Saturday, July 10, 2010

may undercurrent

another old undercurrent column:

Ed: Labor. I'm no expert in labor or the labor movement. I admit this openly, and right up front. I tend to support the labor movement, and have defended it in online arguments against people who only see the labor movement as lazy, bloated and worthless. But, I recently ran into an issue where my clear waters have become muddied: the introduction of Fresh & Easy to Fresno. You see, I mainly shopped at Food Maxx, which is an offshoot of SaveMart, which is a union shop. The prices were cheap and the variety good. The union issue never came into play. Fresh & Easy opened in town and the prices were low, the locations were good but they're not unionized. In fact, for the first few weeks of being open, customers were greeted by protesters with signs and handbills. And online, I was actually arguing with people who were pro-union. I was on the other side. Okay, not completely, because I still am for unions, and i was more trying to get the anti-Fresh & Easiers to elucidate their points on why Fresh & Easy was going to cause the downfall of humanity in Fresno by being non-unionized. This also sparked an argument with a non-online friend. Adam, you were there. And basically, I realized I've come to the point of not caring about unions. Or, perhaps the realization that I never cared. I mean, I appreciate the benefits for my friends that are in unions, but myself, I've never been in one. My current job isn't unionized. My wife's job isn't either. In fact, most of the people I know aren't in union jobs. Would I like a union protecting my job? Sure, but I'm not going to boycott a store because they aren't unionized. I see the benefits for those in union jobs, and the protections they give for many industries and workers and I appreciate it. But when it comes down to it, I don't know if i actually am willing to make any choices strictly because of the union issue. What do you think Adam, are unions important to you? Would you choose a place based on its union/non-union status?

Adam: I think I'm about where you are. Here's where I stand. I think unions are great where they can be implemented. Reading recently about the tragedy that occurred at Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia and how Don Blankenship's anti-union, anti-regulatory, anti-safety methods probably played a part, I see where they are needed as an answer to bald-faced, people-killing business ethics. Especially, in this instance, after reading that union-mines have a much safer track record than non-union mines because the workers are protected from intimidation for pointing out unsafe working conditions and the like. But here's the thing. I hate, hate, hate arguments from emotion and that to me is what picketing outside of places that are non-union seeks to do. Blankenship is a greedy asshole, to be sure, and he got his riches by bullying people; by intimidating his employees. Forcing the consumer public to intimidate non-union shops by not shopping there is the same sort of bullying in my eyes, the voting with your feet kind of mentality. This is the way we make society better and ensure safer workplaces and fair wages: education. You send organizers to meet with non-union workers to explain to them the pros and cons. You educate the public with facts and information. You see things like the United Mine Workers of America sending their emergency response teams to a non-union mine to help them because union or not, they are human beings that need help. That is what turns me on to unions. Not people standing outside of Fresh & Easy with signs, essentially trying to get people to shut down a place of business that, like it or not, provides jobs for local people in a time when jobs are scarce. I'd rather have a shitty non-union job than none at all. People are desperate and the way for unions to work now is to be a voice of reason, not emotion.

Ed: Those are all going points. I definitely agree with the part about recognizing those unions that are making a positive impact, often quietly changing the lives or the members and not focusing on those who want us to react against non-union shops just because they’re non-union. Oh, and I’m sure some very smart people correcting our union positions very soon.

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