Archived Story

Council could help workers

Published 11:12am Friday, February 7, 2014

Since the symbolic and significant executive action by President Reagan to kill the air traffic controllers union and its 11,000 members in 1981, the trend has been irreversible; union membership has shrank year-by-year from 23 percent in 1980 to 12.4 percent in 2010.

What Reagan started has been fueled by NAFTA and every trade agreement since, by placing American labor against undeveloped labor markets around the globe. American companies, now multinationals, used the treaties to transform labor into a commodity, and the threat of labor actions in America was countered by the promise to send jobs anywhere else.

But even that diminished power of workers, here and around the globe, was not enough loss for those who truly hated the very idea of organized workers. In the U.S. today the largest unions are those comprised of public employees and to understand the assault on those unions one needs look no farther than Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

The success of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to destroy public employee unions has become instructional for Republican governors everywhere.

The goal of opponents of workers organizing for better benefits, wages, and working conditions is not a reduction of unions but the elimination of all unions for all time everywhere. As long as one union exists the opponents of labor will work to end that union.

And why not kill unions, what do they offer America?

Well, once upon a time labor unions fought for and created a living wage and by doing so helped create the American middle class. These same unions greatly improved working conditions in many industries, saving lives and fingers and toes from their successes.

The unions helped workers earn good health care and pensions to supplement Social Security in retirement. These unions contributed to their communities, helped families in need, developed training programs that provided young men and women the skills for successful careers.

And these unions participated in politics, advancing the goals of many Americans in employment issues and middle class values.

And yet, in spite of these contributions to society unions were successfully targeted for extinction.

But they are not gone yet.

Today, at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., there is a movement to organize the first foreign-owned auto manufacturer in America. The AFL-CIO claims it has a majority of workers ready to organize. And plant management and parent ownership are, in part, supportive of change in the relationship of workers and owners in Tennessee.

The Volkswagen management group has suggested the creation of a Workers Council at the plant, a European model designed to create participation by all workers, management and labor, salaried and hourly, in decision-making for the plant.

The democratic process reduces labor conflict by the sharing of information and may even seat workers on the corporate Board of Directors.

The Work Council model does not conduct bargaining actions for wages or benefits, but it does connect all workers together with the plant owners. During the Great Recession worker councils in Germany elected to reduce the hours of everyone instead of lay-offs for anyone to work through the crisis. The result? A lower unemployment rate than many countries, including the U.S.

Today the German unemployment rate is 5.2 percent compared with the US rate of 7.3 percent.

It is a new idea for American workers, but workers need new ideas to fight for their very survival.

There has been a parallel in America; when unions suffered in the past 30 years all American workers wages suffered while corporations thrived.

The issue of wage inequality has been, in part, directly related to the demise of organized labor.

Workers need a more perfect union today.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.

  • mickakers

    My compliments to the Editorial staff of The Tribune for selecting columnists having the caliber of Jim Crawford and Jack Burgess. I may not agree with everything (but most) of what they say, but they sure get me to thinkin.

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  • http://www.tytandan.com 79Tiger

    Well I have ssen it all now. It is no longer advantageous to blame Bush for everything so you must go back to Reagan. Democrats are the most worthless individuals when it comes to responsibility. Crawford is a hack now and always has been. The Tribune has sunk to the lowest of lows with Crawford. Good luck on your survival. Pathetic.

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  • mikehaney

    If Keta and Mick hadn’t voted for Obama, we wouldn’t be in this mess. I don’t think the Tea Party is extreme. It’s how my parents thought and how I was raised. But think about it Mick. What we see today is the extreme far left of the Tea Party. What is your preference.

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  • mickakers

    keta; That was a good retort. I apologize for the feminine dribble remark. I just said that to invoke a reply from you which I knew it would precipitate. In reference to your comment “when it comes to reproductive rights and social and family issues, men know best!”, you and I both know it takes two to tango. Men and Women have their own unique perspectives, it takes both to arrive at an intelligent decision. Our two party system is designed to function in the same way. At the present time the Republican party has been hijacked by the Tea party faction (ultra conservatives) and the Democratic party has been hijacked by the unprincipled radical liberals. This causes a breakdown in conscientious principled government. Mass Murder (Abortion), Same Sex Marriage (Abnormal, even animals know better), Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Unethical Medical Practice) and instituting laws, such as the Affordable Health Act (Forcing people and institutions to go against their conscience and religious beliefs) is cause for serious concern. History offers examples of this moral depravity in Atheistic Communism and Nazism.

