Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why I Support Unions

My family lives in a pretty nice home. We have two decent cars. I never have to struggle to put food on the table. Heck, we even get to eat out once in a while. In other words, we are part of a cherished but rapidly dwindling middle class. We live here, love here, pray here, pay taxes here, and have built our futures here. We were able to build this American dream of a life primarily because my wife and I are both union members.

My father was a dock worker. He spent about ten years loading and unloading ships. It was punishing work for paltry pay. Then one day, a minor miracle happened. He landed a job with a utility company--a unionized job. Despite the fact that he never finished high school himself, my father was able, thanks to the decent pay and benefits his union job offered him, to raise our family. He didn't make that much, but it was enough to pay the rent and for him to retire with dignity once his health began to deteriorate. He spent only two months in retirement before he passed away. Nevertheless, my mother received his pension benefits and was able to keep the house together. I was even able to go to college and become a teacher, all because my dad was treated like a human being as a result of his union membership and benefits.

That's what unions are about. No one gets rich in them, but everyone who puts in a good day's work can rest assured that he or she will be entitled to a little piece of the American Dream. Union members work with dignity in the knowledge that they won't be assigned to the garbage heap should they be injured on the job or fired by the capricious whims of a vengeful, racist, or sexist boss. Unions allow regular people to build their lives without fear of those lives being destroyed for no good reason.

This country was built on the middle class, and the middle class was built on unions. While the millionaires and billionaires pride themselves as the masters of this country, it is the union workers who built it, protect it, and serve it.

There are those who would like to deny us the most basic of rights: to organize so that we can speak with one voice in the halls of power and wealth. The powers that be would love to strip us of that right because it would allow them to reduce this country to two classes: the uber-rich and the voiceless, working poor. Not content to have the vast lion's share of this country's wealth, these million and billionaires would love to get even richer by dismantling the pension and health benefits that workers have negotiated for over the last century. They'd like nothing better than to privatize every public institution--especially schools--so that they can get their paws on public money. Unions are all that stand in their way.

Perhaps anti-union politicians like Scott Walker and Chris Christie have overstepped this time. They have painted union workers as the "haves" and everyone else as the "have nots". The truth is that these politicians and billionaires are the true "haves" in this country, and people are starting to realize it. I know that unions will be at the forefront of making that point.

If you hate unions, think what this country would be without them. Health benefits would disappear for the sake of corporate profits. Work days and work weeks would be extended to whatever bosses wanted. You'd be "replaced" regularly--probably as soon as you opened your mouth or began making a decent salary. And retirement? Forget it. Your penion would be gone, and you wouldn't be able to stop working until you'd saved enough to pay for your own funeral.

That's why I support unions.

5 comments:

Pissed Off said...

One of the best posts I've read.

jd2718 said...

Common sense?
Decency?
Fairness?

Those are worth fighting for, especially when they are trying to make them illegal.

Jonathan

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NYC Educator said...

Very well-written and well-argued. I love it.

Attorney DC said...

Great post. Thanks for humanizing the union worker and articulating why unions are so important to America.