What do you think about Unions?

I ask only because the place where I work tried to get a union, but the vote didn’t pass. I voted an emphatic NO for several reasons.

  1. I work for local government. The primary power that a union has is to disrupt business by calling a strike. Government workers can’t strike. Hence the union has no trump card, and no real negotiating power.

  2. The uppity up management types had us all to a meeting and said, in essence “We aren’t really going to negotiate with the union in a fair manner. We’ll drag it out as long as possible and negotiate everything from the toilet paper you’re allowed to order to your salaries.” The county I work for has absolutely NO interest in negotiating quickly. The firefighters have a union in this county, and during the last negotiations, essentially waited 8 months longer than the rest of us to get what amounted to a smaller raise and the loss of breaks. Doesn’t speak well for the union.

  3. The people who were very pro union were mostly these people, whereas the anti union people actually show up to work and get stuff done. I mean, the main fucknut in the refernced post wants a union because he’s upset he has to work a 40 hour week. He thinks it should be 35 hours. Where in the hell is he going to find a job outside of government that will give him all that time off and make him work 35 hours for it?

  4. Something just rubs me wrong about them. I mean, if I were working in a coal mine in 1920, perhaps a union would be a good thing. But I work for a goverment agency. Let’s face facts, here. We get every major holday off and a few minor ones, I earn 2.16 days of vacation time a month, and I don’t have to take a sick day if I work half a day and go home. Of course I make less than in the private sector, but would have none of the above benefits.

Just curious what you guys think.

I see that you have a pretty decent job with pretty good benefits. Of course, none of these benefits like paid time off existed before the modern labor movement. And as you may be aware, as the labor movement becomes weaker, fewer employees have all the perks that were once very common like fully paid medical, defined benefits pensions plans, vacations where you didn’t have to call in every day, and backbreaking 12-14 hour days without overtime pay.

It is important to understand that employers of people who are not organized usually attempt to match the conditions of the organized to keep the unions out. Once the threat is removed, the natural laws of capitalism take over and the race to the bottom is on as it is in many sectors of economic life today.

Bottom line. If everyone was a union member, everyone’s pay would be higher, we’d all have medical insurance, defined benefit pensions, and many, many social problems would be minimized. Our country would be more prosperous and a more humane place to live.

You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m inclined to believe that if everyone was a union member (everyone includes entrepreneurs, inventors, investors, management, etc.) our economic performance would be at best far less competitive or efficient, and would likely approach stagnation.

I am in favor of unions, I am a member of an organization that calls itself a union, although we can’t legally strike.

I see the good and bad stuff the union does. I see people that can’t be fired, though they should be. Well, that is not accurate. They can be fired. It would almost take an act of congress for that to happen. Due process Xs ten. Yet, the union does a pretty good job of looking out for the interest of the employee. Without unions workers would have less pay, fewer benefits, etc. I think there are numerous examples of people in positions of power that treat people the way they should be treated. On the other hand there are many, many, many, examples of the strong, powerful, affluent, wealthy, taking advantage.
Organized labor is a necessary evil.

One problem I have with unions is that their “product” is discontent. If you have a decent salary, decent workplace, & resonable benefits that you’re happy with, then the union really has no leverage.

On job of the union is to convince the workers that no matter what the employee has, it’s inadequate. If they can’t convince you of that, they have nothing to sell.

My personal experience with union workers is that the lazier the worker is, the more union friendly they are. Yes, this is a rash generalization but I my worst subordinate from my supervision days was the union steward. I gave her a positive review once just to enable her ability to transfer to another department.

Now - I will also admit that much of modern labor practices are the result of the early labor movement. I guess I’d still like the watchdog arm of the union to be active but the salary, etc. arm to be reduced.

Unions definitely had their place in history, as mankind adapted itself to an industrialized condition. But they have generally not come along and are stuck in 100 year old time lag.

The biggest beef I have with unions is the fact that even if you vote against the union, but a majority vote brings them in, you still have to join. It’s all or none. Then there goes money every week from my paycheck to pay dues to a union I didn’t want.

I love the Union bashers, especially when they come to see me when they are suffering RSI, sexual harrasment, racial harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, working in unsafe environments, being ‘expected’ to work unsocial hours for no extra remuneration.

