I’ve been trying to decide exactly why I feel so much resentment toward Yale’s unions.
Certainly, I’m not opposed to the idea of a union. History has shown that times occasionally become dire enough to necessitate that workers cooperate in order to ensure the future of their families, and even their own safety.
However, America’s unions currently find themselves in a situation comparable to that of the modern civil rights movement — suddenly, their goals all but achieved, they must search for smaller and smaller issues, having nothing truly worthwhile left to shout about.
But, c’mon Aaron. I mean, don’t they?
Well, let’s see. Members of Local 34 average an annual salary of $30,871; those of Local 35, $33,972. Both groups enjoy free health care and dental insurance; retirement health care; $25,000 toward the purchase of a house; $11,100-per-year scholarships for college-attending children; tuition assistance; and paid vacation. Hardly Sinclair’s Chicago.
If my dad could get benefits like that for sweeping floors, maybe he wouldn’t have wasted eight years becoming a doctor.
My resentment toward Yale’s unions does not lie in this, however.
Nor does it lie in the fact that the union leaders and, indeed, the Yale students care more about the issue than do the workers themselves.
It lies in that I have spent my life with people who work far more for far less and do so thankfully.
I have spent my last two summers back home in rural North Carolina as a landscaper, working alongside men who support their wives and children on less than $20,000 a year. I know others in my hometown, some of whom are past retirement age, who work three jobs to make as much as those in Local 34 do on one.
Sure, these people live frugally. They don’t own many J.Crew outfits or talk on cell phones, and their kids don’t get too much for Christmas. But somehow, they make do with what they have and live happily. I would expect most Yale students to agree with me in that material possessions do not bring happiness. The best things in life are free, after all.
So, what’s the difference? Why, at Yale, is there such a desire for better contracts when people elsewhere get by on so much less? Personally, I think it has a bit to do with pride — a value that my Appalachian-born coworkers are certainly not short of. Others may disagree, but I believe that it is a good sign when a mother or a father works two jobs to make ends meet, too proud to beg either boss for more, or continues to work a low-paying job, too proud to turn to the government for handouts.
Perhaps Connecticut’s workers could learn from their example.
Or perhaps workers up here just aren’t content living hand-to-mouth, and cannot be stopped from asking for a more financially secure life.
Then let them ask. They certainly have a right to. They have a right to negotiation, and a right to protest. And if they feel strongly enough, they have a right to go on strike for their cause.
And I have a right to save my sympathy.
Aaron Mitchell is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.