UnionMaine

Trust me, I work for the Government

Why should we try to help Non Union Workers?

This was inspired by a link sent to me by Jack McKay of the Central Labor Council. The original post was about New York but I have been asked many times why the MSEA should organize outside of State Government and even help outside of Maine.


There are a few employees with relatively good jobs belonging to Unions and a lot more with jobs that don’t pay enough and carry few if any benefits.


If Union workers want to help themselves they should think about helping others The same tune that Andy Stern of the SEIU has been putting out for years (Editor) I like to say “We need to turn them into us”


The few good Union jobs compared to the poor non-union jobs is a common condition in New York, Michigan, and Maine. We have to try through education, organizing and political action to raise the wages of dishwashers, wait staff, Wal-Mart workers and all of the other poorly paid employees.


We have worked to get to a comparatively good level of wages and benefits with time off and pensions.


The trouble with these gains is that they make us targets for blame from the right They are trying to avoid the blame for greed and failed policies. It is not even so much the arguement between Republicans and Democrats but the argument between the political influence of millionaires and billionaires against the Wal-Mart cashier and the McDonald’s burger flipper.


I remember being a truck driver in the 70’s in a small shop. I called the Teamsters and was told to take a hike. They only wanted big wins.


Even now, union movements are seen as less interested in organizing and helping low wage employees, but the SEIU sees a different path. In Maine we have already made the first steps and organized thousands of new members.


Now we have to take the next steps and work and spend our dues monies not only to gain good contracts for us, but to help those new members gain a living wage and benefits. MSEA-SEIU Local 771 got it’s name from it’s hourly wage, and is still fighting for the right to buy healthcare as a group.


Most of our new members get no paid vacation or sick days. The wing press is running TV and print ads asking why State workers get benefits the public doesn’t get and will never see without our help.


I have friends that won’t see two paid weeks off until five years of employment and must use vacation days as sick days.


The ads recently run on WLBZ and other channels are slanted to make it seem that Union benefits and wages are coming at the expense of the poorly paid employee.

The under tone of the ads is to make the public say “Why should you have sick days when I don’t have any?”

Unasked is “Why shouldn’t every employee have the right to earn sick time and a pension?” Before the long destruction of Unions started by Saint Ronnie the public had more chances for good jobs and a pension was still thought of as part of a job.

After several administrations have used the National Labor Relations Board as a tool to destroy Unions and workers rights the few that have kept some of their gains have become the focus of right to work campaign. We set an example of good jobs that they don’t want to be compared to.


The SEIU sees this problem and is working to help the low-wage nonunion workers to organize and to help pass new labor law to improve the conditions for all employees. We are fighting misdirection. The Union Busters are saying that the Unions are doing well at the expense of everyone else and that the cure is to take away the Union wages and benefits. In Maine they spread lies about benefits we don’t have and wages we don’t earn.

The real cure is to help more workers gain security and respect for the work they do.

The solution is for us to work to get those benefits to all employees. A well paid employee will work harder, spend and make the economy stronger. A well paid employee can educate their children and the country benefits. A well paid employee will not vote to take your benefits away out of anger and frustration at an uncaring employer.

It is the right thing to help other employees get ahead, but it is also the necessary thing to do to protect ourselves. When we are bargaining contracts there is always the claim that “We can’t give you what the public doesn’t have” They tell us every contract that to keep some of what we have we have we will have to give up a little more every time.


For years now our wages have fallen behind inflation every year We are actually making less than fifteen years ago. Benefits and wages have been cut successively for nearly sixteen years. These are facts that are not made public. Did you know that most of the public thinks State employees get an automatic cost of living raise every year on top of any negotiated raises? They think we get free life insurance and pay nothing for family medical care. Many think we pay nothing for prescriptions.


After the first successful attack on State Employee health care whetted the appetite of the legislature they came back again, taking thirty million dollars and causing probable higher deductibles and decreased benefits. Does anyone think the legislature will say “enough?”


Don’t look behind the curtain at the top 1% of the country owning nearly 40% of all the wealth in the country It is a lot easier to blame a Union worker than a faceless CEO. It won’t be as easy to blame a Union worker if that brother or sister has helped someone to get enough money to feed their family or to get health care to care for their children. Let’s work to turn “them” into us.

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June 27th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | no comments

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