Thursday, August 28, 2014

Are we returning to the bad old days?

It is no secret that throughout my life politically and otherwise I have been a friend of organized labor.  I suppose because I was inoculated by my father, Harvie Parker, who believed in organized labor almost as much as he did his religious faith.  Back in those days, "Solidarity Forever" was not only the theme song of organized labor but it was also the tenet of belief to which most members of unions ascribed.  Anti-labor conduct seldom went unnoticed, and in most cases prompted action on the part of dedicated union members.

I recall one occasion when my father was president of the big oil workers union in Port Arthur a local paper persisted with its unfavorably biased and slanted reporting on unions.  My father decided, along with others, that serious action was needed.  The union leaders in Port Arthur, in a very short period of time, gathered almost 1,000 cancellations of subscriptions to the newspaper and without comment marched into the editor’s office and plopped them on his desk.  The message did not go unheeded.  Although newspapers sell their advertising to the business community, it will do very little good for the business community to advertise if there are no readers.

Sadly, it seems to me, too much of America is returning to the bad old days for organized labor.  And, unfortunately, too many labor leaders are allowing it to happen while sitting on their hands.  A case in point is the recent upheaval taking place in Canada.  Employees of Walmart voted to unionize.  In retaliation the Walmart owners chose to close the store and fire all of the employees rather than enter into collective bargaining with their workers.  Such conduct, back when my father was a union leader, would have most certainly produced a serious boycott of non-union stores, if not a picket line to go with it.

Today, in my opinion, too many union leaders are willing to go along to get along with party switchers who run to join the Republican Party at the first sign they might have a difficult contest at election time.  “What does it hurt” they say.  “They’re good friends, good guys.  Why does it hurt for them to switch parties to preserve their tenure in office?”  

I’ll tell you why.  

Every time a democratic officeholder who professes privately to really have democratic party type beliefs switches parties, it gives aide, comfort and more legitimacy to the Republican Party.  If union leaders believe the Republican Party is on the side of labor, they need a psychological examination. 

The conduct of Walmart in firing their employees, or eliminating their jobs, is just like the bad old days when some companies were able to call out the National Guard to break strikes and otherwise intimidate those who would dare to organize a union.  The Republican Party continues to embrace such tactics and would support them fully under the guise of helping to create a good business climate. 

Union guys only need to look as far as Wisconsin where a poster boy for the Republicans, and possible candidate for president--Governor Scott Walker, led the fight to destroy pensions for working men and women and today openly opposes collective bargaining for many working class folks.  He is now being regaled at Republican gatherings as a real hero of the right.  He is not the only one.  It is typical of the hard-core leadership of the Republican Party.

You fellows in Jefferson and Orange counties should think about your vote for a Tea Party or Republican candidate the next time you cash your retirement check. In large measure, your retirement was assured because of the sacrifices and efforts of dedicated union leaders of past years.

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