I’m sick of debating my conservative friends. Not that any I know are fundamental crackpots. They are good people with intelligence, and some have warm, generous natures. They just don’t get it.
Case in point: one of my friends, a man of intelligence and sagacity, comments on my Facebook page taking delight in contradicting nearly every political opinion I hold. After a year or so of fencing, I’ve come to the point that I don’t want to deal with him anymore. Recently, I shared a cartoon in which in 1954 UAW president Walter Reuther was touring the new Ford motor plant in Cleveland. A company official could not contain his delight that his was the most automated factory ever built. Reuther replied. “How are you going to get them [the robots] to buy Fords?”
My friend commented that “by lowered prices [on the cars] and it worked.” It occurs to me that, even if Ford gave its products away, the robots would have no use for the automobiles. Maybe it was the semi-ambiguous nature of the cartoon, or he just didn’t get that Reuther was walking about the robots, not the customers.
I think Ford and my friend are unclear on the purpose of unions. Workers have not risked their lives and welfare simply to buy their employers’ products. Nor did they do so just to steal profits from them. Initially, they did it because working 12 or more hours a day for a pittance barely put food on the table, let alone a car in the garage. They did it because their health was being assaulted by overwork, inadequate rest, and unsafe working conditions. They did it, and continue to do it, to be treated like human beings.
Investopedia defines a “blue collar” worker as “a working-class person historically defined by hourly rates of pay and manual labor. A blue collar worker refers to the fact that most manual laborers at the turn of the century wore blue shirts, which could hold a little dirt around the collar without standing out.” Another identifying factor is that to work a blue collar job, you don’t need a college degree. In the second half of the twentieth century, that didn’t mean you hadn’t worked hard and incurred debt to achieve an advanced degree — it only meant that your job did not require the knowledge or skill acquired in college. Unions were invented by people in blue collar occupations.
While compensation and working conditions have been the main topics of negotiation, the bottom line has been the workers’ demand to be treated like human beings and the insistence of employers on treating them like automatons.
Around the 1960s, I started hearing customers complaining about how customer service was a thing of the past, but it took a very long time for industry to see how the dehumanization of front line workers was having a negative effect on purchasing patterns. It took an even longer time for someone to notice (or at least care about) the interconnection of industries. Still, the interest is limited to the disastrous effect the gutting of the fossil fuel industry would have on the auto industry or how the failure of the auto industry would impact the auto parts industry, rather than how the status of the workers affects the industry, or even how the welfare of the consumer base is affected by anything.
Suddenly, someone came up with profit-sharing. While for some it didn’t put food on the table or send an eighteen-year-old to state college, it was a step in the right direction, admitting that an employee with a stake in the company worked harder for its success. Sharing the load.
When we share the work and the responsibility we get more done, but some employers gutted that axiom by getting rid of full-time employment, giving one job to two decompensated employees. A step backward in the same spirit as using what became known as “corporate welfare” monies to declare bonus for the bosses rather train workers or hire new ones.
So a hungry, trapped workforce, bound to hard-to-find or simply inadequate jobs which barely scratches the economic surface, is a scared and exhausted workforce. And a scared, exhausted workforce is not the way to build a strong electorate or a strong country.
Yes, I realize the modern union is quite different from the original unions and that some unions are headed up by people liberals wouldn’t vote for. However, considering what some financial institutions did after deregulation (stealing homes from the elderly for example,) it wouldn’t surprise me if, in the absence of all unions, workers found themselves back in the 19th Century.
The national pastime has become dividing voters rather than bringing us together. Some pundits shout loud enough at us that many believe what happens in every bed in the world affects our way of life. Scratching off the scabs of racism then wondering how anyone could be so sick as to murder nine people at pray.
So blue-collar and low-income conservatives take up the anti-union banner and many other causes which I think may be in conflict with their own interests. Even when our chief best interest is to be treated like human beings.
I doubt my friend actually believes that business people conspired to have their business concerns granted legal personhood so they could act more humanely. However, I’m relatively certain he doesn’t realize that just the opposite is true.