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  • keta

    However the rest of your comment, I consider feminine dribble
    ———————————————————–

    Of course you do, Mick. Because when it comes to reproductive rights and social and family issues, men know best!

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  • mickakers

    keta; In reference to your comment of 2/8/14 at 1031, I concur with your “workers and their families have fallen on hard times, while corporations rake in record profits,” However the rest of your comment, I consider feminine dribble.

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  • mickakers

    mikehaney; Rather than rely on Anti-Labor Union bigots to form your opinion, may I suggest a little research. First, do a search on; The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (The Wagner Act). Second, do a search on; The Labor Relations Management Act of 1947 (Taft-Hartley Act), follow this up with a search on Right To Work Law. Wikipedia has articles on all this for starters. Without Labor Unions we would not have a Middle Class, we would have the Wealthy, Indentured Servants and Slaves. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the Labor Unions have been the salvation of the Common Man.

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  • keta

    The issue is really about worker freedom
    ———————————————————-

    Oh, please. I notice whoever you’re parroting calls it “forced unionization”, because that’s what they call it on FOX News. Right-to work doesn’t force anyone to join a union. It makes it illegal for workers to negotiate a contract requiring that everyone who benefits from it pays their share of administering it. FOX also neglects to mention that right-to work states have the lowest wages in the country, and the lowest population growth, since low wages send people packing, looking for a better place to live. So, we should join Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas and other backward, gun-totin’, bottom-feeding states in embracing this abomination? Calling an assault on workers and their families “right-to-work” is aimed squarely at people who don’t enough to protect themselves. Same old same old.

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  • mikehaney

    Right-to-work laws do not outlaw unions or forbid union membership

    The issue is really about worker freedom. Right-to-work laws do not outlaw unions or forbid union membership. These laws do not infringe upon the First Amendment right of workers to organize and associate together. What they do, instead, is to affirm the First Amendment right of workers to NOT organize or associate with a union if they don’t choose to. Freedom to choose to join a union must by necessity carry with it the converse freedom to not join a union.

    Forced unionization is also unjust because of the fact that unions essentially serve as fundraising arms for the Democratic Party. Yet, large numbers of blue-collar workers support conservative and Republican causes and candidates. By requiring the deduction of union dues so that the unions can throw large bags of money at left-wing candidates and movements, at best the unions are misrepresenting many of their own constituent workers, and at worst they are disenfranchising them. Millions of workers in America see some of their money taken and given to candidates and causes they never would themselves support. Tim Dunkin,Canada Free Press

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  • keta

    The Democratic Party has fallen on hard times
    ———————————————————–

    No, Mick; workers and their families have fallen on hard times, while corporations rake in record profits, as Democrats In Name Only obsess about gay rights, reproductive rights and Obamacare (which is beginning to overcome the grandaddy of all smear campaigns). You’re who republicans have in mind when they put a gay rights issue on the ballot in an election they’re about to lose with a bad candidate; they can count on it to get people out to vote, thinking they’re on a mission from God. They’ve been able to do irreversible harm in this way, and have made us nearly ungovernable.

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  • mickakers

    As a PS Jim; The Democratic Party has fallen on hard times. They’re advocacy of the killing of the unborn, same sex marriage and the disregard of freedom of conscience when it comes to religious beliefs (Obamacare) is lacking. They are not the party they profess to be, representative of the less fortunate and weakest members of our society. I hope Jack Burgess takes note of this comment. The Democratic Party has become the party of moral decadence which leads to the demise of the country.

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  • mickakers

    Jim Crawford; Another thought provoking article. President Ronald Reagan, at one point in his career, was a union man. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild. I think he may have overreacted in his dismissal of the Air Traffic Contollers, however, The Air Traffic Controllers had a no strike clause in they’re contract, they in effect, broke they’re contract and put they’re heads on the chopping block. A prime example of poor leadership. I have been a Labor Union member for around fifty two years and served as president of a 350 plus member local of The Brotherhood Of Railway, Airline And Steamship Clerks now known as The Transportation Communctions Union (TCU) affilated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. We could go on strike but were required to return to work when the Government ordered us to, which was within three days. The Railroad Industry is vital to the well being of the country and this was the reason for this agreement and law. I am not an advocate of striking, there are more subtle ways to get your point across. It has always been the goal of Corporations and the Republican Party to eliminate Labor Unions, this is a given. You are correct, without the Democratic Party and Labor Unions, we would have no Middle Class. There would just be the Haves and Have Nots. Like you, I have noticed the decline in Labor Unions and also the decline in the well being of the Working Class. Ignorance is not bliss.

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