Union parasites and government employees
Not long ago, several people were spotted at a Tea Party rally carrying signs that were anti-union. The signs read, “Time to Stop Union Parasites,” and “Unions Greedy Socialists.” There also seems to be an attitude developing, among some, that government employees are somehow undermining the fabric of American society.
When I was a child, my maternal grandfather, the late Charles Daniel Duckett, shared with me how, as a young man, he worked for a dollar a day. During difficult times, he traveled from state to state and town to town looking for work to support his wife and her three small daughters.
My grandmother’s first husband died at age 25 of typhoid fever leaving a widow and three small children, the oldest of whom was about 5. Technically, I suppose that Mr. Duckett was my step-grandfather but, to me, he was simply, “Grandpa.”
Somewhere along the way, he joined a union and became a pipe fitter. Being a union pipe fitter allowed him to have steady work, be paid a decent wage, own a car, and purchase a modest home. His union pension, along with Social Security, allowed him to enjoy a retirement that was comfortable but not opulent. He was a union man until the day he died. He was certainly no socialist and voted against George McGovern, whom he perceived to be “a socialist.”
I was probably the first in my family in modern times to be a government employee. For three years, I served as a social counselor in child protective services with the Tennessee Department of Human Services. As a counselor/investigator in child abuse and neglect cases, I was cussed at, spit at, punched at, stabbed at, shot at, and had my life and my family threatened. All for the princely sum of $12,000 a year — not my starting salary, but the one at which I finished.
My wife is now a government employee. After serving in hospitals small and large, serving as a dialysis nurse who made home visits in rough, rural areas, doing her time in inner city hospitals, and being promoted wherever she went, she finally accumulated a total of four college degrees and joined the faculty of a school of nursing in a university. She is now an associate dean and could easily make much more money in the private sector.
I have a son who is a government employee. He is a detective. In the 15 years he has been a police officer, he has served faithfully enduring the complaints of people who “pay his salary” and coming to their rescue when they are threatened. He has endured four surgeries for line-of-duty injuries. He has a master’s degree and would also make more money in the private sector.
Throughout the community are union people who keep planes flying, the transportation system moving, the mail delivered, and who perform hundreds of jobs that keep our society the best in the world. Every day government employees teach children, staff clinics, quench fires, transport citizens, arrest criminals, fight in war zones, and serve their communities. They, like non-union employees and non-government employees, are Americans. They deserve better than to be denigrated and despised as “parasites.”
We are now in difficult economic times. We are all in this together and, eventually, we will all have to pull together and sacrifice together for the betterment of all. Name calling and mud-slinging — whether from the right or the left—whether from the Tea Party or from MoveOn.Org — serves no purpose except to divide.
Disagree and protest if one must — it is an American right. But, please, do so with respect for the hard-working people who are simply, like you, are trying to provide for their families and — like my grandfather — are attempting to live the American Dream.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec,org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]