This coming Monday the nation takes a day off from our usual labors at work to celebrate Labor Day. Labor Day is now seen as the day we honor all workers across this great land and it is important that we honor the hard work that creates the greatest standard of living in the world.
However, the original intentions of those who proposed Labor Day as a holiday were looking to honor the Labor Unions and the Union Movement as a political force to be reckoned with in the halls of legislatures and in the offices of Governors and Presidents.
Unions of today get good and bad reviews from the American people. We love the concept of the 40-hour week, the elimination of sweatshops, health benefits, paid vacations, worker’s compensation protection, and pensions, along with other positive contributions that have been brought about by collective bargaining in the private sector.
Many Americans, including some union members object to government employees being unionized. Americans see that few federal or state employees ever lose their jobs and those employees also enjoy state-funded pensions that outperform private sector pensions.
We get tired of hearing about the unions protecting employees who most would agree should be fired. The recent example that comes to my mind is the teacher who was late 111 times in the past couple of years and when the district decided to terminate him for his abuse of the system, the union fought the firing and accepted that he be suspended with pay for a period.
He just has a bad habit of wanting to eat breakfast, he stated. It must not have dawned on him to wake up 15 minutes earlier and get to work on time.
At his rate of pay and being late the three minutes each day, it adds up to a hefty cost. He earns $90,000 per year, which translates to $66.67 per hour; 111 days at three minutes per day equals 5.55 hours, which means that the district paid a man $370.02 while he ate his breakfast.
The union found this acceptable? I am sure most union members don’t, but the contract must be defended so the union bosses did what they felt they must. That is a problem that large organizations face - the abusers that take advantage of the system.
The unions also have their share of crooks that take money from hard-working, dues-paying members and steal it. Shame on the crooks and not on the union. I am sure that for every Jimmy Hoffa in the Unions there are an equal number of Ken Lays in private enterprise so we should never condemn the good because of poor dealings of a few.
I grew up in a home with a father who was a union member. The Brotherhood of Railway Clerks. They were called the “Featherbedders and Bedwetters” because of some union demands agreed to by the railroads in the bargaining agreements. The fact was that my dad’s benefits and pension were far better than he would have been able to get on his own.
My teaching contract was better for me than I probably would have been offered had I had to negotiate my own contract. Are there lazy railroaders and poor teachers protected by union contracts? Of course. Are there millions of folks protected from management decisions made in a corporate board room by union contracts? Of course.
So as you and I take the day off from our labors and rest and relax with family and friends, let’s take time to celebrate that the system generally works well and that the cooperation between fair-minded business folks and equally fair-minded union folks allows for both sides to walk away with an agreement that is fair to all concerned.
In negotiations, that is a win-win.
Happy Labor Day.