This is the transcript of the speech that I gave on Saturday February 26th here in Asheville, NC.
Good afternoon, I’m Errington Thompson and I’ve been asked to talk a little bit about the state of the middle class and what we need to do. The good news is there is a lot to say. The bad news is that I only have 10 minutes to say it.
I grew up in the 70s. I grew up watching TV, in spite of the fact that my mother monitored our TV time relatively strictly. There were many middle-class role models on TV, from Marcus Welby, Andy Griffith and Ralph Kramden to Hawkeye Pierce and Radar O’Reilly from M*A*S*H. I would like to take a look at what would happen to one of these characters in a world without unions. Let’s look at Andy Griffith from Mayberry RFD and the Andy Griffith show. For those of you, too young to remember, Andy Griffith was the sheriff in a town called Mayberry. This a town where everybody knew everybody. The town was really one big happy family.
Let’s assume that Andy began as sheriff in 1960. He was young man. He was 20 years old. In 1970, he had to go to the City Council and ask for a raise. Andy had no pension. He had no worker’s comp. He basically had no days off. He could stay at home some mornings while Barney handled things (you remember how Barney handled things) but he couldn’t really take a vacation. In 1980, he went back to the City Council and asked for his second raise in 20 years. A modest raise was granted in spite of the fact that inflation of the late 70s caused prices to skyrocket. Andy had to tighten his belt. The Reagan revolution took hold throughout the 80s and the taxpayers of Mayberry “thought” they were paying too much. The City Council and the mayor asked Andy to take a pay cut. Andy Griffith pleaded his case on three separate occasions. He even thought about leaving Mayberry and becoming a sheriff in one of the surrounding towns but there were no job openings. Andy was forced to take a pay cut in spite of the fact that everyone told him that he was doing a great job. Andy was forced to take out a second mortgage on his house. The go-go 1990s brought prosperity to Mayberry. Andy got not one but two pay raises during the decade. Unfortunately, while chasing a drunk driver, he was in a car crash. The small-town only had a meager medical insurance policy. His friends and neighbors were forced to hold bake sales and pass the hat. Andy was in the hospital for over three weeks. He had two major surgeries for a broken pelvis and open compound fracture of his thighbone. The sheriff acquired another eight weeks of rehabilitation. There was some discussion in City Council meetings on whether Andy was becoming “too costly” for the city to afford. It was Barney who shamed the City Council into recognizing the value of Andy Griffith. The fact was that he’d been there for them every day for more than 30 years. The good sheriff was not fired. It took Andy a total of four months to recover. Andy wasn’t one to lay around. As soon as he was able he was back on the job.
It was in 2003 when Andy’s life truly changed. Andy was investigating a possible break-in. It turned out to be two lovers who are just looking for place to be alone. Andy startled the lovers and the man panicked. He grabbed a gun and shot Andy in the belly. Andy was rushed to a hospital in the nearby town. He underwent emergency surgery. He was over 60 years old. The City Council met in emergency session because the hospital bills were piling up. It was clear that Andy’s hospitalization plus rehabilitation was going to cost the city more than $50,000. The City Council decided to fire Andy on the spot. He was still in the hospital.
This is the world without unions. This is the world without strong unions.
- If you want a world in which you can work for a living wage and get adequate time off. You want world with… Strong unions.
- If you want a world where you can work in negotiate your benefits plan. You want a world with… Strong unions.
- If you don’t want your children to work before age 10. You want a world with… Strong unions.
- If you want to get paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week. You want a world with… Strong unions.
- If you’d like a little bit more safety on your job. You want a world with… Strong unions.
- If you want some job security and a pension. You have to have a world with… Strong Unions.
We have a choice today. We can turn our backs on the unions as we have for the last 40 years. We can hope that the CEOs and executives of this country will look out for the American worker. Or we can stand up and support… Strong unions.
In my mind, the middle class of the United States of America cannot survive and thrive without… Strong unions.