Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yesterday's billionaire: 'I am a union man'

J. Paul Getty
Back before America's billionaires were seized with collective sociopathology, the world's richest private citizen understood high pay meant more buying power -- and that was good for the country.

His name was J. Paul Getty, and in a June 1958 TRUE Magazine article he defended the labor movement. His comments are a sad reminder that the U.S. standard of living was once to be envied:
High pay and good working conditions mean more buying power and more production. As buying power increases so do sales and profits. We pride ourselves on the level of American standard of living. We boast that the majority of Americans have decent homes, cars, radios, television sets and all the rest. This would hardly be possible if the great mass of workers wasn’t well -- even highly -- paid. ‘Excessive” labor cost is a handy excuse to cover up inept management’s inability to meet competition.
The article, titled ”You Make a Million,” was so forthright about labor’s perspective that it caught the attention of the Teamsters Magazine. The Teamster editors commented:
We hereby extend to the national “right-to-work” committee, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the national Chamber of Commerce, the privilege of inviting J. Paul Getty, billionaire, to address their next conventions on the advantages of unionism. The address should be full of surprises. We could almost bet a billion that he doesn’t get the invitation.
That's truer today than it was then. Today's amoral, antisocial, unpatriotic, sociopath billionaires (yes, we're talking about the Koch brothers) want nothing more than to destroy organized labor and impoverish working people.

Getty would have dismissed them as idiots.
...another woeful cry of the unsuccessful or faltering type of businessman is the “exorbitant cost of the American labor. To hear some men talk, labor in general and union labor in particular are threatening to wreck the national economy. ‘I’d go into business for myself tomorrow,’ an executive told me recently. ‘The only thing that holds me back is the labor situation. Wages are too high so that I couldn’t make a profit’. I hope this executive’s boss is satisfied with him. I wouldn’t hire the man on a bet. For the money, he’s an idiot.
Getty even called himself a union man:
 I am a ‘union man’ myself. I don’t carry a union card or pay dues to any local, but I do believe in unions and believe that free, honest labor unions are our greatest guarantees of continuing prosperity and our strongest bulwark against social or economic totalitarianism.
It's sad to think what's happened to billionaires.