Settle This Union Discussion/Debate...

So a friend of mine is a dyed in the wool union die hard and has been recently ranting and protesting against a small to mid size local business because they opted to use a non union backed company for some rather expensive renovations. Note that is not a government, educational or otherwise tax payer funded business.

Forgetting for the moment, that IMO the decision of “who you should hire” should be left up to the business owner regardless… after some discussion with my friend he told me that the union backed company bid was almost a full 50% more costly than the non union bid (we are talking about almost 100k more)! :smack:

Now I do not own a business nor am I a union worker and I do not want to debate quality of workmanship because that - again - should be up to the business owner - but how in the world does a union or union worker justify this?

They are essentially protesting the business owner electing to NOT give the union company a 50% premium on work.

I tried to make my case to my friend using the analogy of a car repair. We have all gone to a dealer and been told that a repair was exponentially higher than we could get from a local joe’s mechanic.

We have all been told that the dealer uses better parts, has a better warranty, has more experienced mechanics, etc.

Yet we are allowed to make that choice… why is a business not given that same choice?

Heck IMO if the union was CHEAPER, the business still has the RIGHT to still choose a non union company if they want.

This kind of mentality is why people are tired of - some - unions. This is not the 1930s… :wink:

What say you all?

Would it happen to be this case?

I’m on the fence, really. I understand why unions are needed but this doesn’t strike me as one of the main reasons.

I can’t figure out what you think you’re debating. On the one side, you insist that the business should be allowed to choose contractors. On the other side, you’re slamming the union because… they would like the business to choose them. Choose them. Not force them. Not pass a law that requires it. Choose them.

So what exactly is your beef with the union side? By your own account they have done nothing at all wrong, and nothing that the business didn’t do.

While I’m not a big supporter of unions anymore (supervising union crybabies over the years wore that out of me) I can see where in some areas, using union workers over non-union would have the advantage of getting quality work done. Especially in the Chicagoland area, I would use union plumbers and electricians over most non-unions types simply because their training standards are higher.

Most other places…unless the unions could demonstrate that their members were proven to be substantially better workers than non-union outfits, I’d go for the one of the lower bids, but not the LOWEST who also came well-recommended.

IMHO, unions seem to believe that everyone has the moral obligation to hire union labor. I have no idea why. Hire union labor, or don’t hire union labor; no skin off my teeth.

Using the car repair analogy, imagine if you will that dealership started picketing in front of your home because you went to a cheaper mechanic!

Non-union labour would be cheaper for a simple reason - they pay their employees less (in the long run). If you own a business, there’s money to be made in screwing over the workers.

However, the same goes for consumers - Walmart is usually the cheapest place to buy a box with something in it, as long as you aren’t looking for expertise to help you make the best choice.

the problem is that 90% of the time there is always more labour than there is jobs for those labourers. This gives employers a lot more leverage than individual employees. Plus, there’s the divide and conquer option. The really good guy may want more, but good enough will work for half. The power of unions came from the ability for everyone to stand together.

OTOH, if the only thing a union contractor has going for it is a higher price, why would anyone want to give their money to them?

So it comes down to this - would you pay extra to supoort higher income for others? Would you boycott Walmart and patronize better paying stores? (Costco?)

Would you do so if it meant better quality? Some people will opt for the cheapest very time, some people always want quality, even if the immediate benefit is not obvious.

Another point is to look at the history of labour unions and laws. My point of view is that the companies get the unions they earn - the militant autoworkers were a direct result of the Detroit companies using armed guards, paid thugs, and influence with lawmakers to attempt to thwart the power of the unions (plus smearing them with the “communist=soviet=enemy of America” label). Ditto, the coal workers. To be fair, labour unions responded in kind. If a union is particularly militant, it’s probably a side effect of an industry that tried to fight it just as dirty.

I say that GQ is the wrong place for this. Reported for move.

Moderator Action

Moving thread from General Questions to Great Debates.

I am debating that:

  1. The Unions feel entitled to the work

  2. The Unions are - literally - “camping” out in front of the business and insulting customers who choose to do business with the company in question (harassment over a choice to not spend 100k more on same work)

  3. The Unions not present a VERY one sided story

Sure it is all legal, but my debate is how any rational person could support this type of behavior.

Well, sure it’s a free country; the business owner can go union or not, and in the same fashion, you can be annoyed at the business owner’s decision (possibly taking your business elsewhere) or not.

