Monday, September 05, 2005


Couldn't find an older image of Toledo's Labor Day parade, though I've been attending them since I was my son's age. This image from Buffalo, 1900, with the flags proudly waving and the disciplined cadence of the workers, is a compliment to over a century of contributions by the labor movement to our country - the forty hour work week, the weekend, the elimination of child labor, continual improvement in workplace safety, innovation and productivity gains, health and pension benefits, and the right to organize and pursue better wages - whether in a union or not, everyone has benefited. The urgency of today's labor movement is reflected in the turmoil engulfing its leadership and in recent polling that suggests 53% of American workers would join a union tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.

Over 100 years ago Toledo Mayor Samuel 'Golden Rule' Jones put into words what can only be described as Toledo's enduring mission: putting people to work. Note the diversity of the workforce, circa 1902, south Toledo.

This image from the 1940's is a credit to the rugged workers who have built Jeeps in Toledo for decades. The tradition continues, with 7 new supplier parts plants, and beginning in 2006, an increase in output at the new Stickney Jeep Assembly from roughly 250,000 trucks per year to 450,000 trucks per year. It is incumbent on our region to lead the world in automotive technology and research.

Technical precision was required by women working on Toledo Scales, 1960. Today, hundreds of new engineering jobs have been brought in by Dana Corporation, and our universities are transforming themselves into research institutions. Regional photovoltaic and alternative energy research & commercialization continues to receive an increasing share of federal, state and private investments.

The Toledo Broadway Street Water Works, circa 1910. I'm proud that we are investing $450 million now to replace sections of that 1910 sewer system - putting people like these guys to work in building, construction and engineering.

These ironworkers share a moment with the Toledo skyline, 1930, as they contruct the Anthony Wayne "High Level" Bridge. Of course, 75 years later, their brothers and sisters continue their dangerous craft on our new Maumee River Crossing.

What about our future? I believe in a regional approach. A collaborative effort with our regional economic development partners continues - and is creating jobs (did I mention the new 7 Jeep parts suppliers & hundreds of new jobs.) In short order, the City of Toledo and Lucas County economic development staffs will be working together, partnering with a beefed up Regional Growth Partnership, among others. We have got to work, work, work to overcome the punishing effects of globalization, to not only diversify our economy, but to invest and excel in what our workforce already does better than anybody, anywhere else.

photo credits: Buffalo image: "Labor Day Parade, Main Street, Buffalo, New York. "Detroit Publishing Company circa 1900. Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920, American Memory collections, Library of Congress. Other images: Toledo-Lucas County Public Library's Images in Time section.


Anonymous Sepp said...

The images in time section on our library website is one of the best kept secrets in Toledo. I found my Grandmother's graduation photo from nursing school at maumee valley hospital class of 1933 on there. The site give a very real peek at how the city has changed over the last 100 years (and not all for the good) Glad you left a link to it for other folks to find Frank!

7:17 AM  
Blogger liberal_dem said...

Great photos and a wonderful link.

It was good to see so many great Democrats at this morning's Labor Day Parade. Wow! The parade must have had several thousand of union members in every type of vehicle imaginable. What a great show of solidarity! I enjoyed seeing the strong workforce that these union workers offer to this city.

Go union! Keep our jobs at a decent living wage standard and keep fighting the Republicans who are union-busters!

Solidarity forever!

2:46 PM  
Blogger billy said...

"Go union! Keep our jobs at a decent living wage standard and keep fighting the Republicans who are union-busters!"

Keep up the hate speech comrade! The republicans need all the socialist types like you there are up in front and talkin loud into the microphones! Pay no attention to the public when they say theyre getting tired of your bitching and hating and coming up with ZERO action plans except to point and whine...

I take it by your statment that Labor day is ONLY for democratic union members? Im sorry I missed the parade - there was a sale at Walmart.

3:55 PM  
Blogger billy said...

At one time union membership across the board was about a third of the population. Now in the private sector its about 9%. Interestingly, in the public sector, those paid by our tax dollars remain 37% unionized (ie, the local 'work to the rule' NEA)

Maybe this forum can provide an answer to a question I keep asking but never recieve an answer to - Why should we do what 9% of the workers demand we do and 'buy union'? Its obvious what's in it for them, but what's in it for us??

