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I feel compelled to explain to Buzz Avery what unions are all about (“BART strike an example of excessive power held by unions,” July 6); even though he is a teacher and belonged to the union for 10 years, his education is sadly lacking concerning unions.

Avery seems to have little or no respect for union workers, as he refers to them as incompetent spoiled brats who use the union to satisfy their unjustified greed for more benefits.

These Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) employees have received no raise in five years, they are asking for a 20.1 percent bump over the next three years, that does not sound to me like large wage increase for this eight-year period of time. It surely will not keep up with the cost of living in the Bay Area.

I must start off by saying there would be no unions if all employers treated their workers fairly and with respect. In most cases, that is done and we normally have a good relationship between workers and their employers. When it isn’t done, the only recourse the worker has is his union, which will always support him if he is being treated badly for no reason.

In the 1950s and 1960s, unions were in their golden era. Having grown up in that period of time, I believed that labor unions were valuable and necessary to society. They fought for workers, brought dignity to people’s lives, decent hours, the five-day work week, benefits, and paid health care, just to name a few.

None of these achievements came easily — indeed, all were resisted fiercely — yet, in time, they became standard features of American life.

I have been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 58 years. Many different electrical contractors have employed me during my working years; I can remember very few electrical contractors that were hard to work for. They all wanted eight hours of work for eight-hours pay, which is to be expected.

I enjoyed my working years and most especially the people I worked with and the people I worked for.

My local union, IBEW Local 180 Napa/Solano County, is a no strike union. If we can’t reach an agreement with NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) when our contract is expired, then we resort to “mandatory arbitration.” This works well for us even when many times we have to accept less than what we thought we deserved.

I’m sure that many other unions also have no strike clauses. In my opinion it is the logical way to solve disputes and doesn’t cause a disruptive problem for people who are neither employees nor employers.

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One of the worst developments in the American economy has been the philosophy that workers are a problem, not an asset. When the time comes for companies to cut back, it has become commonplace for them to target workers’ salaries, benefits or jobs first. The result has been the impoverishment of working families and the largest transfer of wealth upward in our history.

This concerted assault by the corporate elite accomplishes nothing but pushing more Americans out of the middle class, corroding effective governance and blowing up the debt down the road with deferred costs.

The worst part might be the near silence and, at times, collusion, of political leaders who should know better. It’s past time for them to find their voices and defend the public sector workers who defend the rest of us.

Huss is president of Retired Electrician Club Local 180 and lives in Napa.

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