The Giant Has Fallen And He Can't Get Up: Labor Day Notes Of A Union Man

Now don't get me wrong here. I am a Union man till I die. I bleed blue blood, work boots, hammers and nails. But with the recent and not so recent (which I will get into momentarily) economic turn of events that our country has experienced and as a result the drastic spike in unemployment and numerous closings of American plants and factories, specifically within the auto industry, I can't help but to take a real and direct look at Unions. Organized labor and the Unions of course saved the American worker literally from death and exhaustion near the turn of the 20th Century and gave workers a decent living. As Unions quickly became strong and powerful forces that fought brave hard won battles with a strict "all or nothing" approach that gave American workers the right to a fair wage and a voice for the voiceless, these tactics were successful. Then factories and jobs began to migrate towards the South where cheaper Non-Union labor was available and soon after, worldwide as the outsourcing and globalization of American jobs began in the 1950s. As our Unions continue to fight to this day, in what seems to be the last fight in a loosing battle, I wonder how much of the" all or nothing" approach in regards to contracts and all of the associated benefits (ie, health care, vacation, overtime, etc) of organized labor has ultimately hurt the American worker. Yes, of course, don't get me wrong, these things should be guaranteed and are what has made American labor an honorable life, but how much of these hard nosed "all or nothing" Union staples ultimately killed the American worker? As GM and other American automakers wrestle out of the quickly tightening noose and breathe those last gasps of air before the rope is pulled tight forever, I ask how much has been fought to really save the worker? How much in an ever changing Capitalist society in which the dollar always wins has been truly sacrificed? I am not so sure the "all or nothing" approach that our Unions were founded on many years ago is still viable and beneficial today. And while I believe the downfall of the American auto industry is primarily the fault of the bosses (in the 70s GM had already developed a hybrid car, why it wasn't released until decades later is perhaps another conversation related to the evil oil empire) and the deadly belief that if it aint broke dont fix it, which in America will only last so long (ie the Japanese auto industry) and a never clear and developed vision for the future. But the bosses will always fuck up, and did our Union bosses get too comfortable smoking cigars in their Cadillac and Lincoln SUVs plastered with "Build Union, Buy American" bumper stickers as they drove to the fancy lunch meetings with the auto industry executives at the country club? Was the tightening noose ever seen coming? And did the idea of saving jobs by accepting less than ideal contracts, but considering the times not so terrible conditions, come into play? Or did the outdated success and belief in the "all or nothing" approach that our Unions and workforce were built upon ultimately kill us? At the end of the day can the American auto worker really believe that the Union stood by his and her side and did everything they could to ensure tomorrow there would be a timecard to punch? Was the American auto worker in these shitty economic times in which everyone is hurting willing to tighten his or her belt for a shitty contract with major sacrifices and pay cuts in order to wake up to a job tomorrow? Or was it already too late? Has America been blind to the fact that we cut that rope, tied the noose's knot and threw it up on that tree branch our own damn selves decades ago and that every year we stick our necks out looking the other way while our left hand wraps that hungry noose around our thick skin?

In 1881, after trade representatives met in Pittsburgh and formed the American Federation of Labor (AFL) they swore to "protect the skilled labor of America from being reduced to beggary and to sustain the standard of American workmanship and skill.''

When did we become so blind? Why are we now a nation of importers?