The last private union strike in Chicago was in the Summer of 2010. That was three long years ago. At the height of the recession and the start of a recovery. Tax dollars were being funneled into infrastructure programs around the city. Then a couple of unions decided to take advantage. The Laborer’s District Council of Chicago and Local 150 Operating Engineers decided to use the leverage handed to them by the federal government. Most trade union contracts expired on June 1st of that year. Local 21 tile setters contract was up as well. But what the laborers and engineers did was calculated, deserving, and not looked at favorably by anyone.
What our local did, was take concessions. All the other locals did as well. The painters, concrete masons, and tuck pointers all agreed to a three year freeze on wages and benefits. So when the laborers and engineers decided to strike, most union members were shocked and disgusted. I hate to admit it, but I was disgusted as well. Eventually the strike was settled. Didn’t take too long considering the economic climate of the time. Both Unions received almost exactly what they were looking for. But most importantly, I learned a few important life lessons.
First- It’s easy to receive information and immediately react with your heart and feelings. The moment I got news that this strike was going down, I formed my opinion. I did not take time to research, or use my brain for anything other than to say F##k them. All I knew is that they would receive some sort of increase in wages, while I agreed to none. They would become the have some(s), while I would become the have less(s). This strike taught me a valuable lesson. You HAVE to stop. There is always a bigger picture. You must think of long term gains. Not in personal wealth, but in humanity and the blue collar class. This strike was filled with audacity. But it was audacity that needed to be shown. Not for the benefit for the Laborers or the Operating Engineers. But for the benefit of ALL unions, across the country.
Second- Nonunion blue collar workers completely misunderstand unions. I think this is due to the knee jerk reaction they have, due to the benefits and pay that we have compared to what they have. “The striking union workers should be ashamed of themselves! The economy is bad enough as it is. They talk about a “living wage”. How can anybody who makes $45 to $60 an hour complain they are not getting a living wage? I’m not an owner of a company, but if I was, I’d fire everyone of you greedy people. There are more out of work people who would be more than willing to take your job and I’d be happy to give it to them! You are nothing but economic terrorists. I hope you all lose your homes, your cars and everything you own so you can see how the rest of us in the real world live. My appologies to your families, they are innocent, you are the ones to blame. A proud NON-UNION construction worker. ” This quote says it all. Union Vs. Non Union blue collar workers. It sounds like someone who is angry because they do the best they can, but are about to lose everything. But there anger isn’t directed at corporatist profiteers or politicians. It’s directed at other blue collar workers that they perceive to be better of than themselves.
Here’s another. “I think they should all go back to work. They don’t realize most of the public has out of pocket cost for health insurance. I pay about $400 month out of my check. What do your members pay? Ummm nothing. 401k out of check NOPE. This is why union work around the country is rapidly disappearing. I seam to recall what is happening on the residential side. Can you say going non union. Umm think your union needs to think about this long and hard everyone has had to make cut backs. So once again go back to work and be thankful you have the great pay you do because it will be gone…. ” This quote is obviously from someone who is uneducated on unions. They go off half cocked, from the heart. Truth is, what this person pays a month in healthcare ($400), I almost spend that in a forty hour week. My retirement? Again, I pay $225 in a forty hour work week. The public seems to have this disdain for unions based on false ideas. They are told something, and form an opinion without ever researching anything. Where is the disdain for companies that send jobs overseas? Where is the disdain for companies that employ people at such little wage as to force them to collect certain welfare benefits? Nowhere, nothing. That to me is appalling. What happened in this country, that there is such a divide among people of the same class?
Third- For the middle class to thrive once again, we must unite. We need to stop thinking of ourselves. We need to stop thinking in regards of “This group should not have that because I don’t.” Blue collar workers need to unite in order to gain all the benefits that union workers have.
TOGETHER WE BARGAIN…………….DIVIDED WE BEG
All quotes were taken from the comment section of this article.