One hundred years ago, unions served such a vital and necessary role in our society. They prevented low-level employees from being mangled in heavy machinery and made sure that the owners of businesses did not view human employees as a disposable, replaceable commodity and just a means to their financial wealth. “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work ,” or something like that…
Today, the very unions that once protected people from be exploited, now have become the exploiters themselves.
For two of the last three weeks on my way to work, I passed union members making a significant presence outside a local business that is apparently not in any rush to negotiate a new contract with them. These members have blown up about six 10 ft.-tall inflatable rats on the business’ lawn, hoping to draw attention to this business and embarrass the management into signing their probably over-reaching contract.
Unbeknownst to these members, is that the general perception of those of us who work in the non-union sector have towards unions is being reinforced 10-fold by their protest.
Each morning, I, and all other numb commuters, drive past this protest and see all the union members sitting on their comfy fold-out chairs, chatting to each other as they slowly drink their morning coffee. Not a care in the world. To expand any effort to even form a picket circle and exert any spec of energy is completely out of the question. Too much sweat. Not their gig.
I think it is a good time here to draw a comparison from one of my past experiences.
While attending a Catholic college during my formative years, a large donation was received by my college from a donor who was involved with U.S.’s campaign in Nicaraguan. Due to some horrible violence towards some nuns in this country, the Dominican Sisters at my college were enraged and all up in arms. They planned to picket everyday in front of the college to show their extreme displeasure at the college accepting this contribution. Needless to say it is a Public Relations nightmare to have nuns picketing in front of your establishment. They get paid next to nothing, and spend most of their time praying for others. Most of these dear sisters were in their later years, and had to hobble with their self-made picket signs (might I say with excellent penmanship) as best they could because of their declining health. They were very determined to forcefully and energetically show their displeasure by a lot of effort!
It was such an upsetting scene, that some students who could not watch anymore of this spectacle decided to help these sisters carry their picket signs, not even understanding where Nicaragua was or what their beef was. Nothing less than a visual on this could do this scene justice, believe me...once again a complete P.R. nightmare.
Getting back to our IHOP-rat-inflators, now compare those seventy-year-old nuns to these group of thirty and forty-year-old men sitting on their , er…., lawn chairs eating a buttered bagel as traffic rolled by going to their livelihoods. On one morning, I saw all of these protesters finally display significant movement as they abandon their posts to attempt to form an orderly line - - at the coffee truck. (Hence my IHOP reference)
Finally, this protest ended last week. My morning commute was met by the first morning in two weeks without the enormous snarling rats lunging at my car as they bounced on the lawn. No one missed them except for the guy who owned the coffee truck. I sadly concluded the business must have buckled.
Imagine my surprise when this last Monday morning, the rats were back with all of their helium glory. Each protester found their chair-leg-marks in the lawn from 10 days prior and once again set up their defiance "sit-in" (bonus points on the pun) on the same exact spot where each member sat previously. This week of absence didn't make sense to me, then it hit me. It was like a light bulb going off. Last week was a holiday week. The union couldn’t get enough men to picket on days that would interfere with their member’s own holiday plans, or even worse their union did not want to pay these men time-and-a-half for picketing and working on a quasi-holiday (July 4th was a Saturday, making the prior Friday the observance), a condition that I am sure is in the contract that they are demanding from the targeted business.
My Irish grandmother always used to say there is always something to laugh at. She was so right. It is really comical.
So all your union protestors infront of Clare Rose in Melville, NY, try to sell your grievances with a little more effort, and just do not sit there waiting for your benefits.