The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

I can state with great confidence that most employers treat their employees like sh**, especially the large corporations. They will wring the maximum profit out of their workers, while giving the minimum amount of benefits. They will often consider these human beings expendable if they aren’t willing participants in their own exploitation.

The federal government is not much help, either. They can’t get their act together to raise the minimum wage, which has been $7.25 an hour since 2009. This means that 37.2 million Americans, according to the US Census Bureau, live in poverty. They also can’t seem to come together on Universal Health Care, which the majority of us want, even though this diabolical connection between employment and health care keeps us all chained to employers who can then treat us abominably.

This poor treatment by employers and neglect by our government is exactly why unions exist. It’s pure and simple. People deserve a living wage and conditions that don’t negatively impact their health, along with benefits that maintain and even enhance their lives, in exchange for their hard work.

Even as you read this, men and women in Battle Creek, Michigan; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Omaha, Nebraska; and Memphis, Tennessee are on the picket line, 24 hours a day, in the rain and snow, and have been there since October 5, 2021. They’re not there for the fun of it. They’re demanding better pay, benefits and working conditions for all Kellogg’s employees.

According to this article in the Rolling Stone entitled, “Cereal Killers: How 80-Hour Weeks and a Caste System Pushed Kellogg’s Workers to Strike”, they had quite a few reasons to take that drastic step. First of all, Kellogg’s CEO Steve Cahillane makes 280 times more than his employees’ average salary, and cereal sales are booming during the pandemic. Despite this, the company is attempting to lower wages by 1/3 for new hires, and increase the cost of their health insurance by $300 a month. Employees can show you their time cards, which reflect 72 to 84 hour work weeks for months on end, and there is a horrible amount of pressure to get them not to take any time off at all.

When Kellogg suspected that a strike was looming on the horizon, they stopped hiring new workers, because they wanted fewer people to potentially show up on a picket line. Now that the strike is upon them, they are putting up strikebreakers at a hotel, and in addition to paying them at the old, non-reduced rate, they’re also giving them 75 dollars a day for meals. Some of these scabs are goofing off and getting into fights on the job. Meanwhile, Kellogg has cut off the health care coverage for the strikers, and they’re threatening to hire permanent replacement workers. Merry effing Christmas.

Union busters have a lot of practice in this country. I strongly urge you to visit the unionbustingplaybook.com to see the many tactics they use to stop strikes and/or prevent unions from getting a foothold in the first place. It’s positively diabolical.

Here are a few standard tricks:

Union busters will tell the employees that a union would ruin their “family” work environment, and make it impossible for them to communicate directly with workers. If it were a family environment, workers wouldn’t be trying to get a union in the first place. Companies might throw them a bone in the form of some sort of perk, simply to slow down the agitation, but once union talk dies down, they’ll withdraw it again. If they’re afraid enough to bribe their employees, then they know they have much more to lose with a union, and that means the workers will have much more to gain. Also, no union has ever prevented an employee from communicating with their boss. In fact, you don’t even have to get the union involved in your conversation unless you feel as though you need help and aren’t being treated fairly.

Companies will also get some employees to form anti-union committees which will circulate leaflets full of lies about unions, to get people to vote no. These companies will also hold meetings that you’re required to attend. They’ll either promise you things they have no intention of giving you, or they’ll try to scare you about your job security. They are also prone to shake things up right before a union vote, such as lying about the union at the last minute. They also get front-line supervisors to exert extreme pressure on you.

Employers will try to make you believe that unions lead to violence, and then they’ll use that as an excuse to hire a cadre of intimidating security guards. They’ll also tell you that unions can force you to strike, which is the exact opposite of the truth. Union members vote whether to strike or not. The whole point of a union is that you have a voice in what it does. The union is you. It isn’t the newest bully in your life. Union Busters want you divided, not united.

Busters will claim that you won’t be able to afford the union dues, and that unions only exist to take your money. In fact, if you are a member of a union in good standing, expect to get a lot of junk mail from an evil organization called the Freedom Foundation, which I’ve written about here and here. Their latest junk mail in my mailbox claims that I’d be able to buy a lot more Christmas presents if I opted out of paying Union dues. But the truth is that union employees routinely earn much more than non-union employees do, and have better benefits and working conditions. As far as I’m concerned, the union dues pay for themselves. I will always support my union even though union dues aren’t mandatory. They’ve saved my bacon more than once. I am a proud member of PROTEC Local #17.

Union busters will also claim that they don’t have to abide by a union contract, but if that were the case, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to prevent a union, would they? That’s what you have to keep reminding yourself. If they didn’t know they had a lot to lose, they wouldn’t be putting so much effort into their misinformation campaign.

For the first time in decades, thanks to the COVID-driven labor shortage, we all have a chance to stand in our own power and make employers treat us with respect. Support unions. Because no employer really has your best interests at heart. We are cogs in their machine. They’re all about the greed.

If you’d like to support the Kellogg strikers, boycott Kellogg products., but don’t stop there. Two of the locals, the ones in Michigan and Pennsylvania, have a gofundme account going. Click on the state links and join me in keeping them fed, housed, clothed and healthy while they stand their ground.

Union strong!

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