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Section A: General News


Editorial: A short history, and personal experience about unions




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Tracy Joseph Bogert
Guest Column
March 21, 2012 | 1,718 views | 21 comments

Unions arose in the United States in the 1850s. Many unions collapsed during the 1880s due to lack of leadership. However, the American Federation of Labor endured through much turmoil. The AFL was led by Samuel Gompers. It later merged with the CIO and to this day is still a power in national and local politics. The AFL-CIO is the umbrella organization for almost all unions in the United States.

In 1935, the United States Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, which established the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining and other activities. The NLRA also created the National Labor Relations

Board, which is a federal agency authorized to enforce the right to bargain collectively.

In the mid-1950s, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States peaked at almost 35 percent and the total number of union members peaked in 1979 at an estimated 21 million. Since 1979, union membership has declined and currently stands at 14.8 million and 12 percent of the labor force.

Unionism in other countries is much higher. Union membership in Finland is 70 percent compared to 12 percent here in the United States. It is hard to imagine why union membership has declined in the United States over the last 60 years.

It is not hard to notice that with the decline of union membership, our country has seen a decline and shrinkage of the middle class, who were the backbone of the greatest economy on earth. Of course some of the reasons for the decline in union membership were due to corruption by union bosses such as Jimmy Hoffa. However, a huge majority of unions and union leaders are what made this country great.

Many people including most conservatives chastise unions as being unnecessary and a burden to economic growth. That is far from the truth.

With or without unions, the top 1 percent of wage earners including most businesses have continued to see huge income growth. I would argue that when union membership was at its peak, the heavy industries in the United States saw by far their best years.

Unions in the United States have fought for many items and ideals that almost every business owner and worker enjoys in the United States. In 1982, I took my first full-time job at a mill in San Antonio. The first thing I did after arriving for my first day of work was ask where I could get a union membership card. My friend Jack brought me a union card and I signed it. After 60 days, I was a full-fledged union member and proud of it.

I worked at a lot of hours at the job but it had great benefits. I only had to work five days per week and could turn down or accept Saturday work if I wanted. I also remember union stewards ensuring that my workplace was safe and that I had the equipment to perform my duties properly. Heck, after a year they even gave me a week’s paid vacation and we all got a raise whether we were in the union or not. I remember that 20 percent of the guys that weren’t in the union always accepted the raise they were given. In fact, I don’t remember one non-union employee turning it down. In time I became a union steward myself and got to sit at the negotiating table with four or five other union stewards and the head of our Teamsters Local 1110, George Eichler. Mr. Eichler had been in unions and been a union leader for probably 35 years at the time. He told me to watch how the company people would bitch and moan over a dime raise. Sure enough, they squabbled for days over a dime difference even after the union made other concessions. These lessons taught me one thing about how unions came about. They came about because of people like the mill owners who did not care about employee safety, morale, or their employees’ finances. After six years at the mill, I worked at other places and I belonged to the union in all of them. To be blunt, I have always worked my ass off and have always been a loyal employee. In fact, I have missed only three days of work due to illness in 30 years.

I appreciate all of the benefits I have had in life that were a result of union members who came before me. Some of these union men and women actually spilled their blood and gave their lives so that all of you conservatives, moderates, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have a paid vacation and an occasional weekend off to enjoy your new boat at the lake.

In fact, you can thank a union guy or gal for the following 36 items that almost everyone has enjoyed or will enjoy in their lifetime!

1. Weekends (before unions there was no such thing as a weekend; it was a seven-day week).

2. All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks

3. Paid Vacation

4. Family Medical Leave Act

5. Sick Leave

6. Social Security

7. Minimum Wage

8. Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)

9. 8-Hour Work Day

10. Overtime Pay

11. Child Labor Laws

12. Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)

13. 40-Hour Work Week

14. Worker’s Compensation (Worker’s Comp)

15. Unemployment Insurance

16. Pensions

17. Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations

18. Employer Health Care Insurance

19. Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees

20. Wrongful Termination Laws

21. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

22. Whistle blower Protection Laws

23. Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie

detector test on an employee)

24. Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS)

25. Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)

26. Sexual Harassment Laws

27. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

28. Holiday Pay

29. Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance

30. Privacy Rights

31. Pregnancy and Parental Leave

32. Military Leave

33. The Right to Strike

34. Public Education for Children

35. Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women

equally for the same amount of work)

36. Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States

Tracy Joseph Bogert, an eighth-generation Texan, resides in Somerset and is active in the Democratic Party.
 

Your Opinions and Comments

 
4 th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
March 25, 2012 10:31am
 
Unions are a nest of pit vipors seething with corruption, violence, payoffs, and lawbreaking.

 
Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
March 25, 2012 7:38am
 
"Unions definitely had a place from 1880 to 1960. " We must differentiate between trade unions, which on the whole are a beneficial and necessary thing, and it's evil distant cousin, the Labor Union ... More ›

 
Be Careful  
Floresville, TX  
March 25, 2012 2:20am
 
Who knew that the Unions have so much power? How did they do on NAFTA? To insinuate that unions passed these laws in Congress and had the President sign is laughable. Talk about a stretch that all 36 items became ... More ›

 
PRAIRIE GROUCH  
GRAND PRAIRIE TX  
March 23, 2012 3:12pm
 
I think the AFL/CIO must have had some input on the writing of the bible....How else do you explain the six day work week and the ten percent dues.

 
Connect the Dots  
Floresville  
March 23, 2012 11:42am
 
In Michigsn- you mean the state whose economy is so far in the tank that most small factories have shut their doors, and the businesses all around them have had to close down because the entire neighborhood has fallen into shambles? ... More ›

 
Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
March 23, 2012 7:02am
 
"In Michigan when you call the union ..." A trade union that operates to ensure the integrity of it's members and their skills is a totally different animal than what has evolved with the corrupt, communist ... More ›

 
Rock'n chair Rambler  
Over Taxed, TX  
March 23, 2012 6:37am
 
Comrade Bogert, google the 7 day work week. You won't find it. The 6 hour work week was a standard. The reason was religion, not rioting union thugs. You may not be a liar, though I suspect you would lie if it served ... More ›

 
retiredinlavernia  
lavernia  
March 23, 2012 5:53am
 
There are many many things bad about the unions but there are also good reasons - Even from a employeer's viewpoint - My father was in construction his whole life - The first 40 or so years in Michigan where the unions ... More ›

 
Tracy Bogert  
Von Ormy, TX  
March 22, 2012 10:02pm
 
Hey rockin chair so 11% of the workforce completely controls the US economy?Really?

 
Tracy Bogert  
Von Ormy, TX  
March 22, 2012 9:47pm
 
Hey rockin chair I actually new Constantine. He told me for sure he worked a minimum of 6 days per week and sometimes noon till 6 on Sundays. I think you are a liar. (:

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