UWUA Local 304 Utility Workers Union of America AFL-CIO

Issue #1- Love Your Hell Raisers

There are a lot of books, articles, even whole magazines that are devoted to teaching managers how to be effective leaders so they can maximize their human performance for greater efficiency and profit. You have heard many of them mentioned on this site.  Books by multi-millionaire CEOs that light the way for other CEOs, like “Jack Welch and the GE Way, or Al Dunlap’s “Mean Business.”  These books are so powerful that they spawned books about them and the authors, like Chainsaw: The Notorious Career of Al Dunlap in the Era of Profit-at-Any-Price,” and, “The Billionaire Shell Game”.

Before the era of “GREED” and the philosophy of “ME”, management training focused on building relationships between management and employees through the values important to most of us, like decency, respect, forgiveness, and the lessons we learned about The Golden Rule; ““So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Holy Bible, Mathew 7:12).

These principles were ingrained into us as Americans, and business and industry adopted them from lessons learned over decades of violent labor uprisings, work stoppages, and bloody strikes. Through concessions won through unionization, the American workplace evolved into an extension that reflected our society. The ideals of fairness, justice, and equality found their way to the shop floors and became the expected standard rather than the exception.

So what happened?

What happened was that working people mistakenly thought the war was over. We thought, wrongly, we had earned the right to simply go to work, do our job, collect our pay, and go home in peace. Meanwhile, the corporate masters were plotting, and then – BOOM– they launched their attack!

They didn’t aim their guns at the workers, who had been lulled to sleep by decades of labor bliss. So soundly we slept that we quit paying attention to politics and business trends. We didn’t go to our union meetings, and pretty soon our elected political representatives, as well as union officers,  started looking out more for themselves and not us.

Still, we slept.

Then, a little at a time and after the corporatists put their political lapdogs to work to change the laws to justify it, wages and benefits started falling. Two-Tier contracts and concessions became the new norm. For those unions that were left, promises were made that these were temporary emergency measures to help workers keep their jobs and be competitive. Companies claimed that much of the cuts would not be necessary if they didn’t have to comply with the restrictive and outdated notions of collective bargaining agreements, so union membership fell more.

We were assured that our industrial base didn’t matter because we would all have high paying jobs in technology. Then the tech jobs followed our manufacturing out of our country and to those countries who have enslaved citizens who work for less than sustanance wages and live in abject poverty at the hands of their oppressive leaders.

Now, here we are.

Companies have been bought out or merged and then gutted  for their usable parts and for mega-profit, irregardless of communities, workers, and jobs. CEOs are raking in huge sums of money, even when they bankrupt the business they run, as wages for those who do the actual work are in incremental retreat.

While we were told to worry about flag burners, abortionists, gays, and our guns; prevailing wage was killed, and “Right To Work” became the law of the land before we could even blink.

We are told to blame the welfare fraudsters, and that we should drug test the malingerers. In the meantime, the ones who unleashed the jackals of deregulation, greed, and reckless capitalism upon all of us are sitting in far away locales, via their  private jets, where their money lays untaxed and hidden while laughing among themselves that we are so easily duped.

There are a few of us who woke up out of our coma early, looked around, and then sounded the alarm. We were labled “radicals,” “troublemakers’, and “hell-raisers.”

We prefer being called, “UNION THUGS”.

It used to be that innovativeness was an asset, creativity a positive, and self assuredness a virtue; now they are viewed as threats. When standing up was once admired, now it is feared. Those who dare, are labeled, targeted, and made examples of as a warning to others.

A lesson business needs to learn over is that they have a duty to treat their workers with dignity and respect. They can preach about it, codify it in long winded wordy corporate policies and guidelines written in eloquent legal-eze, and stop the war on wages, benefits, and working conditions.

To do this, they are going to have to do something that seems unthinkable to business leaders, and that is to embrace their hell-raisers, These folks are their conscience and they are passionate and fully invested in their jobs.

It’s the trouble makers, the radicals, and the hell-raisers that have moved this country forward for well over 200 years. They forced change when faced with injustice, they innovated when facing life’s challenges, and they found a better way to do things that were more productive, safer, and easier.

Together, working people created everything that America stands for and makes our country the beacon of hope it is seen as in the world. Without the radicals, we cease to be America. It’s a part of our identity, our culture, and our heritage.