Studs Terkel was standing at a bus stop in Chicago one morning. There was a nicely dressed young couple that was also waiting for a bus. The conversation between the two young people was about unions. They both had a very dim view of what unions were all about. Terkel, no shy observer, and a proponent of the union movement, got curious. He asked them why they were so negative about unions.
The reply was that unions are corrupt. They take money out of the workers pockets and they take away incentives to working harder and producing more. Terkel, a man of great confidence in his beliefs, listened patiently.
He asked them if they were working a 40-hour week. The answer was “yes”
He asked if they had health insurance. Again the answer was “yes.”
He asked if they would be receiving workers compensation if they were injured at work, again “yes”.
After asking these and other questions relating to the benefits and government support systems that try to replicate the benefits that are given to the executive class. He then asked; “Why do you suppose these working conditions exist? It was a rhetorical question, because by this time they new the answer.
Because of the concerted efforts of labor we have redefined the conditions of what is an acceptable working environment. Sometimes we forget how difficult the fight to establish a new norm has been. The question remains in some people’s minds of whether they are still needed. I believe the answer is where unions have had diminished in power, working conditions have gotten progressively worse.
Are there corrupt unions? Yes they exist. But by and large unions are beneficial, and lend themselves to bettering of our lives, just as most corporations are legitimate contributors to the common good of the society. But make no mistake, there are bad unions on the one hand, and there are the Enron’s.
America was born on the principle of countervailing power. That’s why we have three branches of government. Admittedly it’s not perfect, but after all these years, we’re trying.
Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day