Editorial: Unions Are Paramount to American Society

It’s 1970. Gas prices are, job expectancy is down, bellbottoms are in, and workers are out on strike, demanding better wages and work conditions.

Not even the President of the United States could sway the Postal workers to return to their jobs. Nixon swore to have the men in the military to fulfill some of the tasks that were unmanned due to the U.S Postal Strike of 1970, but his attempt at squashing the labor strike only resulted in more postal workers walking out from their jobs.

Now if you checked your mailbox recently, you would see that we do indeed have people manning the post today. This particular strike lasted for only eight days, and it had its drawbacks as well as progressive reform, but it was one of many unions to stand for improvements for the working class.

Typically, unions will organize and stand up for their rights and to gain a better standing in life, such as raising wages to provide for their families, having access to affordable health care, and being in better working environments. Nothing too crazy, right?

Unions are a huge part of America and its history, not just for giving us Labor Day, but for having helped create the standards of living that we have for working and middle class families today.

(Drawing: Amanda Gordon)

(Drawing: Amanda Gordon)

We call it the American Dream. Rights to equal and fair pay, reasonable working conditions, providing aid and health care to workers, retirement plans, and time off. To live a comfortable, modest life that one can raise a family with, without fear of falling into poverty.

Nothing too crazy, however, throughout history, unions have been met with persecution and violence.

Although today’s unions are not met with lethal force from officers of the law, nor are they under threat of being accused of being communist traitors, all across the nation we are seeing them fail time and time again due to corporate greed. Verizon union workers have been on strike for over a month now, and there is seemingly no end to their plight.

Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers have taken to the streets to protest against the poor quality of pay and threatened job security. Not only does Verizon make billions of dollars in profits, but the company has been outsourcing jobs to the Philippines to further increase profits, something that the CEO of Verizon, Lowell McAdam, has claimed to be unaware of.

Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States has seen a significant loss of working class jobs. Nearly 700,000 working class jobs have been displaced or eradicated as a result of the agreement.

In his time, Reagan had initiated a war against Labor Unions, firing over 11,000 air traffic controllers when they sought to strike. From that point on, it seems as if everything Franklin D. Roosevelt had put in place for American citizens and their right to unionize has been all but dismantled.

With each job that is outsourced, people tend to falter, to take what they can get, not what they deserve. Since 1979, wages have either been decreasing or stagnating, while productivity has been expected to increase.

The gap is widening between the middle class and the wealthy, as more and more Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, resulting in increased debt and stress. Unions that push for better qualities today are essentially snubbed, presented with mediocre deals where nothing changes save for the inflation around them.

Society is, in many ways, beginning to mirror Metropolis, a silent German film directed by Fritz Lang. Produced in the early twentieth century, Metropolis envisioned an urban dystopia, a flawed society where there was not merely a gap, but a gulf separating the wealthy and the working classes.

The stage was set for the year of 2026. Should we not maintain a middle class, it’s considerable that we may see Lang’s vision come to fruition.

Just as in the film, mediators are needed to align the goals of both businesses and workers. Any institution can be compared to the human body. Without the brain, no work can be produced. Without the hands, no work can be accomplished.

“There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator,” quoted the silent film, which can speak in volumes today.

We need mediators, people to fight not for a single side, but for a common goal, because just like with the human body, if one part of an institution starts to fail, the rest will crumble soon after.

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