State of the Union by Tom Szymanski

August 13, 2006

State of the Union

Have you seen the latest full-page ads in the New York Times, USA Today or the Wall Street Journal promoting a new Web site called UnionFacts.com run by the Center for Union Facts?

For this to come out, unions must be doing something right in advancing workers' rights.

Not that I need to publicize another anti-worker and anti-union group, but the truth needs to be told about the "facts" found within the Web page and the background of its executive director Richard Berman.

July 16, 2006

In 1935, Congress created the National Labor Relations Act ( NLRA ) and the National Labor Relations Board ( NLRB ) to promote industrial peace through collective bargaining.

Faced with workers being trampled on by big business, the economy suffering financial loss during strikes and people being injured and killed over job issues, congressmen and women finally recognized workers' rights.

They had to. Citizens suffering financial ruin during the Depression were on the verge of revolution.

Who would take over? The socialists, the anarchists, the radicals, the communists?

July 2, 2006

State of the Union

In a world filled with transnational corporations, loss of good-paying jobs, and political policies that attack working people, it is more important than ever to stay informed and keep a watchful eye on the decisions our political representatives and business owners are making.

If we want to keep our community strong and vibrant, help support local merchants and keep the money within our community, we need to get the facts.

It is important for you to know that a few weeks ago Sen. Richard Lugar and Sen. Evan Bayh voted to increase the minimum wage. These are the same legislators who have voted multiple times in the past 10 years, since the last minimum wage increase in 1997, for their own pay to increase more than $30,000.

June 18, 2006

State of the Union

Workers aren't just employees of businesses and corporations, but people who want to live and raise their families in safe and healthy communities. Sometimes, however, questions surface about whether job opportunities are more important than the environment.

The debate was put to rest for a short time during the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) demonstrations in Seattle. The alignment between labor and environmentalists, "the teamsters and the turtles," joined together to fight globalization and corporate power.

At that time there was a sense of rejuvenation and hope as they shut down the meeting and proclaimed victory in their battle amid a global class war.

May 21, 2006

State of the Union

I recently came across a Gallup Poll conducted in August 2005 that focused on labor unions. Surprisingly, the results were better than I would have expected.

The wide open question, "Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?" resulted in 58 percent approving, 33 percent disapproving and 9 percent unsure. Considering the next question asked, "Is anyone in your household a member of a labor union?" and only 19 percent said "yes," 58 percent is pretty good number.

When and where do children first learn about unions and their fight to better the working class?

May 7, 2006

State of the Union

The Primary elections are over and the winning candidates will be defining and refining their positions for the upcoming November elections. But will candidates address the issues affecting the lives of workers and their struggle to survive day in and day out? Will it be lip service or actual work and progress to change a system that continues to crumble under the weight of campaign money?

As history has shown many times over, labor will once again be out working hard supporting those who have identified with issues important to workers and unions. What does this really mean anymore?

In the old days, the Democratic Party was generally given the automatic stamp of approval for its candidates from labor. But with the influx of massive amounts of corporate money into both major parties and union density in a downward spiral, the working class seems to have lost some of its relevancy when it comes to our elected officials addressing workers' issues.

April 9, 2006

State of the Union

We get up, we make our pot of coffee, and trudge off to work not thinking that we may never return home. We get to work, do our jobs, wait for the end of our shift and head back home to do it all over again.

Sometimes, though, a few of us don't make it home. We never see our families again, never enjoy another weekend, never again engage in those activities we work to live for.

Some employees are fortunate enough to escape the ultimate cost of working but end up losing a finger, an arm, or perhaps their ability to function independently. They live, yet their lives are altered permanently, and they must find a new way to cope with the everyday necessities.

These aren't topics most of us want to talk about, however death and injury on the job is still a price many of us will pay for working.

March 12, 2006

For some reason labor unions are known for being too modest when it comes to informing the public about their involvement in charitable organizations and how much they give back to community services.

If labor makes the mainstream news in print or media, it usually focuses on the occasional strike, picket, or failing negotiations with a well-known company. It's much easier to sell news when there is labor-management conflict and turmoil, but harder when union members are donating their time and money to help worthy causes.

Labor unions played an important role in last week's Big Brothers/Big Sisters' $157,600 Bowl for Kids' Sake fundraiser. Some, such as Carpenters Local 1664, Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 4730, the Bloomington Firefighters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 725, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Local 828, and the White River Central Labor Council contributed to the over $8,200 raised by unions.

February 26, 2006

American workers have lived and learned the hard lessons from employers who would rather cause strikes, lockouts, violence, factory shutdowns, unemployment, blacklisting, and death than deal with a group of workers as a single entity.

Among all industrialized countries, the United States has by far the most violent labor history. Organize into a union and your collective power will terrify the boss.

But American employers eventually figured out that if workers were made to work long and irregular hours, they would be too tired to organize.

January 28, 2006

State of the Union

When are they going to listen? We didn't want NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), we didn't want China to join the WTO (World Trade Organization), we didn't want CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), and we don't want the FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas).

As many have stated before, we want fair trade, not just free trade.

We know what NAFTA has done to our economy. According to the "official" numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor, close to 800,000 jobs across the country, 35,000 jobs across the state, and over 2,000 jobs in Bloomington have been lost as a direct result of NAFTA. These were typically well-paid manufacturing jobs that offered generous benefits.

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