Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Right to work laws show a forgetfulness of history

This nation was built. Arduously and on the backs of the disenfranchised. Railroad tracks were lubricated with the sweat of men who worked 12-hour days and saw little of the wealth the lines carried.  Skyscrapers were erected on the blood and bones of men working without harnesses or advocates.  Miners, field hands; they all had a heavy hand in the growth and wealth of the United States.  For many years they held no hope of sharing in its prosperity.

It was the establishment of labor unions that gave these workers an opportunity to share in the American dream.  Labor unions gave workers a voice to secure fairer wages, safer work conditions, and shorter work hours.  It is because of the work of labor unions that Americans can look at poor working conditions in China and other countries with righteous indignation.

Contrary to the attacks on labor unions over the years, neither democracy nor capitalism has suffered from workers joining forces.  The "right to work" laws, like the ones passed in Wisconsin last year and approved by Michigan legislatures on Tuesday, aim to cripple unions by limiting their ability to represent workers and to collect operation funds.  Proponents of these laws seem unwilling to remember the role unions played in this country's history and unwilling to see how the preservation of every employee's rights is imperative to our continued success as a nation.  Rather, they seem focused on giving employers every advantage in protecting their bottom line at the demise of social justice.

Not, without blame, unions - particularly those like teachers' unions that have been in the spotlight recently - need to ensure that their intent is not to glean all they can without thought to the overall efficiency, profitability and success of their employees, their customers, and their municipalities.

Getting rid of unions is not the way to increased productivity.  Engaging workers in a cooperative atmosphere to seek genuine consensus, rather than compromise; transformational leadership, rather than top-down autocracy.  These are the ideas that will move America forward economically, while preserving her integrity. 

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