Happy Labour Day ► Thank A Unionist

As the Right Wing relentlessly attacks Unionism, Labour Day is a the very best day to remember just exactly what we owe to Unionism. It is no stretch to say that if you like living in a free country, thank Unionism. Who do you think built all those war machines who won World War II?

As I writer I never thought I needed a union, until I found myself in a newsroom where everyone was treated egregiously. It was one of the most horrible kinds of working environments where, as the common expression in the newsroom went, the shit ran downhill. We could see it running downhill, too.

We’d learn that the head of the newsroom had been called “upstairs” and we would all cringe, not knowing who would be the target when he came back. However, we all knew there would be targets and, worse, we were all on the downhill slope. When he’d return, he’d have his tail between his legs. That’s when we knew it had really begun.

Ford Motor turned over to produce
Liberators during WWII

He would then call his Number One into his office and we’d hear loud voices as the Number One was chewed out. The Number One would come out with his tail between his legs. Then Number One would start calling individuals into his office one by one. More loud voices as they were chewed out. They would come out one by one with their tail between their legs.

Some of those people were supervisors of a small crew. They would suddenly call staff meetings and more loud voices would be heard as they were chewed out. The only way you would know whether you would be shit upon that day was whether your own supervisor had been called into the Number One’s office. If not, you knew you had avoided the River of Shit, until the next time.

However, that’s not the worst of it. People would be screamed at across the newsroom about poor performance at times, everyone else trying to appear as small as they could so they didn’t become the next target. The newsroom couldn’t seem to function without having a scapegoat and it amused me that one person would be used as the scapegoat for a while, until a new scapegoat was found. It stopped being amusing when, after returning from sick leave, I became the goat and no matter how hard I worked, I was unable to get the stench of goat off me. That’s when I saw the REAL effects of “shit runs downhill.”

Once I became the goat, everyone else in the newsroom, including people who were nominally below me in the pecking order, started treating me like crap, knowing there was nothing I could do or say about it. And those above me? They were far worse. One shoved me out of the way one day, as I was holding the door open for him. When I complained, I was told I had imagined it. Most everyone in the newsroom saw who was the goat and treated me as if I was something they needed to clean off their shoe.

In the end I had to leave and I am glad my union had been there to help me negotiate a (relatively) fair exit and to hold an umbrella over my head when, at times, the River of Shit threatened to engulf me completely. [I would write more about this, but my exit agreement prevents me from saying too much.]

There was a time in this country when Unions were prized and people understood that Unionism saved the country from the Nazis and the Huns as Unionists turned Detroit, and other cities, into the Arsenals of Democracies.

While this list is not comprehensive, Stephen D. Foster Jr. at Addicting Info lists 20 reasons why you should be thanking a Unionist today:

1. Minimum Wage: Without federally mandated minimum wage, we’d still be working for pennies.

2. Child Labor Laws: Without these laws, children would be hired as cheap labor.

3. Paid Vacations: Did you go on a cruise this year? Perhaps to the Grand Canyon or another country? Thank a union.

4. Employer Health Care, Dental, and Vision Insurance: If you have a medical, dental, or vision care plan through your employer, your a lucky person. All because of organized labor.

5. Pensions: If you were able to retire at 65 and get pension checks in the mail, congratulations, you’re living proof that unions work.

6. Safety Conditions: Do you work at a potentially hazardous job but have safety regulations in place to protect you? If so, unions are responsible for your continued safety.

7. Collective Bargaining: Just having the right to negotiate with your employer is a benefit guaranteed by a union.

8. Weekends: If you have weekends off to spend with your families, a labor union is responsible for giving you that time off.

9. Sick Leave: Did you get to use a work provided sick day to get well? Unions fought for that too.

10. Overtime: Are you able to work overtime and get paid even more for it? Thank a union.

11. 8 Hour Work Day: Without unions, we’d all be working non-stop 24/7. Because of unions you’re able to go home and spend some time at home with family and friends before you catch 6-8 hours of sleep.

12. 40 Hour Work Week: Just like number 11, without unions, we’d never have a day off and work would encompass our entire life.

13. Unemployment Benefits: Are you unemployed but receive unemployment benefits to care for your family until you find another job? One word. Unions.

14. Wrongful Termination Laws: Because of unions, you can’t be fired for stupid reasons, like the color of your skin or because you make too much money.

15. Pay Raises: Unions are responsible for your ability to ask for and receive pay raises.

16. Holiday Pay: Do you at least get some holidays off? If so, thank a union.

17. Pregnancy and Parental Leave: In some countries, women give birth on the job and have to go back to work the next day. Corporations would make women do the same thing here if not for the determination of a union.

18. The Right To Strike: We have the right to organize and protest against the government. A union fought for your right to organize and strike against your employer.

19. Equal Pay For Women: Women finally get equal pay for equal work. Thank a union.

20. Laws Ending Sweatshops: Because of unions, sweatshops, which employ cheap labor with harsh conditions, are illegal.

State governments should not be attacking Unionism. Itstead Unionists should be thanked for saving this country so that people could have their freedom to be douchey.



About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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