A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer The Perils of Anti-Unionism By Bernard Rapoport Text of a speech made at the Minnesota State AFLCIO Convention, in September 1981. On September 1, 1981, the Wall Street Journal’s lead editorial was captioned “Blue Jean Bombshell.” One could read between the lines a discernible smirkness as it reported that the workers in a denim plant in Rock Hill, South Carolina voted 433 to 299 that they did not want to be represented by the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Part of the editorial reads as follows: But as the Rock Hill vote indicates, the workers don’t seem terribly enthusiastic. For all the attention organizers have lavished on Stevens, the ACTWU has done rather poorly at the ballot box and has so far won the right to represent only 10% of Stevens’ employees. A couple of thoughts come to my mind as I reflect about these statements. One.is, I wonder really I don’t because I know pretty well what happened but for the purpose of expressing myself I shall say I wonder how terrified those workers must be about the possibility of losing their jobs in these days of increasing unemployment. We exist today under an administration that includes as one essential ingredient in the fight against inflation increasing unemployment. Secondly, as one who has lived in the South, I can with total seriousness say to you that if the Amalgamated or a comparable union had not taken on the Stevens fight the workers in Rock Hill, South Carolina would be earning considerably less money than they are now. There’s another part of the editorial worth sharing with you. It goes like this: Cooler heads on the sidelines of the J. P. Stevens-Textile Workers dispute know that the organizing difficulties of unions in the South involve a great deal more than the dirty tricks of companies that resist organization. Southern workers have for many years been suspicious of the “Northern” unions, perhaps partly because they fear these unions will make their factories as uncompetitive as they once made the mills bp North. The suspicions may be breaking down in some areas, but unions still have a lot of persuading to do if they are to convince Southern workers that they have the workers’ best interests at heart. My quick retort is, who has the interests of the Southern workers at heart? Those myopic business leaders and I sincerely believe that their numbers are continually, decreasing, and goodnesS knows it has to be this way if this democracy of ours is to survive yes, these short-sighted business leaders who clap their hands every time a piece of anti-labor legislation is enacted, who are for right-to-work without realizing how destructive anti-unionism is to the delicate balance required for this great democracy of ours? Or should we conclude that perhaps the unions might better represent the interests of the workers? Make no mistake about it. I am not anti-business. I just want to be sure that there are millions of Americans who have sufficient purchasing power so that businesses can thrive and that the workers themselves can have consistently higher standards of living. Intelligent advocates of the free enterprise market system recognize that the “invisible hand” works in a competitive situation among equals, and that is why strong business and labor components are essential to a free enterprise society. Whether those business and industry leaders now cheering for a crackdown on labor recognize it or not, the blunt truth is that union contracts are among our nation’s most impor illid American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE OFFICES: P.O. BOX 208, WACO, TEXAS 78703, 817-772-3050 BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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