Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 walking a picket line at Bryn Mawr College.
Often when on a picket or banner line people notice union members with our protest signs or the large inflatable rat and they're curious as to why we're there demonstrating.
One question that I'm always answering from passersby is, "why are you out here?" When I simply reply, "we're protesting a contractor on this jobsite for wages and standards" their eyes tend to just glaze over and they nod with a confused look on their face. I do always briefly expand on my statement and explain why it's important to uphold area wages and standards so that they can get a better grasp on why that is important and how it affects them and their neighbors.
I thought to myself that I need to further elaborate on this so people can fully understand how crucial it is to protect these wages and standards that working people have fought so hard to obtain. A portion of this article is taken from some of my previous writing because I felt it explained this issue where the average person could understand.
Late Monday afternoon (08/11/2014), I'm in the kitchen with my roommate and he exclaims, "What, Robin Williams died?!?" My first thought was: "Oh man, he was one of my favorite comedic actors...this sucks."
It wasn't till later when the dust settled and it all sunk in how hard it would actually hit me...
Over the last month there have been several demonstrations by Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 19 outside Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). You may have heard this at work, on the news or just through the grapevine. A lot of people are probably asking themselves (and others), “Why would a Union protest a hospital that takes care of sick children?” That’s a very natural question, if I didn’t know the reasons why, I would be asking the same thing as well. The purpose of this article is to answer that question (and others); also to dispel any of the rumors or negative assumptions people may have made on why these demonstrations started and have continued. In the interest of transparency, I myself am a twelve year member in good standing of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 19.
The original posting of this article can be found on Sheet Metal Workers'Local 19 blog, Shear Facts.
In the City of Philadelphia there is a picket line up by Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 at a jobsite located at 19 & Fairmount Streets. On Thursday 08/15/13 the day on the line started out like any other, until an unnamed worker that is said to have been doing woodwork at this site decided to cross the line and get in the demonstrators faces...with his VAN.
This video was posted on the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Facebook page
today. In the video a Police Officer explains to the Union Members that the person in question is being arrested on five counts of Aggravated Assault for trying to back his work vehicle into the demonstrators. This was posted as the status that accompanied the video:
"This video is from a Local 19 picket line at 19th & Fairmount St in Philadelphia. A police officer is explaining to those on the picket line that the driver of the van in the video is being arrested on 5 counts of aggravated assault for attempting to back over the Local 19 members on the line with his work van.
THIS is what happens when you commit violence against workers who were well within their rights to peaceably assemble and protest the breaking down of Philadelphia wages and standards for construction workers!"
This type of violence against workers who choose to protest unfair and exploitative employers is unacceptable. Union members and supporters of economic and social justice that stand their ground every day are being marginalized and assaulted by people that don't even know how bad they're being taken advantage of by their bosses. Why would anyone want to place their own family's future in jeopardy by attacking peaceful demonstrators and going to jail? Because guess what, the only person who will continue to make more money is your employer, not you or your coworkers. Working against those that want to help raise you up won't change anything for you or your family, but joining with them will.
As a Labor Activist, Union Member and construction worker, Marriage Equality isn't something I usually write about, but I do support everyone's right to marry whomever they love, no matter their gender. Often enough people look at me and assume I must feel this way because I have a close relative who is a member of the LGBT community, which isn't the case. As a Unionist my core belief system is centered around equality, so it would make sense that I wouldn't want to deny certain citizens the same rights that the rest of us take for granted.
And equality is what it all comes down to, not religious beliefs. The fact is that we often mix the religious marriage and marriage under our secular government. Think of it as a civil contract, we have the choice to go through the religious ritual or not. Whether you choose to go through the ritual or to just stick with the justice of the peace, you are still under secular marriage law, which is contractual law.
So no one is saying that religious institutions have to grant ritual marriage to anyone, in fact that would be unconstitutional. And even to this day there are Roman Catholic Parishes (not all) that still deny marriage to couples where one of them is not of the Roman Catholic faith.
But to say that two individuals who are of legal age and consenting, but happen to be of the same gender can't enter into a binding civil contract under our secular laws is ludicrous. That is just as unconstitutional as government dictating to religious institutions who they can and can't marry.
Rights are Rights. Period.
Here's what people need to understand. If we have workers in the lower and middle rungs making a decent living, they can buy things which spurs this little thing called "demand." And when there is "demand" companies tend to hire more workers making a decent wage who can now buy things which creates more "demand." And so on and so forth.
This also would solve part of the revenue problem our government has, because more people earning a better living pay more taxes... This isn't quantum physics folks!
