It’s hard to escape the hype surrounding Martin Scorcese’s movie The Irishman. Scorcese is one of the world’s best directors and the talent he’s brought on board is extraordinary.
We are not hearing accolades from those who know the true history of America’s Labor Movement, however.
The Irishman is packed from start to finish with outdated stereotypes and myths about Union leaders. One could say it’s a “hit job,” not so different from the fictional Mafia murders Scorcese has built his career on portraying.
What you won’t see in this movie is an honest portrayal of dedicated servants to the country’s working men and women, and this disturbs me to my core.
Here’s the reality: With very few exceptions, Union leaders are decent, generous and selfless human beings.
I first became acquainted with Unions as a kid in Detroit, where my grandfather, Harry Loveall, worked as a mechanic. At his garage, his son, Jack L. Loveall, washed cars owned by Union leaders in the city, and from them he learned the values of hard work and solidarity — values he continues to embody to this day.
In the years since, I have known countless heroes of the Union movement who endured sleepless nights, missed their kids’ soccer games and recitals, and even put their own health at risk while working to secure the best possible wages, benefits and working conditions for Union members. Here are some things a real Union leader does:
- Going toe-to-toe with billion-dollar corporations to negotiate better terms of employment for workers who would be helpless without a Union.
- Organizing new workplaces and industries to build the bargaining strength of workers.
- Building positive relationships with employers by educating them on the advantages of a happy, loyal and professional labor force.
- Strengthening relationships with lawmakers and policy makers to promote laws giving workers a better break, whether they belong to a Union or not. In this way, the Labor Movement is responsible for the five day work week, overtime pay, sick leave, family leave and other benefits Americans tend to take for granted.
- Finding innovative solutions to the high cost of health care while improving outcomes for Union members and their families.
- Developing and promoting real solutions to the looming retirement crisis.
Given all these things, it is profoundly unfair how certain forces conspire to blacken the image of Unions and their leaders over the decades.
Immensely rich individuals and corporations have teamed up with ideological fanatics in a coordinated and well financed campaign to discredit the very idea of working people standing together to advance their own interests.
In the meantime, the idea of wealthy people pooling together their riches to form corporations and become even richer is promoted as the only true “American Way.”
Fortunately, working people are resilient folks, and they are pushing back on this attack on their rights. Surveys show Unions are increasing in popularity, especially among the younger generations. They aren’t buying the anti-Union propaganda.
Instead, they are advancing an idea which is the motto of all of us at UFCW 8-Golden State: