Archive for the ‘Love Letter from a Child of Labor’ Series

Love Letter from a Child of Labor
1. Happy Labor Day!

Posted by Bob on August 29th, 2007

Happy Labor Day!

We want to wish American Labor a Happy Labor Day, no matter what the data suggest:

  • With most of the world’s countries participating in globalization, the growth of world trade has tripled to nearly $12 trillion.
  • With increased mobility of financial capital, financial markets have expanded to $16 trillion or nearly 30 percent of the world’s GDP.
  • With high profits serving to improve and redistribute both investments and productivity growth, globalization has generated a huge increase in the shares of profits.

To sum, Globalization has generated unprecedented global growth under America’s leadership. However, while the pie is getting exponentially larger, American’s share is becoming relatively smaller and American labor’s role is attenuating, if not truncating. Things change!

We may view American labor’s positioning in Figure 1. As may be noted, the World’s GDP Growth has moved to incorporate Globalization. Simultaneously, this growth movement has abandoned the labor movement: its default positioning is as the “dependent victim” of successful globalization.


Figure 1. World Growth Movement to Incorporate Globalization
and Abandon Labor Movement

So what initiatives does American Labor make? Accepting its victimization as its positioning, labor has asserted the following “Protectionistic Platform:”

  • Protectionism for the benefits of American labor;
  • Environmentalism for the benefits of the environment;
  • Health and Safety for the benefits of all labor.

While we may agree with the humanistic values expressed in this platform, we may also agree that these values do not approach meeting the business requirements of the world’s growth.

In short, America Labor’s positioning is a “loser.” It offers no “comparative advantage” in the marketplace. Indeed, it has lost its “courage to change.”

It has already imposed its “Protectionistic Will” upon the “Maleable Candidates” for President, asking—no begging—for no less than trade sanctions with China if that country does not soon revalue its currency.

Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of its “Protectionistic Positioning” is America’s loss of confidence in its Free Market Ideology. We are the generators of globalization. We are the leaders—the models and the agents of its change. How can we now abandon our children to the “Totalitarian Onslaught” of nations with “Ignominious Motives?”

The “winner’s question” is this: Are labor’s people robust enough intellectually to realize that this worthy movement must be repositioned in the marketplace?

Love Letter from a Child of Labor
2. A Love Letter from a Child of Labor

Posted by Bob on August 30th, 2007

I am a child of labor, born into a labor family; timewise, in the middle of The Great Depression; placewise, in the middle of an ethnically diverse working class town in New Jersey. I grew up with the Labor Movement.

My father was my hero. All 6 feet 2 inches and 195 pounds of him! A high school drop-out who later took an Associate of Science Degree in Chemistry. For that is where he worked, in a chemical factory on the waterfront!

Here was a man who was instrumental in founding a labor union—an Independent Labor Union—and then becoming its President during World War II. Here was a man who, at the end of his 50-year tour, was the only worker who refused to join the “closed shop” of a corrupt and tyrannical union that had taken over the Independent.

The Third Way

For Dad, American Labor was “The Third Way.” He rejected the greed of the “Capitalistic Credo” which he labeled “Management.” He rejected the tyranny of “Communistic Totalitarianism” which he termed “Tin Horn Dictators.”

The Labor Union Objectives were simple and linear. Dad summarized them as “The Three S’s” which insured performance (See Figure 2):

  • Safety—Protection from harm;
  • Security—Protection from abuses;
  • Salary—Sharing in profits.

First, insure the safety of “the men.” In the 1920s and 1930s, dozens of men had died from poisonous fumes. Dad had, himself, been severely poisoned while running the pilot lab as a 16-year-old.

Second, insure the workers’ security. Seniority played an important role here in guaranteeing the job according to the time-on-job and independent of abuses of the manager’s sometimes “random whims.”

Historic Labor Union Objectives

Figure 2. Historic Labor Union Objectives

Third, insure the workers’ salaries. The men understood that they were implementers and not initiators of the industrial designs. They simply wanted a “fair share” for their physical labor.

I accompanied Dad on many of his activities as union leader. The main principle that I got was his commitment to “The Third Way.” For example, when the union was going out on strike, management hired busloads of what Dad called “axe-handle-wielding goons” from the Pennsylvania mining towns. Dad chose to invite our town’s mayor and the council to visit the strike on the occasion of the “Pennsylvania Visitation.” Needless to say, there was no violence. When talking about it later, Dad claimed that his action had saved “those Pennsylvania boys’ lives.”

