My dad was a lifelong salaried worker at “Ford’s” as the company was known around Dearborn. He was a company guy. My family bought and drove only Fords. We still do — five of them between me, my mom and my brother. “Ford put bread on this table…” I remember him saying, in a rare raised voice, when I suggested buying something else, more out of curiosity about his reaction than any real desire to drive a vehicle that didn’t bear the blue oval.
I also remember him saying that all the perks he enjoyed on the salaried side — the weekends, the paid vacations, the overtime — were only because the union had fought for them first.* He was grateful. He understood their sacrifice had led to his gain.
As this right to work legislation has descended over Michigan with the proverbial giant sucking sound — vaporizing what little remaining political goodwill and compromise we had left –I am glad my dad’s ashes are far away on the mountaintop where we scattered them. He could see the need for balance between management and labor so clearly, so sensibly.
I don’t think unions are innocent and pure. But they’re not bloodsucking parasites, either. Who doesn’t like a raise? Why is it so appalling to dare to ask for better working conditions and wages? At least unions endeavor to gain this for the masses. It’s an honest appeal, which is more than the pro-RTW rhetoric, per Exhibit A.
As one who ate off that Ford table, and got to hang out with my dad on the weekends and on our family vacations, I’m thankful someone — many someones — did dare. When the pendulum swings back again, in another decade, or generation, or however long it takes, I hope that we’re still at least making daredevils here in the U.S. A.
* Update – A Twitter reader prompted me to do more research. Henry Ford actually implemented the five-day work week (and, thus, a weekend) at his company in 1926, while the company itself was not unionized until 1941. However, this idea (five day/ week X 8 hours/day = 40 hour workweek) originated with the labor movement. The United Mine Workers won an eight-hour day in 1898. I conclude Mr. Ford made a pre-emptive strike, no pun intended.
Also, significant to my original point, my research confirmed at Ford it was implemented in the factories first, then extended to office workers — a trickle-up practice that would go a long way to easing the economic inequality that we struggle with today. All that said, it was still laudable and I stand corrected, as far as Ford Motor Co. is concerned.