2015 April - June Secretary Treasurer's Report: Let us stand proud as protectors of the Middle Class

Published: Jun 30 2015 3:45PM

I am proud to be a Union railroader, specifically a member of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way. It is a badge of honor and a point of pride. Union membership is something that identifies me. 

Sadly, it is no secret that, since the labor heydays of mid-20th Century, American private sector unions have been systematically gutted out and killed off for decades. This terrible trend has become such a normality that we now have many American politicians proudly campaigning on the eradication of labor unions, often bragging about their efforts in eliminating hardworking, Middle Class Americans' abilities to bargain with their employers. This is essentially stating, "vote for me and I'll go to bat for Goliath!" Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker most notably comes to mind in this regard, though he is certainly not alone. 

People who often criticize unions like to say that they "no longer serve a purpose." These people usually concede that "sure, unions once had reason for existence, like when child-labor was prevalent, or when thousands of people died at work due to horribly dangerous conditions, but those days are over." The gist of their argument is that unions are obsolete, mainly because there are no longer any strong, valid worker complaints left. This is a illogical argument. 

I'm sure you are aware of the issues involving the United States economy. You have certainly noticed that despite the fact that corporate profits are at historic highs and are increasing at record rates, despite the fact that worker productivity has similarly increased at the same time, worker wages are continually stagnant, and have been for decades. Accounting for inflation, many wages have dropped off, meaning that thousands of American workers are currently working for less than the share of the pie their parents and grandparents received years ago. 

While income inequality -- where the income of workers is far and unjustly outpaced by the profits of the corporations -- is not as immediately obvious as child labor or deadly workplaces, it is still a strong justification for the validity of labor unions. Unions have made worker' lives better for over a century, but there is still work to be done. Unions are far from being obsolete. 

In companies where workers cannot collectively bargain, where they are not permitted to negotiate with their employer for higher wages, better benefits, safer workplaces, and grievance procedures, their ability to prosper is severely negated. The primary reason labor unions are relentless attacked are because fair wages and workers' rights tend to cut into corporate profits. In other words, corporate greed. 

Corporations and their lobbyists and trade associations have the most money, and when you have the most money, you can use it to shape public perception through relentless advertising and fear mongering. Eventually, if successful, this leads to the election of politicians that put the wants, needs, 
and desires of corporations and company CEOs ahead of those of the workers and the shrinking Middle Class. Some would call this corporate propaganda. 

Anti-union, corporate propagandists have several goals, but high among them is to shame union workers. I am proud to belong to the BMWED and I will confidently show my union card to anyone. There is no shame in joining together with your fellow workers to strengthen your rights and viability on the job. Writer Hamilton Nolan put it succinctly: "A union does not throw off the balance of power in the workplace -- a lack of a union does." 

I am proud to be a member of the BMWED. Workers in all fields receive the benefits that union organizers of yesteryear fought and occasionally died for. Paid vacations, safer work environments, time and a half for overtime, health insurance benefits, and the list goes on and on. These are boastful issues. They are success for which we should always remain proud. Don't let the corporate political machine drag us down. Let us stand up and champion the American Middle Class.