“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Love Affair with Unions

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.


kevin soika said...

just for your information.....that picket is in protest of clare rose inc. use of an out of state non union construction comany to build there new warehouse and distribution center in shirley. clare rose inc. made close to $200 million dollars in 2008 but they chose not to use the men andwomen of long islands building trades. that is a direct slap in the face to the very people who supported clare rose and contributed to there profit. the fact that they were gone from picketing for 10 days had nothing at all to do with a union holiday you loser. clare rose went back to negotiations with the building trades (who want nothing more but the oppurtunity to building in there own back yards, not any obscene demands) but those talks broke down leaving us no choice but to continue picketing. get your facts straight before you go blabbing off without a cluehat your talking about, perhaps you should slow down and read there picket signs before just assuming there a bunch of lazy creeps with a list of out of this world demands. those are your neighbors just trying to fight for whats right, show them some support instead of bad mouthing them and assuming you know there issues are.

A Voice in the Crowd said...

You’re fighting for what is right? What is right is that the best quality work at the lowest price gets the job. Unions don’t offer this in a free-market scenario. That is why all of you pay dues to collectively position against this reality. Here in lies the problem with the union mindset. You believe what is right is that work is your birthright regardless of the situation or your performance.

You say there are no obscene demands. Clare Rose is thinking of bringing in a ton of out of state builders in, who have to stay in hotels each night and have meal allowances, and transport all of this heavy machinery interstate or rent it by the day - extremely expensive. When considering all of this tons of extra cost, CR is still picking their bid over yours… are you sure there are no obscene demands?

In regard to reading your signs, I can’t. Their signs are lying on the ground next to everyone sitting on their lawn chairs reading newspapers. That was the point of my original post. Yesterday morning I checked again. It is down to about 4 protestors, all who all sit on the shade side of the big rat, more comfortable in the shade, so that passing traffic can not even see them. Drive by there on Wellwood and tell me that I am wrong.

I am happy CR is building their DC on Long Island at any consideration and not in the Carolina’s. When you have to pay an admin $50K a year just to survive, Carolina becomes an obvious choice.

I should support my fellow Long Islanders? I do. The average Long Islander pays $10,000 a year in property taxes, 60% of this goes to schools, and 60% of that goes to public school teachers benefits, salary and retirement as a result of their union negotiating contracts that are not equitable or marketplace driven. There are kindergarten teachers here making over $100,000 a year. Believe me, Long Islanders support their fellow Long Islanders to the point where most of them have to move off Long Island. This is not to mention the Cops union and others. Also, all Long Islander contractors, plumbers, small business owners, etc.. are paying this extortion money as well to support these unions, so their fees go up as well.

You say my observation that a holiday weekend interfered with their picketing is not true. We have Labor Day weekend coming up. I will see how many picketers are out there the Friday before. Maybe I will owe you an apology, maybe you will owe me one.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post! I was looking for articles about these pathetic attempts at protesting, and your entry was one of the most insightful. My family has been working for Claire Rose on Long Island for over 60 years, and I can personally attest to the fact that LI bidders were up to 110% higher than out of state bidders.

I pass the location where the new DC is being built daily, and so far if it is too hot, slightly damp, or any kind of weekend/ holiday, there are no protesters. They lasted for about a week, and at most I believe there were fifteen people involved, including the rat. The rat was the most energetic one there from my point of view, as the union members reclined in their chars with their sunglasses on, were not exactly demonstrating a desire to work or any kind of ethic.

And just for Kevin Soika's information, Claire Rose employees work on COMMISSION during a RECESSION. Putting those two together, does not sound like a good situation. A union demanding a ridiculous amount to money, means that my father loses another couple of thousand dollars this year from his salary. I guess its fine that we can scramble to pay the mortgage, and university tuition while you sit on your high horse (or lawn chair, or beach recliner) and "fight for what's right" for you. Never mind what is right for Claire Rose employees, or their families that depend on them, or the people who stock their products, or the other AB DCs. From everyones point of view, yes you are a bunch of lazy creeps with a list of out of this world demands that do not actually have the ability to hold a picket sign up high, or remain in a vertical position for more than 5 minutes. Lower your prices, and you will have a job. A job not paying you what you want is a lot better than no job at all.

A Voice in the Crowd said...

I drove by yesterday and it was light drizzling. The four-to-five protestors put up an eight-by-eight canopy tent so they wouldn't get wet. Too funny.

Anonymous said...

I found your write up quite humorous. This is a very tough issue, it's so easy to make the statements about how archaic and useless unions are or how evil and money hungry big business is. I think these issues tend to be much more complicated then this and I don't propose to have grand insight or a sollution. I've been involved in the trades for some time, I've met and worked with plenty of excellent union firms as well as open shop firms, I've also experienced shamefull practices by both union labor and owners at the expense of workers. Like any area of life there is good and bad and I always find there aren't many universal truths.

Regardless of my opinion on the issue I appreciated your post. I always find it interesting when people get so irate at what individuals post in an online journal. It's a medium to post one's opinion and who am I to tell you what you should or shouldn't think or say.