9/5/2016 1 Comment
Labor Day 2016
When my dad left the coal mines in Pennsylvania to seek a better job, a better life in Detroit, he went to work for Dodge. After a few years he left to work for a now defunct (I think) Excello Corporation where they manufactured mile cartons an large machinery. (Not sure the connection there). My dad was on the team that built the crates the machinery was shipped in. It was a "union house" and he had to join to keep his job. He worked long, hard hours to support his family.
Because of the union, my dad had excellent benefits that gave us full coverage under Blue Cross/Blue shield. My mother had several major illnesses that were all covered because my dad had us covered because of his job. Somehow when he could no longer work because of an injury (illness?), we still had that coverage. I guess that is why I grew up grateful for the unions as they seemed to protect us and keep us healthy.
Growing up in Detroit it was difficult not to be aware of the unions. AFL-CIO, Teamsters, Local Steelworkers, etc. Familiar organizations in every southeastern Michigan home because of the auto industry and all the industries associated with it. That was a long time ago, and times have changed. Unions don't seem to be as strong as they used to be. Jimmy Hoffa has been missing a long time and probably will never be found. I was surprised to hear his son, James Hoffa, being interviewed about the current status of unions on NPR this morning. That shows how little a role unions play in my life these days.
These days the way we work has changed drastically. More people change jobs, free lance, independently contract and the like. I worked for thirty years for the County of San Bernardino. I guess you can take the boy out of Detroit, but you can't take Detroit out of the boy. I wonder how different my life would be today if I had not been so indoctrinated with the ideology of company loyalty, working hard and going for security over personal satisfaction. As it turns out today, I am well fixed and secure, and have a good insurance plan.
The Protestant work ethic (or Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes that hard work, discipline and frugality.* Source I think those days are gone. Nowadays we still honor labor with a paid day the day off (usually) and having parades and barbeques. Labor is what keeps our country running. How we work may have changed, but on Labor Day we need to remember its significance. “So long as the laboring man can feel that he holds an honorable as well as a useful place in the body politic, so long will he be a loyal and faithful citizen,” was noted in an 1894 House of Representatives committee report.
I guess we all want to be "a loyal and faithful citizen", as long as the "body politic" is loyal and faithful to us.
Happy Labor Day
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Unions were instrumental in providing more humane treatment for their workers, and my father too, always had good things to say about them. Both my parents taught my sister and I that good people give their best efforts in their chosen employment. I think that's why we felt good about ourselves knowing we did our best and at the same time contributed something to the larger world.
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