Listen now (11 min) | And why the "you're paid what you're worth" mythology is being revealed as BS
I think that if any good can come from this horrible pandemic it is that people are realizing that they do not necessarily have to settle for a job that clearly mistreats their staff. Just look at how so many jobs out there are part-time and seasonal positions because big companies are not willing to offer benefits and retirement. Or how about the worker who’s standing at a cash register for a six and a half hour shift with a mere 30 minute break for lunch?
Kudos to Starbucks! Kudos to the hopeful beginning of a new union’s birth at Trader Giotto’s in Hadley, Massachusetts! I hope this is just the beginning of a revival of the American Union. We need protections badly.
I’m sure that virtually every subscriber to Substack has a story of being mistreated at their workplace at some point in their lives. And the sad thing is, for lots of us it is not yesteryear.
Thank you for this and all of your essays, Professor Reich. I learn something from you every day. 🌻
Yes, we need unions. How can one individual negotiate with a multibillion dollar corporation with battalions of highly paid lawyers on anything? But we also need to change our attitude that those who are paid below-living wages don't deserve more. Imagine if you go to your favorite fast food restaurant and it's closed because there are no cashiers, cooks, trash collectors, floor and table cleaners, etc. Suddenly, those workers have a lot more value. Similarly, if all the workers in Amazon fulfillment centers disappeared, Amazon would have to cease operations. If Jeff Bezos suddenly disappeared, I'm sure Amazon would continue to operate just fine.
Your essays keep driving home to me how destructive the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and its general attitude that money equals speech, really are to our society.
All these facts infuriate me. I'm a 75 year old senior who still has to work 40 hours a week to support myself. How much longer can I do this. After 57 years, I'm tired of working. And I still get sales calls and just had to pay the price for hearing aids. We worry about losing our democracy to the right wing fascists. Given what you have laid out here about compensation, it seems to me that we have already lost our democracy - some years ago - and it only continues to deteriorate.
The re-unionization of the US cannot happen quickly enough. The follow-on is that union members must retain control of their unions: the mafia or other groups are attracted to power and the money associated with collectives. In my graduate studies in economics, the orthodoxy was that unions were 'bad' for profits and 'limited' productivity. I believed that for a while until the historical context - and necessity - for their emergence became clear to me after being in corporate positions. As the toxic-masculine-capitalist-mindset will fight this trend, there will be blood in the streets. Decent people globally need to see the re-vitalization of the collective spirit that honors and upholds the dignity and rights of the individual. The US can lead that. Will we?
If you have not seen this year’s Kentucky Derby, watching it will put you in the middle of this union story. If you watch the race at this link, you’ll get to see Rich Strike, his trainer, jockey, groomer and owner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_8ZgLZSWMk
Last year, April 2021, Churchill Downs was in a pickle. Horse racing is still the sport of kings, rich white men and the princes of oil kingdoms, but horses can’t win anything without grooms, valets, saddlers, jockeys and exercisers. In 2021, the valets’ union at Churchill Downs was asking for a raise from $16./hour to $20./hour. Churchill Downs said no and come April, they faced a strike that would shut the Kentucky Derby down. Now, let’s put this in perspective…
While Churchill Downs runs only 70 races a year, their annual revenue is $900-Million. The Kentucky Derby alone, brings in 20% ($180-Million). There are only thirteen – 13 – valets at Churchill Downs, and the pay increase would have cost a meager $108-thousand a year. $180-Million or $108-thousand is not rocket science and 13 valets got a raise.
This year, April 2022, the infamous leech, Donald Trump, held a fundraiser at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby. When Trump came up on the screens, people booed and people cheered (it was just about half and half). No one had any idea, that the race itself, would shove “WIN” and “RACISM” in Trump’s face.
You see folks, Rich Strike, this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, was a cheap horse (purchased for a paltry $30,000.) Rich Strike’s groom is Jerry Dixon Jr. (who happens to be a black man). Rich Strike was a long shot (80:1 odds against him). Rich Strike was ridden by a jockey (who happens to be an immigrant from Venezuela). I think Dixon explained these relationships best…
“If you are going to wake up at 4 a.m. in the morning and come clean stalls, fill water buckets, feed them, you have to take pride in that,” said Dixon. “We spend more time with the animal than the trainer, than the jockey, than the exercise rider, so if you do not form that bond, it is fighting a losing battle.”
Dixon said the win proves you can be considered an underdog and still be a champion.
“Being a black man grooming horses, I have always had to prove myself to show myself to people in a different light and I am thankful and grateful I have had that opportunity.”
Robert Reich has shown a compelling set of facts that highlights the value of unions. It is a mystery to me why a local establishment Democrat seems to be anti union. I can't help but wonder why. Another establishment Democrat I spoke with was rabidly against Bernie Sanders when he was winning a few years ago. They sounded like Republicans. I wonder if these people are in the stock market?
I worked in a union environment for 42 years. I am a 75 year old educated white woman. I invested in real estate and mutual funds. I bought individual stocks. I have been able to support family going to post high school education, travel and donate to my community. I have always been an active volunteer for causes I believe in. I appreciate what unions did for my financial security. I also worked hard and created within my field. I had the support of my family and of mentors in my field. Yes, I am privileged and I made good decisions.
