The union days are over

Your editorial “Unions built this town” took me back to the ‘60s and early ‘70s in Storm Lake when my father was the plant manager and vice president of the pork division for Hygrade Food Products. Most of my friends’ fathers were Hygrade union workers, and I worked alongside many of those men during the summers while I was home from college. I couldn’t seem to break the habit of calling these men “Mr. McCoy” when I passed them in the kill. It was just the way I was brought up.

These families lived in our neighborhood much like we lived. Just about all of my friends whose dads worked at “the pack” went to college like I did. They became teachers, lawyers, and my good friend Bill McCoy went on from college to manage one of the biggest meat packing plants in the midwest. And while I won’t begin to weigh in on what the current non-union economy in Storm Lake means, I have to admit, I was mildly shocked by what my high school friend Dan Smith said about his career at Tyson. Dan retired this past summer, and in an interview in The New York Times in May he said his hourly rate at the plant now is about what it was in 1980 under a union contract. As I recall, The Times calculated that in order to keep up with inflation, Dan should have been making $47 an hour when he retired.

I grew up in a management family where all I heard was respect for labor. I myself was a member of a teachers union for much of my 40-year teaching career. Organized labor was good for Storm Lake, and it was good for America. Unfortunately, those days where management and labor both sent their kids to college might be gone forever.


Hagerstown, Ind.