Another Labor Day is upon us here in the United States. I happen to be off, but currently I am always off on Mondays. For those of you who may not know some of the history of the holiday, you might want to check a couple of other pages: http://www.aflcio.org/aboutus/laborday/faqs.cfm or http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm
I am proud to be an American, even if I often disagree with the policies of our politicians and some of the laws that we have on our books. I proudly display my flag on holidays such as this to show my pride in my country. My family is probably as middle class as you can get. We aren't necessarily close to the well off or the down trodden, but end up riding the waves as the country changes. As often as possible, I make my voice heard through voting or direct correspondence with my elected officials. However, my moderate viewpoints rarely seem to be the popular opinion. Oh well.
I can also claim to be proud to have been a union member. Yes, have been, because hard times and tough decisions required me to decide on what was important and continuing my membership was unfortunately on the losing side. It had to lose because I often could not get enough gainful employment through the collective bargaining, especially after being offered a job too good to pass up. However, I now work for a company that values its workers and seems to be what the union has always strived to work with. So it annoys me to no end when I hear this same employer having to deal with in unfavorable ways.
I can't stand stereotypes, especially when people live up to them. I also hate when I get mud on my face. I often tout the union as the way to go when hiring labor. After all, the collective bargaining is supposed to be for people who want to work. But the reality is, people are greedy. The employers forced the creation of unions because they were greedy with profits and using the worker, but with the power of the union behind them, some workers get greedy and don't do what they agreed to do. Both situations tick me off (did I mention that I'm a moderate?). Sure I'm optomistic in thinking that the boss will be fair to the employee and the employee will work his due diligence, but is that wrong?
Here are some things that I am thankful for, thanks to the brave workers in the past. I am thankful for the 40 hour work week (even though in this line of work, that isn't always the case). I am thankful for getting time off (who remembers Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol begging for Christmas off?). I am extremely grateful for safety measures, even if they can be inconvenient at times. I am thankful for incremental breaks through the workday. While some may think that unions have lost their place, I find that they are still necessary. In our industry, IATSE has helped to create a certification process to help employers find workers who have the training and experience to accomplish work in particularly dangerous situations (electrics and rigging). They have also gone on to create safety standards for our own personal protection which I hope every stagehand can learn and abide by. The battles that are waged between the stagehand union and some national non-union staging companies seem to be helping stagehands across the board (still in favor of the union employee in my opinion).
So, what are my plans for this Labor Day? I plan on spending the time with my family (yep, that right won by union labor), having a cookout (I have to thank the employer for that one, Henry Ford's ingenuity), and celebrating life (thanks to the safe working conditions, and lucky stars for the unsafe things I've done). I hope that even those who blame America's economic woes on the unions can still take the time to thank the unions for the benefits we now have. I do.