It All Comes Back To The Simpsons

Saturday, August 20, 2005

"You Can't Treat The Working Man This Way. One Day We'll Form A Union, And Get The Fair And Equitable Treatment We Deserve!"

"Then We'll Go Too Far, And Get Corrupt And Shiftless, And The Japanese Will Eat Us Alive!" Sorry, this quote was too long to fit in as a title, so I had to finish it down here.

Ok, Ok, so it looks like it's going to be the Chinese rather than the Japanese, but otherwise this quote seems pretty much right on. I should know, seeing as how I belong to a Union. A lot of people are of the opinion that unions are becoming irrelevant, that they are lumbering dinosaurs that, while useful in the past, are unnecessary these days. The people holding this opinion are supporters (often unwittingly) of what I like to call The Man.

The origins of The Man are shady, but first reports of him date back to ancient Babylonia, when one man handed a bag to another man and instructed him to pick figs from the fig trees. After filling the bag with figs, he brought the back back to the first man, who took the bag, pulled out two figs, and gave them to the fig-gatherer. "Wait," said the fig-gatherer, "why do I only get a couple of figs while you get all the others?"

"Because," replied The Man, "I deserve these more than you. I was the visionary that created your job...heck, I even provided you with the bag."

"But don't these figs belong to our whole community?" asked the fig-gatherer.

"You ask a lot of questions for someone who is so easily replaceable," The Man called over his shoulder, as he walked off to sell the fresh picked figs for a tidy sum.

The Man was very vocal back when labor unions were forming. He warned of the economic collapse that was sure to follow if the demands of these unions were met. All of the population would soon be living in abject poverty if these labor unions got their way. How, He asked, can the Captains of Industry stay afloat if they have to take a small portion of their ungodly profits and just give it to the people who they have been so callously ass-raping for so very, very long?

History would prove these soulless, opportunistic elitists right...except for the unprecedented growth of the US economy, the unequaled high standard of living in our country, the development of the US into the most powerful and wealthy country in the history of the world, the fact that the US became the land of opportunity envied the world over, where an average family could afford to buy their own house and survive comfortably on one income, and so on...other than that, they were right...oh, and except that they still had ungodly amounts of money to horde. But, dagnabbit, those unions were still a pesky thorn in The Man's side. Luckily, The Man found out that all He had to do was buy off the union leaders and the unions could be turned from watchdogs into lapdogs. Also, when the labor unions called a strike, The Man could just bring in replacement workers, affectionately refered to as "scabs".

I live not too far from the headquarters of Northwest Airlines, whose mechanics have just called a strike. They've offered to take a 15% pay cut, like the pilots agreed to last year. Incidentally, while the pilots were losing thier pay, Northwest executives got bonuses of $37 million in stock, which they are apparently dumping like so much tea into a well known harbor. Northwest's plan is to bring in perfectly capable and qualified (if a bit "gabby") scabs.

In a related story, Mesaba Airlines, a small company that works as a regional carrier for Nothwest, took the mechanics union that their mechanics belong to (which is, incidentally, the same union as the Northwest mechanics belong to) to court to prevent them from striking along with the Northwest mechanics. They argued that "Mesaba and the traveling public would 'face irreparable harm' from a disruption" that a strike would cause (source: St. Paul Pioneer Press, 8/18/05 "Mesaba takes union to court" pg. 1C)...uhhh, yeah....that's kind of the only card unions have to play when they go on strike; that their absence will hurt the company which they feel is treating them unfairly. That's pretty much what a strike is all about, or at least it used to be. With the large number of pro-business/anti-union laws passed in the past few years, now it's more like you're free to strike as long as no economic impact whatsoever is felt. It's so sad to see the labor movement go the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker and the leprechaun.

I think that if unions want to survive, they should probably go where the jobs are going, overseas. The sweatshop conditions in China, South and Central America, Africa, and Southest Asia in general are reminiscent of the working conditions that inspired the formation of the labor unions in the US, and it's not like our government is going to let little things like slavery or indescribably draconian working conditions get in the way of the The Man squeezing every last penny and resource out of these areas, despite the human misery it might cause (China, this is just awful. How can you treat your citizens this way? This is just sickeni...we can make how much money?!? Ahem...what human rights violations?). I mean, damn, the government isn't all that concerned about US workers, why would they care about those in other countries?

See you in the Third World!


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