So every year, it's the same deal around this time. Papers, radio and TV all seize on Labor Day as a time to analyze the shrinking numbers of union members and the decline of the American middle class. They look at the number of people who belong to organized labor, then talk about dischord and disarray in the movement and how once good jobs have fled overseas or disappeared altogether.
And I can't argue with that-- just about any numbers you look at will show you that union membership has declined massively since the Fifties. Private sector jobs with contract protection are becoming more scarce by the year and every week seems to bring more news of formerly stalwart unionized companies cutting jobs, filing for bankruptcy or slashing their pension or health care.
The thing that gets me about all this is the sense of inevitability. I'm sure I'm guilty of this, as well, but it shouldn't be that way. Just as companies should have taken good care of their employees in the past and they should do so now, it was a good idea to join a union in the Fifties and it's a good idea now.
Look at all the things unions got us that we take for granted now-- 40 hour work weeks, weekends off and vacation days like the one we enjoyed today. Just because those have become somewhat standard, have unions outlived their usefulness? Absolutely not.
Now I can't deny that labor has not always acquitted itself particularly well over the years. Every time a union official got arrested for corruption, it was a blow to all of us who try to work honestly and fairly. Each time a union blocked legitimate progress instead of looking for a new way to exist in a new economy, it held everyone else back with it. Every lazy guy who slacked off at work and got away with it because his contract protected him left a bad memory for everyone else who was shouldering their own load. But in that same span, the corporate world has gotten away with plenty of horrendous abuses, as well.
So if we're in this new economy with all its emphasis on personal responsibility and every man for himself, where does that leave labor? Exactly where it's always been-- we've got to be there to stick up for you when times are rough and pull you to better things when times are good. Especially at a time when union membership's on the decline, the movement's just as relevent and important as it's ever been.
Housing prices are still a killer, pensions are disappearing and health care's continuing its upward cost march. Just because numbers have dwindled and good jobs have fled to China and India doesn't mean that unions should pack up and say "well, it was nice while it lasted, but our day is done." As things look uncertain for the American worker, you'd better hope you're not out there alone-- we all need to find ways to adapt our jobs and adapt our talents so we can enjoy the quality of life our parents and grandparents did.
And while we've got miles and miles to go at the Daily News, I'm glad to say that our union is in good shape to work toward that better future. Clearly, we need to make progress in wages and none of us has great health care options. But we've got a lot of smart, hard-working people here who put out a good product-- that'll help lead us in the right direction. And whenever I meet with people outside the paper, whether it's former Newspaper Guild members or the other stewards and officers of CWA, I'm always impressed with their ability to look for new ways to adapt and their willingness to work.
So while the labor movement's taken plenty of hits nationwide, we've never been stronger at the Daily News than today. As wages stagnate for many industries, our contract will get us a raise this month. As people in non-union companies constantly fear that their jobs will get eliminated or sent overseas, we've established a strong working relationship with management to move the company forward so we can all enjoy its success. Because of that relationship, we can talk out our concerns in a civilized manner and get past the petty disputes that screw up regular workplaces-- and if they don't, we can speak up together and ensure that our voices are heard.
So for those of you who've already joined in support, let me say thank you-- it's because of the way you operate that we're better off than we used to be. And for those of you who haven't yet come aboard, please help us. There's plenty of room for improvement, but we'll never get there unless we've got you alongside us.
When I joined this union, we had a handful of members at the Daily News and no real clue on how to represent the newsroom as a whole. We got by on luck and informed guesses and gradually evolved into a fairly competent organization. Today, we've got members in nearly every department, each bureau and most every kind of job. We recently added another steward, Kerry Kandel, who's done a fantastic job of stepping up and looking out for her fellow employees.
But we can-- and will-- do so much more. And we need your help to do it. When you see something unfair, tell us. When you find a better way to do things, let us know. Better yet, join us. The more members we have, the better chances we have to get stronger contracts and a better workplace. We've worked long and hard to do our part to make this paper into a place we can all be proud of, but it still needs a lot more help.
So think it over as the vacation day fades in your mind- we can get stronger together or go it alone and hope for the best. Judging from what I've seen in the past six years here, I know that working with one another will have the best result, but suit yourself. And regardless of your decision, remember that we're always here for you no matter what's going on. If you ever need anything, just ask us.
Thank you for your time and support,