Category: Political Science
A New Contract With America
This opening chapter deals with the basic grouping of two groups of patriotic Americans. Mislabeled they might be called Capitalists vs Communists. But, neither group really likes this description...at least for their preference.
I wrote this story for your use and for either of the Champaign-Urbana newspapers.
History of Champaign's former and currently smartest labor union
by Richard R. Tryon
Back in the 1970s I negotiated many long nights and some days too, with the nation's most prestigious and arguably the most intelligent organized labor organization in the nation- the International Typographic Union. Its members knew more about spelling, grammar and artistic presentation of the printed word than most authors- no matter their subject matter. That conclusion was blown away when during those years the nation's professional association of teachers became an industrial union and I soon saw a local teacher walking the picket line with a sign proclaiming "WE DONT GET NO RESPECT".
Clearly the teachers have since proven that their union is far stronger and therefore smarter than the ITU which at that time was led by a few old men anxious to retire before the changing technology put them out of work and somehow win a place to live in the union's Heaven- otherwise known as a Colorado Springs, Colorado retirement home! How is it that this plan did not happen? How is it that the teachers won far more advances than the typesetters?
The answer shows very clearly why it is that a man and wife (a teacher) in your story are so profoundly separated by their opposing views. To explain, one has to ask why did the typesetters lose their imperious control of the intellectual crown and of the pocket books of publishers and union printing shops called 'chapels' in each local?
The key to understanding the failure of the ITU was brilliantly shown to me by the fine men of our commercial union print shop. They refused to show any interest in doing simple typesetting of names and addresses to be imprinted on doctors Rx blanks, letterheads, envelopes and many different forms using an offset printing process and simple A.B. Dick duplicators. They were paid to set multi-level formulas and complex compositions for such prestigious publications as the Journal of the American Veterinary Association and others. The duplicator work was sent off to the non-union shop that I built and integrated with computerized communication from the marketing of the products sales department of our parent company. The electronic data was converted into composition already arranged by the computer into six compatible press run groups and a few undetected mistakes made by order entry migrated to the end product every now and then. These turned out to be far fewer than those previously introduced by the multi-step human handling and re-keying of the data and/or the assembling of images for printing. In time 40% of the repeat orders simply recovered from memory what worked before and we did it again with even less cost!
Meanwhile, the prestigious work that the computer could not do when its typesetting programs were first invented, ultimately fell victim to progress and the publishers took their work to shops that could use their publisher controlled keystrokes and automate the composition step. Today, the author can do the same thing and even publish electronically so as to avoid the need to print! Knowledge is spread electronically and the use of paper and the labor to print it is eliminated. Is it any wonder that the ITU has lost almost all of its corporate clients who were forced for decades to pay whatever the local had a yen to demand?
Our local responded to my invitation to consider abandoning ancient rules of jurisdiction, make-work to set in type 'bogus matter' lifted photographically in order to save time to publish sooner, and obsolete notions of journeyman vs apprentice with a totally surprising answer- "We think you have a point about starting this contract negotiation with a clean sheet of paper! Where do we begin?” I nearly fell off my chair and called for a recess to consult with my management committee that included just three newspapers and no other commercial printers. None of us had expected my invitation to be accepted. We only hoped it would lead to faster elimination of the hours of time arguing over minor contract details. After four wonderful sessions as partners, the International Representative walked in an literally tore up the draft and insisted using the old one with some wage changes over three years. Our customers started leaving quickly and one local paper died as well. Our union shop closed.
Today, the smallest paper, the University of Illinois Daily is now on-line and I am certain that most of the composition is keyed by its writers, not ITU linotype operators and compositors working at the 'stone' table top where type could be assembled into page configurations. The computer has completed the revolution to an industry that saw no significant cultural or work technological change for perhaps a 100 years.
Meanwhile, teachers in Wisconsin and indeed in all states where their contracts are now controlled by politicians in state capitals are now heading for an era of universal nationwide contracts where the political process can determine what 'rights' will be added to what economic terms and working conditions deemed to be acceptable. Furthermore, many costs can be accepted with future means of paying for them to be arranged when the time comes. In other words, during some later governmental administration. This is profoundly un-like industrial labor relations. I could not have agreed to costly future business expense as had been done in the past. The main past mistake was the failure to see how technology could change after such a long period of no change. The notion of paying for pensions and insurance in an age of ever expanding costs was not calculated or debated. That business died in 1990, but it could have survived if that International Rep had been dismissed by our men.
When a Wisconsin teacher can't understand why her husband fails to support her labor union with protest rallies in Madison, it may be because she can't understand how different her union's relationship is to the party on the other side of the negotiating table. Without need to worry about how to pay labor's demands, the politician can not only agree, but encourage ever more costly contracts! Why? It doesn't take a very smart teacher to sense that maybe her political opponent negotiator likes her union dues that she is forced to have him take out of her paycheck and give to her labor union boss! Why would she like it? Guess you have to be one of the few exceptional math teachers to figure this out….or sit in on the labor leaders talks with the U.S. President in the White House. That is where federal money can be extracted from taxpayers all over the U.S. and be sent as stimulus funds to help Wisconsin bail-out its deficit, as has already been done more than once and could be done again. Really?
Well, it seems that this teacher's husband and a majority of voters in WI listened to the college drop-out for course failure who is now Governor, and found the Governor's analysis to be correct! Either vote for a major change or let the state go bankrupt along with many others! The truth of which course is best may never be known. However, if Wisconsin can now balance its budget and pay its debt while finding ways to bring new jobs for its citizens, it may prove to be a better choice. Of course, some will still contend that they missed the chance to 'take-back' all accumulated wealth in Wisconsin to give it to the workers until more is needed and no more remains to be 'taken-back' without getting it from taxes of citizens in other states or just money printed by the federal government to steal via inflation.
