Growing up Union
by Jeff Latas for US Congress, Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 11:29:33 AM EST
There have been some questions here in the race for Arizona's District 8 about whether or not candidates support the right to organize. Let me clearly state my belief that workers have every right to organize and this is one reason our country became as strong as it is. Because of our freedoms, the people won a struggle to keep the balance of power from shifting entirely towards corporate interests.
You bet I support the right to organize. I grew up in a family where my father was a member of a union. He started out as a school teacher after earning his degree on the GI bill, granted to him because he served his country during WWII. He was never motivated by money, but he was motivated to do the right thing. I never heard him once complain about his income. He just wanted to do the right thing.
When my older sister was born in 1954, teacher pay was so low that my father couldn't support his family on such low wages. At that time, teaching was one of the few professions where women were well represented, and teachers were certainly underpaid. My father was forced out of that profession he loved. He found work in an oil refinery. As a union man earning good hourly wages, he was able to support our family. He still didn't crave riches; he only wanted to do the right thing.
Twice in my childhood, he went on strike. Because I have raised children of my own now, I can understand how hard it must have been for him to explain that Santa would be traveling light. But you know, holidays were joyous, because my family was about more than material things. The strikes forced my father to find outside work. While on strike, he attended a graduate-level class to qualify to be a substitute teacher. He loved doing the sub thing so much; he continued to teach the rest of his life.
Anyone who has been near an oil refinery knows that the chemical smell in the air is overwhelming. It's also full of toxins. My father spent over 25 years on swing shifts, breathing that air, and I'm sure that it contributed to the heart attack that took his life at the age of 54, one year before he was going to take an early retirement so he could go back to teaching.
In the long run, the union kept his wages high, was going to allow him to retire early, and provided good benefits. He supported the union even though we ate lots of beans and some times had to wear clothes that started getting a bit ragged. I had a good childhood. I support workers' rights to organize, because I know that life for us would have been much, much worse with out it.
And let me make it perfectly clear, like a union, this campaign believes in solidarity. We deeply appreciate our supporters. Solidarity is the reason this nation was able to declare its independence and grant power to the people. Solidarity is the only way we will wrestle the power out of the hands of paid political assassins like Karl Rove and restore government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Jeff Latas for Congress