In the U.S. we live in an era that discounts the very notion of "labor." Many of us disdain labor unions, believe all the legitimate labor rights have all been long won, and see labor regulations solely as hurdles that slow organizations down.
But this 30-year-old film, "Can't Take No More," tells the harrowing history of the development of labor laws and safety regulations, and the organizations created to enforce them.
Studs Terkel narrates this film. Who will narrate the one I'm sure we're going to see some decades from now, about how after a long fight against bloodless corporate self-interest, Americans finally won what will seem then as the obvious human right to quality health care?
Yossi Mandel says
My grandfather worked as a safety rep and inspector for the meat union of NYC for 65 years. A quiet man, this video tells every tale he never told, although we’d hear them through the grapevine. Thanks for sharing.
I couldn’t quite figure out if this was meant to be a post about unions or about health care – I’m guessing “both”.
You already know I believe strongly that Americans deserve access to health care for everyone, so I don’t think there’s a need for me to add to that.
As far as unions go however, while I understand and applaud the rights and protections that the people in this video fought so hard for, [I grew up in a city where 80-90% of the workforce were unionized] I think we also need to recognize that the union leaderships in many places have become nearly as bloated and politics-driven as any big corporate fat cat you care to name.
The only way unions are going to survive into the next century is to give up the idea that they are automatically entitled to goodies from the company because they had them in the past, recognize that the current economic climate sometimes requires them to make concessions in order to save the jobs of the majority of their members, and stop protecting incompetent, lazy workers just because they have seniority.
I want to stress that I am NOT talking about compromising worker safety, but I have been a member of a union, and I have been a manager of unionized employees, and I can tell lots of stories that demonstrate precisely why so many people are currently down on unions. There has to be give and take on both sides for this to work to the benefit of both the workers and the company.
David Murray says
“The only way unions are going to survive into the next century is to give up the idea that they are automatically entitled to goodies from the company because they had them in the past, recognize that the current economic climate sometimes requires them to make concessions in order to save the jobs of the majority of their members, and stop protecting incompetent, lazy workers just because they have seniority.”
Kristen, did you cut and paste this from a Ronald Reagan speech, from 1980? Don’t you think that three decades of layoffs, wage concessions and gutted pensions have pretty thoroughly convinced unions by now that their “goodies,” as you call them, are up for grabs?
I am as much offended as the next efficiency-obsessed American by union fat and asinine work rules that make it impossible to fire laggards.
But that point has been MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE AND MADE over the last thirty years, and once a year it’s good to remember: If you let companies make wage and safety rules, there ARE no rules and children are back at the machines.
As for the connection to universal healthcare: well, if a hundred years from now it had all the upsides and all the downsides that the labor movement has had over the last century: I’d take it.
“Kristen, did you cut and paste this from a Ronald Reagan speech, from 1980?”
Actually, no. That comment came from living through the city workers strike that happened just this summer here in Toronto. The key roadblock to a new contract was that the union [let me say that again – THE UNION, NOT the majority of the workers!] refused to even discuss removing the provision in the current contract, that allows all city workers to rollover any of their unused 20 PAID SICK DAYS PER YEAR every year until retirement, at which time they can retire up to six months early and take all that accumulated money (and interest!) in a fat payout. Because part of the strike included the garbage collection, our mayor caved after a month and let them have that benefit (oh he got the “concession” that this benefit won’t apply for any new workers hired going forward, but all the current employees keep that benefit so give me a break.)
The best estimate of what this benefit to city workers will cost Toronto is that we will have a $200 million deficit over the next 10 -15 years. The property taxes in this city are already obsenely high and cannot be raised any further without causing riots to pay for this “goodie” so where do you imagine the money will come from? I expect that our kids will forget what a public swimming pool looks like, our working families will have to fend for themselves when city run daycares have to cut staff or close due to budget cuts, and our parks will be badly maintained.
And all this for what? So the city workers can work in a safe environment, or have decent health benefits? NO! It’s so that our city workers can retire six months early with a golden parachute worthy of a wall-street raider on the backs of taxpayers.
I could give you other examples, but this one was just the most recent and a perfect example of what I’m talking about. BOTH sides have to understand the realities of the economy and behave accordingly. Greedy is greedy no matter which side it initiates from.
David Murray says
Well, Kristen you were the bear I was loaded for when I wrote this piece …. and it appears I was the bear you’ve been loaded for all summer!
Yossi Mandel says
Give power to the workers and they will abuse it. Give power to unions and the leadership will abuse it. Give power to industrialists and they will abuse it. Give each of us power and we will abuse it. Give Marxists power and… well, we know how Stalin turned out.
Checks and balances are created by people just like us tailored for the need. Industry needed checks, labor unions balanced. Unions need balance, government balances. The de rigeur Reagan mention will note that he used government to kill the air traffic control strike, ne c’est pas? Or is my memory as faulty as my French?