Have we forgotten?
Last updated 5/2/2023 at 4:45pm
Around our house while I was growing up unionization was considered almost at the level of religion. My dad, a 40-year refinery worker, saw unions as the route to a better life and a way to better living conditions. He saw this firsthand as a seventeen-year-old refinery hand.
Labor conditions in the 20s included approximate $.25 per hour wages, little or no concentration on safe workplaces, and little or no respect of workers by those paying these minimum wages. There was no job security and a dedicated employee, no matter the quality of his work, could lose the ability to feed his family simply for the way he might have responded or looked at one of his supervisors.
My dad, Harvie Parker, joined a union and became one of its leaders. He served as president of one of the largest oil worker unions in the United States and held various other important leading positions. Unions not only improved working conditions such as wages, safety, job security but also was largely responsible for the tremendous upsurge in America’s economy. I recall growing up in the 40s and 50s in Port Arthur when there were few employees of Gulf or Texaco who were not dedicated, dues paying union members. In some respects, belonging to a union as an hourly wage earner is a little like prayer, pretty much ignored so long as you are comfortable on your own. It’s when you need a little help you start searching for a better answer.
Unfortunately, the effect of wide-spread unionization has long term effects, both good and bad. The decline of unionization precedes a down spiral in the nation’s economy while heavy unionization does the opposite. The attack on unionization began with Ronald Reagan and has had an ill effect with us today. If you recall, to show how tough he was on labor unions, Reagan fired the air controllers as they were demanding better wages and more help doing their job. While Reagan’s actions received good reviews from the right-wing, we are paying a price today in the near-miss collisions both on the ground and in the air.
In my opinion returning to widespread unionization of America workers is the best tool we have to stave off cheap labor and economic downturns that seem to be on the horizon in our competition with nations like China.
The effect of wide unionization of wage earners in the United States unfortunately sometimes does not show up for generations. Unfortunately too many have forgotten the many benefits of unionization. Sadly, Trump led the Republican party opposing unions. Dividing hourly workers by race was accepted by too many. I can tell by the number of hard hats I see with MAGA printed on them.