Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day

“[Strong] Unions struggled to eliminate abuses of early industrial society and improve workers’ lives by seeking higher wages and better working conditions for their members… [They] became an integral part of industrial society because they did not seek to destroy capitalism but, rather, to make employers more responsive to their employees’ needs and interests…” (Jerry H. Bentley and Herbert F. Ziegler, Traditions & Encounters).
·         Strong unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%.
·        Strong unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low-and-middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.
·       Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.
·       The impact of strong unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages.
·       The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.
·       Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than nonunionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.
·       Unionized workers receive better pension plans. Not only are they more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement, their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.
·       Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).
      Strong unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job. Because unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. Unions are, thus, an intermediary institution that provides a necessary complement to legislated benefits and protections (Economic Policy Institute). 


  1. The Price in the Eyes by Fred Voss

    As I entered the steel mill at age 23,
    far more frightening
    than the slam of the 2-ton drop hammer
    down onto steel to make the concrete floor quake
    and the heart jump
    was the look in the eye of the man
    who had squatted before it for 34 years,
    the rage
    and the humor
    and the toughness to go on with his trembling jaw
    and bloodshot eye.
    Far more frightening
    than the blast furnace with its white-hot flame
    turning a ton of steel red-hot
    as it roared and seared
    the nostrils and lips
    was the look in the eye at the man who tended it
    for 37 years,
    the pain
    and the strength and the brutality and the desperation
    of somehow making it through
    the noise and the shock waves and the stink and the heat
    of the steel mill
    as his hands turned into gnarled claws
    and his back bent
    and his fingertips shook.
    Far more frightening
    than all the huge machines and cut steel and flame and poundings
    between tin walls
    were the eyes
    of these men
    who had somehow made it through
    like I wanted to make it through,
    who knew so many terrible
    gut and heart and soul-wrenching secrets
    I would have to learn.

  2. Sweet Will by Philip Levine

    The man who stood beside me
    34 years ago this night fell
    on to the concrete, oily floor
    of Detroit Transmission, and we
    stepped carefully over him until
    he wakened and went back to his press.

    It was Friday night, and the others
    told me that every Friday he drank
    more than he could hold and fell
    and he wasn’t any dumber for it
    so just let him get up at his
    own sweet will or he’ll hit you.

    “At his own sweet will,” was just
    what the old black man said to me,
    and he smiled the smile of one
    who is still surprised that dawn
    graying the cracked and broken windows
    could start us all to singing in the cold.

    Stash rose and wiped the back of his head
    with a crumpled handkerchief and looked
    at his own blood as though it were
    dirt and puzzled as to how
    it got there and then wiped the ends
    of his fingers carefully one at a time

    the way the mother wipes the fingers
    of a sleeping child, and climbed back
    on his wooden soda-pop case to
    his punch press and hollered at all
    of us over the oceanic roar of work,
    addressing us by our names and nations—

    “Nigger, Kike, Hunky, River Rat,”
    but he gave it a tune, an old tune,
    like “America the Beautiful.” And he danced
    a little two-step and smiled showing
    the four stained teeth left in the front
    and took another suck of cherry brandy.

    In truth it was no longer Friday,
    for night had turned to day as it
    often does for those who are patient,
    so it was Saturday in the year of ’48
    in the very heart of the city of man
    where your Cadillac cars get manufactured.

    In truth all those people are dead,
    they have gone up to heaven singing
    “Time on My Hands” or “Begin the Beguine,”
    and the Cadillacs have all gone back
    to earth, and nothing that we made
    that night is worth more than me.

    And in truth I’m not worth a thing
    what with my feet and my two bad eyes
    and my one long nose and my breath
    of old lies and my sad tales of men
    who let the earth break them back,
    each one, to dirty blood or bloody dirt.

    Not worth a thing! Just like it was said
    at my magic birth when the stars
    collided and fire fell from great space
    into great space, and people rose one
    by one from cold beds to tend a world
    that runs on and on at its own sweet will.

  3. Quicksilver by Richard Zabransky

    for Glen’s Father

    He anchors it, bare-headed,
    Hair dense as steel. There must be forty
    Front-facing men in the photograph--
    In three rows,

    Bottom on one knee, elbows cocked.
    Top balanced on an invisible scaffold.
    He is dead center. Behind them, a brick wall
    With a Hopperesque window, dead left,

    Perhaps the supply building
    Where meetings are also held.
    One man’s hand clutches a snotty handkerchief,
    Or it might be the corner of the flag.

    All wear their plumbers’ proud indignity,
    A few prematurely balding or graying
    Beneath newspaper boy caps,
    Wide-brimmed fedoras,

    One in a Brooklyn Dodgers cap,
    All wide-eyed, some with jutting chins.
    The foreground is a parched prairie
    Beneath a sky with the promise of storms.

    Something brought them together,
    Some indignity. A plate of spaghetti
    Their lure, a shared Lucky.
    A story for the wife or girlfriend.

    Bragging rights count.
    They are as real as a goose neck,
    A drain fitting, or the hot iron
    That makes the solder run quicksilver

    Along the joint of copper pipe--
    A sort of wedlock,
    Taken for granted, yet a trust endowed
    To children, the grandmother,

    The embarrassing Red uncle,
    Or the wayfaring aunt.
    The infrastructure of life
    Should last.

    But as I said, he is dead center,
    And like Ahab’s crew,
    The others lean away from him,
    Giving him room to spiralize.

    I have a suspicion he has as much
    To do with the photograph
    As shutter or film or tripod.
    Perhaps more.