A couple of days back Hostess Barands Inc., the manufacturer of populars brands like Twinkies, announced that it was liquidating the company. As a result, thousands of people will be losing their jobs. So now the CEO of the Hostess Corporation is blaming the labor unions for the reason why the company will have to liquidate. I agree that in this instance labor unions may have contributed to the companies demise. However, that does not mean that labor unions and regulations are not needed to protect workers and their rights.
I know that after this situation many US citizens will be crying out how unions are destroying American businesses. They will contend that we are losing jobs because of big government and regulations that have been imposed on businesses.
These guys want you and I to believe that American companies will use ethical business practices without government interference. If that was indeed the case then the US government would not have had to pass laws and regulations protecting American workers in the first place.
If you want to see a glimpse of working conditions without regulations and laws protecting workers just take a look where some American companies are sending thousands of jobs to out of the country. Right now, in China you have companies who are forcing their workers to work 16 hour work days with one day off. Let's not forget about the ridiculous wages that these workers are getting paid to help build products that will be sold in the USA for a 1000 times over the cost of manufacturing.
So lets do a run down of labor laws that have been passed over the years by the US government and why they were passed.
Fair Labor Standards Act 1938
This piece of legislation ensures that workers are paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 hours a week. It also prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16. The law mandates that workers under the age of 18 cannot work certain dangerous jobs. Most importantly, it establishes a minimum wage requirement, which is currently at $7.25 per hour.
Civil Rights Act 1964
While this act was passed, primarily, to outlaw Jim Crow practices throughout the country, the legislation protects workers from discrimination based on their race, religion, gender, and national origin. The law was amended in 1981 to protect women who are pregnant.
Age Discrimination Employment Act 1967
This law was passed to protect workers from discrimination based specifically on age. The law was enacted to protect workers over the age of 40. It prohibits employers from discriminating based on age in hiring, promotions, wages, and termination of employment. Additionally, it prohibits the denial of benefits of older workers. The law also prohibits employers, in most industries, from enforcing a mandatory retirement policies.
Occupational Safety And Health Act 1970
This law was enacted to protect workers from unsafe working conditions. The law created specific standards for workplace safety. It was instituted to ensure that workers would not be exposed to toxic chemicals, mechanical dangers, and unsanitary working conditions. The act also protects workers who report unsafe conditions to the OSHA or Occupational Safety And Health Administration. Before this law was passed there were approximately 14,000 deaths associated with workplace hazards in the USA. After the law was passed that number dropped by over 60%.
American With Disabilities Act 1990
This law protects workers with physical or mental disabilities. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified workers with disabilities with regard to compensation, training, advancement and other benefits or privileges of employment. In addition to that, employers are responsible for making reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Family and Medical Leave Act 1993
This law mandates that employers must provide employees with job protection and unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks for qualified medical and family reasons. Qualified medical reasons include personal or family illness, pregnancy, and adoption. It also requires employers to provide the same health insurance benefits that would have been provided had the employee not been on leave.
These are only regulations that affect workers rights and conditions. There are also regulations and laws that have been passed to protect American consumers and the environment.
Do you really believe that American companies would do the right thing if it was not mandated by the government?
If the USA were to repeal these regulations do you think that your company would:
Pay you a decent wage.
Pay you extra for working over 40 hours a week
Not fire you because you became pregnant and needed time off.
Not use child labor.
Not force workers to work longer hours.
Not terminate employees if they have to miss work because of a family or personal emergency.
Make sure that you are working in safe conditions at all times.
Not terminate you because you have reached a certain age.
Take all precautions to protect the drinking water, land, and air from harmful chemicals and contaminants.
In a perfect world yes, but we do not live in a perfect world. I wish that the government did not have to regulate the way businesses operate, but greed, dishonesty, deceit, and lack of caring for anything but profit has forced the US government to pass laws to protect its citizens.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will look into more regulations that the US government has had to pass in order to keep citizens safe from businesses with regard to consumer products that we ingest. There are people in the USA who feel like the government should not regulate how food producers make the food that we eat. Are you freaking kidding me?