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Opportunities for Labor Unions

September 01, 1986

The Hughes notice to its technical and professional employees that they must now work 45 hours a week for the same pay, and John Deere's decision to close 11 plants in the face of a strike seem not to be related, but they are.

Ever since President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers for an illegal strike, and his refusal to rehire them in spite of the risk to air travelers, the business community has been on notice that it can break the backs of the union movement with impunity.

Every working person not in actual management owes his prosperity to the union movement. No one else cares about his welfare. Union leaders think that they are in the union business, but they are really in the labor business.

They are making the same mistake that the railroad management made, when they thought that they were in the railroad business, when actually they were in the transportation business. Had they done so, freight would move long distances by rail, which is the more efficient method, and trucks would collect generated freight locally, and distribute it locally at its destination.

Steel company management is making the same mistake now. They are in the industrial supply business, not in the steel business. They should be at the forefront of specialty steel, and in the production of various amalgams of steel and other ingredients for industrial use. They should be looking for ways to substitute steel for other materials in situations where steel is the superior product.

The national unions must clean up their acts, so that they can exert moral leadership again, as they did in their beginnings. They must fight to increase the minimum wage to $5.10 an hour so that it would have the same purchasing power as it had when it was enacted. They should fight for comparable pay, against racial and sex discrimination, which is rampant in our society, and for social justice everywhere.

They should require companies that close U.S. plants and out-source in foreign countries, to contribute to the retraining and relocation of those who become unemployed by such management decisions. These and similar acts are politically doable if they have the resources, and they can have the resources, if they obtain support from every worker, not just from members of a union.

They can establish associate memberships and similar classes of membership among workers who will not or cannot establish the classical union in the workplace.

BEN PERRY

La Crescenta

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