2 Apr 2011
Stand with Your Steward-April 8th Noon Olympia WA
Let me start by saying I’m a Union Kid. My folks worked for the Santa Cruz Metro for my entire adolescence. My mom, dad, step-dad, uncle and all of our friends drove city buses – it was truly a family affair. In 1980 they went on strike for better wages, better hours and a better standard of living. At the time, we lived a couple of blocks from the bus yard and what eventually became the picket line. Our house was the unofficial crash pad for those picketers 24/7.
At the age of 9, I had a front row seat to a union in action. Yes, I walked that picket line. Heck, our dog Rosie (The Best Dog Ever), is famous for walking that picket line; she made it into the paper wearing a strike t-shirt. I also remember a lot of the stress and strife in those days with the drivers out of work and trying to manage while taking a stand for something better.
The buses quit running and the citizens of Santa Cruz County were outraged but ultimately very understanding and supportive. Their lives were completely disrupted but the whole community got behind the drivers.
This was all pre Silicon Valley, pre dot com, pre high zoot and high priced living in Santa Cruz. In 1980, the majority of Santa Cruz residents were middle-to-mostly-lower class on the economic scale and a lot of the community rode the bus. We were just average people trying to make a go of it in a really fantastic place.
And then our life changed. No, we didn’t get rich… The drivers walked out for 18 days in October. After 18 days of negotiating, management couldn’t take it anymore and my family and our friends had higher rates of pay, health benefits and retirement plans. They didn’t get everything they asked for but most of us Union Kids went to college, live lovely lives and have a work ethic that, I hope, lives up to what the labor movement has been fighting for since the late 1800′s.
Yes, I have a unique understanding of how unions can help the general work force do better, live better and provide better. The labor practices and standards we all enjoy today, and likely take for granted, have been accomplished through hard fought battles sometimes resulting in lives lost and torn apart in the struggle. There were times in labor movement history that were violent and scary. A lot of good people have put it all on the line to make work for you and me as unlike being a slave as possible.
I don’t know anyone outside my own family who’s ever walked a picket line. I can tell you it’s a humbling yet empowering experience to walk off the job to make a point with the hopes someone will hear you. The experience my family went through is one which continues to shape me many decades after the drivers went back to work. This was a defining experience in my learning to ask for what I want in life: Ask for what you need. Negotiate. Take a stand. Do whatever it takes not to be railroaded and still be reasonable.
So with that, I’m going to lay some info on you that’s happening in Olympia, WA April 8th at high noon. It’s a We Are One rally to support state workers in Wisconsin and workers everywhere. If you don’t know what’s happened in WI, their state Assembly passed a bill which strips state employees of their right to collectively bargain for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation. The bill also requires workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health care contributions. Basically, it all adds up to an 8% cut in pay. All in the name of closing the $137 million budget gap. My thoughts on this are probably best saved for another post…
I am so very proud of my dad, Eric, who is currently a Steward of PTE Local 17. Below is an email I received from him. His words are passionate, direct and very much remind me of the urgency I sensed as kid during the 1980 strike. The last 2 paragraphs fired me up and I hope you enjoy his words as much as I did.
If you are in Washington, I hope you can join us.
Local 17 members and other friends,
I’m making my personal appeal for your participation at the We Are One rally on April 8th at the State Capitol.
The rally is: We Are One
Friday April 8th
Meet at 11:30 a.m. outside the Capitol Campus Visitor Center. Expect the rally to go from Noon to 1pm
You will need to use leave if the rally happens during your work shift. Include travel time. Please let family and friends know what’s going on so they get direct information about these issues.
If you can’t be at the rally please give 5 minutes of silence from noon to 12:05 on April 8th.
Here’s a link to the rally flyer. Please print and post at your cubicle and your bulletin board.
For more rally information and other ways to participate see Local 17′s new home page – http://www.pte17.org/
Why am I asking you to make this commitment now?
We are living at a key time when worker’s security, rights, and respect are under political attack. Yes I do mean union state workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere. I also mean all of us trying to earn a living in this economy, not just state or union workers. The poor economy has affected so many families. Productive employees providing security for their families play a key role for the future of businesses and communities. Respect for employees is just as important.
Almost 100 years ago workers standing up for their rights built the American labor movement. They risked their lives and families because their lives were so hard. They did not give up or yield to intimidation and violence. Those union members succeeded and earned us a legacy of respect, fair wages, reasonable hours, and security for our families. Many of us had grandparents or great-grandparents among those members. We are their family, their younger generation. We are also professional, responsible employees with strength and integrity.
Let’s stand up to their legacy – our future.
Now is the key time to participate. Please join me on April 8th.
ODO /HOV Steward