By ALDWIN QUITASOL
“A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once.” –William Faulkner 1897-1962, American novelist
A worker loves his work very much as it is his source to feed his family. He also loves it because he knows he is contributing in his own small way to the national economy.
As he loves his work, he has to guard it so that his source of livelihood will not be taken away from him. He joins the union to manifest his sharing a common aspiration with his co-workers.
The union unites the economic and political rights, as well as the will, of the workers. This is often given legal expression through the union entering into a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the management of the company employing them. A CBA’s contents may be weighed for its good points – provisions clearly beneficiary to the union members – and its bad points which serve the capitalist employers as they suppress workers’ rights. Thus, arriving at a good CBA is a matter of life-and-death for a union.
But why do the workers go on strike when they have an agreement with the company? Some say that workers do not want a strike because it will greatly affect them, but it is the officers who drag the union into such activities.
Take for example the case of the Lepanto workers’ strike in 2005, which was blamed on the union officers during that time. Let us remember that a union follows its own organizational structure wherein the general membership decides major activities of the union. There is a term called “ratification” and every time a union gears for strikes and lockouts, we call it Strike Vote Referendum (SVR). The members of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) at that time unanimously favored going to strike.
They knew that going to strike is lawful. As stated in Article 264 letter b of the Labor Code, “workers have the right to engage in concerted activities for purposes of collective bargaining for their mutual benefit and protection. The right of legitimate labor organizations to strike and picket and of employers to lockout, consistent with the national interest, shall continue to be recognized and respected….”
The LEU members at that time had basis for resorting to strike as their economic rights were at stake. Their CBA negotiations with the company crumbled because it refused to give in to their legitimate demands. The union officials did not put their destiny on their hands setting aside “favorable” order from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regarding their demands. When the said “favorable” order was presented to the general membership, they found it unfair and went on to decide in favor of the strike.
The workers resort to strikes because of intelligent reasons. They strike because of economic issues, usually where their employers deny what they are legally entitled to. Lepanto workers went on strike because they realized how they are being economically mistreated while the company enjoyed great profits.
The workers enter into a strike and other concerted actions whenever the company interferes in their union concerns and activities. They strike if the company commits unfair labor practices endangering their political rights as workers.
All in all, the workers do not set up picket lines and carry placards all day long for no serious reasons at all. They do it because they have the will to struggle for their rights, their very lives.#