The Anatomy of a Union Buster

They want you divided, not united.

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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Happy International Workers’ Day

Power to the people.

Please look around you. Every single thing you have, from the clothes on your back to the food that you eat, to the very roof over your head, exists because of labor. We survive because of the blood, sweat, and tears that are put into everything that humans rely on. Never forget that.

Having said that, it’s disheartening to realize that the average American worker is treated horribly, so I can’t even imagine the dismal conditions overseas. It is common knowledge that someone making the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in this country is automatically in poverty, and 2/3rds of those people are women. Many workers have no health insurance and no other benefits to speak of. They also have no job security, and are increasingly expected to put their health and safety at risk to heighten production and profits for the corporations.

Why such harsh conditions? Because as of 2020, only 6.2 percent of private sector workers in America are in unions. And the labor movement did receive a harsh blow when Amazon managed to lie to, intimidate, and bully its workers in Bessemer, Alabama, into voting against adopting a union. The fact that they put so much effort into their disinformation campaign shows you how afraid of unions they are.

Why on earth would anyone vote against a union? Because their employers have treated them so wonderfully up to this point? See above. Because of fear of job loss? That’s illegal, and you have more power than you think. Employers are NOTHING without employees. The whole point of unionizing is that you can speak to management with one huge, powerful voice, and for the first time, they’ll have to listen.

And they will listen. Don’t believe me? You’re already benefiting from unions even if you’ve never joined one yourself. Thanks to unions, we have weekends, breaks at work, lunch, what benefits we do have, social security, minimum wage (no matter how dismal, it could be even worse), 8 hour work days, overtime, child labor laws, a 40 hour work week, worker’s comp, unemployment insurance, pensions, OSHA, wrongful termination laws, whistleblower protection laws, sexual harassment laws, Americans with Disabilities Act, public education, and no more sweatshops.

None of the things mentioned in that last paragraph came about out of the goodness of employers’ hearts. All of us benefit from the existence of unions. Think of that the next time you’re tailgating outside a football stadium.

The only legitimate complaints I hear about unions are that you are expected to pay union dues, that they pit labor against management, and that it’s hard to get rid of the dead wood, the slackers, in a unionized organization. I’ll address all of these in turn, because you deserve to know the truth.

With regard to the dues, believe me when I say they pay for themselves in no time. Like I said, we all have the benefits mentioned above, and union workers are paid so much better, and have such better benefits, that it’s all worth it. In fact, they get paid more than 27 percent more, on the average. I make even more than that. My non-union bridgetender brothers and sisters in Florida make 11 dollars an hour if they’re lucky. I make 33 dollars an hour here in Seattle, and can expect a raise pretty much every year. That says a lot.

Labor vs. Management? Don’t be fooled. You have always been pitted against management. Their sole purpose in life is to maximize profits, even if it means grinding you into the dirt. That’s why unions were created in the first place. At least with a union, the fight is a lot more fair, and out in the open.

I will admit that the dead wood issue is a problem. No system is perfect. There are a certain percentage of slackers and people who make your life miserable in just about any organization, union or no union. And I have to say that the union has saved my bacon more than once, so if I have to put up with some dead wood in exchange for phenomenal job security myself, I’ll take it. You do you, as the saying goes. I’ll continue to take pride in my work.

Anyway, happy May Day, and here’s hoping that you have a job that you love that pays you a living wage, dear reader! Power to the people. Union strong.

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Mondragon Corporation: A Lesson in Cooperation

There are alternatives to capitalism.

Much has been made of late about the income inequality in the United States. I hope that the clamor becomes ever louder, because, as one meme about Jeff Bezos states, “If a monkey hoarded more bananas than it could eat, while most of the other monkeys starved, scientists would study that monkey to figure out what the heck was wrong with it. When humans do the same thing, we put them on the cover of Forbes.”

Something definitely has to change. Nobody needs that many bananas. I find it difficult to understand why anyone would even want that many bananas. Eating too many bananas can only lead to bloating and constipation.

That’s the problem with this country. It is bloated on its own greed. It is constipated when it comes to compassion for the less fortunate. The system is not healthy.

