Re: Fellow Workers

Jenny (
Sun, 29 Nov 1998 21:45:09 -0800 (PST)

Hi - I am an unskilled union worker (CUPW) and have found that at least
their wages allow me to support two kids.  We get nearly $20 an hr. even
when we start - these wages do not rise much - with seniortiy benefits rise.
Unfortunately in the 90s workers must start as casuals on call but have been
on 40 hrs. a week recently with the xmas rush.  I tried to support kids for
yrs. on minimum wage ($7.15 an hr. here) or slightly higher and found it was
impossible.  My other union job (BCGEU) is not unskilled - I had to return
to university (had 1 yr. in before I had my kids) and take student loans in
order to get it.  Had to borrow so much money that I dropped out again and
now go part time 1 semester a yr. on a low income grant.  But it was enough
to get into the field as a support worker in a shelter (transition house) -
we get $15.35 an hr. altho this is under negotiation as our contract has run
out.  I did not like unions when I was younger but after trying for yrs. to
support kids on low wages I think differently now.  Supporting my kids also
gives social services less control over us and our lives.  I have had social
workers in the past come to my home with a camera and take pictures as
evidence of neglect when I was working long hrs. and did not have time or
the energy to do housework.  Altho I admit I am still afraid of them and
have a cleaning company come in every 3 wks. or so to make sure that they
leave us alone (social services).  The gov't in Canada does not enforce
child support - you can get a court order here but it is really just a piece
of paper.
At 03:45 PM 11/29/98 -0800, you wrote:
>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: