In an earlier post I thanked the individual members of the MCA negotiating team for radicalizing the current generation of Steamfitters. They have one more opportunity to change their course but I fear that they won’t. They seem hell bent on making the same mistake that the MCA did when I was a much younger man.
We have not had a strike since 1975. Thirty-five years is a long time. Those of us that were directly affected by the strike vowed to never forget the strike and the impact that it had on our lives. We have not. We are now in the process of teaching our younger members what we learned back then.
I sympathize with the members who are confused and frightened about the prospect of a looming strike. Many of them have not experienced hard times by any traditional measure of the term. Some have never been out of work since they joined the Union.
Pay raises have come to be expected as a natural consequence of just showing up day in and day out. The Union took care of the rest year by year. That is exactly what we thought back in 1975.
Let the first lesson learned in this conflict be that there are no guarantees in life inside or outside of the Union. We are all challenged spiritually and financially when unforeseen complications enter our life. We should always be prepared for the future, but few ever are. We did not expect the 1975 strike. We were caught off guard when negotiations took the wierd turn that it did this year.
I was a first year apprentice working for Carrier in 1975. My salary was better than what I had been paid as a public school teacher but I was still living pay check by pay check. I had no savings. I was unprepared to pay a portion of my salary into a strike fund. That was no one’s fault by my own. I was raised better than that.
My father was a Local 602 Steamfitter. He and my mom raised seven kids. My parents didn’t have credit cards. In fact there was no credit of any kind for construction workers. They had to pay cash for food, clothing, and shelter. The closest thing to credit was “lay away”. You could buy something by placing a down payment and making monthly payments. You got to take home what you had purchased only after making all of the payments.
They taught us all well but we soon forgot the lesson. The one-dollar an hour payment into the strike fund taxed me. It was probably 20% of my salary as a first year apprentice. But I survived and so can you.
No matter what transpires this week let’s go forward with a commitment from this encounter with reality. There are no guarantees in life. We need a strike fund inside of our Union. We need another personal strike or emergency fund outside of our Union.