Monday 1 September 2014

Labor Day

    Since today is Labor Day (actually, in Canada its ‘Labour Day’), I thought I would do something unusual for the holiday, I am actually going to talk about labor, more specifically unions, and how they have benefited me.   Most people seem to have a negative view of unions, because strikes cause disruption to their everyday life, many are jealous of union wages and benefits, and media always like to emphasize how much it is going to cost, if unions get their way and workers get a higher wage.
    I believe that everyone who has to get up in the morning and spend the day doing a boring job, should at least make enough money to live on.  Unfortunately, this is not the case, many people have to work a couple of jobs to get by.  Multi-billion-dollar Walmart is happy to depend upon government relief programs to make up the slack, so their workers can survive day to day on the low wages they pay.
    Anyway, in my own life, I owe a lot to the union we had when I worked for the BC Forest Service.  By the time I started working there, the government was starting to put restrictions on employees, in order to save itself money.  They needed a full time worker to do a specific job, but instead making an applicant a regular employee, they would hire them as an “Auxiliary” worker.  They worked the auxiliary worker the same as a regular employee, but without giving them all of the benefits of the regular employee.
    During one of the labor contracts, the union was able to negotiate a clause that said that any auxiliary worker who had worked more than two years without break, had to given status as a regular employee.  Luckily for me, I had worked steadily for more than the two years, and as a result, I became a regular employee, with regular benefits.  (Of course, once that clause was in the contract, the government made sure that auxiliaries employees were laid off just before the two years elapsed, then immediately they hired them back to continue their old job until the next two years came up, thus the workers never got the regular benefits.)
    I still profit from the contracts signed long ago by the union, concerning retirees.  Because of the the union, I have a pension and can live a comfortable life (not an extravagant one), and I don’t have to struggle for my day to day existence.
    I think all people deserve such treatment, the only way poorer people can achieve a decent life (short of winning the lottery) is to be unionized, because most businesses no matter how profitable, won’t voluntarily pay workers higher wages unless they have to.  If things end up costing me a bit more, that’s okay, if people can make a livable wage, besides it would stimulate the whole economy.
    One hundred years ago, Henry Ford doubled the wages in his factory to $5 a day, because he wanted to give his workers enough money so they could afford to buy one of his car and that move began to build the American middle class.  I’m sure that part of his reasoning was to make things so good for his workers they wouldn’t be interested in forming a union.  Until more employers follow his lead, unions will be the only way for workers to improve their lives.

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