Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Out of conflict ... accord."

Port Townsend, today. A remarkable day in Madison, Wisconsin. As I watched the throng of men and women struggling to hang onto the right to collective bargaining, I remembered some of the crummy jobs I've held over the years, where the only recourse to workplace injustice was to walk out the door.

And I recalled conversations with my Dad over his early years as a marine engineer, before they had a union on the boats.

Sure there are examples of excesses on "both sides." But the alternative, not having recourse in the work place against bad management, results in a terrible, frustrating way to earn a paycheck. I've experienced it.

"The stamp's theme, "Out of conflict... accord," is one to which every citizen can subscribe.

The fact that we have developed a strong, flexible collective bargaining system stands as a tribute to the millions of men and women of both labor and management who have devoted themselves to building a better and better America.

Our people cannot live on islands of self-interest. We must build bridges and communicate our agreements as well as our disagreements. One of the longest and sturdiest bridges in this land is collective bargaining.

Today, more than ever in the past three decades, there are really three parties at each bargaining table--management on the one hand, labor on the other, and the third, our national welfare.

There is an ever-growing responsibility on two sides for restraint in the interest of the third party--our national interest. I most sincerely ask all of you here this evening, and all members of labor and management teams around 'the country, to remember that there is a silent partner sitting down with you at each bargaining session, your fellow citizens everywhere.

Let's try to remember, as we can, bearing each individual's respective responsibility, America's interests, and the search for social as well as economic progress-our objectives, yours as well as mine, are as old as human nature. Each man and each woman are the roots of his or her own survival.

So, it is so true in democracy. Democracy has within it the roots, as well as the strengths, to save itself. And that strength is national unity and a strong, strong national purpose."

Those words were not spoken in Madison, Wisconsin. They were delivered by President Gerald Ford on the occasion of the first day issue of the 10-cent "Collective Bargaining" stamp, almost 35 years ago to the day, on March 13, 1975.

Our system of Collective Bargaining has a deep rooted history, which can be traced back to 1800 B.C. What came to be known as Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, was honored by the issuance of this US Postage stamp.

ADR was first brought into serious conflicts between labor and management in two heavy US industries; the coal miners, and the railroads.

As you read Fords words, think about the thousands of union workers gathered in Madison Wisconsin, and what they represent, and what they are in danger of losing. And the further threats nationwide as Republican governors move to eliminate collective bargaining for state employees.

And just this past week, the TSA narrowly avoided losing their newly won right to collective bargaining, even before they got to use it!

President Ford's observations are as true today, as they were in 1975.

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

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