This is an interesting time, I do not blame, I look for opportunity, I give a hand up not a hand out. Living in an extended family has given me many blessings and chief among those is a sense of security. I do believe that certain sectors of our economy have gamed the system to their advantage and others disadvantage. We have a problem when financial people make more than someone who creates and builds things. We cannot have a democracy when so many children are in generational poverty. Attacking Public Education is not productive. Religious leaders taking political positions that enrich them is not part of a free society. I would hope that the Pope would remove the Bishop that said Pelosi will not be given communion. TV commentators that encourage violence and present information that encourages division and then fall back into what they do is entertainment need consequences. Alex Jones needs to have all of their assets taken by those they hurt. People who undermine the security of our elections need consequences. So many issues to address. I guess I will focus on those where I can make a difference no matter how small.
I am a member of SAG-AFTRA and I can say that the only people truly represented by this Union are the actors who don't need a Union because they have Agents, Managers, and Lawyers to negotiate and protect them. The rank and file are an afterthought and the wages they earn are pitifully small. Some Unions, like this one, are as bad as Wall Street banks. Film and TV producers should try making their projects without the background actors they so badly abuse saying they are not "worth" as much at the box office. Shameful BS!
I live near Hadley, MA and it is exciting to see that they are the frontrunners of unionizing at the local Trader Joes. I don't go there much because it is so busy that it's hard to get in the store, and crowded in the aisles when you do get in. That company must be making great money! Their workers should get at least a living wage! Also, my town across the river just got a new Starbucks. It will be interesting to see if they get unionized!
Reminds me of a time when Ye’s baby mama actually thought it was ok to say, from her cemented privileged position, to women specifically, they need to get their a***s up and work. I think she was right about one thing, seems like no one wants to work these days.....for low non-livable wages in a poor work environment.
At one time in NY city there was a tune "LOOK FOR THE UNION LABEL". I say this because
I think we should do something to make the members of unions feel proud.
Great! Your reasoning describes the very epicenter of why there are so many disaffected people; the same people who have now become Tr... er, "Putin's Friend" supporters. The whole whirlpool of disastrous results, things like wasted rust belt towns and cities, drug addiction, the whole mess stem from this systematic problem causing root.
Frankly, the Democratic party has been brain dead on all of this for a very long time. (The rise of Ronald Reagan may be the origins of the transition). This, combined with race, is why the R party has picked up all of these used-to-be reliable former Democratic voters. (The worst was when Hilary Clinton tisk, tisked coal miners in W Va and called hillbilly Republicans "deplorables.") She virtually insisted that a big block of these people shift strongly to "R".
I suppose I've got a bit of a more diverse and lengthy job history than most . My grandfather was a motherless Irish immigrant who opened his own coal and ice business as a young man back in 1917. Which then morphed into a heating oil and bulk haulage firm. He had employees who stuck with him for decades(small non-union firm) . Simply because he treated them as family . The business lasted for just shy of 100 years . Fair wages and fair treatment and mutual respect carry weight with the average employee . Although years later working a union job for the Bell Telephone Company one felt the same comradary and mutual respect. Were there disagreements between labor and management ? Absolutely . But those were handled as a function of the union/management relationship. And my young impression was that the system worked . When I migrated west, indeed there were both management and union members at my bon voyage. Point being, as the divide and conquer approach to dealing with the average American by both our corporate leaders along with the trumps, bezoses, musks amongst us, as well as corporately corrupted elected officials, it's that mutual respect, humanity and compassion which wanes. It's the lack of morals and empathy towards our fellow man which sorely lacks in our society today . If it were there, present, assumed and flourishing, there would be no need for unions. BUT IT ISN'T.
Not in todays me me me world . And that is the reason for unions. To help instill that fair play, the mutual respect, the humanity, morals and consideration so lacking today. And maybe some of that trickle down economy ronnie raygun bs'd his dumbed down supporters with. UNION YES ! ! AND HOW ! !
We went off onto the wrong path after I graduated from college. Before that, when I was still in college in a public university night school, tuition and books were steep but affordable. I also worked full time for much of it so it took me longer than four years to finish but I did. I had union jobs, usually USW. We had health insurance, vacation pay.
Not long after that Corporate America began offshoring. Today all of the mills I worked are just brownfields. Some guy in another country, probably in Asia, is making the stuff I used to make. I had a white collar career in financial markets and public accounting, but what about my former coworkers. I often think about them. What are they doing now, if they are even still alive?
The only thing better than a strong union is an employee-owned corporation or a co-op.
A strong union should require its members to uphold a high standard of work performance. Every new member deserves a mentor to help them improve, and if they struggle, guide them to the resources they need for education, physical therapy, or mental health. If a member just can't or won't meet union standards, then they should be dismissed from the union.
Corporations with strong unions would easily outperform their competitors, not despite paying higher wages, but because they were willing to pay for quality workers. And the surrounding community would benefit from the higher wages and proud workforce.