A Story for this Christmas.
After serving for three years, June 21, 1967, I was honorably discharged from the US Army as a sergeant E5 at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was raised in the Detroit area, and for all who have lived or visited there, there’s little reason to wonder why I opted to live in Denver, rather than heading back to the Motor City. Just the grandeur of snowcapped mountains out your west window every morning is itself an inspiring reason to want to get out of bed.
With only a high school diploma behind me, I quickly secured a job as a parts-picker in GM’s massive warehouse on Kearny Street, just off Stapleton Airport’s western fence. The pay began at $3.17 an hour and offered fully-paid medical and dental benefits. It afforded me the ability to live in an apartment on Decatur Street’s 3800 block. I could and did jog around nearby Slone’s Lake. Within a few months, the job would permit me to move into a more commodious apartment off Sheridan. But all along, I was able to put gas in the tank of my brand new ’67 Mercury Cougar, to eat truly well, dress well, and to take the woman I’d eventually wed to dinner, to the movies and to concerts.
Life was good! Even for a fellow with only a high school education. Perhaps I wasn’t much near the upper-middle class, but there could be no doubt I was enjoying a middle-class lifestyle. My qualifications and lifestyle were pretty much a mirror of those who worked alongside in the warehouse. Most lived in homes they had purchased. No one had to live with his or her parents or take a roommate in order to make ends meet.
I haven’t been in a union since 1968. But I’ve never forgotten that it was my membership in one that made it possible for me to enjoy, if not an opulent standard of living, one that was comfortable. Indeed, the entire middle-class community and region where I was raised owed everything they had, whether individually they were in a union or not, to the union movement.
A few years ago, while living in Bradenton, Florida, I encountered a stock-clerk in a Kash-N-Karry grocery store. How we engaged the brief discussion I cannot recall. I do recall, however how this clerk proudly tole me “Don’t need no union heah, this is a raht-t’werk sty-et.”
Hmm. As with elsewhere through the country, since Ronald Reagan and the GOP began their demolition efforts, I can’t locate a mote of evidence how, to steal a phrase from Ronnie, “Ask youself: Are you better off today than you were?” that anyone is better off, that just about everyone isn’t actually much, much worse off. Who, with only a high school education, can house and feed him- or herself nicely, can drive a brand new Mercury Cougar, can worry-free fête an intended with dinner, movie and concert dates, can buy a house, have healthcare, can raise a family?
So, who are those, or what is responsible for the demise?
Yeah . . . globalization has absolutely played a villainous role that no level of unionization would have been able to fully mitigate. But add to the noxious potion the enthusiasm of the Republican Party to vigorously stir the cannibalizing pot on behalf of their base (Nope! Ain’t the naïve folks in the Bible-belt, the GOP base consists of the multi-kazillionaire corporate chieftains. The poor naïve souls in the Bible-belt are nothing more than duped, very ignorant fodder that keeps the machine running.), and you have what you have: A Merry Christmas full of folks in poverty, without a glimpse of healthcare, facing an impossible mountain climb for higher education, in or facing loss of their homes, and multiple generations yet unborn who will be stuck with the bill.
So, as you gather with friends or family this holiday season, when you encounter someone you know who votes GOP, or as you consider which Democratic candidate offers the most efficacious ameliorative steps out of this horrible concoction, the first query I’d entertain is which one genuinely supports a restoration of some balance between labor and the corporations? (Suggestion: Google the 1935 NLRA “Wagner Act.”) As to the Republican voter, I’d ask them whether they are really that obtuse, that blind, that stupid or evil-hearted they cannot see what hell they are lending their hand to. For when they pull the lever down on behalf of a Republican candidate, they are in fact pulling the curtains down on tens of millions of Americans and a billion others across the globe.
Merry Christmas, except the one I enjoyed in 1968 was so much merrier, not just for me, but for almost everyone in America.
— Ed Tubbs