Why should I go to Meijer instead of walmart? Ive asked this question before and predictably, got the expected denigration that union folks are so good at providing, but never a straight answer.

Last week I needed an off season product - a room fan. I knew that this was not the time of year to be getting one, and that pickin's would most likely be slim. I stopped at meijer, and asked a stocker where they might be, and he looked at me and said "Man, Im really sorry, but I honestly dont know!" AND FRIGGIN WALKED AWAY FROM ME!!!

So, I excercised my right as a consumer and opted not to go to the customer service counter and instead went down the street to Walmart and did the same thing - found the first kid I saw (stocking greeting cards incidently) and asked her. She literally TOOK me to where the fans were and apologised for the slim pickin's they offered due to it being the end of the season...

Im sorry, but I got service from the downtrodden Walmart person, and I got NOTHONG from the employee that is supposed to be giving me that good ol union-quality service.

Now, I just googled the question "Why buy Union?", and I found sites entitled 'where to buy, and others entitles 'where to boycott', but not being a sheep, I tend to frown on being told what to do with my bucks. Not one of the sites gave a reason behind the orders theyre giving.

Is there anybody out there willing to give it a shot? Wanna call me names for even daring to ASK the questions, knock yourselves out - put please then - at least answer the questions.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Truth be told "liberal d." while I appreciate your enthusiasm, your constant baiting and references to other blogs only fuels those guys. Cool it man.

And billy, you don't need to take the bait, do you? I like your question about why buy union & will respond tonight, my son is demanding my attention as we speak...

6:27 PM  
Blogger Toledoenne said...

Great link to the Images Frank. Thank you! I am going to thrill my 83 yr. old grandma with some of those pictures - especially of her old home.

LibDem, I also missed the parade. I'm working today (non union) for triple pay!

7:03 PM  
Blogger historymike said...

Yes, great tribute to Toledo's labor history, Frank.

There are certainly some readers with strong opinions regarding the legacy and future of organized labor.

My most sincere hope is that we will never have to suffer and find out the hard way of the need for unions, and that the blood spilled in the past will remind everyone of what we sometimes take for granted.

Unfortunately, I think living standards and working conditions will have to decline further before enough people realize how important it is to have organized labor.

7:15 PM  
Blogger runnindog said...

yes, great images of Toledo at work. Too bad all the city has is its history of work, since no one can find work with Ford in charge now.

8:10 PM  
Blogger liberal_dem said...

OK Frank. I took your advice and made my own blog:

Pure politics 24/7. Let's see what's on the minds of the citizens of Toledo and surrounding areas.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Good step Liberal Dem, I'll check it out.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A guy came into my place of employment today and he had on a T-shirt touting buy USA. It was a red white and blue shirt of course. I checked his tagged. Made in Venezuela.

Much like people vote for their leaders in this town, they only look at the face of the shirt. They don't bother with the details.


11:20 PM  
Blogger billy said...

There are certainly some readers with strong opinions regarding the legacy and future of organized labor.

My most sincere hope is that we will never have to suffer and find out the hard way of the need for unions, and that the blood spilled in the past will remind everyone of what we sometimes take for granted.

HistoryMike, I think maybe the name MysteryMike might be a better handle - I asked some valid questionns, and your response is I hope no one has to find out why... What's the big secret? Nobody ever wants to say!

Blood that was spilled?? If blood is spilled it means there are two opposing sides - what if you all are on the wrong side???

I see Toledo as a big union town who is in pretty poor shape compared to the rest of the country. Detroit is the biggest liberal town in the nation - another huge union stronghold, and another spot that's pretty much a hole.

Hmike, you're another one that's long on warnings, but short on facts.

7:24 AM  
Blogger liberal_dem said...

billy- you have proven that again and again you have a single agenda: defend right-wing America at all costs.

Like Toto, we have already pulled open the curtain on the 'Great and Powerful Bush.'

Come on over to my blog and let's get fired up!

9:19 AM  
Blogger Toledoenne said...

LibDem, your response is incredibly ignorant, and not an answer by any means. And your blog is as barren as your creativity in coming up with solutions rather than accusations and arguments.

9:56 AM  
Blogger billy said...

Liberal dem - Ive asked some simple questions. If I have the wool pulled over my eyes why not straighten me out instead of making wizard of oz comparisons.

