The reason to stand up for ourselves

By Robert Holst

“Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours, and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor” — John F. Kennedy

As the weekend draws near I was just thinking that there was a time in the not so distant past when any time for us would be a rare occurrence.

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We also must remember that the arguments against organized labor are not new ones. When children were removed from the factory floor they cried jobs were being destroyed. Upon the passage of the National Labor Relations Act it was said we were becoming socialists.

These things didn’t happen as we know but instead the country was stronger coming out of World War 2 with a vibrant and strong middle class. Americans had good jobs, homes, a car, and perhaps a family vacation. As we move further from that time we are regressing back not to that time but before it. Our middle class is being destroyed and our country is paying the price for it. The “American Dream” is slipping further and further from the grasp of many folks. Children in day care 10 hours a day while parents are at work in order to just scrape by.

They fool us and tell us this is normal. We must work hard in order to achieve the “American Dream.” Now I am sure some of you know wealthy people that live comfortably. I know I can maybe count those people on one hand. It is great they were able to” beat the odds” but it is getting harder and harder for the rest of us.

What about the millions that just want to go to work and provide for a family. Shouldn’t that be a goal that is possible to achieve?

The carrot and stick method has been successful for some time now. We are given more credit than we really can afford.

Bigger mortgages than we can handle. School loans that will take 20 years to pay off. These things keep us at work everyday and afraid to speak up. Many of us in unions watch as standards are eroded in the hopes that we will get one more check before they close the place up.

Those of us not in unions do not dare utter the word unions in fear that we will be shown the door. It is the carrot and the stick with a twist. The carrot is used to make us keep our noses to the grindstone and the stick is used to keep us in line.

We all see these things. We know the challenges we face as adults, mothers, fathers, and employees. I write this as a man who deals with it everyday. I see a future that is not so secure for my children. I work with my tools everyday and see as men put their tail between their legs in hopes of making one more payday.

Now I am not suggesting you should go to work tomorrow stand on a desk (or where I work a ladder) and start chanting Norma Rae. We all know the outcome of that scenario.

What I am suggesting is that you think about what you believe and start to realize that being angry at me or a policeman or a teacher for having a good retirement and health benefits is not helping you.

What those without these things should do is demand them for themselves. Understand that you as an American should not be asked to compete with workers in a banana republic.

We should strive to raise their standards to ours not lower ourselves to theirs. We at one time achieved greatness as workers. But we are now ready to give it all up. We want to see others stripped of their standards to make us feel better about our own situations. Instead of standing together as working people we allow ourselves to be divided over the very things that should unite us. Which are good jobs, the ability to access healthcare, and the chance for our children to get and receive a decent education?

Think about this very simple thing. They tell us that joining unions or in other words standing up for ourselves and demanding a better standard of living for ourselves will kill jobs. So in other words if we have the nerve to say we want a better situation we will be punished. If that is not all the more reason to stand up for ourselves I don’t know what is.

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