UnionMaine

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Are Unions Obsolete?


Has the sun gone down on Unions, or is that the dawn light coming up?

Union and Solidarity are terms we are embarrassed to say. They seem quaint in these days when we are told we don’t need Unions unless we are lazy or incompetent. Words are important and these words brought members together to gain a forty hour week and benefits and wages that could feed a family. The new American ideal is supposedly the lone worker standing up and being recognized by worth and hard work with no need for support from Union thugs as Union organizers are called in the so called left wing press. There is something called solidarity, it is not an obsolete word, and it has always been the true strength of Unions. Each member knowing they are stronger in groups and each member knowing they can depend on help from another member.Where we are now is the result of decades of struggle and decades of attack from those who think that anything you have, wages or benefits was stolen from them. There have been mistakes, crooked bosses, lazy Union locals, and amazing successes. Maine had the highest percentage gain in SEIU membership in the nation in 2007. Solidarity means that we brought in members earning only $7.71 cents an hour and who do the jobs “that Americans don’t want to do”. In the first year their wages have improved and they have asked what they can do to help us who already have the benefits they do not. That is Solidarity.

Union busting, tax cuts for the rich, concentrated wealth, fear of corporate money, an arrogant and ignorant Republican party that supports riches to the rich, and blocks the employee free choice act, supports permanent replacement workers and lets companies default on pensions for their retirees is not the way to regain the lost ground of our middle class.

Respect for employees, respect for the promises made, guarantees promised, including health care, and pensions, justice, and controls against unbalanced government are all in Maine’s self interest. A strong middle class will build a strong economy for all of Maine.

The destruction of labor law protections started after WWII and increased to a nuclear attack by the Reagan presidency. It was more important to Reagan to destroy the Flight Controllers Union than to protect the safety of American aviation. After Reagan and before George W. there was a brief period of peace and prosperity in the 1990s under Bill Clinton but even under Clinton the nation’s jobs were sent abroad and Ross Perot’s prediction of “the giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the U.S. under NAFTA became a thundering roar. Union Solidarity became unclear and slowly forgotten. The Republicans started making the word Union the same as unpatriotic. The old Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, and the UAW didn’t help, they did not reach out to bring in new members, and they worked only to protect their crumbling castles.

What have tax breaks for the rich and Union hating administrations gotten us? Have we entered an age of prosperity where every worker is respected and paid fairly? Sorry, maybe I should exhale. Instead of rising wages, we have bankrupt pension funds, CEOs making $51,000.00 dollars an hour twenty four hours a day, who look with envy upon venture capital pirates that fire employees, destroy communities and get rich with no concern for their fellow citizens or their country. Tax breaks have given us a system where one man can make sixteen thousand times what a regular employee can earn in a year and pay a lower tax rate than a mechanic. The policies of less regulation for business have led to a very few rich owners and the destruction of the middle class. You are supposed to be ashamed that you would like to be able to send your kids to college or that you would like to be able to retire and still be able to live without begging.

Our government must be retaken by pro-Union, anti-tax breaks for the rich, fiscally responsible Democrats, who realize the strength of the country comes from the people, not from Wall Street. Both the Unions and the Democratic Party must redefine themselves and show what their principles are.

We have to work for Solidarity and to bring in employees that are not currently Union members or supporters. Local 771 is our best example to date and we have to make sure we help them if only to help ourselves. We have to grow, as a Union we cannot achieve victory if we seek vendetta for old grievances, or demonize those with whom we disagree. Vengeance blinds us to progress and we need to think about how to grow our Union and listen to employees that do not agree with us. We must continue to reach out to all employees in Maine. Remember, they vote.

We must reach out to Republicans as being a Republican does not mean you are wrong or cannot be trusted.

Together, we must recapture the true meaning of Solidarity, not as a hollow phrase, but as a means to mutual support and mutual interest. We must be willing to work to bring in new members in State government and in all of Maine.

In Solidarity,

Thomas Maher

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January 2nd, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | no comments

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