Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tired of Stubbing Your Toe? Try Lighting a Candle

We all know the saying: It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness. I think of that saying when I hear, second-hand from a friend, that "someone at work today was trashing the union..." It's not that rare that I get this hear-say complaining. This time, as the original conversation was relayed to me, it apparently started with: "I don't know if the union knows anything about this...," followed by a torrent of detail about a perceived problem. The original speaker had clearly thought about the issue, and was stewing about the issue, and was spreading the word that there was an issue. But apparently only to coworkers. My friend was suggesting I have Steve track the guy down and sort the situation out. My question to my friend was, "Did anyone ask this guy why he hadn't bothered to call Steve?" The answer was "no," as it usually is in these deals. So now "the union" becomes the bad guy in the piece, even though "the union" doesn't even know what the problem is about. Some people would rather keep stumbling around in the dark, expecting that sooner or later somebody else will light the candle. So here's my pitch. If you've got a gripe that's union related, you might consider bringing it to someone who can do something about it, rather that grousing at the water cooler. And if you, innocently trying to get a cool drink of water, become the passive recipient of the grousing, instead of stroking your chin while you pretend to listen, kindly ask the grouser if they've thought of doing anything proactive about their issue.


Anonymous said...

Good piece, Kevin. Things are better, When I was prez all the comments to me began "You and yer f**kin union...."

p.s. For those who think we're better off without, in 1965 for every dollar you made your CEO made $24. The US labor force was then 55% unionized. In 2006 the US is 10% union labor, now for every dollar you make your CEO makes $242. CNN Time/Warner estimates.

Anonymous said...

In this Brave New Corporatist Age, the fact that Chief Executives make hundreds of times what their employees do is just "that natural order of things."

And to make things even jollier, you should know this:

From John J. Sweeney (President, AFL-CIO)

Subject: "Kentucky River" Decisions

The Bush-appointed Labor Board is poised to issue three potentially destructive decision before the end of this summer. At stake are collective bargaining rights for thousand of workers....

Thre three pending cases will redefine the term "supervisor." Since workers classified as "supervisors" do not have federal labor law protections, a broad definition will strip thousands of workers of their existing contract protections and deny even more workers their right to organize.

At issue is whether more experienced or skilled workers who give direction or assign work to co-workers are supervisors within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act, such that they are excluded from the protections of federal law. These decisions have the potential to affect a wide range of workers...

We have been aggressively involved in the litigation of these cases. Now is the time for public awareness and mobilization campaigns. We need to mobilize members, allies, elected officials and community leaders to make the Bush Board understand how important this issue is and what a huge impace its decision would have on workers' rights...

I understand the political motivation here. Labor isn't an ally of the administration, so anything done to drain unions' power is a good thing.

Of course, the long-term ramifications for the above are that the U.S. becomes more like 1890s America, when wealth and poverty were stratified, sweat shops prevailed, and life for the middle and working classes was somewhat less wonderful than Disneyland's "Main Street U.S.A." would have us believe.

If this bothers you at all, feel free to writer your congress person.

Anonymous said...

Another reason why people just stand around and kvetch may lie in a quote by John Dickinson in "1776, the Musical". (Dickinson voted against the Declaration of Independence by the way).

"Most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. That is why they will follow us."


It's tough when the artist next to you could be your opponent.

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