About 35 years ago, I packed my trailer and Wagoneer and moved to Las Vegas, Nev. Needing an income, I was advised at a lodge meeting, "Join the carpenters' union, they'll take anyone!" I immediately remembered my dad's dislike for unions, but I need a job! When I applied and took the entrance exam, I found that I had been well advised. A junior high industrial arts student could have passed it! I subsequently discovered that the exam to admit apprentices to full membership is much more difficult.
The union was enormous, and has since been split into three unions. The union business agent had visited in Pennsylvania, and we chatted periodically. Once I commented, "Our hall would never handle the members if they all showed up for a meeting." His response? "We don't want them all to come to meetings!"
After several years, I found employment out of the union and not as a carpenter, where I remained for five years. When the calls of home grew strong, I determined to move back to Pennsylvania. I visited the union office to check the status of my retirement fund, only to be told, "We took that!" I had warned myself of union tricks and my dad's sentiments; so I just smiled, packed my bags and came home.
A hundred years ago and more, unions filled a very real need. Those days are long gone.
Phillip G. Miller