Would it kill you to buy American?
--Gran Torino (2008)
--Gran Torino (2008)
Unions were a hot topic in Ranger's corner of Northwest Florida last month as residents were anxious for the National Football League owners to settle with the Referee Union. Though they supported the settlement (the game must go on), the main drift was to disparage the faults and excesses of unions, which is an easy thing to do if you lead your entire white life in the South suppressing labor rights. (You can substitute "negro" for "labor" and get the same result.)
As a child, Ranger recalls the United Mine Workers' (UMW) John L. Lewis struggling to bring coal miners to a living wage with concurrent safety measures to ensure a tolerable life for miners. "Miner" meant his father, grandfather and various uncles and other relatives. He had skin in the game, which Southerners do not comprehend.
The same was true of the United Auto Workers (UAW). The life of the now-Rust Belt was the automobile, the union and management. There were excesses and corruption on both ends, but what was good for GM was good for America, and that meant it was good for the unions, too. Of course, that is no longer the formula.
Today, "[T]here are the same number of manufacturing jobs nationwide as there were in 1941, when the country was just more than one-third its current population. For much of the 20th century — and especially in the boom decades of the ’50s and ’60s, when U.S. factories had little global competition — manufacturing provided something that simply doesn’t exist anymore: a job for anyone willing to put in a hard day’s work" (Out the Amtrak Window). It's not that our production is down, it's just that our machinery can do much of the work unmanned. Precise mechanical skill sets are no longer in demand, and the new service sector hires largely interchangeable units of the lowest pay grade.
Southerners love their Right to Work, non-union status, which confers upon them the right to work for minimum wage at just under a 40-hour week, allowing their employer overlords to deny them any of the ancillary provisions which make the life of a working person tolerable. In addition, there is no promise your job will continue to be yours next year. Mean and lean is the new watchword, and there is no place for loyalty in that equation.
In the bargain, we consume cheap, non-union garbage from overseas sweatshops; not seeing the exploitation makes it more palatable. We reason, they are happy to get the jobs anyway, as it's better than they might have had. Like the colonials, we reason (justify) that we are providing them employment they might not have had. Meantime, in the search for the profit margin, our industries failed to concern themselves with the livelihoods of their stateside crew, many of whose homes are now being used as grow houses or being boarded up before being razed, at the rust belt city's expense.
Noblesse oblige is gone -- Mitt Romney is the poster boy of the new money man. Buy-sell-offshore your profits.