So, you want to hear this story again, do you? Well, alright, one more time, then. Bear with me, though. It’s a tad long.
Right after that last bit of real bad times, Gilorien Bindings emerged as one of the biggest corporations in the world, and it had its hand in just about everything you could think of. Old John Gilorien himself had been driving his company to success now for over 50 years. He owned most of the company stock, which caused the shareholders (not to mention his board of directors) some concern. You see, John Gilorien was nearing 90 years of age and was unmarried with no known kin. His wife had passed on 20 years before and his son, Jack Jr., was presumed dead, having been buried in a big mine collapse. Ironically, John Jr. had been on a tour of the company’s holdings with the intent of improving labor relations along with working conditions. Seemed like this was a pretty big deal to John Jr. but apparently it wasn’t much bother for upper management.
Fortunately his old man saw some good in it and against the angry complaints of the bean counters, sent John Jr. out on his task. They were just beginning to make some progress when the accident happened. There were rumors that this was no ‘accident’ but nothing was to ever come of it. His body was never found and his goal was never realized. And the old man lost his son and only heir.
Meanwhile, things were going good for Gilorien Bindings. Their plants were more productive than ever and much praise (and money) was heaped on the plant managers,who were doing a good job keeping the workers cooperative. They really took to that old saying about idle hands being the devil’s playthings. Old Scratch couldn’t even get an appointment on a rainy day.
Now, Gilorien Bindings, like many industrial giants, was a union shop. All their non-management employees were required to be members of the Southern Continental Regional & International Bindings Employees union. The relationship that Gilorien had with the union was surprisingly cordial, unlike what most other companies experienced. Although the workers occasionally grumbled, the arrangement was pretty stable.
Some said this was because so many managers had been promoted from the ranks. Funny thing was, these managers used to be union stewards. Probably just coincidence. Anyway, the idea was that these managers would remember their roots and prove to be good for labor as well as good for the company. In reality they were pretty much only good for the company and themselves. They made sure that their replacements in the union leadership understood which side their bread was buttered on, never mind that their friends in the lower ranks might have to make do with bacon grease.
Most workers knew they were being shorn like sheep – paying high union dues out of low wages – but the plants were always located in the outback where Gilorien was the only game in town. They accepted that the situation, bad as it was, was a whole lot better for them than it was for those non-union workers they would see wandering about town. If for nothing else they could be thankful for their job security.
Everything seemed to be working out for the best, at least for some folk. The workers stayed in line and earned their paychecks, the stewards were cozy with the managers, the managers shared their rewards with the stewards while upper management and the shareholders realized enormous profits. Things would have gone on like this for a long time, too, if it weren’t for that trouble maker who showed up one day.
Came out of nowhere, he did. Said he was a line worker from one of the plants in the outback. His name was Jake Something-or-other and apparently he’d been working on the line for some little time, minding his own business, when suddenly he got it into his head to file a grievance with the union stewards. Can’t much remember what it was about ( Lord knows there was plenty to choose from) but it ended up with him saying something about the stewards speaking out both sides of their mouths. Well, he got the same response all complainers got; told to shut up and mind his own business or else he’d be fired and kicked out of the union. Or worse.
Well that boy would not take no for an answer. He began talking to folks on his lunch hour, asking them questions about their jobs, their families, the union, the foremen – you name it. He had a certain way about him and before long people started telling Jake things that they’d kept bottled up inside for a long, long time. Like how they not only had to shop in the company stores and pay rent to the company landlords but also how they had to pay the company doctors to take care of work related accidents. On top of all that, they had to fork over 10% of their gross paychecks in union dues. And for what?
They workers could barely make ends meet, there were no other job opportunities in the town and no one could afford to leave the area (at least that’s what the stewards told them). Those who complained at the meetings found their homes vandalized or were laid off or some even met with accidents. Of course everyone new that these ‘accidents’ were really just the stewards and the foremen working on a teaching lesson together, but pretty much everyone got the point. Besides, most folks thought those trouble makers had it coming to them.
Well, young Jake got mighty steamed up about all that and took it upon himself to get the folks a bit riled up themselves. He told them they were being duped. He quickly caught the union’s attention and was told that he was breaking the union by-laws. Besides, they told him, he was being foolish, that the real problem was with the lazy workers and the greedy managers. Their job as stewards was to keep the peace. If he kept this up he was going to get himself fired. So he quit.
Now he took to meeting with people outside of the plant, at all times of the day and night. He met them in the town square and in the bars and pubs. They union leaders tried to shut him down, again saying that it was against the by-laws to organize off company property. They told the workers that the union was granted sole authority by the company to represent the workers. Only the stewards were allowed to speak for the workers and to the workers. If they kept listening to Jake they could lose their jobs. This only gave Jake plenty of opportunity to further point out their hypocrisy. The people kept on listening to what he had to say.