How about having someone see that promotions are handled fairly and openly ? We are all aware of the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

Unions offer a huge range of services, right now in the UK we have a large number of companies who are effectively reneging on their contracted pensions commitments. This will leave many facing an uncertain retirement, and yet those same companies took pensions contribution breaks when the going was good.
Any sensible investor will tell you that when the going is great then you put more money in, 'cause sure as eggs are eggs there will come a time when the investment envirnamet is not so good, so who will fight for the rights of those who have been so badly let down?

How about employers who delibrately give out bad referances so that they can make sure their best workers find it difficult to get placement elsewhere ?

I could cite a particular company who has it written into contracts that their employees cannot work in a related industry for five years, and all they do is make fitted kitchens, do you think that is about commercial secrecy or making sure that these employees are kept working with their only skill at lower wages than the competition pays ? I think that is pretty unfair, and guess what, they ain’t unionised.

How many disasters have been caused by managers taking short cuts, and disregarding safety procedures ? There was at a chemical plant just two miles away from my home, it blew up because risk assessments had not been carried out on a particular operation, fortunately only four died.

The railways in the UK have seen a series of disasters over the past couple of years, the workforce was split up and contracted to commercial track maintenance companies, it now turns out that there is very little union solidarity, and company managers have signed and been paid for work that has not been done. Had there been a more cohesive union this would not have happened, the dead so far is less than 200 passengers so I guess that price is too low to consider having effective independant monitoring of company methods.

When you are faced with a pressing safety matter and a manager who is threatening your job, who do you go to see? yup your Union rep.

How about unions who provide you with free legal advice ? Those such a bad thing?

Those unions who provide social and recreational facilities, that such a bad thing ?

Unions who give you crisis advice on all sorts of matters from finance, to sudden deaths in the family, or just educate you how to do your job better, yes some unions actually provide skill training.

Being a Union rep on the shop floor is a thankless task, you get idle workers trying to make bullets for you to fire(if you are naiive enough), you get managers trying to blame you for lower productivity rates, you are expected to wave a magic wand and solve the most intractable disputes, and then you get people saying that unions are self-interested, encourage laziness, are extreme in political outlook and all manner of unjust accusations.

FTR, the overwhelming majority of union reps are trying to represent fairly their members best interest, sometimes that might be recommending unpoplular viewpoints in order to help keep a struggling company going, yes sometimes pay cuts are negotiated, sometimes redundances are recommended, and often its a case of making the most of bad situation.

It amazes me that folk can be so shortsighted, in the UK banking unions considered themselves to be part of the middle classes and as such had little in common with those whose jobs were replaced by machines, the result was that this group of eployees had little sympathy for worker in other industries.Turns out that advances in technology have replaced huge numbers of bank staff.

The message here is that even in modern times you just never know when the bear is going to bite your ass.

It is easy to point out bad union policies or the smothering hand of union interferance in company matters, but most unions are not like that, and most companies are probably not shyster practitioners either(but the recent event at ENRON etc makes me wonder), but, there are plenty of individuals within companies who behave in a disgraceful manner, and workers need protection from them.

Unions are like insurance, you hope you never need to claim, but you keep paying your subs just in case.

I am a member of the musician’s union here in Los Angeles. The following story happened a few months ago:

A bunch of union members took a well-paying film orchestra gig that payed very well. The job had no union contract, though. So, of course someone blew the whistle and everyone who was found to have done the gig got a huge fine levied against them by the union.

Now, this rubs me completely the wrong way. I mean, aren’t we, as musicians, just interested in making music and getting paid decently for it? Who cares if it’s “a union job”? I feel really bad for all the musicians who did that gig and got in trouble for it. With film and television gigs rapidly leaving the L.A. area, one has to take work where it comes.

I’m only a member because several of the orchestras I am in require it. And they absolutely do not pay any better than the non-union jobs. And technically, once you are a union member, you are not allowed to take any non-union jobs. Well, that’s a laugh if you’re a professional musician. I’ll damn well take any job I feel like taking, union be damned.

Yes, the Union does offer health and pension benefits. But ONLY if one is nearly constantly working Union jobs. The musicians who qualify for these benefits are dwindling in number. The rest of us have to go without insurance or, like me, get a day job to make ends meet.

Union’s keeping musicians’ pay high? I don’t buy it. There will always be a demand for a skilled performer. And one generally gets paid commensurate with their skill. The going rate is not being supported by unionization.

