Maybe I'm the only person who feels this way, but I'm about tired of workers taking it on the chin. Here I am, broadcasting in New York City, the country's biggest union town, and I have to hear stories about union members, hard working people, getting kicked in the teeth by their city and their bosses. I'm equally tired of hearing about unions being greedy and their leadership only being out for themselves. I come from a union family, and love the fact that the city I love has a reputation for being union friendly. Yet something has changed since back in the day, when I walked a union picket line for a modest increase in pay.
This was in the mid 1970s, and I walked a line everyday for over a month with my fellow members. Negotiations were going nowhere, and the enthusiasm of some of my colleagues was flagging. Then, one afternoon, a truck pulled up in front of the building we were picketing. The driver rolled down his window, and in his best Brooklynese asked, "Hey fellas. What are you striking about?" We told him, and what he said next surprised me. "Listen, I'm with the Teamsters. You want us to shut down the building for you?"
It was incredible to me that this guy would make an offer like this, and that he wasn't kidding. We didn't take him up on it, but thanked him profusely, as he waved and drove on. Our strike ended soon after, but that memory of union solidarity remains with me to this day.
But what do we have now? 22 Cablevision workers in Brooklyn going to see their boss about the status on contract talks, and being summarily fired. School bus drivers walking off the job not for more money, but for some basic job guarantees. They stay out a month, a smaller union crosses the picket lines with other "replacement workers", and the city refuses to get involved. They go back to work Wednesday, only to find a couple of hundred workers have been fired.
The bus companies tell the fired workers they can apply for new jobs (probably at less money), but with the caveat that they have to drop their union affiliation.
I don't think I'm the only person who gets angry when they hear about such affronts in New York City, a union town. Nationally, union membership is at its lowest level since the beginning of the last century. There are, thankfully, glimmers of hope here in the five boroughs. Car wash, fast food, retail, and other workers who traditionally resisted unionization are starting to organize and affiliate. It's going to take more, though.
We as progressive people are going to have to become more discerning in who we patronize. We as consumers have to make union busting bosses fear our collective wrath.
We have it in us, don't we?