My father was a union representative. In the 1950s and '60s, union leaders did not make the salaries that they do today. He never owned a home or his own car, because he was concerned only with the plight of the workers. I remember the day a corporate official came to our house and offered my father a new home and a ridiculous salary for that time if he would quit the union and become a labor-management representative. My father, not a timid man, showed this gentleman the door. My dad told me, "If you don't have integrity, you have nothing."
I can remember the phone ringing in the middle of the night and my father speaking in Italian, German, Polish, etc., because many of the workers in the plant were immigrants and did not speak English. He gave his life to these men and women and did much to improve their standard of living.
Of course, there was a price to pay for fighting for the working class. My dad was attacked by politicians who were fronts for the corporations. His response was, "If you are doing the right thing, you never bow to any man."
My dad has been gone for many years now, but he predicted that there would come a day when the corporations would control all of the politicians, and the unions would come under attack. Is that what is happening now? When hospitals cut back, it is the cleaning personnel, nurses and aides who go first. When schools cut back, it is the teachers who go first.
I know if my dad and others like him were alive today, they would lead the fight against the outlandish compensation paid to oil executives, bank executives and CEOs of major corporations. Think about it. To run for major office today, you must be independently wealthy or be bankrolled by corporate interests. Once in office, who do you think they represent?
It will be up to the young people of today to bring some sanity to control corporate greed. I wonder if they have the courage of their parents and grandparents? Will they fight for fair compensation for their jobs and decent benefits to protect their families?
On Aug. 28, 1963, at the age of 74, my dad went to the Martin Luther King rally in Washington, D.C. He got on a bus with 40 cents and a baloney sandwich in his pocket. He fought for equality. My dad lived into his 80s but he never really retired. There were always people who needed help with their pensions or disability claims. My dad received no compensation from the people he assisted.
As he aged and his health declined, one of the doctors treating my dad told my mom that he was "a genius." It was no surprise to me because he was the most intelligent person I ever knew. He taught me that there is a greater reward in helping others than obtaining material wealth. When my dad was in a coma in the hospital, my brother Tim and I went to the American Brass union hall. We were presented with a plaque and the members named the hall for my dad. Even though he had been retired for more than 10 years, the members never forgot him.
My oldest daughter said she remembered at her grandfather's wake there were men and women of all ages and colors and that there were not enough chairs for everyone. She thought it was unusual for an old man to have so many people at his wake. I just laughed, because these were the people my dad represented.
Yeah, dad, you had it right. The working person has to fight corporate greed, and your generation did that successfully. Now let's see how this generation does.
Allen F. Scioli, of Hamburg, is a retired Juvenile Bureau chief in the West Seneca Police Department.