It's been a difficult few weeks for unions and the workers they represent. Really, it's been a difficult few decades.
In 1964 nearly 1 in 3 American workers was unionized. Today, the figure stands at less than 12 percent, with a paltry 7 percent of the private sector workforce belonging to labor organizations. Nearly half the states operate with "right to work" laws, which mainly grant employers the right to make employees work more hours for less pay.
Last month, a federal judge ruled that a pro-labor proposal by the National Labor Relations Board to speed up union certification elections was "invalid." Last week in Wisconsin, most voters couldn't recall what it is that public employee unions were good for, and so refused to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
But it's always darkest before everything goes completely fucking black. I mean, the dawn! Always darkest before the dawn, as proven by the efforts of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in the Sharpsville Area School District cafeteria in Pennsylvania.
Years from now, we may speak of AFSCME's victory in the same breath as the Flint sit down strikes that birthed the modern United Auto Workers. We will remember them as we do the martyrs of Ludlow and Homestead and Pullman. We will sing songs about their successful grievance procedure, just as we mythologize in song the brave women of Lawrence's mills and the coal miners of Harlan County…
The grievance was based on the allegation that the school district "violated established past practice" in charging cafeteria workers for food or drinks that couldn't be sold or consumed by students. These items would include food or drinks with expired dates or foods that had been reheated, none of which can be served to students according to safe food regulations.
But according to the settlement, cafeteria employees indeed can eat and drink those expired or reheated items — at their own risk. And they don't have to pay for them… AFSCME members working in the cafeteria however must pay for any other a la carte items they consume.
Things are really looking up for labor! Sure, collective bargaining agreements are soon to become ineffective tools to settle beefs between workers and employers, but at least the exploited laborers of the future will have all the expired beef they can eat.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Tags: Education, Food, Pennsylvania, Unions