Carpenters union: shameful, decadent

Our society has reached a new level of decadence. While the journalist Hunter S. Thompson may have thought the Kentucky Derby was decadent and depraved, hiring the homeless for eight bucks an hour to picket for union members too busy to walk the line, is a surer sign of the complete breakdown of society.

I can’t even imagine what my grandfather, a Teamsters union member who worked in a brewery, would say about hiring somebody to do your picketing. According to a story last week in The Washington Post, hiring out the picketing to the homeless, students, retirees and others is a common practice by carpenters unions across the country. The union doesn’t pay union wages, though, the picketers in D.C. make $8 an hour with no benefits.

Not that the hired placard-toters don’t get the message across.

“Hey, baby,” is the greeting thrown out by some of the male pickets to women happening to pass by, said the Post story. But mostly, the pickets put on a good show, getting so loud that non-appreciative office workers sometimes complain about the loud chants of “What do we want? Fair wages. When do we want them? Now.”

The hired pickets rove from one non-union job site to another during a given week, making the view of the union about non-union labor clear. Luckily, their haven’t been any clashes between the pro-union pickets and the non-union workers. If a tussle did break out, you wonder if the union would begin to offer and extra buck or two an hour for hazard pay.

Of course, it’s not only the carpenter’s union. This story is a reflection of the trend of hiring someone to do everything for us, even those things most near and dear to our hearts. One anti-war group pays a homeless shelter resident $30 a day to hold a sign against nuclear war, the Post tells us.

Perhaps hiring people to go to church or synagogue for us, or even say our night time prayers, isn’t far away. Most of us already pay someone else to prepare the vast majority of the food we put in our mouths each day.

Can we do nothing on our own anymore? It used to be common for people to at least grow some of their own food. Now, if the need developed, how many people would have a clue about how to grow a few vegetables and can or freeze them for future use?

Is it any wonder we have so many immigrants, legal and illegal, willing to do the work many of us have neither the time, or interest, in doing? I hear complaints as much about legal immigrants as I do about illegal ones, especially those who speak Spanish. First of all, if they’re legal immigrants, what are you complaining about?

Illegal immigrants are here for a reason, too, and the economics of their presence shouldn’t be a major objection to most of us. They are here to better their lives and that of their families. We can’t criticize them for that. Many of the illegal immigrants are also taking advantage of, and being taken advantage of by, business bad apples who want to use cheap labor.

Many of us rightly oppose illegal immigration and think the federal government should do more to stop the problem. The economic reasons for illegal immigration, though, is something many of us support, even unwittingly.

It may seem like a small thing, but hiring other people to do all the dirty work is a sign of decadence, and most decadent societies are on the decline. Perhaps dirty work is a misnomer, because picketing isn’t normally dirty, although it can be messy especially during a nasty strike.

The pickets are hired to defend someone else’s livelihood and wages. Livelihood and wages ought to be something very important to people. If all of us are becoming lackadaisical about making sacrifices and doing the job to protect things important to us, you have to wonder if things are going downhill.

We should all take a look inside and realize there are some things too important to leave in the hands of others, even if we do pay them a few bucks an hour.


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