Ahh, Labor Day! The first Monday in September. The unofficial end of summer (tell that to those of us south of the Mason-Dixon line). It’s a time to fire up the grill, spend time with family and, of course, reflect on the reason for the season – labor unions.
Granted, back in the day, working conditions were not so good for the uneducated laborer. Twelve hour work days, six day work weeks, no vacation or sick leave – conditions were often unsanitary and unsafe. Because of America’s massive push towards industrialization, workers were left with little rights. Many companies became big fat bureaucratic slugs and failed to treat their labor force with the dignity and respect they deserved.
Thus, the labor union was created. For many industrial workers, it was a godsend, protecting them from the big bureaucratic slugs. The strength in numbers and threats to strike gave them the power they had never had before. Unions could stand toe to toe with big industries. In a sense it was the first version of MAD – mutually assured destruction. Unions could cripple a company with a strike but ran the risk of mass firings. Industries could call their bluff and lay off the entire workforce but then they risked financial hari-kari.
The little guy was finally being protected. The unions stood up for the individuals against the big fat bureaucratic slugs. All was right in the world, the peasants rejoiced.
Fast forward 130 years – there are still big fat companies, but now we have a new slug – big fat labor unions. Somewhere along the way most, if not all of these labor unions – the defenders of freedom, the protectors of the innocent (Cue Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”) – turned into the very thing they were fighting – big fat bureaucratic slugs who take advantage of their members for their own political gain.
Lest we be rude, we cannot leave out the third and largest member of the slug family – the federal government. If there is any force on this earth that can out-slug big business and big labor unions, it’s big government! The government is the largest slug by far and evidently has no problems having incestuous relations with it’s two slug cousins. All the while, the people who these three slugs have sworn to protect – the laborer, the customer and the citizen – are being crushed under the weight of the big fat bureaucratic slug trio.
So the moral of the story? What made America great from her birth are the radical, yet powerful philosophies of individualism and small government. Whether it is a particular company or industry, a labor union or a governing body, the result is the same. If you allow it to become too large, bloated and uncaring, it will be more of a hindrance than help.
There was a time and place for labor unions. But the lean, mean, fighting machines have turned into big fat slobs who are only interested in getting a bigger piece of the pie for themselves, not for their members. The government is not for the people, by the people and of the people if they have become so large that they can’t see the harm that they are doing. And a company that only sees the bottom line and does not look out for the welfare of their customers and their workers will not last.
I suppose it is fitting on this Labor Day that Jimmy Hoffa himself would call for his political opponents to be “taken out”. This, he said, at a rally that included a president that has signed into law over $4 trillion of deficit spending in only 2 1/2 years. Two big slugs – their big slug arms wrapped around each other, singing their slug songs, feeding at the trough of those they have sworn to protect….. does anyone have a really big saltshaker??!!