'Right to Work' | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

'Right to Work'

Posted: April 19, 2012 - 4:47pm

As I read the “This was Brainerd” report for April 2, 1952, regarding a strike of 30,000 Western Union employees scheduled to start at midnight, affecting Brainerd, it brought back memories. In 1944, I was the first person to be granted permission by the Montana state superintendent of schools to graduate a four-year high school class in 3 1/2 years. While the rest of my class finished, I trained with Western Union as a multiplex/teletype operator. The day after graduation and my salutatorian speech, another gal and I left for Los Angeles and the main office of Western Union. We worked the next two years, processing hundreds upon hundreds of telegrams from the military advising families of the fate of their service men — injured, missing in action or killed. My contribution for the war effort.

In early 1946 our Western Union employees were advised that we could choose — join the union or lose our jobs. I chose to get married; we sold a home in Alexandria, Va., and settled in Mission Township where I have been ever since.

My husband worked for Northern Pacific at the Brainerd railroad shops for almost 25 years, and did have to join the union. Once he was buried alive in a coal car he was unloading and once he was almost crushed to death between coal cars. I never did hear if the union provided for any safety standards, in spite of paying his dues faithfully and never attending meetings.

Do you wonder if I support the “right to work” efforts that are in process in Minnesota now?

Ellen Thatcher