MESSAGE FROM SECRETARY-TREASURER
Steven P. Vairma
Steve Vairma's Column:
Thank your local picket line
Strikes are thankless; nobody in his or her right mind would walk a picket line unless it were absolutely necessary.
Picketing is a tough and demanding job, and it doesn't pay well, if at all.
On the picket line, there are long day and night shifts in freezing winter weather and hot humid days in the summer, hours of monotony, and occasionally the obnoxious sight of a scab crossing your picket line. Sometimes there's a lot of yelling and cussing, and skirmishes have occurred in the past.
But strikes, with picket lines and all that accompanies them, are vital to working men and women, all working men and women.
As this edition of the Rocky Mountain Teamster went to press, two local unions - Arizona 104 and Colorado 455 in Teamsters Joint Council 3 - were engaged in extremely important labor disputes. Local 104, with six other unions, is on strike at Asarco, a mining and smelter company in Tucson. In Denver, members of Teamsters Local 455 recently ratified a new contract with Sysco Denver after a 13-day strike that ended the day after Thanksgiving.
If you are a working man or woman - union or nonunion - and you drive by a picket line, honk your horn in support; if you walk past the striking workers, simply say hello, thanks for what you're doing for all of us, and good luck. Men and women in Joint Council 3 who walk picket lines are standing up for all workers, and they need, deserve and appreciate the support.
They have recently joined auto workers, teachers, hotel and restaurant workers, and others all over the country who are now on strike or have been. Last year, five hundred thousand American workers were on strike in significant industries, more than at any time since the 1980s.
In today's "thriving economy" one might ask, why in hell are so many workers on strike?
Unfortunately, the economic boom that started 10 years ago under President Obama hasn't been fair to all segments of the U.S. economy. During the recession of the late 80s and 90s, union workers gave up much in concessions to keep their employers above water.
The concessions granted by the unions, however, were never repaid by business after the economy began to pick up steam. Instead, corporations used the recovery to enhance their financial position, rather than helping workers regain the economic and job security losses they had sacrificed during the recession.
Today, corporations are awash in money. Profits are huge, as are CEO wages. On the other hand, union membership has dropped to about 10 percent of the nation's workforce, down from about 25 percent in the 1950s-60s.
The loss of union density in the workplace has adversely affected all workers - union and non union - because union wages set the standards for all workers, which is worth saying again:
Striking workers are foot soldiers on the front lines of a time-worn fight for economic justice, which is a battle for all workers. They deserve everyone's support.
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