You Don’t Get Me. I’m Part of the Union

February 8, 2012 | By | Reply More

I remember the song “You Don’t Get Me, I’m Part of the Union,” by the Strawbs, from my high school days. My father often told me of the early days of union organizing in the rock quarries in the St. Louis area. In the early 30’s my dad worked with my grandfather who was an organizer for the Crushed Rock and Gravel Workers’ Union, Local 1. It was often pitched warfare between unions and management. There were often riots and violence when miners struck, with management armies, deputies and National Guard troops shooting down striking miners. Mother Jones, a famous United Mine Workers organizer and supporter of all things labor, is buried with striking miners who where killed in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois off Highway 55 as one goes north from St. Louis up to Litchfield, Illinois.

I’ve traveled to the Union Miners Cemetery, said prayers for the workers buried there and all workers and left a rock on Mother’s grave as a promise to remember the sacrifices which have given me the life I have today. As I walked the cemetery grounds, family members of the miners buried there drove by. I went over and introduced myself and told the guys what I was up to and asked if there were anyone in particular they wanted me to pray for that day. We talked about family and unions and went our separate ways.

Republicans have declared war on unions. The first shot fired in The Republican War on Christmas was President Reagan’s firing of all the members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO). Please understand, the firings had nothing to do with the legality or illegality of any public employee union strike but, manifested a deep visceral Republican hatred of any union at any workplace. All over the country, public employee unions are under attack by Republican Governors and Republican legislatures to cut off the collective bargaining rights of millions of employees. Now, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is about to pass from any ability to protect union members’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935, which allows unions to organize in workplaces.

The NLRB has been increasingly used by unions for protections from business owners’ abuses since past Republican administrations do nothing to protect workers’ rights. The NLRB must have a majority of members present and voting to have a quorum and take any action to either protect workers or workplaces. One NLRB members’ recess appointment is about to expire and there will be no replacement if the Republicans have any say in the matter. The US Supreme Court has ruled that the NLRB must have a majority of members present to vote to take any action and so long as the Republicans can deny the NLRB any quorum no actions will be able to be taken to protect workers’ rights.

Republicans hate unions because unions interfere with employers’ “freedoms” to hire and fire and shaft employees in any fashion employers please. Even worse, unions frequently support candidates from the Democratic Party and with the US Supreme Court Citizens United decision which allows unlimited corporate or union donations to candidates, cutting off union money is a direct blow to Democrats.

Republicans made sure that many government employees in the new Department of Homeland Security could not join unions, which prevented over 100,000 federal employees from being added to the union rolls.

The Republican War on Christmas also shut down part of the FAA which employed 4,000 and prevented the collection of over $100 million in taxes and stopped employment of nearly 100,000 engaged in construction of airport improvements. House Republicans refused to send any FAA re-authorization or appropriation bill out without a requirement that in any federally funded airport workplace that a non-vote or failure to vote at all by an employee in any union election be counted as a “NO” for certification of the workplace as a union bargaining unit. If the same standard were applied to Congress and the US Senate, there wouldn’t be any elected members of either chamber! Airlines have raised ticket prices and still collected the tax monies but, did not turn the revenue over to the federal government and this action cost over $100 million in lost revenues. The impasse has been worked out but, the workers’ hours lost and revenue are gone.

We can also toss in here an acute Republican disgust for any laws preventing discrimination in the workplace, housing or otherwise.

Unions created the Middle Class in America by championing wage and hour laws, minimum wage laws, child labor laws, restricted work hours, safe workplace laws, employer funded healthcare and defined benefit pension plans, student loans for workers and their children, and may other worker protections which has royally ticked off Republicans and their corporate, millionaire and billionaire masters since the 1930’s.

Unions stay at the top of the Republicans’ “10 Most Unwanted List” and Republican attacks on unions continue as this piece is written. Republicans hate unions so much they give corporations tax breaks to export union jobs overseas and call such outsourcing “good!”

If wages are down and unions restricted as to what they may bargain for in the workplace, what good are they? Or so the Republican thinking goes. But, a clear majority of Americans oppose Republican efforts to curtail collective bargaining.

Recent electoral results in Ohio tossed out a Republican written and passed law that virtually destroyed collective bargaining for public employees.

There have been early successes in the Wisconsin recall efforts against Governor Scott Walker who drafted and passed union busting legislation in Wisconsin.

The National Labor Relations Board is set up to protect the rights of all under the National Labor Relations Act but, will not be able to do its jobs unless new members are appointed. Republicans will not allow any new members to the NLRB to be appointed by President Obama. So, if there are management grievances or unrecognized unions, no ordinary remedy will be there for management or workers. Union members will be less able to be protected as a direct result of Republicans’ blocking any new appointments to the NLRB. “They” can get you if you’re part of the union.

But Republicans should fear the situation where they have deprived unions (and managers) of recourse to the NLRB. The law abhors a vacuum and some other remedy than recourse to the NLRB will be fashioned which may be far worse than any boogeyman imagined by the Republicans.


Category: Labor and Working Conditions, Politics

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

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