Nov. 9, 2016 - The sun came up this morning. I looked up and saw ceiling tiles and not grass roots, so I knew it would be a good day.
And then I realized it was Wednesday, Nov. 9, “the day after.”
I had a decision to make. Be totally depressed or make the decision to move on.
I recalled having just proofread the Labor History column that appears weekly in the Labor Tribune. Our great grandparents, grandparents and mothers and fathers put up with incredible resistance as they worked to improve their lives: thugs, beatings, bombings, picket line shootings, even death.
And they persevered. Ultimately they won their fights. It wasn’t easy, often it wasn’t pretty, but they persevered and they won.
This is what we need to do now in Missouri and Illinois.
There is no doubt that in early January, when the Missouri Republican-controlled legislature convenes, the first order of business will be the introduction of a so-called “right-to-work” law, its passage and its signing by Governor Eric Greitens.
Note to our Illinois brethren: take heed because you too have a governor who wants to beat down the working people under the guise of “growing jobs” which is the code word for “cheap labor.” His first steps: the effort to introduce RTW efforts in city governments and term limits to end experienced Democratic leadership in state government which then will allow his millions to buy elections for Republicans as big money has done in Missouri this election.
BUT WE’LL DEAL WITH IT
Like the trials and tribulations of our forefathers in the Labor Movement, we’ll deal with it.
The sad part is that the many union members who voted Republican because they are as frustrated as we all are, will also be negatively impacted, eventually.
RTW won’t change things overnight where there are existing union contracts. But when those contracts expire, or in work places where there is no contract now, RTW will change things, for the worse. History shows that.
It will take time, perhaps years, but the financial pressures on our unions as some members decide to look short term and defect, will take its toll. After all, that’s the true goal of RTW, to weaken the unions financially so they can’t do their job of fully representing their members.
The test, however, will be if members truly understand that and make the conscientious decision to continue to support their union. Think about it, a divided union, some members paying their fair share to support the union, others freeloading to get all the benefits without paying a cent. The boss will take advantage of that.
At contract time, the ability to negotiate is severely hampered if you don’t have the support of all the workers… and the potential strike option. After all, the freeloaders won’t understand the solidarity that’s needed to win concessions for them. They become their own strikebreaking force, so the union’s ability to negotiate better wages and benefits, real change, is severely hampered.
That’s the challenge we face tomorrow. But as history has shown time and time again, when workers’ backs are up against the wall, we’re up to the task.
The time for hand-wringing is over. Labor leadership in Missouri needs to come up with a new game plan for the future.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work, again.
- Ed Finkelstein, Labor Tribune Publisher