Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Monday, February 21, 2011

On, Wisconsin!

On Wisconsin,
On Wisconsin,
Victory’s now in sight!

The state of Wisconsin, taking its cue from New Jersey, has not only taken on the teachers’ unions, but the very right to work; the right to say, “No, I don’t want to belong to a union, but I do want to work here.”

The unions have agreed to contributing more to their pensions and health care, but they're still agitating about the loss of some of their collective bargaining rights.  The Democrat legislatures, in order not to have risk either the ire of the union members or the tax-payers, have done a disappearing act.

Years ago, when my mother first began driving school buses in order to bolster the family income, the drivers at the company decided they were going to form a union. They held a meeting with the company owner. My mother attended that first meeting and was so disgusted by the drivers’ behavior, using the foulest, coarsest and unnecessary language, that she walked out.

She refused to sign up for the union. Her friend and leader of the union movement asked her why she hadn’t attended the union meetings. My mother told her she thought it was wrong and useless.

“If you don’t join the union, we’ll have the owner fire you,” the union organizer threatened.

“Oh you will, will you?” Mom retorted.

Mom sided with management. Thanks to understanding parents, and a number of drivers who refused to strike, the company was able to meet its obligations. Strikers not only harassed drivers at the bus yard, but along the routes, and at the schools.

One afternoon, as my mother was getting ready to leave the yard on her run, a striker stood in the way of the bus. Revving the engine loudly, Mom called out that she would count to three and then the striker had better get out of her way, or she’d run her down.

With each count, Mom revved the engine louder. On three, the horrified striker gave a shriek and jumped out of the way.

In another incident – and my favorite – Mom was just coming into the yard. You had to cross a bridge over a brook to enter the yard. On the bridge, stood a striker, blocking the way. She came up and kicked Mom’s Dodge van. Furious, Mom stopped and jumped out.

“Get out of my way!” she yelled. The striker stood defiantly. She was a short little woman. Mom was taller, and thinner, but stronger. My mother glanced at the side of the bridge. ‘I can take her!’ Mom calculated. ‘If she doesn’t get out of my way, I’ll send right over the side of this bridge!’

“Come on!” Mom yelled. “You wanna fight? I’ll give you a fight!”

The woman took up the challenge, but her sister saw what was going to happen, and grappled her smaller sister from behind and dragged her off, arms and legs failing, and lungs bellowing. My mother got back into her van, drove across the bridge, then got into her bus to do her school run.

My mother called the state Right to Work association for advice. They were ready to take up arms and lawsuits. But my mother told them, ‘Never mind. I can handle this myself. I know what to do.’

She went to the local police station and registered a complaint that she was being denied her right to work. During the picket protests, bus drivers were being threatened, assaulted, and prevented from doing their runs, blocking the buses from crossing the bridge.

“They’re supposed to keep walking,” my mother told the police officer. “They’re not supposed to stop us from driving in and out, and you’re not doing anything to prevent them from harassing us.”

“Well you know,” the officer drawled, “we’re union, too, and we really don’t want to get involved.”

My mother pointed out the window of the station to the American flag waving outside.

“Do you see that flag out there?” she asked. “That’s the American flag. I’m an American and your job is to protect me if I want to go to work. When the union flag is raised in its place, then you can pick and choose who you decide to protect.”

The next day, four police cars were at the bus yard. Appreciative parents wrote to the bus company, thanking the drivers in particular for putting their children’s education above financial ambitions. The strike was unsuccessful; the drivers were unable to form their union. Eventually, my mother went to work for the competition because that company also had charter buses which meant longer hours and more money.

That’s the American way of improving your lot in life, doing more for your employer, not intimidating them and anyone else who works for them.


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