If one wanted to explore the history of Organized Labor Unions in the United States, you’d have to begin with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The phrasing used most often in defending the advent of organized labor is in “pursuit of happiness” which sought to cut work hours and gain higher pay. A ragtag collection of printers were the first to go on strike, in New York in 1794; cabinet makers struck in 1796; carpenters in Philadelphia in 1797; cordwainers in 1799. To be sure, it was poor living and working conditions and the unrepentant pursuit of profit by factory owners that pushed the working man to seek to improve the workers’ conditions, through either negotiation or strike action, that set the tone and need for such organizations.
By the 1820s, various unions involved in the effort to reduce the working day from 12 to 10 hours began to show interest in the idea of a workers federation; in other words, a joining together in pursuit of common objectives for working people.
These first efforts to organize were for the most part, weak , disorganized and failed as a consequence. Yet they reflected the need workers had for economic and legal protection from exploiting employers. Then with the industrial movement of the 1830s which accelerated rapidly during the Civil War, the factory system pushed American production to new heights. It also produced a huge gulf between those who profited from the new working conditions and those who were swallowed up and used to excess.
It was the simple idea that workers shouldn’t be indentured slaves that pushed organized unions into popularity. Of course, in the modern world, unions have become bloated, poisonous collections of fat cat bureaucrats whose sole purpose is to avoid work. The leaders of the unions ascend to positions of unequalled power and live off the dues paid by the unions members. The union members are in essence no better off now since they are beholden to the whims of their leadership. Of course, the union members benefit by having a powerful group behind them to fight for various grievances including being rightfully terminated when they fail to perform their jobs.
I bring this up because of San Francisco’s Municipal Railway employees, which are part of the Transport Workers of America, AFL-CIO. In essence, these employees don’t have to answer to the city nor to the commuters who pay their salaries through transportation fares. Consequently, they are fat, lazy, ignorant and rude. They know they can’t be fired or reprimanded regardless of how poorly the perform their jobs.
The proliferation of Unions is by and large one of the biggest reasons why major manufacturers seek foreign labor to produce their goods. A union should protect their membership from being wrongly persecuted or forced into working conditions that are subhuman. What they should not be is a group who empowers the lazy to further pursue apathy and substandard work ethic.