He told them that they didn’t have to obey the stewards or even the foremen. That they had been tricked into believing that they were somehow stupid and needed to be told what to do. They already knew what they had to do. He told them how, if they just came together and followed him, they could bypass the stewards and deal with Gilorien Bindings on their own terms. He told them how the stewards needed them more than they needed stewards. He told them not to blame everything on the company managers because it was their own people – other workers – who were helping to keep them down. Remember, he said; all the union stewards were at one time their friends. Would they have acted any differently in if they were in the stewards shoes? Really? Even so, they could still force changes to be made, peacefully. They could get better wages, a safer environment, even a better community. They might even get the company to clean up the plants and stop dumping all those poisons into the air and the streams. All they had to do was stand together. And be prepared to strike, if need be. More and more workers heard what he said and began to follow him.
Desperate, the stewards began a smear campaign against Jake. They accused him of being drunk, a drug addict, a thief, an absentee father and a homosexual pervert. Even a Communist. But none of these labels stuck. Anyone who knew the man knew these were lies or at least they didn’t care. People loved Jake and stood beside him.
So the union stewards and the company managers hatched a plot. They called a big meeting of all the plant workers – all three shifts – in the big factory square (which meant shutting the works down for a bit, which was absolutely unheard of). They called Jake up on stage and asked him to read the (illegal) demands that he was making on behalf of the union. Suspecting some kind of trick, Jake refused, telling them that they knew darn well what they had to do to make things right with the people.
Well then, they said; we have looked over your illegal demands and have decided to grant you half of them. Of course what that meant was, that due to the high cost of these demands, the company would have to layoff one third of the workforce and have the other two thirds pick up the slack, with no additional pay. It seemed that the union leadership had signed off on this plan, reminding everyone that this would mean union dues would increase by a third. If this was the only way to maintain the status quo…
Well, you never saw such a commotion. People who were singing young Jake’s praises just the day before were now hollering for his hide. Folks began to call him things like drunkard, drug addict, homosexual pervert – even Communist. Next thing you know the sheriff was standing by the stage with a set of handcuffs. They took young Jake away in chains, the crowd throwing all kinds of eggs and rotten vegetables at the paddy wagon (now how do you suppose they found them so handy ?). The deputies hustled him over to the railroad station and set him on the first train to nowhere.
There were still some people who stuck by Jake and what he said but they were quickly rounded up, fired and set packing. (Some of the more stubborn in the bunch met with unfortunate ‘accidents’.) The plant managers were praised for avoiding a costly situation and many were promoted. The shop stewards were happy they could hold on to their sweet deals and the people went back to being grateful for what little they had (at least that’s what they said if you asked them). And the shareholders continued to make more money. End of story.
At least that would’ve been the end of the story if something amazing didn’t happen back at company headquarters. After three years gone missing, old man Gilorien’s son showed up out of nowhere. Thing was, the Old Man wasn’t too surprised – said that he had sent his son on a secret mission some time ago, to check into his company’s working conditions.
Turns out that in just about every plant in the company a certain young rabble rouser named Jake had shown up and pretty much found out the same things; the unions were in cahoots with the plant managers and that they both took advantage of the people they were supposed to be taking care of. All for personal gain or curry favor from above. Even worse, the people didn’t have the courage to risk a little security for the greater hope of freedom. Everyone was always looking for someone else to blame and whenever people at odds agreed on a scapegoat then the situation for that person suddenly turned real, real nasty. In every instance Jake (Jack Jr.) had been maligned, vilified and run out of town.
Old Man Gilorien soon turned the company over to Jack Jr., who immediately ordered sweeping reforms ; granting overdue pay raises, boosting benefits and improving plant working conditions. He also provided the courts with the evidence they needed to disband the union. These things didn’t come cheap. Gilorien Enterprises (formerly traded as Gilorien Bindings) took a big, big loss in the stock market and many on the board resigned. Jack Jr. had not, however, announced any terminations. At least not yet.
All across the country the employees of Gilorien Holdings began to worry. Many remembered meeting this man, who was now the new head of the company, and they wondered if he remembered them. Low level workers and upper level management waited anxiously for their next pay check, praying that they would not find a pink slip in the envelope. When pay day finally came, thousands of employees opened the beige envelopes with trembling fingers. Inside each one, alongside their check, was a personal not from Jack Jr. saying that, yes indeed, he did remember them. And that he forgave them. But…he did expect a tad bit better behavior from now on.