You say Im defending right wing america - I say Im defending nothing, Im QUESTIONING what the left is saying and so far nobody has stepped up to the plate to answer my questions. There is a mayoral vote coming up soon and Ive not made up my mind. Frank supports Ford and backs up his support with reasons. Why is it that no union supporters will back up their support with reasons??

You have solved nothing. I posted my questions on this forum and I am still waiting for legitimate answers on this forum. I have no intention on going out to your blog because you have proven time and again - this thread being a prime example - that you are not interested in honest debate but would rather just p*ss and moan while posting Zero facts to back up your stance.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous -Sepp said...

Billy, "liberal dems" seldom back anything up with facts. All that I've seen is that they are content to pass on internet rumors as "facts" and resort to hysterics when debunked. Don't waste your breath with em'.

2:02 PM  
Blogger historymike said...

Sorry, billy, not going to get into a flame war.

My comments about the labor movement referred to the gains that were made (improved working conditions, unemployment insurance, worker's comp) in large part due to the efforts of organized labor.

If you wish to engage in intelligent debate, I respectfully suggest that you avoid the silly name-calling, sir.

8:15 PM  
Blogger billy said...

Michael, you elude to the fact that you'd be willing to engage in debate. Is this so?

The questions are out there sir - balls in your court, and has been since you chose not to answer them the first time you replied to them.

I apologise for the mysterymike comment - I let my annoyance get the better to me when you chose to respond to my post but not to answer the questions.

Would you care to answer them now?

9:04 PM  
Blogger historymike said...

Actually, I responded to the fact that several posters responded in a manner that indicated dissatisfaction with the legacy of organized labor.

My comments were not directed toward your post.

I will do my best to answer your questions, which appear to be spread out over several posts:

1. The "buy union" question: American consumers are free to shop wherever they would like. You are correct in pointing out that there is an element of self-interest in unions calling for "buy union." "What's in it for us?" [meaning, I assume, non-union workers] In terms of immediate merchandise cost/quality effects, probably a negligible difference. In the long term, though, higher wages kept in the local communtiy benefit everyone else in the form of increased tax revenues, improved housing values, and a generally higher quality of life in the region.

2. Meijer versus WalMart - similar to the macro view above, although the wage differences are not that great, since Meijer's multi-tiered wage scales mean that new hires take a long time to reach the higher seniority wages. In your case, you made a rational decision to take your business where it is appreciated. I would avoid, though, generalizing into a "union=bad service" theory, as I have found as much poor service in non-union establishments as I have found good service performed by union workers. It's retail, brother!

3. I stand by my assertion that organized labor has improved working conditions for all Americans. I will agree that it is possible that this "forced enlightenment" that corporations have adopted since the 1930s might be a sort of permanent evolution in the employer-employee relationship. It is equaly possible, though, that declines in union membership (and thus agregate strength) might coincide with a return to the lower wages and poor working conditions of early 20th-century America.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

I'm just getting home tonight, long day.

Appreciate the q & a billy & historymike bring to the site, I know I gain insight from it.

Let me share what organized labor means to my family & I, personally:

My mom's parents are Hungarian. My grandfather's parents emigrated to Barberton, Ohio in the early 20's, had my Grandpa John, and moved back to their village along the Hungarian/Slovak border when just before the Great Depression hit. Back in Hungary, he had papers recognizing his American citizenship. He married my Grandma Margaret, and they had my mom there. During WWII the Hungarian Army threw him in prison for refusing to fight for the Axis. His American papers kept him from being shot dead, and eventually led to his release after several months. He was skin & bones.

In 1949 he left his wife and daughter, took a train across shattered Europe, and set sail from Le Havre, France to New York. Hungarians had been coming to Toledo since the old Malleable Casting Co. relocated from Budapest around the turn of the century. Toledo, 1949, is where my mom's family settled in America. Grandpa John worked multiple jobs for a year, saving for transportation and filing a 'War Bride' document to spring my grandma & mom from what became the Eastern Bloc. They flew to New York, he wasn't going to put them on a boat for weeks, as he had a pretty bad experience, and learned the boat he had come over on, on the very next sail, had caught fire and sank.

He worked several jobs, both union & non-union, but his big break came in 1963 - he was hired in at Chevrolet, now Powertrain. He joined UAW Local 14. My brother & I came along in 1972-3, and remember him coming home after midnight working second shift. When we were young & would stay the night at their home in Birmingham, we'd absolutely have to wait up for him - I'll never forget the sound of his garage door opening.

