Sunday, February 27, 2011

The American Dream

I was watching the news on the protest in Wisconsin the other day when the president of SEIU was being interviewed. She said something that got me thinking. She said,"We are fighting to save our vision of the American Dream." I have been pondering that the last few days and it seems to me, that possibly, therein lies a lot of our problem. Now we all believe in the American Dream, but, that may mean something completely different to you then it does to me.

When I was growing up, my father was a member of the Teamsters' Union. He supported our family with union wages on union jobs. We did not have a lot, but, we probably would not have survived those years quite as well without the bargaining power of the union. My husband, Whit, who owned his own truck, was a member of the teamsters union. In his case, carrying a union card only got him the right to unload his truck in a union run harbor. without the card the longshoremen would not let him in the harbor. The union eventually drove the company he leased his truck to out of business with demands that could not be met and continue to make a reasonable profit. After 27 years he was forced to go looking for work for him and his truck.

My last job before I retired was the only job in which there were unions. That was at the County of Ventura, where my job classification was represented by SEIU. We were not a closed shop and I never joined the union. When I asked the union representative how it would benefit me to join the union and pay them dues every month, the answer I got was if I got fired, they would represent me in getting my job back. That was not reason enough for me to join.

As I said earlier, my vision of the American Dream may be vastly different then yours. My dream was to have a job where I could get salary increases and promotions based on my job performance. I hated working on a job where the guy at the next desk, who spent most of his day wandering the halls visiting with his buddies was getting paid the same salary I was. They could not fire him, he was a member of SEIU. This was a public employee, the same kind of people who are protesting in Wisconsin. What is the matter with merit pay? What is the matter with being required to perform in order to keep you job?

Our country is broke, our states are broke. We just had an election, the people spoke. They elected people who promised to balance the budgets and get back to fiscal responsibility. Now those Governors, Congressmen and other elected official are trying to do what they were elected to do. I don't know that it would be right to take the bargaining rights away from public employee's, but, these people need to understand that they are not exempt from the economic disaster that has come up on us all. How can our schools continue to function if there is no money to pay for the demands of the collective bargaining agents. The unions call it collective bargaining, but, in many cases it is collective demands. Bargaining suggests that each side will start from opposite sides and meet somewhere near the middle. Demands suggests, "Our way or no way.".

I know that many of you will not agree with me on this and I am in hopes that we can agreeably agree to disagree. Our vision of the American Dream may be vastly different, but we have the common thread that we are family and we are American. Our opinions have been shaped by our life experiences, let us respect each other's right to form our own vision of the dream.

1 comment:

  1. At my hospital, employees are held accountable for their performance. We also have our union to help protect us if our managers unjustly try to place us under some form of corrective action (which basically can be a "don't do that again" conversation to firing). I don't think unions are all bad, and I believe that they provide way more good than bad. While other hospitals have been laying off nurses, our management has been more prone to work with us to save money in other ways AND provide safe patient care, in part because of protections that we've bargained into our contract.

    I'm sorry that you had a crappy union rep. Unions are not just there when you get fired. (Although open shops are way weaker than closed shops like where I work). In my arena, they help make sure that patients are safe, that nurses and other health care professionals are safe, and the benefits that we've paid for and worked for are there for those who have worked and paid for them.
    Don't give up on unions yet :D