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Queen of Crap Jobs Speaks Out on Unions
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
As someone who has worked under some lousy conditions, I would have to say I totally understand people who are in a union. But what I donít understand is why Americans have become so masochistic when it comes to work. I mean, look around: we work 10 hour days, without getting paid overtime. We close at night, and then open at 6 a.m. We are on call 24/7. Sometimes we work nine or ten days in a row before getting a day off. We take wage cuts and give up benefits. Why?
I guess itís because we need a job, but I suspect that since the unions have lost their power, and because theyíve been bad-mouthed by people, your typical American worker takes pride in being miserable, because so many of them donít know any other way. Itís sort of like Animal Farm, George Orwellís fairy tale about a farm where the animals ousted the farmer and took over the joint for themselves. At first, things were pretty sweet: time off, more food, pensions for the older animals, and so forth.
But little by little, things changed. The propaganda was ďrevised,Ē new generations came along, and eventually, only the very oldest animals on the farm just barely remembered the revolution and what it was like before. I see this happening now. We are almost back to where we were before unions came along and fought for the eight-hour day and the five-day work week. Those of you who enjoy that lifestyle can thank the unions. It wasnít the government or big business who ďgaveĒ you that.
Not surprisingly, the pigs on Animal Farm eventually grabbed as much power and resources as they could, to the point where they eventually ran the place and got the best food and the best protection and so forth. Was Orwell anti-union? I doubt this very much. However, anyone in a position of power sometimes loses sight of the goal and realizes what he or she can do. It isnít about people any more, itís about them.
My viewpoint is that if employers treated workers properly, there would be no need for unions. But this is an unfair world. Thatís why unions are needed. But I canít understand the stubborn American pride people take in being miserable at work. How many times have you heard this: ďSon, when I was your age, I worked 12 hours a day, six days a week.Ē Like this is something to be proud of? And what do we have to show for all this hard work? Are we saving that money and investing wisely? Or are we spending it on crap we really donít need to impress people we donít like? I have a smart phone and an Escalade. You have a three-year-old flip phone and a Geo Metro. Iím better than you.
I think people are bitter about unions, because they know that people who are in one get paid better than those who are non-union labor. They also have better working conditions. Itís sort of like the French: Americans hate them, not just because they seem rude, but they really do have better working conditions (not to mention the best health care system in the world) compared to us. Itís why poor people hate the rich. Itís more like a jealousy. Maybe we all canít be rich, but canít we at least all be comfortable? Canít we be safe on the job? Canít we have rights?
Not according to some people. I will admit some union rules are a bit self-defeating, like not being able to reward certain workers who are very good at their jobs, while letting the deadwood keep their positions. The documentary Waiting for Superman points out this aspect of unions that I found disturbing.
This isnít to say that lazy, incompetent people should be able to keep their jobs. But on the other hand, itís an employerís market right now. They know that people will put up with practically any sort of conditions in order to have a job. So if youíre reading this and you have a good-paying job with a set schedule; you get one break in the first four hours of work, an hour for lunch, another break in the last four hours of work and then get to leave; if you get paid time and a half after eight hours; if you have a nice cafeteria in your building, if you have health benefits; if you get tuition reimbursement, if you get paid vacations, sick days and personal days; if your employer built a walking track; or if your employer has a fitness room for you to work out in and you are not a union employee, count your lucky stars. You have it better than probably 95% of workers out there. And you may not think you need a union, but there are a lot of people that do. Trade places with them for a day or two, and youíll understand why.