Let me say a couple words about my Grandpa Fritz Szollosi. His parents came from a little village near when the original Mongolian tribes founded Hungary 1000 years ago. He himself was born in a house across Consaul Street from St. Stephen Church. He played football for Waite, endured the Civilian Conservation Corps during the New Deal, and went off and joined the Navy for WWII. He returned to Toledo and went to work for the U.S. Postal Service - rising over the years to become Postmaster in NW Ohio. During the Johnson Administration the national postal worker's union president named him the friendliest postmaster in the country.

Over the course of their lives, my grandfathers raised good families, earned a decent salary, earned a pension, and had access to health care insurance thanks almost entirely to the negotiations and force of the unions who represented not just their interests, but the interests of hundreds of thousands of Americans like my grandfathers.

It's now 2005. My son, Lucas, is four years old. We had a birthday party for him last month. All four of his great-grandparents helped us celebrate. Over the course of the summer, when both my wife and I are working, both sets of Lucas's great-grandparents have been in good enough shape to watch him for a few hours.

They have suffered from diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, hearing loss, stroke, bypass surgery, hip replacements and fused discs. But they are here today, living in dignity in houses bought and paid for, enjoying life with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I can't begin to express my gratitude for what the gains made by organized labor, working together with business & government, have meant to our family. To see Lucas with his great-grandparents is indescribable.

1:08 AM  
Blogger billy said...

Gentlemen, I applaud you for stepping up to the plate. My job is in transportation/logistics, and the long reaching effects of Katrina are needless to say rocking my world, so Ive got to get off to work. I will tho give a better read and careful consideration to your thoughts and get back to them if not tonight, then asap - thanks again!!

6:39 AM  
Blogger billy said...

Mike, your comments are well thought out and intelligent.

My own opinions on unions, as with my opinions on most things come from personal experience.

My mother taught, and therefore was an NEA member. My father worked for a union shop, and my grandparents belonged to a farm union. During a summer in my college days I got a factory job in a union shop. I now am in the logistics field and work with union members.

I remember when the local NEA started 'working to the rule'. My mother was horrified because it brought back all the bad memories that my dad went thru in his job for NOT working to the rule. He was a farm boy and used to 'working' for a living. If everything went well and he did more than his quota so much the better he thought. Not so. His union steward pulled him aside and told him that the quota assigned to his job was fought for and he would NOT be going over it. The next day he reeled back the effort but still went over the quota. The steward came back with a very large man and physically threatened him for working too hard!! They also mentioned my mother's name to him and my and my brother's names - just to let him know that they knew who his family was.

In my own experience, I got a stern talking to in a restroom for daring to take a whiz on my break!! I was told that the 'right' to pee during company time was fought for and next time I needed to pee I could just wait till break was over with - pardon the pun, but no sh*t!! I paid closer attention to that, and sure enough, as soon as the bell sounded that told us break was over, there was a rush of guys making a bee line (pee line?) straight to the john - on company time.

At one point I tended bar in a local pub that union guy's'd come in on their breaks. One guy used to laugh because the quota assigned to his job and the job next to it could easily be reached by one guy - so they took turns. One guy would do both jobs and the other guy would sleep, take classes, excercise, read, whatever... This man made $70,000.

I have cousins who work at jeep who tell me how much money they won at the euchre tourney that went on during company time on a Thanksgiving - when they were all making triple time!!

My brother in law owns a rigging company - ie, he has a bunch of cranes. His men are all union. Their union will not allow him to drug test his men, but if one would come to work stoned and cause damage or injury while operating his crane, my bro in law would be held responsible. Would he not be more 'responsible' if he were to test his employees??

In my own role, I deal with the transportation of product from many different distribution centers across the nation. Some shops are union and some arent. The rate that it takes a union shop to load a truck is measurably slower than a non-union shop takes. We actually use this figure when we plan our loading capacities at the various plants. Why should we put up with this drop in service when all other factors are the same?

Mike, I understand when you talk about the quality of jobs and poor work quality of the early 20th century (ie 'the Jungle' by Upton Sinclair), but now I believe its come full circle and is now biting us in the butt. Workers are getting VERY well paid for slipshod performance, and in my opinion, this mentality hurts society more than it helps.

3:40 PM  

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