Friday, August 29, 2014

Labor Day Musings

I love Labor Day. It's a day off that for me carries no obligation but to rest from my labors. The heyday of the union is over, unless you consider this: In Minnesota Home Health Care and Child Care Providers have just won the right to organize and unionize. These are the people who provide the services traditionally served up free within families. They are bringing to light the value of that labor which is so often uncompensated or undercompensated. I don't know where the fight will go, or what the consequences will be, but it does focus a light on family issues.

What if parents formed a Labor Union? They certainly labor! And for many, the working conditions and safety standards aren't all they might be. What if parents collectively bargained for better wages, benefits, working conditions, safety practices and respect? What if they bound themselves together for the greater good? What would that look like?

I was once employed in a workplace that was in the middle of unionizing. I remember sitting in those meetings and thinking that the zeal of the organizers echoed both the Early Church (see Acts) and the Hippies of the Sixties (see Woodstock). In my mind I was singing along with the Youngbloods:
Come on People now,
Smile on your Brother,
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now.
(For you readers too young or too old to remember this song, you can listen to it here, just for grins.)
Many years later, this song sounds like an anthem for parents too. . . maybe more along the lines of:
Come on little people now,
Don't hit your brother,
Everybody stay together,
Gonna love one another
Right now. Right NOW. RIGHT NOW!
Ok, that's just facetious, but my point remains - do we need unions to protect parents, or families?

I am living closer to family farms than I have in a long while, and as I observe life in my new community I realize that families are by nature "unionized" a bit. Everyone has to get together for the common good, and sometimes love is the only glue that could get them through the mind-boggling choices that have to be made: Who stays on the farm and who gets a job in town? Who takes care of Mom or Dad in their old age or who pays for a nursing home? Should I have to pay the same rate of rent for my land to my brother as I would to a stranger? Should I charge my nephew the same price I would charge a stranger? How would the answers to those questions change if "everybody got together." Maybe it's not just families that need to organize, but whole communities. . .

What do you think?