24 May 2005
Power to the People! (enthusiastic fist in the air)
While replying to Mandi and Bodie’s posts about the current state of United’s bankruptcy and the dismal outlook of the CA school system being able to actually pay for the life-time health care it promised to it’s employee’s, I started thinking about Unions and strikes.
When I was 9 years old, the bus company that both my Mom, Dad, and later my Step Dad, and my Uncle worked for wanted to keep paying and compensating it’s employee’s as little as possible. The bus drivers opted to go on strike. We lived near the bus yard where the strike took place and our house was the command post for the whole operation. Having to strike 24 hours a day, our house was where people would come to eat, grab a couple hours of sleep between shifts on the line, and hang out.
This being Santa Cruz in the early 80′s, the bus employee’s had the full support of the community and the media. We effectively shut down all bus service for a solid week until management came to their senses and negotiated a rockin’ deal. Our life before the strike was decent but after, our lives improved a great deal. We suddenly had health care for the whole family, wages high enough to own property, paid vacation, and good pensions.
The experience of being able to use lack of manpower to negotiate better compensation and ultimately a better life was an invaluable lesson for this 9 year old kid. There was no way the community would tolerate the hiring of “scabs” to keep the company operating during the strike, as the “scabs” were the community and no one would show up and cross the picket line. Back then, the community understood what was trying to be accomplished and showed integrity by supporting the workers.
I roller skated the picket line with our dog, Rosie, who wore a stike t-shirt and made it into the local paper. It’s not everyday you find a dog on a picket line. I ran messages back and forth from our house to the line and helped people feel at home while they were not at home. It was a pretty long and intense week all the way around and an experience I will never forget.
These days, it’s becoming increasingly hard for workers to organize and exercise their right to strike for a better deal or even to maintain their current contracts. Half the time, the company cries foul and gets a judge involved to decide if the employee’s can leagally strike in the first place. They want us to cow to their every cut in wages and compensation, thanking them for the opportunity to be screwed yet again. It’s mind boggling that so many people are so against Unions and the worker’s right to organize to seek out a better life. We’ve collectively been brain washed into accepting as little as possible from the company while being expected to work harder, longer, and in worse conditions than ever before.
Seems like a pretty fair deal… for the corporations.
Picket and go to jail.