Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day, 2005

This year, the end of summer is over-shadowed by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
We must give until it hurts to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and even to help pets over at Noah's Wish.

I did want to make one quick post, however about the importance of Labor Day, and the labor movement in this country.
I was a member of UFCW Local 428 in the Silicon Valley area of CA for about 16 years of my life, from 1984 to 2000.
The first year I got a job in grocery store to work my way through college and I stayed there as a full time employee until I left in 2000 to work in high tech as an IT geek.

At first, I did not appreciate that which the labor movement (even the local that I belonged to) had done to make it so working families can have a good life in this country.
Collectively bargaining for better wages, working conditions and benefits lifts up the whole community.
When you have a place staffed with well-trained, paid and relatively happy people, it makes it for a better experience for all.
I was not without my disagreements with the leaders of my union, and even berated the President one time for what I saw was a serious problem.

That being said, however, I think that the marginalization of organized labor has been a terrible thing for working people overall in the US.
Our communities are better places when we have well paid people living and working in them.
Rather than giant Wal Marts filled with folks barely making poverty wages, we should be fighting for and supporting just the opposite.
I could (though never have and never will) buy a bottle of Tide for 50 cents savings at Wal Mart, but what is the TRUE cost to my community? To my city? As an example: how is it good for all of us when workers at Wal Mart wind up having to use public health care? The cost for this gets shifted to YOU at a higher amount than employees having good benefits in the first place straight from them.

It was very easy for the right to marginalize labor in this country. The rich right and business owners were already there. The people who were not part of the labor movement, though were still working for a paycheck, were either envious of those that did have union representation, or did not fully understand that those things which they fully enjoy, no matter what it was they were doing for a living, were fought for and won by the Labor Movement. They, too, got behind the pushing aside of unions in America.
I was saddened at the anti-union statements made by working people here in Southern CA when the grocery workers were on strike. One even wrote to the newspaper that she was shocked, shocked I tell you! that her produce man where she shopped was making 17 dollars an hour.
I wonder if she was further shocked to learn what the CEO of Safeway was making, but that didn't make it to the letter.
Again, why would you NOT want people in your community, your friends and neighbors to be well-paid?? And trust me when I say this, 17 bucks an hour in San Diego County doesn't go that far.

So this Labor Day, fire up the BBQ, give some money to the charities that need our help and raise a glass to Labor and thank them for making America a better place for all working people.


Sar said...

Cheers & good post Mike. That woman is a blithering idiot. Does she not find fault with the athletes and movie stars who have multi-million dollar contracts to do what? Entertain us. Obviously that's more acceptable income to her rather than someone ensuring there's an appropriate stock of produce and other items necessary to sustain us.

Btw, got our back-to-school supplies at Target.

Tom Harper said...

Great post. It's too bad there's such a lack of solidarity among labor unions. Unions splitting off from the AFL-CIO, lack of empathy for striking workers -- not a good sign. With so many wages and benefits being reduced, and pensions being eliminated, labor unions are more important now than at any time in the last 50 years.

Mike V. said...

Thanks, Tom and Sar.

Hey, that sounds like a 70's variety show:

"It's the Tom and Sar Show!
Tonight's guests, Don Rickles, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Adam West and with a special song for the holidays, John Davidson!
Now, here's our hosts, Tom and Sar!"

Sar said...

Lol, Mike V, you crack me up!