We could learn a great deal from the Mondragon Corporation. I first heard about this organization by listening to a talk on income inequality by Noam Chomsky. He was discussing alternatives to capitalism, as he quite often does, and he held Mondragon up as the most advanced case of a worker-owned cooperative in the world. Naturally, I had to learn more about it.

According to its own website as well as Wikipedia and an article entitled, “Mondragon through a Critical Lens”, this corporation originates in the Basque region of Spain, and because of it, that region went from being the poorest in Spain 65 years ago, to being by far the richest region. Starting off as a small worker-owned company, it has expanded to more than 100 different cooperatives, employing more than 81,000 people.

We aren’t unfamiliar with cooperatives here in the U.S. Many of us bank at credit unions, shop at independent grocery stores, live in housing cooperatives, or obtain our food from agricultural cooperatives. Given the fact that cooperatives are responsible for more than 500 billion in revenue here, it surprises me that they aren’t given more press.

Well, it does and it doesn’t surprise me, actually. Given that unions are squelched in red states, and large companies, like Amazon, are terrified of them, people certainly don’t want workers to gain too much power in this country. Chaos could ensue. People might, like, start earning living wages rather than having that money go to stockholders. We can’t have that, now, can we?

Mondragon begs to differ. Its primary goal is to maximize employment and give employees the dignity of having a say in their own destiny, to further the well-being of the workers as a whole.

Their cooperatives are mostly industrial, but they also include the finance, retail and knowledge sectors. They have discovered that competing in technical niche markets make them competative on a global scale, and since their jobs require more than a basic education, they’re less apt to be competing with underpaid workers overseas.

Mondragon’s workers also own their own bank, university, social welfare agency, supermarket chain and several business incubators. They have their own pension and medical plans, and on the average, executives are only allowed to earn 5 times as much as the lowest paid employee. The ratio in question is voted on by the employees.

One employee, one vote is the rule. And that means that the CEO has no more power in the fate of the company than the guy who scrubs the toilets. In fact, the administrators work for the employees, not the other way around. How refreshing.

Mondragon is also a lot more adaptable than a typical bureaucracy. They are very dedicated to collaborative decision making, and because of that they can break free of old-guard, stuck-in-their-ways attitudes. Since the employees have an equal say, the decisions are made based on the current facts, not on old habits.

Mondragon employees get much better health care than the average American, and their pensions are 80 percent of their former salaries. They have extensive unemployment benefits. In addition, if one cooperative fails, the vast majority of the employees are absorbed by the other cooperatives, so there is a great deal of income security.

Is Mondragon perfect? Not by a long shot. It is still having to compete in an international, mostly capitalist market, so it has had to make some uncomfortable choices. For example, it does have international employees as well, and while they are employed by the cooperatives, they’re not owners as the other employees are. Therefore they don’t reap all the benefits and they don’t have a say in the decisions. Supposedly they are still treated well, but it’s a disturbing trend.

Another issue is that women are severely underrepresented in Mondragon. I suspect that has to do with it originating in a macho culture, and also the fact that for various reasons, women don’t seem to pursue engineering educations as often as men do, and Mondragon is an engineering-heavy employer. But when women do get jobs within this system, they get equal pay. That must be nice.

And while everyone at Mondragon has a vote, that doesn’t necessarily mean that each person is educating themselves on the issues in question. So not all votes are informed ones.

Another hurdle is that when you only pay your CEOs reasonable wages rather than obscenely high ones, it’s hard to get the best and brightest people to apply for the job. It could be argued, though, that those who do apply have their priorities intact. That counts for something. But it’s a rare bureaucrat who has his or her priorities intact.

It may be a flawed system, but it seems a lot less flawed than what the majority of us experience in America. I definitely believe it merits further study. And I think the Green energy movement in this country, as it is relatively young, could start out as a cooperative and thrive. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we, the people, actually created clean energy while benefiting from our endeavors?

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Because Unions

I saw the recent raise in my paycheck and I felt sick.

I saw the recent raise in my paycheck and I felt sick to my stomach. Not sick because I was disappointed at the amount of the raise. No. Sick with relief. For the first time in my life, I’m financially stable. The stress relief that accompanied that realization was leaving me a little nauseated.

