By Patrick Solorzano
What are you looking for when you are out seeking employment? Is it decent pay, sildenafil a great benefit package, try a nice retirement program fund, a good and fair work environment or all of the above? I would have to say that any sensible person would choose the latter. That is why when you are working in a skilled field, your chances of achieving all the before mentioned would be to work for a company that has a strong union contract between the employees and the company.
I am going to give a short explanation on who can join a union. A union member can range from a skilled register operator in a grocery store, a factory worker, a Hollywood set builder to a movie star, a longshoreman, and a construction worker. Almost any job you can think of has been unionized at one point in time or still is. No matter what you do, there is a union that has members that do the same as what you do! That means that anyone who has a specific trade or skill can join a union and organize, ranging from a corporate engineer to a city garbage man.
A union is an organization with elected officials, people elected by you that will negotiate your rights as an employee and even stand by you if you may have a grievance against your employer or vice versa. Don’t get the union confused as a foreign entity, the union is you and all your fellow employees collectively negotiating a higher standard of pay, health benefits, and many other good things that will make your standard of life better. That is what we call collective bargaining.
Even now more then ever, unions are needed and on the rise. Since around the time Jimmy Hoffa first organized the Teamsters strikes, till about the early 1980’s when President Ronald Reagan fired all the Air Traffic Controllers for going on strike, blue color workers enjoyed the ever increasing benefits and wage increase that flowed with the rise of inflation. After the firing of the Air Traffic controllers, unions became weaker, therefore the average middle class worker suffered while the corporate CEO’s enjoyed increases in their annual incomes and incentives. Enter the 90’s, we elected a President who stood more for the working American as opposed to the corporate leaders. We saw economic prosperity grow and a government that was more sympathetic to that labor movement. Now, in the 2000’s where unions are at their weakest, inflation has sky rocketed and the average wage has either stagnated or decreased.
In 2007 consumer prices or inflation rose 4.1 percent from the previous year while the house hold income only rose 1.3 percent. With a consistency in the past 8 years between income and inflation. The gap keeps getting bigger, while CEO’s enjoy an ever increasing amount of cash bonuses, stock incentives, luxury company funded vacations all from the employees hard work, leaving the employees behind.
The tide has changed. People are tired of living paycheck to paycheck with lousy HMO insurance they have to spend a good portion of their income on for high deductibles and weekly deductions for part of the premiums. Workers are starting to organize so they can get a fair shake out of the company that they are helping to maintain and make successful.
Depending on what state you are in and what party is dominant, will depend on how strong your union is. More times then not, if you are living in a Republican controlled state which include the Southern, South West, mid West, and heartland states, more then likely, you live in what they call a “right to work state”. Don’t let the label fool you. It should be more like “right to let the companies work you for less state”. When a union has negotiated a great wage and benefit package for the workers for that particular trade, the right to work law actually weakens the workers union by not letting the company / employee bylaws supersede state laws. A right to work state allows a worker to work for a company that has a union contract and not have to pay any union dues but guarantees them the same benefits and privileges a union member is entitled to. Remember, without union dues to support the union their would be no hiring of lawyers and representatives to negotiate those contracts. In turn, with less funding, the unions representation is limited.
I have worked for companies and would hear management speak bad of unions and say, “you shouldn’t have to pay for your job”! It’s not a matter of paying for your job, because five dollars and fifty cents a week is a small price to pay what is returned in a negotiated pay and benefits. The example I am giving is of the grocery industry. UFCW journeymen food clerks compared with Wal-Mart food clerks make a considerable amount more. These days food is expensive, so profit margins would be roughly the same. Wal-Mart is totally non union and the worker get an average of close to eleven dollars and hour plus Health benefits that can exceed forty dollars a week depending on family size. You will find a lot of Wal-Mart Employees and their families on AHCCS. Now, UFCW stores which include Kroger, Fry’s, Fred Meyers, American Stores and Safeway have contracts, which mean representation for the employees. On average, the grocery union member has an amount of ten dollars more contributed per worked hour towards wage, health care, and retirement. A union grocery worker gets about five dollars more then Wal-Mart and money contributed towards a great benefit package that includes a full company premium contribution to medical and dental.
Now that I have given you all the variables, do the math and decide for yourself. Is a five dollar a week contribution is worth the representation that gets you all those great benefits such as paid holidays and progressively better with seniority, paid vacations?
U.S. corporations are raking in the lions share with only regard for the stock holders and CEO’s. Organized labor, make it so the blue color worker also profits from the fruits the company bares. When individuals unite for one common goal, they create a single voice of the mass and stand together in solidarity. With that, it gives the individuals strength to bargain and get a fair and decent wage. In turn it makes for a better worker with a higher morale, standards, and sense of pride which ultimately, reflects on the company!
So let me summarize this. If the blue collar worker is the backbone of the American economy and is what maintains the actual labor force in this nation, isn’t it fair to look out for them? Let’s not forget that greed is part of human nature and the ones above us don’t want to let loose of the power or the fortune they acquire. Therefore, it is important for the average worker to be able to stick together to have a stronger voice, to be able to strike when fair requests or demands aren’t met. Remember, the worker is the backbone of the company and without a backbone, it would not be able to stand on its own.
A small note about me:
I have been involved with unions almost since I started working. When I went into the grocery business in 1993 I joined the UFCW and have been a member of it in both Arizona and California. When I became a construction laborer I was a member of the laborers union in both Arizona and California. The last union I belonged to was the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) union and I worked through Local 4 in Los Angeles and Local 3 in Phoenix.