American Unions….Come Home America!
What is Corporate Management’s dirty little secret? We are human beings! Management are not immune from disliking an employee; from getting angry with an employee; from wanting to get rid of an employee and retribution; from making decisions that are bad for employee’s; profits and productivity are first and foremost our objective.
I became a manager at 24 years old for Southern Pacific Communications, parent of Sprint Long Distance, starting my career with a staff of 30 customer service representatives. The communications industry was changing from year to year, as the divestiture of AT&T and the local phone companies were in full swing to open up the industry to free market competition.
In the 1980’s long distance companies like, Sprint, MCI, Alltel, Global Crossing, Argo Systems, were springing up overnight. GTE bought, SP Communications and became GTE Sprint Communications. Management was called into a meeting and told that GTE would be opening a regional customer service hub call-center in Dallas and that we would be laying off our staff in 6 months. In order to keep our call-center fully staffed until then, we were asked not to say a word to the staff until two weeks before the lay-off. We needed to keep productivity up and keep the staff from looking for a new jobs until then.
I had developed a relationship with my staff, I knew them as peers and as their manager. They would share their lives with me. I knew that some were buying cars and homes, increasing debt, but I could not warn them of the impending lay-offs. They trusted me, but I was management and my job was to make sure the company’s priorities and goals were being met. Did I think it was unfair? I did but I understood my role and did my job. On the day that I announced the lay-off, my staff looked stunned and betrayed, the first question out of their mouth, “How long did you know?”
When you are a manager you see all kinds of characteristic among your management peers, mean, nice, unethical, self-serving, good, bad, productive, lazy, hardworking, truthful, dishonest, harassers and manager’s that are respectful and caring…every human trait is represented. But one thing they all share is their dislike for “UNIONS”. “UNIONS” make it hard to manage. We can’t just fire a Union member. We can’t just lay them off without notice. We can’t harass them with abandon. We can’t fire them because we simply dislike them. We can’t make them work overtime without paying them overtime wages. We can’t treat them unjustly. Because the Union is there to speak for them we need to be mindful of good labor relations.
My advice to non-management staff after 30 years of managing! Unionize! Trusting your job security to a non-union company manager is basically at will, and that is the way “WE” like it. We will tell you that unions protect bad employees and that is unfair to you. We will tell you that those lazy union members make $25 an hour to put seatbelts in cars and isn’t that “unfair” it makes it very expensive to buy cars. We will tell you that your union dues will be used to campaign for “Democrats” and you should be resentful. We will tell you that the unions don’t do anything for you they just collect your dues. I am here to tell you those are all lies that “WE” tell you so that you will not unionize, because selfishly it makes “OUR” jobs harder and it increases labor cost for the Corporation reducing profits to shareholders. Neither of those two objectives are something you should be concerned with because that screws you out of job security and a “LIVING WAGE”.
As union membership has declined; so has job security and with it so has the standard of living for the American Middle Class. Corporate America is there to sell products and services and create profits for shareholders. There are great companies out there that understand the value of their human resources and their affect to the bottom-line, there is no doubt about it. But all too often there are bad managers even at those companies that will not do right by the employee. What about the Human Resources Department you may ask don’t they speak for the employee’s? NO NO NO, we have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the company from suits and liability. Of course that sometime benefits the employee but all too often we protect management first. In a non-union company you are on your own.
When “WE” tell you the downside of “UNIONS” consider the source, we are not objective, we have an agenda and that agenda is profits and giving as much of those profits to shareholders. Unions have done much for the American Middle Class over the last 100 years and don’t let Corporate America or it self-serving CEO’s and management teams tell you different:
1. Founding of the Committee for Industrial Organization, later the Congress of Industrial Organizations or CIO (1938)
After the American Federation of Labor voted against organizing workers “across trades” in a factory, preferring to group workers by individual craft or trade, the CIO and its visionary leader, John L. Lewis, recognized the potential power of mobilizing workers across occupational lines in a given industry. The approach opened the union door to what would become labor’s core constituency — mass production workers.
2. Passage of the Social Security Act (1935)
This New Deal legislation provided workers with unemployment insurance, aid to dependent children and rehabilitation for the physically disabled. It also improved public health and provided pensions to workers in their old age. Today, AFSCME is leading the fight to strengthen and preserve Social Security — a benefit to some 44 million people.
3. National Labor Relations Act (1935)
Also known as the “Wagner Act,” this law served as the foundation for current U.S. labor law, granting unions the right to organize and obligating employers to bargain collectively on hours, wages and other terms and conditions of employment. AFSCME has used the NLRA to secure collective bargaining rights for workers across the country.
4. GM Sit-Down Strikes (1936-37)
Anti-union sentiments in the fledgling auto industry in the 1930s triggered a sit-down job action by 50 workers at a Fisher Body plant in Flint, Mich., an action that inspired similar strikes by 485,000 auto workers across the U.S. and Canada in an 8-month period. The Flint strike lasted 45 days, with strikers winning a five-cent-an-hour raise and an agreement by management to rehire the strikers and recognize the union.
5. Civil Rights Act/Title VII (1964)
This landmark legislation prohibited discrimination by employers or unions on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion or gender. AFSCME’s unprecedented growth in the 60s and 70s was due in large measure to the union’s reputation for fighting for fair treatment for all workers, but particularly minorities.
6. Public Sector Organizing (1962-1980)
In 1962, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988, which recognized the rights of federal employees to join unions. This order spearheaded the rapid expansion of all public sector organizing. A key event of this period was the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., killed while in Memphis on behalf of striking AFSCME sanitation workers.
7. Fair Labor Standards Act (1938)
The FLSA granted sweeping protections to workers — establishing a minimum wage (25 cents an hour) and the 8-hour work day, providing for overtime, and prohibiting the use of child labor in all businesses engaged in interstate commerce. Despite breaking important ground, the FLSA excluded large numbers of workers, not the least of whom were public service workers.
8. “Bread and Roses” Strike (1912)
This sometimes violent strike at a Lawrence, Mass., textile mill was named for the song sung by strikers determined to win more than a subsistence life. The strike became synonymous with the struggle of workers to better their working conditions.
9. World War II Support
The trade union movement that was beginning to flex its collective muscles at the end of the 30s put those same muscles to work on behalf of the war effort. And, like the patriots they were, American unions pledged not to strike and received no-layoff concessions for the duration of the war.
10. Occupational Safety & Health Act (1970)
Providing a safe workplace had been a primary goal of the labor movement since its inception. Many years later, President Nixon — a conservative Republican — was convinced to sign the first comprehensive federal legislation covering safety in the workplace. Unions work daily to enforce OSHA’s regulations, and also to expand and refine safe protections for all workers.
Practically ALL the benefits you have at work, whether you work in the public or private sector, all of the benefits and rights you value are there because unions fought hard for them against Corporate America who did everything they could to prevent giving you those rights. Many union leaders and members even lost their lives for things we take for granted today.
The demonization of Unions was a strategy to bust the Unions so that “WE” the Executive and Management Teams could reap the benefits of “AT WILL” working conditions, increasing productivity without impunity, taking your pensions, reducing your healthcare benefits, raiding 401k company stock and taking those profits for “Ourselves” in the form of outrageous bonuses, CEO salaries and “Shareholder” payouts. American Unions are not the enemy, 30 years of a right wing agenda focused on management priorities and bottom-lines profits have only served to hurt the American worker and your standard of living. It is time to come home America…Unions are good for American Labor… Look for the Union Label…