All I see is that it’s done absolutely nothing for me. If someone can argue convincingly that I’m somehow mysteriously reaping benefits from the Musician’s Union, please let me know.

Casdave, in the USA, many of these things are protected/illegal by law already - without the need for union intervention.

Discrimination on race, color, creed, national origin, gender, etc. are all forbidden by law.

Unpaid overtime is forbidden unless you’re legally “exempt”, usually meaning salaried.

Workplace safety is monitored & enforced by OSHA. Whistleblower laws protect those who report problems and get fired for their attention.

Bad references can get you sued in America so most companies err on the side of caution and forbid previous performance reports to new employers. Officially, for any call, I can reply with nothing more then they were employed here.

Yes, some of the social aspects of promotion, etc. are still handled by the “who you know” aspects. On the other hand, when I had union subordinates, I was unable to reward the effective workers because wages were set by contract. That means the sludge who just has title but doesn’t want to work gets paid the same as my bet worker.

Firing somebody is nearly impossible - demoting somebody is nearly impossible. Family member die? Three days - I don’t care if you have to travel across the country - I can’t be flexible.

The contract guarentees equality - unfortunately for some, equal is not fair.

I don’t like them for many of the reasons already stated. In my state you cannot be forced to join even if one is voted in.

I live in a right to work state as well, thankfully.

Background, I used to work in a management role in a manufacturing site with a union. Ironically, I was seen by most union members as a good guy, so I never got any crap and was well supported by the folks in the union. But I still saw a lot of stoopid stuff the union did. Without going into details, it seemed that their sole role was to defend those who shouldn’t be defended and keep those who were motivated from moving ahead. My opinion was also likely shaded by the incredible bigotry that I heard from some of the old union heads, old guys who were no longer in power but still garnered a lot of respect from the some of the more ardent union members. But I was also privvy to some of the odious historical stuff that they at least outlasted, if not eliminated directly.

Now I am working in a more corporate area. I see us outsourcing more and more work to India and other low cost “work centers”. These are the “good jobs” that American politicians of different stripes all like to take credit for creating. I also see large multinationals, mine included, working to keep H-1b visas in effect even though unemployment and layoffs are endemic in the industry (information technology). An organization of IT workers that would at least vote in a bloc might have some impact. But I don’t think that a union is a viable solution, for several reasons: [ul][]many IT workers are Republicans or sympathetic to Republicans, and thus see unions as antithetic to their ideals []IT workers would have a hard time striking, at least those who don’t provide support services, since the impact is not immediate to the bottom line there is a sense in the USA that IT (and similar workers) are professional, and that professionals don’t strike or belong to unions (although there are unionized professionals here).[/ul]

Although unions can be corrupt and inefficient, I think overall they’re a good thing. I really think service sector workers could benefit from unionization. It’s supposed to be illegal, yes, but many service workers to have to work unpaid overtime–witness the recent Wal-Mart case. Retail and food service workers are also much less likely to get health insurance and other benefits from their employers. I know that if there was a union for temp workers, I’d join right up.

I live in one of the least-unionized states in the nation. When textile workers here in the 1930s organized and went on strike, the strikes were broken fairly brutally, and there’s still a lot of hostility to unions around. A friend of mine worked for a grounds crew at one of the state universities. The grounds and housekeeping staff were trying to organize–basically wanting better pay, better benefits, etc.–and they experienced a fair bit of intimidation from the school’s administration. Campus security would follow organizers home after meetings. Spouses of groundskeepers got anonymous calls *at their jobs off campus * asking why their husbands wanted to join a union. Stuff like that. Nothing very bad and nothing you could complain about to the authorities, but the cumulative effect was clearly to send the message, “We’re watching you.” It was kind of creepy.

You mean where the worker is protected from capitalist exploiters of the masses? They used to have one. They called it the USSR. It didn’t work.

Unions and management are counterbalances. When either has too much power, the system does not work. Arbitrary firings are not good, but neither is almost inviolable job security. We need balances.

Bad point - union dues used to back political candidates the members may not approve of. Bad enough you give money to thieves, felons, and other pols (sorry Matt, generalization), but you may end up with your money going to the OPPONENT of your preferred thief or felon. IMHO no political contributions to parties or candidates should be from dues. If the union wants to contribute, let them hold an optional fund raiser.

Semi O/T Story about Unions:

My boyfriend was in a math class where they had to work in groups with a corporation or organization and help them solve some sort of tough mathematical problem (he worked with Heinz, and helped increase the efficiency of their warehouses, or something). One group got to work with the garbagemen here in Pittsburgh, and, on their first meeting, distributed a survey to a large group of garbage collectors about their work hours, habits, etc.

Well, apparently there was some communications breakdown somewhere along the way, because the garbage collectors union representatives convinced the garbagemen that the survey given by the group of college students was designed to decrease their pay (or increase their workload, one of the two.) They didn’t want to take the survey, but instead of handing it back or leaving, all of the garbagemen systematically broke their pencils, and just sat there, looking at the students. I just thought that breaking your pencil was such a funny reaction to a (probably) incocous survey.

Anyway, carry on. :slight_smile:

This is probably the most naive thing I’ve read on this message board in quite some time.

I’m going to combine the higher pay, medical insurance, etc, into one blanket heading of “pay”, to reflect the cost on a corporation of having somebody work for them.

Now let’s assume that everybody in the country got “higher pay”. The first effect is that all corporation’s payroll has now increased substantially. Each corporation has to adjust for this, by either 1) Having fewer people make the “things”, which leads to higher unemployment, 2) Charging more for the same number of things (which leads to inflation, which negates everybody’s pay raise), or 3) Making more things and figuring out how to sell them.

Option 3 is the only one that doesn’t immediately negate the benefits of higher pay. It’s also the hardest one, as most companies are already selling as many things as they can. Also, it requires people to spend all of their pay increase on new things to keep the cycle going, so in the end people living paycheck to paycheck still have to live paycheck to paycheck, the paycheck is just larger and they have more things.

The other case, and the one that you were probably thinking of, involves the corporation making less of a profit on each “thing”. But smaller profits mean either less money to reinvest in the company, so fewer new jobs and no new equipment (so the people who make the things that the corporation uses are screwed), or a smaller dividend given to shareholders and smaller bonuses given to executives and higher-performing employees, which means that “everybody” doesn’t get higher pay.

Boy, that’s an interesting location my train of thought took me to. I think I just convinced myself that the only purpose of unions is to take money away from higher-paid people and give it to lower-paid people. And, as a slightly higher-paid person, I resent that. If you want a higher-paying job, then invest time and effort into getting the skills and experience that higher-paying jobs require, don’t go looking for a handout.

And casdave, unions don’t “provide” legal assistance, social and recreational facilities, etc. You pay for them. With your dues. And you pay for them whether or not you use them.


      • I guess this depends on the country and profession one is in, but where I am, in the lousy job I have right now, overall I’d say that unions don’t help much.
  • I want a right-to-work law, so that I don’t have to pay the union anything if I didn’t want to. Somehow I also think the member service from the union would improve if people could decide to keep all of their paychecks, also…-It hardly matters that “you get a vote” if they are allowed to force you to pay for the vote if you want to or not. Real voting is with your money, and the union is allowed to take that anyway. - DougC


Or possibly, many IT workers see unionization as antithetic to their prospects for a good career in the IT industry, and therefore side with Republicans, who don’t depend, like Democrats do, on union backing.

chicken…egg…you decide.

A union is the workers. It isn’t some entity that overtakes a group of workers and sells something or dictates unwanted rules. Yes, there is union leadership, but the leadership is elected from within the rank and file, by the rank and file (UAW top management notwithstanding). Locals run themselves, and upper union leaderhip is typically elected, or appointed (as is the case of the UAW presidency) from the Locals.

Unions have nothing to “sell” except worker empowerment; instead of management dictating everything that happens to the employees, the employees have a say in the matter.

A union does not organize, collectively bargain, strike, collect dues, or anything else without the workers consent. No one tells the workers, ‘OK, you’re on strike now.’ Likewise, no one tells the workers, ‘OK, here’s what you’re getting paid. Don’t like it? Tough shit.’ The workers themselves have a say in their rate of pay and benefits.

If union members don’t like how things are going, they have the right to “vote their bums out,” and elect new leadership. If a non-union worker doesn’t like how things are going, he sure as hell can’t vote his boss out.

Now I admit that not every professional situation necessitates organization-- and being in a union can and does breed its share of laziness-- but overall they are still quite necessary in many work environments.

I also think unions aren’t what they used to be. The UAW saw to that in the early 80s.

Happy, former union officer and organizer