Letters to the Editor

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UNION: Workers benefit from organizing

Letter by Kathleen J. Geller, Eatonville on Feb. 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm with 17 Comments »
February 22, 2011 1:20 pm

Far too many people appear to have forgotten what unions accomplished for workers. Before unions, workers were at the mercy of the employer. With unions, workers gained safer, healthier working conditions, paid sick leave, overtime pay, paid vacations and pensions.

Workers who spoke out for unions were often fired and were sometimes harassed and beaten. Some lost their lives. Thanks to unions, employees whether in unions or not now enjoy many benefits, including unemployment insurance and workers compensation for work-related injuries and illness.

The increased earning power resulting from unions created a solid middle class which lifted the U.S. economy far above all other countries. We destroy our middle class at our peril. Please support unions.

Leave a comment Comments → 17
  1. Fibonacci says:

    Great letter Kathleen, but get ready for the anti-union nut jobs to attack you. We do indeed have short memories. Those that believe that employers will “do the right thing” by employees out of the goodness of their hearts are naive. Of course there are some employers that would act in good faith, but given the mantra of the far right–profits before people, the middle class would be in trouble.

  2. APimpNamedSlickback says:

    Unemployment insurance, by definition, is not an empoyee benefit. It’s a benefit for ex-employees, and even then, it’s a crippling handout.

    I don’t have a problem with UI per se. In theory it serves a good purpose. I just disagree with the ungodly amounts some states pay out in UI, and the amount of time they’ll pay it.

    In WA , the maximum UI benefit is $541/week. In MA, it’s $942. All for doing nothing! And they pay it out for 79 and 72 weeks, respectively. What incentive is there for a MA resident go out and find a job when they can sit at home and collect $48,984/year for sitting on their butts and watching daytime TV? The minimum they can get in that state is $641/week.

    UI is good in theory, provided it has a devastatingly low payout and that it only pays for a couple weeks. Imagine how many people would be sitting around doing nothing if all they could depend on the government for was a $150 check every week for a month? People would be a lot more willing to take any kind of work. There wouldn’t be any of this “I’m too good to flip burgers” nonsense.

    I’ve been on unemployment before… in Arizona, where the maximum benefit is $240/week. Guess how long I stayed unemployed? About as long as it took to submit a job application and take the first thing that came along. I’m not above flipping burgers. Minimum wage for 40 hrs/wk in AZ is $50 more than the maximum UI benefit, and when that’s all you have to put a roof over your head and food on the table, that extra $50 goes a long way.

    Virtually unending UI benefits take away the incentive to find work, and excessively high benefits take away the shame of collecting them. Doesn’t anyone have pride anymore? What has to be wrong with you to be willing to accept a handout for nothing rather than getting paid for an honest day’s work?

  3. twade0616 says:

    Kathleen, great letter as well.
    APimpNamedSlickBack- I love the Boondocks reference- I understand what you are saying about those that don’t actively seek employment, but I think you looked at the extreme and not at the average. The extreme numbers you quoted for WA was for those making higher incomes that suddenly find themselves out of a job. Also, you have to look at the cost of living in certain areas of the country. The NE is an extremely expensive place to live. For example, you can make $80K in NYC, but if your rent on a one bedroom is costing you $1500/per month then flipping burger are not going to cover it. The problem with flipping burgers is that it will not meet the financial obligations indebted. Flipping burgers won’t come close to covering the mortage or rent, car payment, credit card bills, house bill and we haven’t even started if you have kids. By no means am I snubbing my nose at that profession, I did it when I was in high school, but after obtaining a college degree in a field of study, flipping burgers was not going to cut it for me. It came a point in my life under no fault of my own that I found myself unemployed (the byproduct of downsizing) and I was thankful that there was a high UI benefit to help sustain my family until I was able to find something in my career field. In my case, I definitely made less than my previous job, but it was the first thing that came along. I had pride and I got tired of being at home. I got tired of having to search for jobs and not receive a call back.
    I would also suggest that you also take your argument to businesses as well. More and more businesses are concerned with third and fourth quarter earning reports instead of long term growth. It is all about the stockholders being happy. Everyone wants a return on their investment today so companies are pressed to show larger and larger profit margins, thus always looking for cheaper labor. If everyone is seeking cheaper labor and going overseas, what does that leave at here?

  4. fbergford says:

    This is what FDR said about PUBLIC employee unions in 1937…remember he was a “pro-labor” democrat President!