But if we continue to have tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs to China, this is still going to be an uphill battle. How about our elected officials do the patriotic thing (I know some have tried) and close the tax loopholes, place tariffs on foreign goods whose labor costs are far below our standards to give American manufacturers a fighting chance and American workers a better life.
Allow me to step down from my soap box now.
Do you think we should privatize our Liquor Stores here in PA? Did you know that the stores generate a guaranteed half Billion dollars a year to the Commonwealth?
Under privatization, Pennsylvania will surely have to create another bureaucracy just to collect tax revenue from all the many private retailers that will exist. Under the streamlined system we currently have, we don't have to chase our money, it's automatically there because PA handles the distribution and sale of our hard liquor and wine.
The pricing is kept low because the Commonwealth has sheer buying power on its side and is not looking to up profits every quarter. Here in this video you will see the toll just a few months of liquor privatization has taken on Washington State. This is not theory, this is what can very well happen in Pennsylvania.
We must also consider the 5,000 trained union employees that make a good living with benefits. They will be replaced with cheap labor that will contribute less to our tax base.
Who do you think will have to make up the difference in the budget gap created by losing that automatic half Billion dollars and the tax revenue generated from Wine & Spirit employees? It will come out of the rest of our pockets one way or another.
People must also consider the possible harm this could bring to the families of PA.
With less trained individuals watching over the sales, it will become easier for minors to get a hold of hard liquor and DUI rates and drunk driving deaths would surely rise.
This system has been in place for decades and has always worked for the greater good of the people. It is fiscally and morally responsible to keep these sales with the Commonwealth.
OK, I have to get something off my chest. Yesterday a Union Brother of mine contacted me to let me know that tomorrow (Today 09/21/12) was National Tradesmen Day. At first I thought, "Oh that's great, I should look into it and write about it!" After just a little research, I didn't like what I found out.
I jump on the "Google Machine" and type "National Tradesmen Day" and the first link to come up was for Irwin Tools, it turns out this is something they came up with to sell more tools. Being a Union Sheet Metal Worker (Local 19, Philadelphia) I'm quite familiar with Irwin Tools because they make Vise-grips, which is one of the primary hand tools of our trade. I'm also familiar with another fact, many of Irwin Tools' products (including Vise-grips since 2008) are made in China.
Now before people start jumping on my back about harping on Irwin for starting this holiday, that isn't the case at all. I think it's pretty cool that they want to honor the people that use their tools, even though it's probably just a marketing scheme to sell more of their products, but still the the thought was nice.
What's bothering me is that while they honor us tradesmen (and women) in America, they have sold out other American workers, but we should still purchase their products. Right? I certainly won't be, especially after what they did to the 300 workers at the Dewitt, NE Vise-grip factory in 2008.
This was a factory that was in existence for 80 years with a proud manufacturing tradition and was the lifeblood of the small town of Dewitt (population 572). But that is all gone now and replaced with cheap outsourced labor, all in the name of soaring profits and blind corporate greed.
So today on this so-called "National Tradesmen Day" I ask those of us in the trades to refuse to purchase Irwin tools not made in the USA until the Irwin company brings those manufacturing jobs home.
As we move ever closer to the 2012 General Election, I really want to convey something to my union brothers and sisters who feel Mitt Romney and the Republican Party as a whole have their best interests in mind and plan on voting for GOP candidates and incumbents this fall. Because if they win, you will regret it. I’m a Sheet Metal Worker by trade and one thing we don’t do is dance around the issue. We tell it like it is and don’t apologize for doing so. So believe me when I say that this Presidential Candidate and newly minted Party platform is the most anti-union in probably the last one hundred years.
Is anyone else getting sick of people saying that the Labor Vote doesn't make a difference anymore? I know I am.
Is Union density lower now than it was in the past? At roughly 12%, yes. But last time I checked 12% is more than enough to swing an election, especially in these polarized political times we currently find ourselves in.
Something that many of the pundits aren't taking into account are the multitude of family member's, close friends and non-union supporters of the Labor Movement.
I guess it's just easier to look at raw data and not process it.
The only ones that can make the Labor Vote irreverent are those of us within the voting block itself. Don't become disenfranchised, get out and Vote, prove them wrong, our vote does matter and in a big way!
There are times in my life that have inspired hope and times that I have felt great despair. Yesterday was a day for hope.
As we move further into the twenty-first century, I have come to the realization that many of us have forgotten where we came from. I would wager many who are doctors, lawyers, elected officials and captains of industry came from humble means. Working class families, such as construction workers, maintenance people and factory workers, just to name a few. And many (oh so many) have turned on the same sort of people that bore and raised them, clothed and fed them, put them through college and called them son or daughter. How do we end this cycle?