Monday, December 15, 2014

Having a voice

The NLRB has issued rule changes that will make it slightly easier for workers to come together and form a union.

It's not a drastic change, but it helps to somewhat level the playing field.

It removes some of the delay tactics that a business can use to delay the worker's right to vote.
It takes a lot for workers to get to the point of organizing, and it takes a lot of courage.
They don't just all of a sudden get together on their day off, have someone say "What do you guys want to do this morning?", and have one guy throw it out there, "Wanta form a union?"
It takes years of mistreatment by management, layoffs in the face of excess profits, unfair terminations of their friends, and more.

Businesses love to delay.

They use the time to spend thousands and even millions of dollars to try to convince the workers that they are making a mistake, that the business will "take care of them' if given a second chance.
Delay time is used to pressure workers, often with illegal "captive audience" meetings.  These meetings are akin to what you have to sit though to get that free vacation at the condo in Florida. Know what I mean?
Except, if you walk out, you can be fired.
These modest rule changes have been years in the making.

Earlier this year, two of my friends, Ole Hermanson, AFT CT organizer, and Donna Marie Miller, a home health aide at the Southeast CT VNA, who recently unionized, traveled to Washington, and Donna testified before the NLRB in favor of these changes.

Ole and I had done the same in 2011.
The rules where changed then, but reversed on a technicality by the Republican congress.

Ole says this is a small gain.
I love brother Ole, but I have to disagree.

No victory is small.

My trip to DC may not have resulted in a quick and lasting rule change, but it changed me.
I realized on that trip that I was a small part of something bigger than a union of 350 nurses at my hospital, I was part of an international movement to bring fairness and respect to all people.
A movement involving Organized Labor, non union working class people, faith based groups, community groups, and others.
On that trip, I discovered that my voice DID matter.
Once I saw this, nothing would be the same again.
I can do little alone, but together we can do anything!
For me, the movement is based on what I learned growing up.
If you were lucky enough to have more than your neighbor, you should not hoard it, you should share it, because you have it through the grace of your Higher Power.

Some businesses believe this, Costco pays it's workers a living wage.
Others do not.
Walmart underpays it's workers, while the owners reap billions in profits, and the workers have no choice than to rely on government assistance to get by.
They profit, we pay.
They call it capitalism, but it is capitalism without ethics.

But the movement is also about something else.
It is about a nurse being able to speak up and advocate for her patients when profits are put before patients, it's about a teacher speaking up and saying that all students deserve a good quality education and that being forced to teach to the test is the wrong way to go, it's about an airline pilot being able to say safety is more important than schedule.
It's about having a voice.

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