No it is not that we do not have a McCain/Palin administration, it is Hilda Solis. Here is her op/ed for Labor Day.

When I was in ninth grade, my dad often asked me to translate little scraps of paper that he got from his co-workers at the battery recycling plant. He was a union steward there, and through those notes – often written in Spanish – his co-workers shared their concerns about unsafe conditions, paychecks that didn’t add up or new ideas to improve efficiency. My dad explained that the notes started conversations to make things better.

From an early age, I saw how having a collective voice at work made a real and significant difference for my father, his co-workers and for my mother who worked at a toy factory.

“Union” is a simple word with a powerful impact – when workers unify, they get a little more leverage to bargain. They can collectively ask for fairer wages and safer working conditions. They have a better chance at entering and staying in the middle class.

Wisconsin has been at the epicenter of the nation’s labor debates this year, and collective bargaining – what my dad called sitting “at the table” – has been a key issue. Similar battles are being fought in other states. According to a recent poll, the American people strongly oppose efforts to strip state workers of their rights to collectively bargain.

More than 100 years ago, Labor Day was established to pay tribute to workers. It’s a day to recognize the contributions working men and women have made to the strength and prosperity of our nation. Today is a day when every one of us should take a moment to thank them and honor their work.

Throughout our nation’s history, unions have played a role in all that. Their efforts have made the workplace better and safer for all workers, whether they are in a union or not. If you enjoy your weekends, you can thank a union. If you work an eight-hour day or get paid overtime when you work more, you can thank a union. If you’re paid a minimum wage, if you take time off to care for a sick family member or new baby, you can thank a union.

Unions are still a crucial and articulate voice in advocating for workers and keeping families in the middle class. Across the country, unions are leading the way with registered apprentice programs – helping to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure – that provide first-rate training, good jobs with good pay and a gateway to a better life.

Unions are also helping veterans make the transition to civilian life, with programs such as Helmets to Hardhats, a nonprofit organization that has connected thousands of veterans with careers, training and jobs in the construction industry.

One of the reasons that the American auto industry has soared back is that management recognized its workforce as an enormous asset with unique wisdom about making cars. For example, when the unionized workers building the Ford Explorer noticed that a bracket installation process could cause paint damage, they took their concerns to the engineers. Management listened and, together with the union, responded with a new protective covering on the paint surface. As a result, Ford Explorer drivers nationwide are saving money in paint repairs.

Having that voice makes a difference in all of our lives . . . and not just about the paint on our cars. The people who teach our children, the nurses who care for us when we are sick, the firefighters who run into burning buildings or the police who patrol the streets while we sleep need and deserve that voice, too. And when they have it, those of us who depend on them benefit from it.

It’s been a long time since I sat with my dad and those scraps of paper, but what I learned from our time together then is still true: A voice at work makes things better.

That idea is worth remembering and celebrating. Not just on Labor Day, but every day.

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11 Responses to The Best Thing About the Obama Administration

  1. Palli says:

    “Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery.”
    George Orwell 1945

    It is more than a half decade later and Orw”Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery.”
    George Orwell 1945

    It is more than a half decade later and he is still right. We must stop this degradation here and now, if not for ourselves who have seemed to accept the idea our prosperous years are ending but for all the peoples who have not yet had their days aplenty. We must re-define prosperity for all the world to share equally.

  2. Linda says:

    Amen to Orwell and Palli.
    The “BIG ?” remains. How can we work this miracle, that seems to be so out of sinc with human nature?

  3. Patrick says:

    Pali:

    I would respectfully suggest that you remember Dr. MLK wanted us to be judged by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin. By analogy, the union is the “skin,” the false exterior by which workers are judged and their efforts degraded. In unions, the outstanding efforts of some are always stolen by the average efforts of most because under a union contract–at least a teacher’s contract–the employer cannot “see” and “recognize” the outstanding. Nobody has degraded you or your efforts, nobody.

    You say: “We must re-define prosperity for all the world to share equally. ” This sounds like slavery to me. Some ideas always sound so pretty, but they all seem to end in a blank soviet numbness. If you truely want to encourage the human spirit, you have to let people reap the rewards of their efforts–both successes and faliures, because equality will never exist.

    I hear all the time about the benefits unions have created in the workforce, and they are real. And yet I am so glad I will never be forced to contribute another dollar to one of these organizations. What I noticed is that the older, more senior workers controlled the union and always made sure to get theirs–even when it meant I wouldn’t get mine. “Wait your turn,” they told me–even when I often worked harder, took more difficult assignments they didn’t want, or out-performed them. They always told me about how they got all this stuff for me, and I should be grateful. What they were really saying most often was that I should shut up because in a fraternal organization you only say what your brothers and sisters have told you to say.

    Now that Walker has done what needed to be done, the union rep has to come tell me what the union will do for me in the future. My debt to the past has been paid off at last, and I have that most precious of all American desires–the right to choose. I am not afraid of the brave new world; I can live with the consequences of my actions.

