labor unions

The Pullman Strike of 1894

You can only push people so far before they explode:

George Pullman responded to the depression much like many of his contemporaries. At first he cut back his workforce by three-quarters. But widespread layoffs threatened both profits and the paternalism on which his town had been founded. In 1894, he began taking contracts at a loss—overproduction. This enabled Pullman to rehire many workers, so that by April 1894, 68 percent of the old workforce was employed again. But the only way to compensate was by cutting piece-rates a drastic 28 percent on average. Moreover, because Pullman remained committed to a return on investment in the homes he had built for his workers, he refused to reduce the rents he charged, which were already higher than rents charged elsewhere. The resulting economic hardship was greatly exacerbated by the unpredictability in piece-rates and the grievances against particular foremen.

Bolding mine, because these two specific factors of course clashed, and pushed workers (and their families) into a no-win scenario. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with paying workers based on how much they produce, as long as you don't change the rules when it suits management. But when a day's work is all of a sudden worth 28% less, it is far worse than cutting somebody's "hours" back to 29 instead of 40. Conservatives of today would probably say "just produce more" or some other poorly-crafted observation, as if workers were intentionally holding back. Had Pullman been a little more flexible about the rent, this strike might not have happened:

LA teachers score victory after short strike


Could this be a template for North Carolina teachers?

Preliminary numbers show that a "vast supermajority" of union members in Los Angeles have voted to approve a deal with the city's school district — ending the six-day teachers strike. The decision means teachers will head back to class on Wednesday.

Some teachers expressed frustration, saying the deal didn't go far enough, while others said they were relieved. "I'm pretty excited," said Jennifer Liebe-Zelazny, a fourth-grade teacher at Alta Loma Elementary School. "Nobody got everything, but everybody got something."

Before you say, "That's one county, not the whole state," LA County has a bigger population (over 10 million) than North Carolina. A more relevant argument against the comparison would be the difference between a genuine union and an association, because a direct action of this magnitude here would have varying consequences depending on where you teach. But when you look at what they achieved in just six days, it might be worth the risk:

Working moms and collective bargaining

Not unlike the adage, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," an employee's value in the workplace is in the eye of management. This reality goes to the core of why women are only paid 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid. Even if a woman performs excellently and generates healthy profits for the company, if she is a single mother struggling to pay her bills, her boss knows he doesn't have to reward her performance to retain her. And the farther away you get from areas with a lot of job opportunities, the stronger those situational bindings. It's also where unions are needed the most:

NC fast food worker's strike tomorrow morning

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