said workers to unacceptable levels. A vast majority of workers are tired of these negative trends, and realize how vital a Union is to rolling them back. So…Unions are seeing a growth, and taking serious actions to redress the abuses. It is, in my opinion, about damn time! Management needs to be reminded that, without workers, their jobs and company would not survive. Management needs to be re-taught the lesson that a well, compensated, appreciated, and happy employee produces more, better quality stock, and will stay with the company. It is amazing to me how many managers believe that employees are simply gears in the machine, and it is a trivial problem to yank one out and slap a new one in their place. They seem to have NO idea of how productivity suffers, how long it takes for a new employee to get up to speed, and how much that costs the company.

Be safe! Wear your Mask; get your vaccination boosters; wash your hands well!

God Help Us All

Bee Man Dave

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