Call me crazy, but I’m a little befuddled by the “Right-to-Work” movement. Union members are swarming over the Michigan State House, protesting the bills that were introduced during a lame duck session last week seeking to strip unions of their power. “Proponents say the measure would bring more jobs and economic benefits to Michigan, while opponents say the laws are designed to weaken unions and would lead to lower wages.” The Governor said to BBC news, “This is about being pro-worker.”
If passed, Michigan would become the 24th Right-to-Work state. My Great Grandmother helped to unionize coal mines in PA, after losing one husband after another to mine accidents. I understand their historic significance. I also believe that police and firefighters will not have a choice in Michigan today, they will continue to belong to their unions. I guess legislators don’t want to take on those union members. Two school districts have closed around Lansing in order for their teachers to be present at the vote later today.
I’ve had two close and personal encounters with unions. One when I was teaching pre-school at a Head Start program in Jersey City. Some heavy playground equipment was delivered early one morning when I was taking the 6 am shift, alone for an hour. The trucker said he could not help me get the equipment off the truck! That wasn’t his job. So we had to wait around until more teachers and aides showed up so we could gingerly unload the boxes. It was an “Aha” moment for me. The second time was before I started student teaching, I was unaware that I would automatically be signed up for the teacher’s union.
And that seemed wrong to 20+ me then, that I didn’t have the choice. Most likely I would have joined. But I also felt that if teachers’ wanted to gain respect and higher wages, if they wanted their jobs to be viewed as a “profession,” then wouldn’t a union be unnecessary? It’s a conundrum, supposedly the union keeps the superintendents from filling jobs with his cronies, but it also tends to keep incompetent teachers in the classroom.
The President has said that Right-to-Work bills are about giving you the right to work for less money. I tend to agree. So many of our manufacturing jobs have shipped overseas because of the cost of doing business in this country. We no longer employ children, our sweat shops have closed and unions help American garment workers earn a living wage; which is why Walmart has its clothes made in China, or Indonesia, or Vietnam.
I would always include a gift of Lenox fine china when I sent a gift overseas, because it was made in Trenton, NJ. No longer, after many mergers and acquisitions even Lenox is made in China.