The Union Side - And Response

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Thank you, Roy Exum, for your side of the anti-union story. I'm sure you've told us everything we will ever need to know about unions. Well, not exactly. Of course, it's no secret that an easily manipulated, cheap, uneducated workforce has been a golden goose for businesses in the south ever since the Civil War ended. After reading your latest column/history lesson, I do understand your recent opinions much more clearly now. We are, after all, a product of our upbringing. 

Has anyone heard of N.F. Thompson? A Former Ku Klux Klan leader and anti-union activist if there ever was one, he was editor of the Tradesman, forerunner of our own News Free Press. Most folks aren't old enough to remember in 1934 there was a textile strike nationwide and the governor of Georgia declared Marshall Law and quickly rounded up strikers and sent them off to camps. So don't think for one second that you can't be anti-union and still employ thugs. Most of our local manufacturers in the thirties were members of the Southern States Industrial Council, a union busting organization that was more than willing to use force to get their way. A few years after that, striking hosiery workers in Chattanooga in 1945 were fired upon and wounded by anti-union folks during a peaceful parade. 

Of course, I need not bring up one of the worst fires in U.S. manufacturing history at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, also non-union, where 146 died trying to escape through locked doors. Nor should I bother mentioning child labor laws, the 40 hour workweek, and workman's compensation; all created with the help of unions. 

Lastly, just remember that today, with unions weaker than ever, the average worker has had less than a two percent raise (when adjusted for inflation) over the last 40 years. Obviously, this is different than CEO salaries, which have grown over the same period at a much more astounding rate of 725 percent. Maybe this helps explain the rash of anti-union letters and editorials from our political and social elites. 

It's amazing to me how we can care so much about horses and so little for the American worker. 

Herb Montgomery
Chattanooga

* * *

Gee Herb, 

Marshall Law - is that George Marshall Law, Thurgood Marshall Law, or the Law of the Marshall Islands? Yet it's amazing how you can quote every  fact of a historic non-union worker tragedy. Unions were an important part of our history, but history is the key word. Notice that the examples you cite have nothing to do with the labor movement in the past 50 years, simply because unions have done little to help the worker during that time, but more to help the union itself. It is an entity unto itself that the workers now have to keep alive, and it desperately needs more members to sustain itself.

If we want to look at the role of the union, specifically the UAW, in recent years in the state of Tennessee, we need look no further than the comparison between Spring Hill and Smyrna. Having friends and family in both communities, some of which were employed by both, the results were incredibly opposite. Smyrna, and Rutherford County, is one of the fastest growing areas in the state. Nissan has been a boon to that area, both in employment and creating many other economic opportunities, and they continue to do so without the union. Then you look at Columbia, where Saturn/GM brought in laid-off UAW workers from Michigan and the locals were lucky to get security or custodial jobs at best. Then, they go out of business and leave the economic wreckage for the locals. Even under the down-sized GM retooling, local unemployment is sky-high, and the economy and job perspective in the area is bleak at best for most families. Not much of a comparison. 

From recent and local history, I would think that Chattanooga stands a little bit better chance of economic success without the help of the UAW.

Lee Crews



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