Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why I Hate Unions

Teen Social Doom
Unions are great. It's hard to believe that I truly believe that based on the title of this post. My father in fact, as far back as I can remember was a union member, first with the Teamsters, which represented him and many of the other employees at a local cannery. Later when the cannery closed down, laid off its employees and moved it's operation down to Mexico, to make better profits off of their product, through the exploitation of cheap labor, my father was able to find a job working in construction. And even then my dad made sure to join a union. He still works, so he is still a dues paying union member. The union makes sure that my father and other workers that are working construction, but are temporarily laid off, are the first ones that get a call from a company that needs laborers. So thanks to the union, my father has been steadily employed, usually only having to deal with a one-month layoff, before he gets a call to report to a new job site.

Unions haven't only been good to my father, they've been good to us, his family. Whenever he is temporarily laid off, the union provides him and the other laid off union members a box of food from their food bank. On a weekly basis my father would return with a cardboard box filled with random food items that me and my siblings looked forward to, because it was a surprise every week. It could be a mixture of cans of chili beans, beef stew, juice packets, oranges, lettuce, onion, a bag of coffee, cookies, and yes, sometimes even candy. It wasn't quality stuff, but at least we did get some fresh produce, along with cookies & candy! The union would even provide for us on Thanksgiving; every union member would get a turkey. So we were never  without a Thanksgiving turkey. In fact at times we had have one too many Thanksgiving turkeys, because my mom would usually purchase one, while one of them sat in the freezer. But it would work out, because then we'd have a turkey for Christmas. In fact, my mother would usually make tamales for Christmas, so as not to let the second turkey go to waste, my parents made tamales filled with picadillo de pavo. It was one of the best batches of tamales I recall having. So again, labor unions have been good to my father and his family, he gets health benefits, but also priority when it comes to employment.

So why is it that even though unions have provided us with holiday turkeys, boxes-o-food, and steady employment for my papá, I still hate unions? Did I catch some different union man in bed with my mother? No, not at all. Did the union in any way ever disrespect my father? No, never, nor has my dad ever complained about anything relating to the union. Were they ever dirtbags to me? Nope. Did I ever hear some union men discussing the true fate of Jimmy Hoffa, leaving me traumatized, and too scared to speak about what I overheard? Nope.

