Thingish Things

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 16•11

I don’t mean to make a deep philosophical point here. It’s a sociological one I’m after.

There are two clusters of workers standing by my train station every morning. One group is clad in red tee shirts and carrying union banners reading, “All Verizon Jobs are Union Jobs,” and the like. They are striking members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

The other cluster is comprised of day laborers, mostly undocumented workers from Central America seeking work from area contractors and landscapers. They’re eyes scan up and down the road for tell-tale pick-up trucks.  In their hands they hold  thermoses and lunch boxes.

The groups stand 25 yards from each other.

It is impossible not to think what the day laborers are thinking about the union strikers. Any one of them would give his eye-teeth for the chance to take one of those worker’s jobs — at half the salary.

It is impossible for the strikers not to know that, and fear that knowledge. It is why they are in a union after all.

All in all, it’s a depressing scenario.  

I have ambivalent feelings when I see unions protest. Part of me is angry at their inflexibility. They feign outrage while enjoying pensions that will allow them to retire 10 or 15 years before the rest of us can, and they have far better benefits. (One of things CWA is protesting is Verizon’s request that union  workers start paying $100 towards their health care each month. Most of us pay ten times that or more).

But when I see the faces of the protesters, my views naturally soften as I see parents like me trying to do the best they can for their children, and to hold onto what they have. Besides, based on personal experience with the company, I am the farthest thing from a Verizon cheerleader.

But what I most think about when watching a protest is the word “correction.” America, is going through a massive correction in its labor costs and everyone of us is feeling it; some more than others.

It can only get worse before our wage and benefit levels finds its market bottom. The cost of labor around the world is just so much cheaper than it is here. Billions of people are willing to work for less than what we, as Americans, have grown unaccustomed to.  It is a story playing out at my train station every morning.

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