Fellow Workers

Judy Olsen (wholepie@speakeasy.org)
Sun, 29 Nov 1998 15:45:52 -0800

Hi Unca Jones!

Thanks for commenting on my introductory  email.  I appreciate your
openness and honesty.  As I have been educated in our public school
system, a formerly proud member of the U.S. Navy, and a former flag
waving American, I know where you are coming from.  I used to believe
what you still believe.

TAKING A STAND:  Personally, I think the only reason that sexual
harasser was transferred was because of your direct action.  If you
hadn't taken a stand like you did, he would still be there.  In this
case, being polite and trying to work within the system didn't work.
Actually I've noticed that working within the system very seldom works
in our society.  However, direct action always works, whether or good or
bad.  I'm sorry you lost that contract (bad), but your direct action put
an end to your wife's suffering (good).  Sometimes it's better to burn
our bridges behind us.

ANGER MANAGEMENT:  I believe that anger is healthy when we know who to
be angry at.  Then we can direct our anger towards problem solving.  In
fact, this reminds me of what happened immediately after WW1.  Most of
our GIs came home via slow moving ships--it took them about two weeks to
get back to the U.S.  The GIs spent this time together discussing their
war experiences and what the war was all about.  By the time they landed
in New York, they were so pissed off about WW1,  they actually began
planning to take direct action against the Federal government.  To
control this explosive situation, Henry Ford (a Nazi sympathizer) helped
to organize the American Legion.  I don't remember how the American
Legion was supposed to dissipate their anger, but enough GIs joined the
Legion, and direct action was never taken.

MOVING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS:  I didn't realize I left the impression that I
moved only to run away from problems.  With the exception of running
away from home when I was 18 years old, I've always looked at my moves
as going toward something, not running away from something.  I don't
recall ever making a decision to move before first researching all of my

DISTRUSTING UNIONS:  I have learned that there are different kinds of
unions--good ones and bad ones.  Distrusting all unions because of a few
bad ones is a prejudice.  It is no different than racial prejudice.  Let
me give you a short history lesson.

Unions that represent skilled workers like carpenters, machinists,
plumbers, etc. were originally under the umbrella of the AFL (American
Federation of Labor).  They were formed in the 1800s to protect skilled
American workers from losing jobs to immigrants who were also skilled
workers, but would do the same jobs for less money.  Trade unionists
were usually high-paid, right-wing Republicans who distrusted dirty and
uncouth unskilled workers.

Unions that represent unskilled workers like assembly line workers,
miners, loggers, etc. were originally under the umbrella of the CIO
(Congress of Industrial Organizations).  They were formed in the early
1900s to protect workers from employers' abuses.  These unskilled
unionists were usually low-paid, left-wing Democrats who distrusted
hoity-toity Trade unionists.

The AFL and the CIO came together in the 1950s (?) to form one giant
umbrella, the AFL-CIO.  Until a few years ago, the AFL-CIO had always
been controlled by Trade unionists.  Lane Kirkland and his ilk made
deals with the Federal government that protected the AFL-CIO's skilled
workers, but offered no protections to their unskilled workers.  That
changed only few years ago when John Sweeney, then President of
unskilled workers in the SEIU (Service Employees International Union)
won the election for President of the AFL-CIO.  Why is this important to
us?  We now have a JANITOR controlling most of the unions in the U.S.!

Yes, he is a political animal.  But even though he has screwed up by
making similar deals with the Federal government (backing NAFTA), he
still represents the new guard and new hope for American unionists.  I
hope that time will show him to be better overall than the former
hoity-toity AFL-CIO leaders.

Yes, they certainly have!  We have unions to thank for ALL of the wages
and benefits we enjoy today, i.e., the 8-hour day, Social Security, job
security, retirement benefits, livable wages, job safety, health
benefits, etc.  If we didn't have unions today, we would eventually lose
all of these benefits.  Don't believe me?  For the past three years I
have worked for a union.  Three years ago we got about two calls a month
from non-union workers who wanted to know how to organize their work
places.  Today we average about three calls every week!

In Seattle there are many employers who offer jobs with low wages and no
benefits to to homeless people.  The reason homeless people take these
jobs is because they are promised that after their three-month
probation, they will get big raises, a pension, and health benefits.
Oddly enough, every single one of these naive workers gets laid off
after two months and 28 days.

Please don't tell me that we don't need unions today.  We need unions
more today than we ever have.

For the whole damn pie,

Judy Olsen
OPEIU Local 23
Seattle, WA

P.S.  For more information on unions, visit this site: