Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Unions of Today a Far Cry...


The unions of today are a far cry from what my grandfather and others fought for many years ago. I am sure my grandfather is turning in his grave at what the UAW has become and what it represents in the minds of most people.

I was born into a Union family in Detroit. My grandfather fought in the Battle of the Overpass. I listened to many stories from my grandmother about how grandpa would come home bruised and bloody on numerous occasions and how she would doctor his wounds and care for him, only to have him go right back to work and fight for the union again.

He fought to protect the workers' safety on the job and he fought for the rights of the workers to be financially taken care of if hurt on the job. He fought for what each one of us expect today from our employers; it wasn't always so.

There is a government agency called OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) this agency was formed in 1970 as part of the Department of Labor. In 1970, the United States Congress passed the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act. As a result, OSHA was formed.

The Act required that "every employer under the Act furnish to his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees" (29 CFR 1903.1). This passage is commonly known as the General Duty Clause.

Prior to OSHA, it was the Unions that made the employers provide a safe workplace for the employees.

So where and when did the Unions go wrong? Who is at fault for the union mess we are in today? Where should I begin? It was not one person but one thing that cascaded into this dismal mess we see today: greed. Greed on the part of those that formed the administration of the union, those men that left the factory floor to run and manage the UAW. Could I name names? You bet; I knew them all. I am glad to say that my grandfather was not one of them. When given the opportunity to leave the factory assembly line and become part of management of the UAW my grandfather said "no", he wanted to stay in the factory as a UAW representative to make sure the employers followed through on their promises to the workers and to make sure the safety changes were made. He spent the rest of his life doing just that.

During these past weeks, it has pissed me off to no end to listen to Congress belittle and chastise the heads of the big three auto makers. Is there fault on their part for the financial mess they are in? The obvious answer is "yes" but to what degree?

Why isn't Congress bringing the UAW executives to the hill? Why are they not tearing them up and spitting them out like they did to the big three CEO's? There is enough blame to go around and in my mind the bulk of it belongs at the feet of the UAW. These men should be forced to resign their positions and the government should put a Union Czar in place just like the Car Czar who will oversee the big three.

Do I still believe that Unions are a good thing for the American work force? My answer is "yes"? I still believe in protection for the workers, and now with the government stepping in I believe it is more important. I can only hope that those at the helm of the UAW will go back to their roots and help lead the car companies out of this mess instead of creating more. This is no longer about them (UAW), it is about the survival of the American auto industry.

As I said at the beginning of this post, my grandfather is turning in his grave as to what has become a once highly respected part of the auto industry.

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