You see, for most of my life, I lived in Florida, a “Right to Work” state. I can count the number of raises I have received in that state on one hand. And I had worked there for nearly 40 years. Benefits were paltry at best. I could be fired for any reason at all, or no reason whatsoever. I was unappreciated, unsupported, and I never felt safe. My pay never kept up with the cost of living. I often woke up in a cold sweat, wondering how I’d pay the bills, or what would happen if I became too sick to work. If they needed me to work a 16 hour double shift, I had no choice but to do so. I had no recourse when an injustice was visited upon me. When I was exposed to lead paint and the accompanying toxic fumes, my boss told me (I swear to God), “Just drink milk and you’ll be fine.” The future was very dark.

Now I’m working in the state of Washington, for the City of Seattle, and I’m protected by a union. I get raises. I have health insurance and disability and dental and vision and sick leave, and if the stuff hits the fan, the union will send a representative to sit in on any subsequent meetings. I cannot work more than 12 hours a day, and I am allowed to say no if I only want to work a regular 8 hour shift instead. Can you imagine? I can say no. Such a little word, but it means so much to me.

It’s the same exact bridgetending job that I had in Florida, but I make three times as much money. Do you have any idea how much that means to me and to my life? I eat better food. I don’t suffer from stress-related maladies. I don’t wake up in a cold sweat. I can relax and enjoy my loved ones. I have a reliable car. I don’t live in a ghetto. The future is bright.

Thanks to union-busting federal legislation, I’m no longer required to pay union dues. But I do, and I always will. My union has saved my bacon on multiple occasions.

If you honestly think that your employer will treat you decently without a union having your back, good luck with that. I’ve been on both sides of that situation, and I know for certain that unions, the institutions that gave us the 40 hour work week and did away with child labor, are the only ones who are truly on the side of the 99 percent. They need our support. They are a gift. That gift should never be taken for granted.

Thank you, PTE Local 17, and all the unions out there that still exist, for all that you do. You have given me quality of life. I’m told I’m good with words, but I find myself at a loss to adequately explain how much that means to me.

Union staff have stressful jobs, holding back the tide of inequity, but what they do really, truly matters and won’t be forgotten. Please join me in staying union strong.

Unions

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Capitalism 101

It’s time to stop sniffing the glue, folks.

Apologies in advance. I’m feeling a tad bitter today. I have absolutely no idea why I didn’t think of this before, but the capitalist system, our system, can be easily explained as follows:

The main goal of this system is profit. The only way that corporations can make a profit is by making sure that the amount their employees are paid is less than the amount of wealth those same employees produce. That’s it, pure and simple. The profit comes from our sweat.

And it’s even better for them when those same employees spend those meager earnings on stuff, thus returning it to those same corporations. Do we really need the latest iPhones and 50 pairs of shoes? Why does fashion go out of style? Why does software become obsolete? Why is everything so disposable?

Now do you get why unions exist? Almost everything you see around you was created by some underpaid, underinsured, struggling shmuck who is just a cog in a corporate wheel. And why the hell did we elect a corporate mogul to lead this country, who is doing his level best to strip it of what few riches it has left?

It’s time to stop sniffing the glue, folks.

filthy lucre

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F*** the Freedom Foundation

The cockroaches have begun to scurry out of the woodwork.

Wow. That didn’t take long at all. Ever since Janus v. AFSCME was decided by the supreme court to defund and defang unions to the detriment of the working man, the cockroaches have begun to scurry out of the woodwork.

One such cockroach-like group is the highly funded Freedom Foundation. They just submitted a public records request for the contact information of all the employees in my union and many others across the nation. They plan to send mailers to our homes to try to talk us into opting out of our unions. They are also showing up at workplaces, and they actually plan to go door to door to our homes, to get us to opt out.

If you visit this shady organizations website, you’ll see steaming piles of b.s. such as “We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived.”

Yeah, because bureaucracies are KNOWN for their responsible self-governance. Good grief. If the free market systems of the world didn’t instinctively screw workers over, then unions wouldn’t exist in the first place. The only reason we HAVE any freedom whatsoever is because of unions.

Stay strong, folks. Don’t drink the kool aid. And if the Freedom Foundation comes knocking on your door, remember that you’re well within your rights to tell them to get the hell off your property. That’s what I plan to do.

Union Beg

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