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Have Americans Forgotten the Importance of Unions?

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Have Americans Forgotten What Unions Have Done for Them?
As someone who recently was wrongfully terminated from his job, I've been thinking a lot about unions recently.
I'm painfully aware that it is uncool to be seen as "pro union" in many circles these days. Union membership in the U.S. has been declining for years, particularly in the Deep South where I live.
As I sit here unemployed, roughly 11 weeks removed from being fired from my job as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I can't help but think how my life would be different if I had worked in a union environment.
In a major investigative story, Raw Story reported that my termination showed clear signs of being politically driven. Specifically, it appears that I was terminated because I write a blog that is critical of the Bush Justice Department, particularly its handling of the Don Siegelman case.
In fact, an audiotaped conversation between me and UAB employee relations director Anita Bonasera pretty much confirms that I was targeted for political reasons. You can listen to that audio here.
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So how would my life be different if UAB employees had a union? Well, I have no doubt that I would still have a job, after 19 years of service. In fact, I feel certain that management types at UAB would not have even attempted the stunt they pulled on me if I'd had any kind of workplace representation at all.
Why was it so easy for UAB to cheat me out of my job? Because in the various meetings I attended leading up to my termination, I was always the only person in the room concerned about my rights and well being. I had no representation of any kind.
I also was the only person in the room concerned with the truth. UAB President Carol Garrison has made a public statement, saying my termination had nothing to do with politics and was based solely on work performance. Garrison's own employee grievance committee has found that my termination was wrongful, and I should be reinstated. As for Garrison's claim that politics played no role, the audio above begs to differ.
Americans tend to forget the many things we enjoy because of the union movement--five-day work weeks, eight-hour days, 40-hour weeks, vacation time, health benefits. We "worker bees" also tend to forget how vulnerable we are when management suddenly turns on us--for whatever reason.
You can rest assured that I haven't forgotten.
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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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