Despite their often disturbing methods of getting more pay, I don’t have a serious gripe with unions. I was born into a union family. My dad was a dues-paying member in the 1920s while he worked at an asbestos factory, until he died at age 35 from work-related lung cancer. My widowed mom rose to union rep during the mid-20th century, after years of slaving in the oppressive garment industry sweatshops of New York and Philadelphia. As a kid, I recall marching with her downtown when her union was striking to raise the minimum wage from 25 cents to 30 cents.
However, the deliberate timing last week of the strike by French air traffic controllers is typically annoying as hell. It always happens when unions cleverly call walk-outs at the exact moments when they will hurt the most. Unfortunately, their actions don’t hurt the airline companies nearly as much as they devastate the average citizens.
Additionally, the French airport workers aren’t the first to come up with this untimely weapon to get themselves more pay. As a kid, one of my unhappiest holiday memories was when the Philly streetcar employees inevitably planned their annual threatened walk-out strikes for pre-Christmas week.
When they stayed home, it didn’t hurt the streetcar bosses, who still got their big holiday bonuses. The shutting down of Philly’s public transportation system devastated the hell out of me and thousands of other little kids who couldn’t visit the downtown stores and see Santa Claus.
Of course, this walk-out, which has now been lifted though controllers expect to strike again at the end of the month if negotiations are unsatisfactory, is during the very busy French springtime holidays, and many thousands of travelers, including kids, were stranded in airports or had to cancel their plans. The labor disruption in France spread beyond the airports. Other transportation workers and union members in France and elsewhere in Europe stayed home in sympathy with the air-traffic controllers.
There just has to be some other way unions and bosses can climb into the wage boxing ring and fight their battles. Do they really need to both climb down and slug the hell out of little kids, travelers and other innocent bystanders?
Ted Sherman is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine. He will turn 90 on Aug. 8. He’s a U.S. Navy vet who served in World War II and the Korean War, and after a lifetime of writing for other people, he’s now sharing his opinions with the world at large for various publications and on his blog 90 Is The New Black. It’s a daily rant on current news, sports, health, travel, careers, entertainment, sports, relationships and, of course, problems of advanced age.