The only offense that the union ever committed against me was a minor one, looking back on it. But as a prepubescent niño it's funny how its the small things that cause a preteen the most angst and woe. Through their health plan, the union covered plenty of things, our teeth were well taken care of, and if ever we got sick, er well never mind, we didn't get taken to the hospital very much, most illnesses in my parents home, like most Mexican families were resolved with home remedies, two liter bottles of 7Up, "vaporu," the rubbing of an egg over your body, and if all else failed the tried, true and almost-guaranteed chinga, would get rid of the illness. But nonetheless thanks to the union if my parents had ever chosen to take us to the hospital we would have been taken care of well enough, and it wouldn't have cost my dad much. But my disdain toward the union still relates, to the union and the benefits package they provided my father through the company. You see, I am a corrective lenses wearing person. I have been since, I'm guessing the day I was born, because one of my earliest memories was me going to the optometrist, to get glasses. Nice old man. My necessity for glasses did not change as I grew. I continued to need them. Even as a preteen, but as preteen I broke them more often cause I'd be running around with my friends having fun, before alcohol became a necessity for us to have fun.
Well, I'm not sure what happened but we stopped going to the optometrist that my mother used to take me to often, a locally owned business. And instead they started taking me to a chain optometry/lens carriers. The corporations had teamed up to make me miserable. I had to get my glasses replaced, so of course my dad takes me. The check up goes well enough, and then it comes time to pick out the frame for my new prespecrition. So of course I walk over to the thin wire rim frames, because that was the "in" style at the time. If I was going to be a four-eyes, I wanted to be a somewhat fashionable & cool four-eyes. Of course I happily picked out a pair of frames that I liked, and handed them to my dad. He looked at the price and put them back. He walked over to the ladies behind the counter and basically showed them the insurance plan agreed upon by the union and the company he worked for.
Double Ugh
They were more than happy to accommodate him, where upon they took out a box from behind the counter, apparently this was where the frames covered by the insurance were kept. Upon opening the box, I was unsurprised to see nothing I liked. All the frames were these thick, atrocious, plastic frames, usually in black, brown, and a clear plastic, with tints of brownish color circulating throughout the frame. I was appalled beyond fucken belief. I couldn't pick out a frame because I hated all of them. The lady with the box was kind enough to pick one out for me, that she thought looked nice, which I took as a compliment, because she looked young herself, possibly in her mid to late twenties, and was fairly attractive, so I took her word for it. Nonetheless in junior high, regardles of the niceness of the plastic clunkers attached to my face, I was still a four-eyes. As it was I was damned from the start, because I was already this chubby, curly-haired, four-eyed thing, and it seemed that the only way to fix this was with a pair of wire rim glasses. I couldn't do anything about the curly hair, and I blame my father's prominent Spanish lineage for this. Now shake my head at the way my teenage mind worked. If the insurance would have covered some wire-rim frames, I felt I would have been at least a decent looking four-eyes. But no, nowhere in the box were any wire rim frames to be found. Each time I had to get a new pair of glasses because it was time to change my prescription or because I had worn out the older pair or because they had broken during an especially rough recess of running around, I would sit in front of the lady with the box, and as she opened the box I would try to think happy thoughts, hoping, eyes closed, wishing and even willing for a pair of wire rim frames to appear in the box. But alas, God hated me even then, and I believed he plotted with my fathers union, and the company my dad worked for; and I went on believing God was at heart, a man who supported corporations. But the majority of my ire was directed at the union for working out this deal with the company, and the chain optometry business. There were times when I didn't have to pick frames from the dreaded black box, I felt triumphant, because I believed, "yes! now my dad has no choice but to pay for a pair that I want." Sadly, this was not the case, because upon seeing the price of the frame, my dad would tell me to ask the salesperson, if they had anything cheaper. At that moment I would have given anything to pick a frame from the union insurance approved box holding the frames, but at the time my dad worked for a company that didn't have union representation, but still gave them a decent benefits package.

In fact, a few years ago I actually applied for a scholarship for the union that my dad was a member of, and I wrote about my displeasure about the glasses I had to wear thanks to them. I think that comes to show I hold onto grudges for far too long, and as some friends, family, and strangers have suggested, I need help. But I wrote about that in the scholarship essay, and I think the selection committee must have found my tale of preteen angst and woe hilarious, because they gave me the scholarship. The scholarship didn't rectify my disdain of the plastic clunkers that felt like they had a symbiotic relationship with my face for far too many years. The irony is that, nowadays, four-eyes, or better yet, plastic clunkers for your face are now cool, or better yet, "geek chic"-they call it! You can even spot (c)hipsters with the thick plastic frames. I accepted my fate as an eye enhancing implement wearing person. I no longer cared that I was a life-long four-eyes. I embraced it. And the current pair of glasses I wear, are in fact black, thick plastic frames or clunkers that surround the bottle cap frames I need to see well. I picked them, probably because I'm no longer a teen, nor care what people think about me, but just as important I chose them, because I liked them and I could afford them. That was something I didn't consider very much back when my dad would have me pick a frame from the dreaded black box that housed the frames of guaranteed teenage social doom. I didn't consider that cost was important, when it reality it was, because my parents had other bills to pay and couldn't afford something more to my taste, but my own selfishness didn't allow me to recognize that at the time.


P.S.-I hope I don't receive any hate mail for the my excessive use of "four eyes," I have since embraced it and am proud to call myself a four eyes, because apparently some women think it makes you look smart, which they in turn find sexy.

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