Leading this group of men was not an easy task. In fact, it was quite physical. Every few months, Dad had to “throw” one of the men who challenged his authority. The only movies that I saw which approached representing the workers’ experience were “On the Waterfront” and, later on, “Matewan.”

In terms of safety, Dad was the only person to ever climb down the ladders of the huge vats to save someone who had been overcome by poisonous gases. He saved six men that way.

In terms of salary, the union leaders were able to influence management to a “no lay-off” policy during “hard times.” First, they cut the work to four days a week; then they cut the work to three days a week. At least they ensured the survival of the workers’ families.

In terms of security, I accompanied Dad to a National Labor Relations Board-monitored election in 1953. Dad had forced this election when a “mobbed-up” union “bought off” many of the Independent delegates. Dad sat by the ballot box for two of the three shifts and was satisfied with the progress. During the third shift, another person monitored the voting.

When the votes were tallied, it seems more votes were cast than there were union members. When queried about abandoning his monitoring during the third shift, Dad said only this: “You have to trust somebody sometime.”

Many of the workers never enjoyed the benefits of retirement because they died by 60 years of age due to pulmonary problems and cancers related to the poisons that they breathed. Those were the times. These were “hard men.” The unions enabled their members to receive some greater benefits from the investments of their lives. “But, by no means equitable in God’s eyes,” Dad would add.

Dad was the last one standing, the last of his beloved men to die. He suffered through all of the changes in insurance policies as the retirees’ numbers narrowed. He suffered worse for all the losses that the union movement had experienced.

In his dying moments, he knew that unionism was always several steps behind. It reactively handled past griefs but never proactively anticipated future initiatives.

Sadly, now more than ever, Dad would recognize that unionism was a victim of the past rather than a generator of the future: “Nothing lives beyond us but the principles we teach.”

Dad would add empathically: “I guess it’s time to grow up!”

Love Letter from a Child of Labor
3. …To Adults with Substantive Technologies…

Posted by Bob on August 31st, 2007

No, you’re not going to drive the trucks on the NAFTA Superhighway! Nor are you going to produce the products hauled or provide the services offered, or even the solutions required!

That is because you were not involved in conceptualizing the NAFTA Proposal, or designing the Security and Prosperity Partnership System, or drafting the North American Union Constitution.

And that is because you were asleep at the wheel of your own truck! Known as the U.S. Constitution, it empowered “We the People” as policy-makers in this uniquely participative and democratic nation. When We the People were shunted aside, you did not even protest. Indeed, you didn’t even know. To be sure, you weren’t even “in the loop.” You didn’t heed Jefferson’s admonition: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Whoever does not heed the warning loses his or her freedom.

No, you played into the hands of the totalitarian dictators who shunted you aside: “I don’t have to listen to you.”

To be sure, you fulfilled the condemnation of the most tyrannical of all dictators, Adolph Hitler: “What luck it is for rulers that men do not think.”

“You do not think! That is your problem. You can never grow up if you do not learn to think!”

The New Way

To be a child in a “Labor Family” is to carry on the ethic of concern for your fellow neighbors, workers, and citizens. I am such a son. I have helped in the birth of “The New Way:” from Labor to Human Resources to Human Capital:

  • Labor emphasizing investments of Physical Energy to produce products and build;
  • Human Resources emphasizing interpersonal investment of Emotional Energy to provide services and build teams;
  • Human Capital emphasizing intellectual investments of Intellectual Energy to generate designs and resolve problems.

In Figure 3, we may view the building of proactive labor union objectives. As may be noted, the functions are to become Empathizing Relators, Enterprising Workers, and Enlightened Citizens.

In order to accomplish these Human Processing Functions, we must become involved in designing and implementing systems that Educate and Empower our Human Capital.

We may label these Human Processing Functions, “The New 3Es.” They will empower Labor with all its worthy objectives to move forward in the growth curve, to once again assume a position of leadership.

Proactive Labor Union Objectives

Figure 3. Proactive Labor Union Objectives

Such learning, training, and thinking skills would place the American Labor Movement in a place of leadership in the world marketplace (See Figure 4). As may be viewed, the Labor Values may not only exceed Globalization Requirements, but drive World Growth.

World Growth Movement to Incorporate Labor Values and Globalization Requirements

Figure 4. World Growth Movement to Incorporate Labor Values
and Globalization Requirements

As an adult in the Labor Family, I offer my gift to you. I am my father’s legacy. He taught me to care. He trained me to help on those many missions of justice where I accompanied him.

I know his words right now. From his grave, he would say:

“Don’t ask for Protectionism!”

“Demand Skills for Thinking!”

Happy Labor Day!

“Hoch soll sie leben!”

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