Why should you care? Well, if the owner goes union, he’s got higher expenses, so his profits are less, and he might (if he can get away with it) raise prices. If you’re the owner’s heir, that’s obviously bad; if you’re a customer, that might be a negative, too.
More broadly, if more jobs go union, that’s going to push up wages all around (to some degree); if you’re a business owner, that’s clearly bad, but if you’re getting a wage, that’s certainly good (admittedly for well-paid professionals the effect isn’t going to be huge, but there’s a real effect).

So, I think your friend might say that if you care about how much YOU are paid, you might want to pressure (in whatever way is appropriate) the owner to go union.

Then you should have said this in the OP. You didn’t mention this, or your real reasons for slamming unions. You presented a totally different theoretical case that had nothing to do with this. And you put it in GQ as if there were a factual answer to this outside of your own head.

So if you argue in this fashion, why should anyone here feel you are debating fairly? You should ask that this rant be moved to the Pit.

It is.

The business is free to choose to hire the non-union company.

Your friend is free to choose to criticize the business for making what he considers to be the wrong choice.

You are free to criticize your friend for criticizing the business.

Seems to me that people, like your friend, are getting hung up on the morally right vs. legally right thing to do.

The company is legally in the right to be allowed to pick non-union labor over union labor. The union is legally in the right to be allowed to protest the company’s choice. The company is morally in the right to pick the contractor that can give him the best price. I personally think the union is morally in the wrong to protest not getting the job.

Yes, if you are a worker, there is skin off your teeth. Even if you’re not a union member yourself.

But that’s not a moral argument, it’s about self-interest. A moral argument would be that one shouldn’t, for instance, hire slave labor. So there is a moral argument possible, even if you don’t think there’s a good one in this case. At least let’s stipulate that.

Up to a point. There’s room for moral considerations sometimes, for an extreme example, slave labor.

You only mentioned 1 in the OP. 2 and 3 are about the methods the union is using, not the cause. Different issues.

Well, if you’re a business owner, you might like the idea that people in your community are getting higher wages, if it means more customers for you.
As long as you don’t have to pay those high wages too.
As long as only your suppliers can pay low wages and cut prices too.

It’s a typical dilemma - race to the bottom or the OPEC dilemma - as long as everyone else charges the list price, you can get twice as rich by slightly undercutting them. This works as long as there is an oversupply of the item or labour. When there’s a shortage… bidding goes the other way. How often is there a shortage of labour, except in spcialized fields like computers?

Taken to the extreme, would you pay extra for your clothes or running shoes to know they are not made in slave labour conditions by 8-year-olds in a building that might fall down at any time? The only difference with renovation contractors is they can’t export the job overseas. Instead, they can hire illegal immigrants for less than minimum wage.

I feel like this is treading dangerously close to the fallacy of the excluded middle.

Rarely is the choice between a union contractor, who pays the workers far above average and provides impeccable craftsmanship, and a non-union contractor, who uses illegal immigrants that do a slapdash job. Sure, some union shops may provide higher wages (although not always), and some union shops may produce a better product (again, not always). But so can the non-union shop, and many of those do it hiring local craftsman just like any other shop. I’m sure most business owners, having been in business long enough, have dealt with union contractors that did a shit job, and non-union contractors that did a great job, and vice versa. Being a union-shop shouldn’t give a contractor any more or less pull at getting a job. But if the union is going to charge more and then protest when a company goes with a more competitive offer, it’s not the company that’s the problem - it’s the union.

Yes, it’s not black and white. Complacent unions have no incentive for quality. Some companies (IBM a while ago comes to mind) pay the union rate to avoid the incentive for companies to unionize. Alleged “sweatshops” in the third world sometimes pay what sounds like low wages to us, but are actually quite generous wages in the local context. And so on…

These are all moral decisions we should make every day: Is that contractor in the OP charging much less because the workers are getting far less than union rates? (Or because the contractor is more effficient?) Are the union rates unreasonable? Is the contractor perpetuating an illegal immigrant culture? You decide, then you decide who to patronize.

Ultimately, I guess it boils down to moral conscience - what’s your charity vs. greed IQ? Jesus said to give away all your money and possessions to the poor and follow him. Oddly, in 2000 years, very few of his professed followers have done this, yet they claim to be charitable.

Even if you subscribe to the “enlightened self interest” model of behaviour - you have to decide how much of your earned income you will “give away” by patronizing more expensive choices based on your perception of the moral behaviour of various market players. Unions at their best are there to look out for the rights of their members. Unions at their worst are corrupt and thuggish organizations who rely on intimidation to get their way like some employers. Employers in the absence of unions may be respectful and fair, or exploit their power over workers. (Not every employee can afford to vote with their feet in the current economy) You should try to be aware of the reputation of who you deal with.