To Dan Diercks, I disagree

Many memories came rushing back reading Dan Diercks letter titled “The union days are over.” I disagree, the pendulum swings both ways, and for a long time it’s been in management’s corner, and when management gets greedier than they are now, it will swing back to the worker and unions will recover.

Many of the benefits that unions fought for are now being provided by the government, and when the government takes away or reduces those benefits, the need for unions will rise again. Examples are health care, retirement benefits, Social Security, etc.

I have a great respect and admiration for your father, Jack Diercks, who came to town to turn around a money-losing plant. I remember the story told about him, when a neighbor lady said to him that he wasn’t very friendly, he replied, “I didn’t come to make friends, I came here to make money.” Jack and I had our share of differences, but seemed to work them out for the good of the union and the plant. Matter of fact, Jack became one of my advisers when I was the general manager of the Swift & Company plant in Marshalltown, that was and still is a union facility.

Things changed, the economy changed, unemployment changed, the average worker’s life changed, and companies got greedier. At around the same time the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workman of North America International Union lost its teeth. The meat companies smelled blood and took advantage of it, the $10.69 hourly wage was cut to $6.00, and has been struggling ever since, and now 36 years later, Tyson is paying $15.50 as a starting wage. Using an inflation calculator the $10.69 would calculate to be $28.87 per hour, quite a bit less than what The Times calculated but still less than half of the old rate.

Yes, many of the children of labor and management went to college, others learned a trade (mechanic, plumber, janitor, city worker), and some started a business of their own (Mike’s Lawn Service, Taylor Contracting, Fire Extinguisher Service), and some like me, Bill McCoy, Jim Schmitz, Scott Demers and Tom Dunlop, went into management. Today’s packinghouse workers are no different than we were, they also want their children to succeed and ARE sending them to places of opportunity, colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools. The days of the American Dream are not over, the pendulum is starting to swing again.


Storm Lake Past President Local 191