I dropped by the Community Progressive celebration at Julia Davis Park on Saturday. My wife, Diane, was manning the booth of a new non-profit she’s helping that will enable seniors (like we have, inexplicably, become!) to stay in our homes as we age. Anyone whose parents did not prepare for their 90s can appreciate the need for such an organization.
I had an opportunity to make the rounds of the other booths. I was particularly struck by the presence of the labor unions, who had four booths. I was glad to see and chat those guys; a dozen or so were manning the booths and proudly presenting themselves as Progressives.
I don’t know if any studies have been done to show it, but I’ll bet there’s a direct corelation between implementation of the anti-union “right-to-work” laws and Idaho’s rise among states highest in percentage of minimum-wage earners.
Growing up back East in the mid-20th century, I took unions for granted. My family was part of the growing middle class whose children were leaving the mills and factories for commercial and semi-professional jobs. My own job history began on a truck farm, when I was 14—hoing through a muggy, hot Ohio summer for 50-cents an hour. I lied about my age the next summer and got hired as a prep-boy at a new Howard Johnson’s restaurant, where I quickly graduated to breakfast cook in the mornings, cashier and soda jerk in the afternoons. I was making 62.5 cents an hour, a 25 percent increase—No way was I going back to the farm!
The following summer my best friend’s dad got us jobs at a woolen mill on Cleveland’s west side, where he was controller. It was my first union job—United Textile Workers. I was making 72.5¢ an hour—a 45 percent hike over hoing. I was happy to return for a second summer before going off to Yale. In New Haven, during my sophomore and junior years, I worked at a corrugarted box factory and once again was a union member. That job carried me, my wife and our first-born umtil my scholarship was boosted to take over.
I’d venture to guess that the “right-to-work” laws have contributed heavily to the influx of undocumented low-wage workers into many jobs in the trades formerly filled by union members.
It was good to see both the union guys and Renee and Richard Stallings mingling among progressives on Saturday. Richard is running to regain his seat in congress held by Mike Simpson for too many years. I previously opined here about the punches Simpson pulled voting for, then, against the government shutdown last year. Stallings does not pull punches; he is as straight a shooter as I’ve known. He has spent his life in public service as a teacher, a local and federal official in several capacities and as a congressman from 1986–1992.
I worked with Richard to get the $900,000 appropriation from the Land & Water Conservation Fund (off-shore oil royalties) that made the complicated three-way land exchange work that saved Hulls Gulch from development. He knows how to make government work for people. Simpson has voted repeatedly to repeal Obamacare. He even voted to shut down the federal government for 16 days at a cost of some $24 billion in a cynical attempt to cripple the health-care law.
…but I ramble….
It’s good to see Democrats and union guys identify as Progressives. Isn’t that kinda like . . . liberal?
I, too, was pleased to see the union presence at the Community Progressive. My dad was a journeyman plumber, as was his father before him, and I suspect I might have followed them had been born male. The unions were a huge factor in Idaho Democrats’ successes for decades, but “right-to-work” really shafted them. And, contrary to promises made by those who supported it, wages have dropped since it passed for the majority of Idahoans. It started the death spiral we see today in state funding for education and vital social services.