“It was a time of company towns, when all real estate, housing, doctors, and grocery stores were owned by the coal companies themselves, which led to the suppression of dissent as well as overinflated prices and an extreme dependence on the coal companies for everything that made life livable. In some of these, workers couldn’t even leave town, and armed guards made sure they didn’t. Also, if any miner or his family began to air grievances, they might find themselves evicted and run out of town.” – Brandon Weber, curator, shared on Upworthy
My travels have carried me as far as Ireland in the East and as far as Memphis in the West. I’ve met a lot of people and have still further to travel and more places to stop along the way ahead of me. But, in that time already spent, a constant degradation of the view of Unions has been seeping among those people I meet. Speaking on privilege, the subject often errs on the side of race and gender, but there is another seat to which the horse-racing-blinders apply: Economics. Race is gendered and economic, and all the probable combinations of that.
Unions are a relatively new construction, at least for the United States. I believe Rome had their congregations and strong arm tactics for the rights of workers being hired. That said, the United States is the first in line to try and shirk the necessity of such institutions. Why is beyond my ability to understand. I’m pro-labor and therefore pro-union. The two shall not be parted. The simple fact of the matter is, if you view your time and effort (labor) as a commodity up for sale, then you start to understand the dynamics of how this thing should work. Instead of viewing your time and effort (labor) as something you MUST do, must feel privileged to have a job, view them as items for sale.
Everyone says that time is money. Time is precious. Most certainly it is. You’ll never get a minute spent back. So all the time you spend commuting and working is gone. It’s lost. Do you realize that if you work 5 days a week, you have approximately 4-6 hours a night at home with family and friends to spend. The rest is spent on resting, your commute, preparing for the day and actually at the job. Resting, commute and preparation time is not time you really spend on yourself. We all require rest, but we cannot get anything done while we’re tranced out in the sack, and quite frankly, you might as well call it preparation time. The reason you sleep your forty winks, is so you’re rested for the next day, which you spend on someone else’s business. So goes the commute, some of the weekend (doing laundry, cleaning up, preparing meals ahead of time, etc.) A modicum of time is spent on your own needs, your business. That is supposed to be compensated by a salary or wage and benefits. When you earn subsistence level wages, that’s very hard to accept–depressing even.
And, yet, there are those who feel that we should feel honored to have a job–regardless of what that job is, what it pays, what it does to us.
The individuals who should be honored about the job you hold, are those who benefit from the labor you put forth. Having a job is a right, not a privilege, as our system works on a monetary exchange base. Calling it a privilege is probably the biggest slap in the face when you earn them how much in return for sitting there putting caps on tubes for a buck an hour? And, the company cries about billion dollar earnings not being enough, as the seat you were given pinches your ass cheeks and gives you sciatica and wondering where you’re going to get the money to buy school clothes for your child, or fix your car so you can get to work. That example hardly illustrates all the health problems workers get from their jobs, from emotional to physical injury. They give us benefits that barely deal with the issues: cover cost by copay, forced to take generics instead of the actual medicine needed, procedures refused for ‘we don’t cover that on your policy’. And your wage never makes up the difference in the maintenance of the machine that is you. There’s a reason they call that office Human Resources, where you talk to other machines about benefits and salary–you are a resource. Generally, you’re thought of as a renewable resource, but we’ll see how that goes as the environment in which we function continues to degrade. Much like other machines, our systems are pretty delicate and the things in our environment can gum up the works. One too many grains of sand in your gears and there’s no fixing what’s broke.
Now that you see you’re a machine who barters time and effort for salary and benefits, you might start to understand why it is necessary for all those machines to band together and negotiate the sale price of that time and effort and maintenance cost. For those who think that unions are pock mark on the butt of labor, they have really missed the lesson of history in this regard. Slavery may be illegal, but indentured servitude has come under another name: Capitalism. Without proper regulation, the human machines doing the work will be maintained at the same level as the other equipment in the factory: used up until they break and then replaced with newer models. Hated. Despised.
To learn the lesson of history, check out this video on Upworthy about a Mining Union to learn more about the history of Labor Unions…