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Old 12-13-2012, 08:34 AM  
Direckshun Direckshun is online now
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In defense of unions.

The goings on in Michigan have taken some time for me to process, what with a lame duck majority of Michigan Republicans busting the only real leverage unions had in one of the biggest union states in America. There's been a heated debate over it the past couple weeks, albeit not on this forum, and tempers have flown off the handle as fistfights have broken out on the steps of the capital in Lansing.

Makes sense, it's a really heated issue, and I see both sides of it. One one hand you have people whose wellbeing has been supported and improved by unions -- those people are going to be intensely passionate about what happens. On the other hand, you have people who believe unions are unfairly leveraged bully organizations attempting to soak a company's profits dry.

I see both sides of the issue, but I'm pro-union. I see how they are often derided and dismissed on this forum so I think it's time to take at least one post to properly characterize what unions are all about and to flesh out why they are such a positive thing.

There are many different kinds of unions, so I am not offering a defense of any one particular union, but I think all unions benefit from the below arguments:

1. A union is democratic capitalism at work.

Our capitalist society encourages everybody to work hard, earn skills, and maximize those skills for your own personal gain. That harnessing this capacity to improve your life will drive progress in society, spark innovation and improve overall quality of life.

Well, that's what every union under the sun is. A group of people have acquired a set of skills, be it to build something, teach something or serve something, and they've decided to maximize their gain from those skills by banding together and negotiating with those who employ them.

Conservatives typically argue that the wealthy are virtuous, because they are able to find advantages in the market that play to their favor. They often argue in favor of huge bonuses that are frequently untied to any accomplishments for people who run companies, because that's what the free market has designated as their worth. That's exactly what unions are all about. They find an advantage in their market that plays to their favor, and attempt to maximize their benefit.

2. They fight inequality.

Now, whether you like the result or not of those negotiations, as an outside observer, is irrelevent to capitalism. What matters is that a worker should earn his or her leverage and then play it in the market for their advantage. Busting unions is an affirmative action to keep the masses of middle class workers from exploiting the advantages of capitalism, while further enabling the wealthy to benefit. Which brings me to my next point.

Inequality is not inherently bad, but there is an inequality epidemic in this country. We are at a historic point of inequality where, primarily though tax policy, the wealthy retain more and more of their wealth leaving the rest of pie in smaller and smaller slices to be divided up amongst a growing population of middle- and lower-class folks.

Unions were an effective check on this trend for large swaths of society, but they've been systematically busted in about half the country's states in various ways, leaving employees only able to negotiate in small packs or individually -- which, as if I need to tell you, is almost always a negatory position. Busting unions hurts the middle class, and further entrenches more wealth at the top.

3. They are the lone agency for middle class workers.

And that's my next point, really. Even if you dislike unions, you can agree with me on two things:

(a.) The wealthier you are, the better represented you are in terms of lobbying and interest groups. There are any number of interest groups that fight specifically on the behalf of people who have more resources, run businesses, are wealthy. The poor have always been underrepresented, there is no Big Poverty influencing the actions of Washington, DC, or any statehouse for that matter.

If there were ever a Big Middle Class, however, it's unions. That's Point (b.).

(b.) There is no more effective organization specifically geared at representing the interests of middle and lower class workers than unions. Which of course is the real reason why employers, who otherwise would face only nominal opposition in their ability to raise money and influence politics, despise them so much.

Unions are incredibly effective at raising funds and turning out political participation among their members. If they were to be wiped from existence -- what existing organization could possibly take their place?

America is America because of middle class workers. Broader than that: a healthy middle class is critical to any society's ability to thrive. Take unions away, or at least largely defang them, and you risk a political system with hardly any serious support for the most important element of society.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:38 AM   #2
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:01 AM
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:03 AM   #3
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great propoganda from the union
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
1. A union is democratic capitalism at work.

Our capitalist society encourages everybody to work hard, earn skills, and maximize those skills for your own personal gain. That harnessing this capacity to improve your life will drive progress in society, spark innovation and improve overall quality of life.

Well, that's what every union under the sun is. A group of people have acquired a set of skills, be it to build something, teach something or serve something, and they've decided to maximize their gain from those skills by banding together and negotiating with those who employ them.

Conservatives typically argue that the wealthy are virtuous, because they are able to find advantages in the market that play to their favor. They often argue in favor of huge bonuses that are frequently untied to any accomplishments for people who run companies, because that's what the free market has designated as their worth. That's exactly what unions are all about. They find an advantage in their market that plays to their favor, and attempt to maximize their benefit.
Legislation like that which was passed in Michigan just puts the "they've decided" back into union membership. People who want to be in unions and take advantage of all these glorious benefits that you perceive are still able to do so.
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:13 AM   #5
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Unions have their place. Forcing people to pay union dues is wrong, though. And the Employee Free Choice Act that was floated around was wrong.
Just like any organization it has good points and bad. I wouldn't want unions to get everything they ask for, because it would never be enough. And I wouldn't want to see them go away.
I don't see what's wrong with what happened in Michigan. The unions should do a better job of selling themselves to potential members if they're concerned about people not paying dues.
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:31 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
Legislation like that which was passed in Michigan just puts the "they've decided" back into union membership. People who want to be in unions and take advantage of all these glorious benefits that you perceive are still able to do so.
Are you aware of how the free rider problem is a legit back breaker for unions?
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:42 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Are you aware of how the free rider problem is a legit back breaker for unions?
I love the "free rider" label. My wife is a teacher, but she isn't a member of a union. She has no ability to negotiate a higher salary because she has to accept whatever the union negotiates. Basically, she gets paid the same amount as the slapdicks who have no business being in education while my wife is securing technology grants on her own time.

Lucky her, though.
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:43 AM   #8
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I love the "free rider" label.
So, no, you aren't aware of how the free rider problem is a legit back breaker for unions?
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:50 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
So, no, you aren't aware of how the free rider problem is a legit back breaker for unions?
You know how forcing people to pay is a legit back breaker for allowing people to decide if they want to pay union dues, instead of being forced to?
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:59 AM   #10
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So, no, you aren't aware of how the free rider problem is a legit back breaker for unions?
I understand why unions feel they have to force everyone to assimilate in much the same way that communism does. I also understand that they have to invent pejoratives for those who don't subscribe to their cause.

Let's suppose my co-workers decide that they want to buy a fish tank for the office. I don't care about fish. I don't want a fish tank, but **** it. If they want one, I'm not going to stand in their way. But let's also suppose they start taking up a collection to buy a tank, fish, supplies, etc. and making a schedule for cleaning it, feeding the fish, and buying food. Am I a freeloader if I object to paying for and maintaining something I don't even want?

I am by your definition. I get all of the "benefits" of working in an office with a fish tank even though these "benefits" have a negative value to me.

Cry all you want about the unworkable business model of unions. It's not my problem.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:03 AM   #11
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Wouldn't those who receive the same benefits as union employees without having to pay dues be "finding an advantage in their market that plays to their favor, in an attempt to maximize their benefit"?
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:08 AM   #12
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Wouldn't those who receive the same benefits as union employees without having to pay dues be "finding an advantage in their market that plays to their favor, in an attempt to maximize their benefit"?
The truth is, they don't get all of the same benefits...not at all. If the shop shuts down because of a strike, the non-union members don't get any pay from the union. If a student makes a charge against my wife, the NEA isn't ponying up for a lawyer.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:15 AM   #13
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So, no, you aren't aware of how the free rider problem is a legit back breaker for unions?
Good.

Unions had their place but you don't have to look very far to see they do far more harm that good today.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:28 AM   #14
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Good.

Unions had their place but you don't have to look very far to see they do far more harm that good today.
Anymore you find a company, or an industry in trouble and you'll find a union.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:29 AM   #15
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Free loading is a problem, but forcing people to join isn't....

Right to work laws are good, and they give people more freedom.
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