April 2011
E-mail this article

Where would we be without unions?

By Galen Larson

This past month there has been a very big and important brouhaha in Wisconsin over the right of labor to do any collective bargaining. Having been on both sides of union bargaining as well as a member of several different unions, a spokesperson for union and company, and still a card-carrying duespaying member of a union, I feel I am in position to give my opinion.

This governor is a lackey of big corporations and the Koch brothers. These are the types of people the union organizers have been dealing with for more than a hundred years. The scabs and free-loaders that benefit from murder and mayhem rained on the unions by persons like the Wisconsin governor should read some history of the union movement.

The corporations have their lobbyists — why can’t labor, which built this great nation, be allowed to have a place at the table? Today union members and the free-loaders should be recall to mind a barbaric catastrophe that happened 100 years ago this March. I’m referring to the Triangle Shirt Factory fire that burned alive hundreds of under-age girls in a sweatshop in New York. That’s what happens when you don’t have unions to give protection to workers. Will the free market look after the lowly citizens who make the executives rich? Hardly.

Union organizers have been shot, maimed, incarcerated, spat on by our police, National Guard, Army, Pinkertons and hired thugs, but they persevered. They gave us the 40-hour work week, eight-hour work day, paid vacations, health care, minimum wage, and retirement benefits, along with well-made products, skyscrapers, and military equipment. They proudly fought and died for their country while their union wives built a ship a day to carry the men and munitions to the shores of our aggressor.

Coal-miners came together and did away with grossly hazardous working conditions, the greedy company store, and the rent and grocery bill that could never seem to get paid. Don’t you think a man’s life is worth more than $2,400 to the widow and children?

The wealthy barons of the past garnered all the glory as to shaping this country, when in reality it was the union workers that gave us our present-day standard of living. Those that rail against unions, labor and corporations cite corruption. Well, corruption is less rampant in unions than in corporations. It is a human trait, whether in government, corporations, unions, religion, this right-towork state.

Right-to-work — what a misnomer. We all have a right to work. The question is, do we have the right to bargain for better wages, health care, a safe working environment and a retirement program where we are rewarded for years of hard work and can still contribute to the economy of the nation that unions built with money from our pensions? Or do we go backward to the time of 12-hour days, seven-day weeks, child labor, on-site dangers, company housing and the company store?

The union history in Colorado is not a saga we should be proud of. Think of the Ludlow massacre, when the miners and their families were driven off their homes and lived underground on public lands as much theirs as anyone’s. They were machine-gunned down and gasoline was poured into their tents and dugouts, which were then set on fire by police, the Army, the National Guard, and security hired by the corporations. Nice guys, hey? Telluride, Cripple Creek, Leadville and numerous other mining towns in Colorado had strike for just wages and safe working conditions. From the Appalachians to California, labor has struggled for decent pay, health care and retirement. Is there anything wrong with that?

To try to take away bargaining rights from labor doesn’t bode well for Wisconsin governor, as he is finding out. With the backing of the wealthy Koch brothers, he is even defining the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Thanks to Walmart, a great supporter of communism and non-union corporations, China now outranks the United States in manufacturing. But look at all the shoddy merchandise and recalls. I’ll take unionmade any time.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.


E-mail this article