It may be that in 2012, Obama will win big and sweep back into state offices all the representatives needed to make things right again! Or, it may just be that voters will surprise those who think that socialist ideas are imperative to avoid 'sweat shop' and 'child-labor' conditions from coming into play as a means of keeping taxes down in Wisconsin and elsewhere. I think the teacher's husband understands which is the better way to encourage job creation. But, that may be only because his 'real-world' is different than that of her labor leader's vision and ideas put into her mind while she attempts to teach children. Somehow God has made it possible for the children to grow up to think for themselves, or so it has been for a long time in the one sort of working democracy called the U.S.A.
I hope that Wisconsin sticks to its new course and shows that children can still go to school and not to any ‘sweat shop’ to do sewing for 89 hours per week for minimum entry level wages. I don’t expect to read of this happening, but I do think WI taxes will come down and that many teachers will refuse to pay the high union dues used to campaign for political captives of their union bosses.
I chose the introductory story above to both report a bit of history never before recognized by more than a few men, most of whom are no longer alive! Few in the twin cities of Champaign-Urbana or vice-versa, but f you are concerned about minority status in Urbana or at the University of Illinois, then it is Urbana-Champaign. Historically, Urbana is the older town and was the center used by citizens of the new village of West-Urbana, which was caused by the route of the Illinois Central Rail Road. In time it became called Champaign and the largest city in the county of the same name. This sort of division is but another sort of reflection that represents a division that should not have happened or been maintained. Today, with the Univ. of IL straddling the two cities (the original main Administrative Hall is on the Urbana side of the dividing street, but the current major center is on the Champaign side! So what? It probably would save the local taxpayers a lot to have one city for all three, but the lines of fiscal support are as badly mixed up on this issue as is the case for the practice in IL of having separate taxing districts for all sorts of things with different boundaries in many cases.
All of this only serves as a background to the largest question: Do we really have a nation of people like those in Madison, WI? Folks who either believe in one group that unions are always needed to avoid conditions for workers that are grossly unfair? And a separate group that takes the position that workers are to be exploited at the lowest possible cost that allows them to stay alive long enough to be worked to death? This is the sort of implied fear that is not so much implied by union supporters in Madison, it an actual expression of real fear by people close to me! Thoughts of such exploitation make one wonder if anyone in WI, is not working for the State through its major union or for industrial unions who represent a small minority of those of working age? Actually the majority of working age men and women in WI are not in those two groups. In fact their numbers are not quite synonymous with this division. Many working for the state and industries where unions have managed to create a union shop circumstance, do not want to be in the union and often feel doubly insulted to have to pay high dues that are largely a coerced payment to support political candidates thought to be most helpful to the leaders of the unions, but not necessarily to the members.
We seem to ignore in Wisconsin that federal workers are employed by the actions of Congress and paid for their services and obtain working conditions and pay that is the envy of all except the taxpayers who contribute most to the cost; and these workers do not have a union or pay dues!
The nation has come down a long road that witnesses the profound advantages of our history. We made our nation the best in the world in the eyes of most people who try to come to the U.S. and be free of the inferior status of most folks abroad. Somehow a few actually feel better off where they are thanks to some special circumstances like being a few in a land of huge and cheaply available oil; or able to avoid expense for national defense such as Switzerland and to a lesser extent Sweden, Norway and Finland although two of the three were invaded in WWII – one by Germany (Norway) and one by Russia (Finland). All three have little appeal to people of warmer climates and in the past no known special natural resources although oil now pays the costs for citizens of Norway. Few Europeans are in the queue to migrate to the U.S. They depend on us for defense and enjoy living on welfare.
So, where does the current uprising by Republicans in Wisconsin take us? Not just in WI but in all of the U.S.? Those who elected a wave of candidates to change the push to make WI the most heavily supporting state for evidence of social welfare while moving to transform it into a place where all should walk or ride mass transit to and from work, do not understand why folks in Madison do not grasp how others live up-state? They know that those others live on lower incomes but in larger space per person.
How will the new approach work out?
First, will it solve the fiscal need to write pay checks that can be cashed? Clearly any continued failure of this sort will not be tolerated. This is true especially by those who voted for the party that controlled the budget for many years! These folks will want to get back to what? I can only guess that they believe that because people like their beloved Michael Moore are worth millions, therefore he and others can still be taxed to balance the budget? Oh, he doesn’t live in Wisconsin…well there are many millionaires in Wisconsin aren’t there?
For those who elected the Governor and new members of the legislature, failure to achieve a balanced budget is a sign of failure. But, what if many in Madison lose government or other jobs and go hungry? These voters will be full of compassion and encouragement for creation of new jobs that will feed them.
Maybe we can devise ways to help people grow their own food vertically to avoid need to leave the cities and to acquire cheap power as a way to stay warm in spite of rapid climate change that has not yet prevented or saved Wisconsin from snow and cold weather. Odd that food and energy along with air and water are really the main parts of any plan to survive. Can it be done in a green sustainable way?
What about the thousands who protested in Madison? Some part of them have been bused back to other states and wait to be called upon again by their union bosses. Others may soon learn that reality is not as bad as was predicted. But, some will agitate and may be striking now to help make it look like all of WI is ready to revolt.
Stay tuned! Some interesting announcements may be coming.
To be continued...
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