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Opinion | The average worker is getting hosed, and you know it

You don’t need a bunch of stats to know that the working man is getting hosed, or that corporate greed is out of control.

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You know they’re lying. 

I’m going to give you the numbers and stats that prove it, but you don’t really need them. Because you’ve taken a look around this country and you know that the onslaught of Alabama rightwing politicians fighting so hard against unions in this state are lying when they make the unions out to be the bad guys and the greedy corporate goons as the benevolent, generous benefactors trying to save us. 

You know it’s BS. 

You know it because a good job at a plant – like an auto manufacturing plant – used to pay for a three-bed, two-bath, a stay-at-home mom, a couple of cars and a couple of nice beach vacations every year. And there was a comfortable pension to boot. 

The family breadwinner went to work, worked his tail off and the whole family could survive without mom and dad lying awake all night worrying about how big the power bill was going to be that month. You weren’t rich, but you sure weren’t get-a-second job poor, and your parents weren’t getting squeezed out of a job because the plant started bringing in temp workers to fill up those positions the company promised would be going to locals. 

Yeah, from time to time, some guys at the top of the union got caught taking a little too much. But do you really want to take a stroll down Greedy Lane and compare union leadership to the leadership at America’s top corporations, or even at the top of the automakers? 

I mean, as the CEO of GM was crying about the greedy unions placing unrealistic expectations on automakers, she was making $29 million in 2022 alone. She made more than $200 million between 2014 and 2023. 

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And yet, there was another Alabama politician, House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, last week writing about the “corruption” of the union, detailing union leaders making exorbitant purchases of first-class airline tickets and golden pens. 

As if a guy purchasing gold pens was somehow on the same level as CEOs and company executives living entire golden lives. 

Last year, when workers at a Ford plant in Michigan went on strike, many line workers said they hadn’t received a raise in more than five years, and only one $5-per-hour raise in the last 10 years. In the meantime, Ford CEO Jim Farley made $21 million in 2022 alone. 

The CEOs of Ford and GM are earning about 300 times that of an average employee. 

Do you know how many first-class plane tickets that would buy? 

Ledbetter’s opinion piece didn’t say. But it did offer an interesting phrase: he said the United Autoworkers Union, which is attempting its first unionization at Alabama’s Mercedes Benz plant near Tuscaloosa, meant to “weaponize the workforce.”

It was said in a derogatory way, as if weaponizing the workforce was a bad thing. But that’s exactly what UAW means to do – get Alabama workers to take a stand for themselves. To fight for themselves and their coworkers. To demand the fair pay and benefits that used to be attached to these jobs. 

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Because auto manufacturers aren’t suffering. In fact, Mercedes made more than $15 billion in profits in 2023. And that was with a 2-percent dip from 2022. 

And let me tell every employee at every large corporation one certain truth: those companies would sell you out in a second to add another $100 to that bottom line. 

Ledbetter, in his piece, mentioned growing up in Fort Payne and talked about it being the “sock capital.” It was. I had family who worked in those plants, an uncle who was a supervisor for years. 

There was a lot of pride in that part of the state for the hosiery that was produced there and shipped all over the world. Until trade agreements opened up other markets. And companies could get socks made cheaper in foreign lands where labor was cheaper and regulations fewer, and there was no financial punishment for slicing away American jobs to make the same socks in another country. 

One after the other, the companies folded up and left Fort Payne. The last major sock maker left in 2011, bound for Honduras. 

Folks around town talked about the devastation of the area, about the high unemployment and the desperate people searching for jobs. There was no union to negotiate buyouts and hold the company to its promises to workers. There was no union, like there was in Gadsden’s Goodyear plant, to force the plant to stay put for years, and even then to negotiate a fair buyout deal with all employees. 

There were just broken employees left with nothing. Because instead of the workforce at the plants being weaponized to fight for themselves, the company was weaponized to go searching for a better bottom line at the employees’ expense. 

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Because that’s real life in this capitalist system. If you don’t stand up for yourself, fight for yourself, you’re going to lose. We see it every single day in the stagnant wages and the absurd gap between executive pay and average employee pay. We see it in the way worker pay doesn’t pay for the things it used to. And in the way hard working families struggle like crazy to simply survive. 

And you didn’t need this entire column to know what I’m saying is true.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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