Today is Labour Day (or Labor Day if you're American). Most people regard this as the last day of the summer: one final hurrah to get drunk with friends, enjoy a picnic with the family, or get up to the cottage and into the boat one last time. I think of Labour Day a little differently. I think of it as a celebration and recognition of the blue-collar workers who make life for you and I run just a little bit smoother.
It takes workers to pave the roads, run the telephone lines, or work the cash register. Someone had to stock the shelves at the grocery store, and someone worked inside a gas station every long weekend while you drove to your vacation-spot. Everything we consume/use today is made possible because of the over-looked workers who sacrificed their family time, their health, or their own sense of being, just to be able to put food on their table. These are the working class people. They make or lives possible, and yet we treat them like garbage (especially the ones who clean up our garbage).
Anti-union sentiment is at the highest I've ever seen it. Major companies can (and do) close down entire branches because the employees decide to resort to their only weapon to protect themselves from the abuses of the company: working together. The word 'Union' contains a pejorative connotation. As a country and civilization, we now trust the companies, the government and the invisible hand of the free market to treat our employees like human beings, more than the human beings themselves. Bargaining with the unions is seen as a bad thing and will forever castigate the individual who says, "lets hear what the union has to say".
What the hell happened here?
I hear it all the time: Unions were fine once, but now they're corrupt, all of them! All they do is make business more difficult than it needs to be, and companies are closing because of Unions!"
I call epic bullshit.
If there were no Unions tommorow, who would stand up for the workers? Modern capitalism forces short-term profits to the front of the priority list, so it's certainly in the companies' best interests to pay their employees less and to provide little-to-no safety precautions, so no help there. The government has proven to be a valuable ally for business (the bigger the better), and has written all manner of legal loopholes to limit liability and accountability for corporate fraud, abuse and theft....the government now answers to big business, not the other way around anymore, so no help their either.
The only thing workers can do nowadays is to stand together, and work (ha!) as a single unit. Not even the mightiest company can overcome tens of thousands of workers refusing to work until their reasonable demands are met.
Do your children have to work anymore? Thank a union.
Does your workweek cap at 40 hours? Thank a union.
Do you get health benefits? Thank a union.
Do you get maternity leave? Thank a union.
Do you get sick leave? Thank a union.
Does your workplace have safety-precautions? Thank a union.
Have a weekend? Thank a union.
Do you have more time off than time at work? Thank a union.
Do you get to retire one day? Thank a union.
Ever have a paid holiday? Thank a union.
Take a day off and not been fired? Thank a union.
Not been fired for being gay, black, or a woman? Thank a union.
Do you get overtime pay? Thank a union.
Have a minimum wage? Thank a union.
Has that minimum wage risen since the 1970's? Thank a union.
I may be a bit biased, coming from a working-class background, but I get positively misty-eyed when I think about how much crap unions have had to deal with, and of how much I owe my very existence to. No, I don't think I'm speaking in hyperbole here. My mom got time off of work to raise me and my siblings, and the blood (literally) of past union activity allowed her the freedoms that her mother didn't have.
If you ever go to a store for any reason on a statutory holiday, please thank the worker who serves you. It's the least they deserve.
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