Essay on The Shift of Power

Submitted By tokrause3
Words: 2216
Pages: 9

The Shift of Power
Labor organizations began in the 19th century and struggled to show significance, however they developed and proved their purpose during the industrial revolution. As technology changed and improved in working environments, unions had to do the same to remain significant. Two specific organizations signified the changes occurring between unions and employers, Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) and Local P-9 Meatpackers from Austin, Minnesota. In Phillip Drays reading, “A Time for Choosing,” he discusses in his chapter, “There is Power in a Union,” the disputes between Air Traffic Controllers and the federal government. PATCO and Ronald Reagan’s federal government stubbornly fought impeding each other’s requests on fair regulations. Bud and Ruth Schultz discussed in, “Cracking Down on New Voices of Union Militancy,” testimonies of the local community in Austin, who witnessed first hand the chaos taking place at the Hormel company and Local P-9 union. P-9er’s experienced government corruption and repression but disregarded personal needs and comfort to stand up for their beliefs. Many issues were involved in the disputes between the employers and the employees. Strategies were set in place to stay one step ahead of each other’s opponent. The public, media, courts, and authorities were unpredictable factors but played major roles in the disputes. While unions effectively progressed through time, disputes in the 1980’s displayed the shift in balance of power from unions to employers. Hormel employees and air traffic controllers had a list of issues with their respective employers, leading to dramatic strikes. Work conditions were unhealthy and overall benefits did not accommodate their justified needs. August of 1985 the Local P-9 struck against Hormel plant for, “Additional givebacks in wages and medical benefits and against dangerous speedup” (Schultz, 92). Employees conducting work in areas, such as the beef kill area, required frequent medical attention without additional benefits or worker’s compensation. After working at Hormel for five years, one employee stated, “In that five-year span, I required a hundred and ninety-six sutures and ended up having two surgeries to realign my wrist” (Schultz, 101). Not only were the short term affects unaccounted for, the long-term issues undoubtedly impacted the Hormel employees. Meatpackers had issues with physical injuries on the job. However air traffic control caused substantial mental stress on the controllers. The high level of stress prohibited occupational longevity, negating them from retirement plans. Once controllers put on a headset, they are responsible for millions of dollars and peoples lives, evidently, “a blackjack card dealer in Las Vegas is generally relieved from his duty after 40 minutes of dealing because of the monotony and mental stress of keeping up with a deck of cards, while an air traffic controller responsible for moving air planes in and out of a busy airport will frequently remain on the radarscope for four hours without relief” (Drays, 623). Controller’s issues were not limited to medical benefits, but employees did not believe they were being paid as much as they were worth. American controllers averaged more work per week and, “received fewer vacation or paid sick days than controllers in major systems worldwide” (Drays, 628). PATCO felt a package worth about $740 million would appease their needs.
On the other hand, Hormel dominated the meatpacking industry, continually increasing annual revenue. The increase of meat supply and demand was negatively correlated with employee income, because employees “couldn’t see any rationale in offering new concessions to a profitable employer, one making more money than it ever had before” (Schultz, 100). The employees’ frustration led them to take charge and rally each other and devise strategies to fight the irrational standards set by the