By FATHER JEFF KNIGHT
I woke up this morning to the sound of Steely Dan as my clock radio is set to a so-called “classic rock” station.
I got out of bed, turned on the light and turned off the radio. I inched open the shade to glimpse outside and saw a heavy frost on the ground. Knowing that it was going to be a cold morning I was grateful for the heat I could feel coming from the baseboard at my feet.
As I began to do the things I needed to prepare for the day a thought struck me: “I’ve only been up for a minute or so and already the work of numerous people has had an impact on my day;” those who made it possible for the house to have electricity so my alarm was able to go off and my ceiling light go on; the people who had a hand in getting the propane to the tank so that there was heat on a frozen winter day. I don’t know how many people were involved in getting the gas from the ground to the propane tank outside my home but I know it wasn’t me.
MANY HANDS AT WORK
So, what is the point of all this? That everyone is indebted to others for so much of what makes up our days.
For most of us, we didn’t build our own home, make our own clothes, run the water lines, gas lines, sewer lines, telephone lines and cell towers. From the cars we drive to the roads we drive on, we should thank a worker. Electricians, carpenters, laborers, auto workers, street crews are at work day after day, and life could hardly happen without them.
In the process of making a living, many are making a life for the rest of us.
NEED FOR GIVE AND TAKE
We need workers as a society, and employers need employees. Thus, there is an inherent need for a give-and-take between employer and employee (management/labor), but how can there be any sense of reciprocity if there isn’t a willingness to exchange thoughts and concerns openly and with fairness?
Organized Labor is an effort to bring management and labor together for not only their mutual benefit but also for the people and communities that purchase their goods/services.
Employers should be able to expect that employees know and do their jobs, and employees should expect fair pay and safe working conditions.
NEED FOR COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
Some jobs (police, fire fighters, iron workers, etc.) are inherently more dangerous than others, but no job should be more dangerous or hazardous than it has to be. Yet, we know sometimes working conditions are not what they could and should be.
Thus, the need for the workforce to have access to collective bargaining.
Yet, in our society today, there are many forces trying to undermine the right of workers to peacefully organize. Unions are under attack.
WITHOUT UNIONS, WE ALL LOSE
I have a brother that jokingly says, “Work is a four-letter word.”
While “work” is literally a four-letter word it doesn’t have to be a dirty word. While “union” is not a four-letter word, to hear some people talk you would think it is because they have tried to make it so.
A just society needs checks and balances.
Unionization is one of the ways that a balance, a fairness, is maintained between management and labor.
If we lose strong unions then we will all lose – management and labor alike.
(Father Jeff Knight is pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish- Zell, Ste. Genevieve, MO.)