  4. Palli says:

    Patrick:
    1. You need to read up on slavery, sir. I could give you a reading list.
    2. You need to read up on Martin Luther King and his role in the labor movement.
    3. Your “union as skin” analogy is silly.
    3. “blank soviet numbness” Shades of McCarthy lunacy do not work anymore. (You can tell Rep. Bachmann that too.)
    4. The idea of more equality is frightening to those in the class of the George W. Bushes, Clarence Thomases, Ken Lays of the world- in an unequal world they can continue to reap rewards at the detriment of others despite their failures and they can define success in crass, insignificant and de-generative ways. No, no, you must pretend “equality will never exist”.
    5. Equality is not Same. You are definitely not me. I doubt if you teach like I do either. I have been “seen” and “recognized” under union contracts.
    6. Does that “most precious of all American desires-the right to choose” apply to other things too? to choose to belong to a union? to choose to breathe unpolluted air? to choose healthy food? to choose a life-saving operation? to chose to live in your neighborhood? to choose to marry your daughter? to choose not have a baby? to choose not be drafted? to choose to register voters at a homeless shelter…?
    7. You got some me, me, me, problems on your back.
    You say “I am not afraid of the brave new world; I can live with the consequences of my actions.”
    My response is: But can others live with the consequences of your actions?
    I believe in the common good not Ann Rynd
    Palli

    • Patrick says:

      Palli:

      Rather than explain why my analogy regarding MLK is silly, why not explain. I’m not sure what kind of teacher you are, but basic practice suggests the usefulness of a detailed explanation to a struggling student. You say that your contract has “seen” you, but this is impossible because you were paid, I imagine, the exact same amount as any other teacher in the district with your level of education and years of experience. Who you were as a teacher made no difference at all.

      My comment about “blank, soviet numbness” had nothing to do with McCarthy. The soviet communist system valued conformity and stifled human creativity. Consider the few scientific advances or artistic accomplishments from that era. Consider why so many risked their life to be free. But I’m sure you understood this from the start.

      While I don’t know the views of Bush and the rest well enough to speculate on their view of equality, I can assure you I share your disgust when I hear of failed CEO’s and reckless bankers who get inappropriate rewards in spite of failure. While that is sickening, it has little to do with the current thread.

      Likewise, my comments about the right to choose were meant to apply to union membership. If union membership is such a great deal, I would like to hear the argument. But how is it “American” to force individual workers to pay a third party for the right to have a job? Isn’t that what the previous system really amounted to? As for the other things you mention or might mention–abortion, gay marriage, to breathe clean air–these are distractions and not good form to address in your response. These digressions merely highlight your reluctance to address my actual comments. I would ask, however, how much control you believe it is appropriate for government to exercise over my life? Don’t we have enough laws on the books to protect you from my bad decisions? If I hurt you in any mumber of ways I can go to jail or be forced to pay you for the damages I have caused. If I fail to do my duties on the job to the satisfaction of my employer I may be fired. Must you also control or slience me with your union system too? I would not prevent you from joining a union if you chose to do so.

  5. Palli says:

    Ayn Rand above- switched my fingers

  6. Palli says:

    Patrick:

    you say: “…you were paid, I imagine, the exact same amount as any other teacher in the district…”
    Please re-read what I spoke of defining success in “crass, insignificant and de-generative ways”. Salary is a living. A Life is nurtured with respect, praise, support for tangible things like field trips, supplies and resources, honoraria for guests, interaction with other teachers and schools, etc.

    you say: “The soviet communist system valued conformity and stifled human creativity. Consider the few scientific advances or artistic accomplishments from that era.” The Soviet system was unsuccessful stifling intelligence and creativity. You need to read up on Soviet science and arts & letters. I understand this from the start. The USSR government was punitive because it was an idealogical, feudal, fascist communism not democratic socialism. Shades of corporate communist mentality are present loud and clear in America. Confused people in 3 pointed hats and wearing stars and stripes are mouthing what absurdly wealthy Koches are telling them.

    you say: “…I don’t know the views of Bush and the rest well enough to speculate on their view of equality…” I remark: You aren’t paying attention.
    “…I share your disgust when I hear of failed CEO’s and reckless bankers who get inappropriate rewards in spite of failure.” I remark: Is there a CEO union?
    “While that is sickening, it has little to do with the current thread.” I remark: It is the same subject, though not about you specifically. (that me me me issue again)
    you say: “But how is it “American” to force individual workers to pay a third party for the right to have a job?” You would get the same pay if you didn’t have a union? What salary would you get if you individually negotiated with a Mayor Superintendent of Schools? Would it be secret negotiation? Every worker for him/herself is oh so pleasant, efficient and mission-driven.

    you say: “I would ask, however, how much control you believe it is appropriate for government to exercise over my life?” and that’s not a digression? If you want to be all me about it- how is a union “controlling“ you?
    You say: “Don’t we have enough laws on the books to protect you from my bad decisions? Frankly, no. In a nation of economic inequality you are assuming too much, the recognition & enforcement of laws is very uneven.

    Not to mention the fact that yours or anyone’s decisions supporting and voting for government representatives and policy may indeed result in laws (some illegally enacted) that control- the exact opposite of protect. Support for the de-funding of the NEH, NEA, WAC, EPA, FEMA, OSHA, SS, etc. you directly harm me. Support for public policy like the DFA, or the fuzzy thinking ideaology, lies and ignorance of politicians about climate change, air pollution, the “poor pay no taxes”, “unions are unnecessary”, “slavery was good for Africans” etc. you directly harm me.

    You get the idea. We are a community not a bunch of mes.

    • Patrick says:

      Palli:

      Sincerely, thanks for your responses. I don’t think we see eye to eye on many issues, but I will continue to consider what you have written. I certainly don’t think that our current capitalist system is perfect, but I maintain a suspicion of any large institution–government or non-government–is healthy and necessary. I imagine we would agree on that. I agree that unions have made significant contributions to many aspects of life, but the history of unions is a dark and checkered as any in America. This can be true and the real contributions they have made can be true as well.

      • Palli says:

        Thanks to you also for considering my thoughts.
        We agree to view with suspicion any large institution. But I would add also small institutions.

        Regarding unions, I only ask that as you think of the history of the Labor movement think too of the actions from the Upper Management and the power of the state that they could summon to act on their behalf (or could summon not to act). We have hidden much of the intwined history of working in America and don’t know how to measure human opportunity lost or parcel blame justly.

        At any rate, if you are still teaching, I wish you a day of bright, inquisitive and attentive students tomorrow and in the weeks to come. Palli

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