In “A Race to the Bottom” by BOB HERBERT, we are reminded of the importance of the hard working stiff just trying to make ends meet. It also draws attention to the vilification of union labor, and the American standard unions have set in wages and benefits for non-union workers in similar industries. As written in the N.Y. Times and shortened for impact:
I wish I had written that.
The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, was raising a cry against the demonizing of teachers and the widespread, uninformed tendency to cast wholesale blame on teachers for the myriad problems with American public schools. It reminded me of the way autoworkers have been vilified and blamed by so many for the problems plaguing the Big Three automakers.
It’s time we refocused our lens on American workers and tried to see them in a fairer, more appreciative light. We need some perspective here. It is becoming an article of faith in the discussions over an auto industry rescue, that unionized autoworkers should be taken off of their high horses and shoved into a deal in which they would not make significantly more in wages and benefits than comparable workers at Japanese carmakers like Toyota. That’s fine if it’s agreed to by the autoworkers themselves in the context of an industry bailout at a time when the country is in the midst of a financial emergency. But it stinks to high heaven as something we should be aspiring to.
The economic downturn, however severe, should not be used as an excuse to send American workers on a race to the bottom, where previously middle-class occupations take a sweatshop’s approach to pay and benefits.
The U.A.W. has been criticized because its retired workers have had generous pensions and health coverage. There’s a horror! I suppose it would have been better if, after 30 or 35 years on the assembly line, those retirees had been considerate enough to die prematurely in poverty, unable to pay for the medical services that could have saved them.
Teachers and autoworkers are two very different cornerstones of American society, but they are cornerstones nonetheless. Our attitudes toward them are a reflection of our attitudes toward working people in general. If we see teachers and autoworkers as our enemies, we are in serious need of an attitude adjustment.