Unions deserve credit, not blame, for benefits shared by all workers

Monday, June 20, 2005

I have been a member of Laborers International Union of North America for 37 years, and I am proud of it.

I am in total disagreement with the author of the Speak Out comment that said the United Auto Workers union, not foreign cars, is to blame for the problems of General Motors.

Has this person factored into his equation the upper management of GM and the impact it has on the cost of a vehicle?

In the opinion of the Speak Out commentator, UAW members are receiving too much compensation for the jobs they are doing.

How does he feel about the compensation upper management is receiving?

Unions have worked hard to get the prevailing wage up to a level that allows all of us to provide for our families' needs, as opposed to the minimum wage, which keeps people at or near the poverty level.

Unions have worked hard to get benefits that allow us to provide our families with health care and pension benefits, which, if we live long enough, allow us to reap the rewards. And if not, our families do.

For those of you who are not fortunate enough to be union member, you may be covered by a 401(k) plan or a profit-sharing plan. I consider that to be the equivalent of my pension.

Speaking of 401(k) plans, how secure is yours?

Look at the Enron fiasco.

Who was hurt the worst?

Not the top dogs.

It was the working people.

Our president is pushing to privatize a portion of our Social Security benefits.

If that happens, whether you have a union pension or a 401(k) plan, we all need to be thankful for this benefit, because Social Security will be jeopardized.

GM may pay its employees when they are off work, but I would ask: What is the difference between that and paid sick days or short-term disability pay?

I would agree that unions spend too much on health care. That is not the fault of unions.

Private-sector employers also spend too much on health care for their employees.

It is the health-care industry, along with insurance companies, who have driven up the costs.

President Bush promised us he would do something about this during his campaign. What he has done so far is implement a prescription-drug plan for seniors.

Ask any senior you know what he thinks about it.

Gov. Matt Blunt promised us reform on the state level. What has he done? Ask any citizen of this state who has availed himself of programs that were cut. Let him tell you what he thinks of Blunt's reforms.

Ask any senior citizen how the cuts have affected his quality of life.

Purchasing a foreign-made car is the top of the iceberg. With all of the outsourcing that is being done in this country, who really knows where what you purchase comes from? Is it made in the United States, partially made here or 100 percent non-U.S.? Few of us take the time to read labels or ask the questions necessary to make a determination.

There are people who want to blame everything negative on unions. They either don't realize or don't want to admit it, but unions have benefited them also. Higher wages, health-care benefits, pensions and safer working conditions are theirs to enjoy because of the proud and dedicated labor organizations that have struggled and continue to struggle to keep the American way of life in place.

Bill Borneman of Cape Girardeau is the retired business manager of Laborers Local 1104.

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