Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day, my Mother & Father, Coca-Cola & Me!

Mother & Father's wedding picture
Today is Labor Day but few think about it as more than a Holiday.  My Mother and Father like so many others got married on Labor Day, as it was an extra day off.  They started in the hard times of the 1930’s and we tend to forget how much unemployment and poverty existed in America at that time.

For myself, I never got much better at making a wage as retail workers made the lowest wage possible in my city.  $30 per week was really not enough to live on in 1964.  They said then it was a starting position…humorously; …the biggest wage increases were only 10 or 15 cents a year.  The “old maids” in my department lived in horrible one-room apartments on the down side of town.

So today I thought about labor unions and the fact that as sales people we could not organize…and that was in the late 1960’s.  We would have lost our jobs.  All we wanted was a more living wage…and so when I came across a pamphlet put out in 1974 I was reminded of those “Good Old Days” of retailing…however the article was on Labor Unions trying to be formed by Farm Workers.

It stated, “Child labor was outlawed in the industry in 1938…but it still thrives on the farms.  800,000 children under 16 still work in the fields, 5 % stop their education at the fifth grade, and that a 13 state study found that at least 90 children a year were killed in tractor accidents.”  Then it went on to give a wonderful story on responsible management via the Coca-Cola Company. 

The story started when the company acquired Minute Maid citrus groves in Florida.  10 years later the president of Coca Cola at the time, J. Paul Austin, told a Senate subcommittee on Migratory Labor about the horrible conditions of the 1,300 pickers associated with Coke.

Austin had sent a Mr. Smith to check on the workers in his groves in Florida and gave the committee  the report Smith gave him.  He said that Mr. Smith was so upset by what he saw that he flew to Atlanta in person to talk to him.  Smith reported that he was appalled by the condition of the worker in those fields.  He said,  "they cannot be tolerated by Coca-Cola",  so the company set out to invest 2 million dollars to change this.

From the report, “We (Coke) soon realized that merely to provide housing and transportation without facing up to the basic human problems involved, would to little more that temporarily ease the hardship of the migratory worker”. 

So instead Coca-Cola decided to attack what it called “a culture of despair and poverty, vested by generations of neglect.”  To help, Coca-Cola also signed a contract with the United Farm Workers of America.

What Americans today fail to realize is that this culture of despair and poverty still exists in many of the big companies that make millions of dollars off of the public.  The pamphlet also said something I agree with… "they will never stop the culture of corporate greed in America unless “THE PEOPLE” step up and stop buying from them...only Money talks!"  

I heartily agree! Don’t shop anywhere that does not give its employees a living wage and does not allow them to start a Union or grievance committee.

Stop bitching about people who work or worked for businesses that did not pay a decent wage who are on Food Stamps…remember but for the “Grace of God and how you were born…it could be YOU!”

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