    “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the head of the National Federation of Federal Employees. In the private sector, organized employees and the employer meet across the bargaining table as (theoretical) equals. But in the public sector, said FDR, “the employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.” Allowing public-employee unions to engage in collective bargaining would mean opening the door to the manipulation of government policy by a privileged private interest.”

    Unions are good in the private sector but have NO place in the public!

  5. Kathleen, who is “the emploer” of public sector workers? Here again is an example of a person with tunnel vision. The controversy is about “Public Union” workers, not private sector.

  6. “employer” (correction for those who spell perfectly at all times).

  7. “If everyone is seeking cheaper labor and going overseas, what does that leave at here?”

    Un and/or UnderEmployed workers… more and more we are competing with overseas workers to deliver a product or service. It is far easier to pay less and charge a competetive price for that product/service than to pay more and charge a price no few will pay.

    If you are a business owner what are you gonna do?

  8. fberg – time for a new talking point. Got it the first five times you posted it.

  9. APimpNamedSlickback says:


    Thanks for noting the Boondocks reference.

    I get what you’re saying about the sliding scale of UI eligibility, but in reality it doesn’t take much to max out the benefits. When I was on UI in AZ, I had a friend in WA who was on it. When we were both working before that bout of unemployment, I made more than him, yet we both qualified for the max in our respective states… and I hadn’t been making that much. Essentially, unless you’ve been laid off from a minimum wage job, you’ve got a pretty good chance of maxing out the benefit.

    I also understand what you’re saying about the cost of living. I know the NE is generally more expensive than other locales. Still, the cost of living disparity between AZ and WA, or even MA and AZ, is considerably lower than the UI disparity. Even if the higher cost of living justifies a higher UI payout, structuring those benefits in manner that allows them to cover all – or even most – of the recipient’s expenses defeats the purpose of the requirement that the recipient look for work. That’s why it’s all the more reason UI benefits should be, as I suggested, “devastatingly low.” If they are, fewer people will find the excuses not to turn their job search into an 80 hr/wk endeavor.

    Granted, if you live in NYC and your one bedroom apartment costs $1500, flipping burgers probably won’t cover your rent. Solutions: move into a cheaper apartment, bring on a roommate, cut unnecessary expenses, live on ramen noodles… all things I’ve done before in lean times.

    You see, it’s easier to come by employment when you already have it. So while flipping burgers might reduce the UI benefit a person in the NE gets, it wouldn’t abolish them altogether, and it would increase the likelihood of them getting better work. Funny thing is, when the UI benefits eventually run out, then the minimum wage job starts to look a lot more palatable. Of course it won’t pay all the bills, but it’ll pay some of them. One crappy job isn’t enough??? Get another. I work over 80 hrs/wk between my two jobs, one of them respectable, the other not-so-glamorous.

    I also noted your comment about how flipping burgers was okay for you in high school, but after getting a college degree, it just wouldn’t cut it for you. Again, this is a matter of perspective. No disrepect to you personally, but you have that opinion because you believe (erroneously) that your college degree somehow puts you above certain types of work you don’t want to do. I too, am a college graduate. I also have a law degree. And believe me, you really have to swallow your pride when you’re putting your JD and post-doctoral work on a McDonald’s application, but I’ve done it.

    As for people with kids… cry me a river. They of all people have no excuse not to make their every waking moment about getting paid work. In fact, I would almost say that if you’re unemployed, have kids and aren’t spending every waking moment looking for a job, you ought to have your kids taken away.

    Having children is a choice. Responsible adults pay for the choices they make.

  10. Fberg: FDR also opposed integrating the armed services. Does that mean we should still have segregation in this country?

    Frosty: if you can answer the question “who do pubic employees work for” you will have answered your own question. State workers work for state governments.

    Slickback, Mad King George once said the down fall of the United States would be because we have to many lawyers.

  11. APimpNamedSlickback says:


    Well, I don’t practice, so I guess I’m doing my part to preserve the Republic.

  12. xring “state workers work for state governments”. Really? and just “who” is the government? Duh!

  13. xring, It was Eleanor Roosevelt who pushed for integration of the services. That’s about as close to FDR as you can get.

  14. Eleanor Roosevelt was demonized perhaps even more by the Right than her husband (why does the Right so hate the wives of Democratic presidents?). Are you saying that she has been “rehabilitated” in your eyes frosty?

  15. Or, given your views on gays openly serving in the military, are you suggesting that her support for integration of the races was an evil, liberal action that ruined the military?

  16. beerboy, It could be because the wives of democrat presidents are usually uglier than those of republicans. Just a guess.

  17. “Just a guess.”

    Standard fare.

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