Sunday, January 29, 2006

Why I Care About Unions

As a product of union parents, I understand much of the opportunities I've had in life came from organized labor. Both my parents came from dirt poor, rural backgrounds; the odds were astronomical that either would be on a board of directors. Yes, in a country of 200 million people there are always a handful of rags to riches; but those are exceptions to the rule.

Which isn't to say that my parents were doomed to the same lifestyle they grew up in. They were white, healthy, and they grew up in Iowa where the school system was cherished (I understand Republican politics are attacking that today, but I digress.) They had a leg up, after my dad returned from Vietnam and left the Navy for home.

But the smartest thing they ever did was join unions. My father risked his life every day climbing utility poles and "hot gloving" electrical lines with the potential to deliver flesh-cooking amounts of energy to his system. Unions not only got him a wage that somewhat reflected his risk (what's a life worth?), but probably saved his life for pushing things like nylon "sticks" so nobody had to grab a live powerline anymore.

This is one reason it is devastating to watch our corporatist government kill off the last of the unions. That leaves this kind of life-saving advocacy to the feds, and how effective do you think Bush's version of OSHA is?

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