Every bad practice benefits someone, a business school professor once told me. I thought about that as I read the recap of the firing of the two sanitation workers, Kerry Bigelow and Clyde Clark, in the Independent last week. The day before, I’d been driving through Ohio and heard a news report about some of the underhanded tactics being used to ensure that the state’s anti-union law would remain on the books.
The anti-union sentiment sweeping the country recently seems to coincide with the rise of the tea party movement. From a business perspective, anti-union laws make sense. Unions would rally for living wages for the working class and agitate for safe, humane treatment on the job. That would increase expenses for businesses, which would cut into shareholders’ profits and management compensation. Money tends to empower people, making it harder to push them around.
Things soured for Bigelow and Clark after they began pressing for safer work conditions and supporting unionization. They appealed their firings. The personnel appeals board, whose members all had risen to the management level in their careers, upheld the firings.
Town manager Roger Stancil could have overridden the appeals board’s decision, but he didn’t. Stancil has worked to keep the town living within its budget, except for going into maximum debt to expand the library. Unionizing town workers held the risk of shooting big holes in his budget. Sacrificing the careers and financial stability of two workers certainly must have seemed worth it to him, given the potential for budget chaos should the two workers remain on the job. In that sense, all town taxpayers benefit, as long as we don’t mind destroying the well-being of the two town workers and their families. Two town workers who were pressing for changes that would make life better for all working class town employees and their families.
Bigelow and Clark have sued the town and Lilly Langer, the woman who supposedly filed the complaint against the workers that the town used as rationale for hiring union-busters to “investigate” the sanitation two. Bigelow and Clark are not looking to get rich off compensatory damages. They just want their jobs back.
Now it’s the town’s turn to respond. What will the decisions made by those in charge say about what we stand for?
Tomorrow is Election Day. Vote for people who will listen to and value all town residents, not just their tight circle of Twitter friends.
– Nancy Oates