BY SHARON MARTIN
When I first started teaching, I paid all but a few dollars of my insurance premium. It didn’t seem fair that legislators got family coverage, paid for by taxpayers, when teachers did not even get personal coverage paid.
Thankfully, the Oklahoma Education Association rallied members and fought for our insurance coverage. Even those teachers who didn’t belong to the union benefitted.
Unions are good for workers. Unions set the standards, for wages and conditions. Think about the 40-hour week, overtime pay, and safety rules that we take for granted in this country and that we are in danger of losing.
A friend went to work for a local firm some years ago. The company managed several warehouses, and when a new warehouse went online, it was necessary for employees to work weekends. In return, the company gave salaried employees comp time.
When a corporation whose name everyone recognizes bought the company, things began to change. Recently, they gave my friend a one-day notice that she would be working both Saturday and Sunday. She has small children and a husband whose days off aren’t on weekends. She hadn’t scheduled a babysitter.
When she asked about comp time, she was told that they “didn’t have to give comp time.” They also told her to expect a lot of working weekends.
With a graduate degree, my friend could have earned more at another job, but she stayed because the company took care of her. That seems to have changed. Too bad she and her fellow employees aren’t union members.
Business has always been about the bottom line. But someone seems to have forgotten the value of a contented and loyal workforce.
There are employers who value the workers who earn money for them. There are also those who want something for as close to nothing as they can get.
These employers would rather pay a politician than an employee. They rally against immigration reform and hire illegals because they can get away with paying them less. They bought right-to-work laws with campaign contributions. They also gave you the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the Ludlow Massacre, and the Haymarket Riot. People died for our right to unionize.
It is no coincidence that wages have stagnated as union membership has fallen, that people are working longer hours for less. Unions protect your pension, your health, and the right to a decent living for a hard week’s work.
It is time for Oklahoma workers to swell union ranks. That includes Oklahoma’s underpaid teachers. Perhaps the Legislature will take us more seriously if we take our rights as workers more seriously.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer