NationStates Jolt Archive

Labor Unions face internal civil war

23-07-2005, 19:45

Many here would be amazed to know I actually feel there is a place for labor unions. (and no, it is not hot and run by a guy with a pitchfork). In fact I have even been a member of a labor union in the past.

I also believe labor unions have also made some crucial errors along the way which have contributed to their decline.

First the good; Labor unions are good for several things. First would be collective bargaining. I had an executive from one large well known company tell me that without unions it would have been utter chaos negotiating labor contracts for thousands of workers.

Another would be the living wage. (gasp!) I have lived in a town which had a grocers union and one which did not. The one with the grocers union paid about 2 1/2 times the salary of the town which did not. (and, btw - I was NOT in the grocers union or any related one) In spite of labor costs being nearly three times higher, prices were nearly the same.

I have a particular like for the nurses union. (Also not the one I was in). They not only look out for the nurses, but indirectly create an environment where patients get better care. (most particularly when it comes to staffing - making sure there are enough nurses working any given time)

Now the bad; Unions are, like any beurocracy, often attempting to outgrow their usefulness. They can create rules which stifle productivity. I can recall a machine getting jammed and having to wait half an hour for a mechanic to hit the reset button - even though I was perfectly capable of doing it myself. Union rules! bah! Really the point of a union is pretty straight forward. It is not to get the largest benefit, not to get the most jobs, it is to insure fair working conditions and compensation. Simple. End. Done. They have far exceeded that neccessity - reuslting in gross inefficiency. Protecting people with poor work ethic/results - driving labor costs to the point where it becomes cheaper to build factories overseas and ship the products half way around the world than to continue domestic operations and employment - demanding higher and higher dues from membership to pay for things beyond the scope of what a union should be participating in.

Unions also made the error of becoming politically affiliated. (Politically active and politically affiliated are two different things.) By 'taking sides' they essentially shut out or at least turned off roughly 50% of Americans.

They allowed a monopoly over the union system. There is no competition betweeen auto worker unions because there is only one. This is, in effect, price fixing. They used their monopoly to set unreasonably high costs. Without competition there is gross inefficiency for everyone.

So, the question is, how do you feel about the way unions currently are moving? Is it right? Is it wrong? should they do more of the same? Something different? Like what? Include any union experiences you've had. I want to hear your ancedotes.