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Old 12-13-2012, 07:34 AM  
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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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, 05:10 PM   #76
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
I'll take middle and lower class workers being incentivized into negotiating for better pay/benefits/whatev as a group than the freedom for workers to negotiate individually, which of course is not a real option for them.

You have to make pragmatic choices on these issues, not ideological ones, and I think that's the smart call.
I made pragmatic choices every time I have taken a job, and decided whether to remain at one. Even when I worked in fast food I took advantage of several promotions (not that hard to stand out from the herd in fast food) to sign an agreement that benefited me. I don't need a group of people to negotiate for me and I consider it unethical to force me to pay for that disservice.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:12 PM   #77
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Originally Posted by KCWolfman View Post
A fair market
Bzzt. Wrong.

You need an actionable organization. Things being hunky dory does not equate to proactive political lobbying.

Those at the top of the economic food chain, employers, CEOs, the wealthy -- they get ample representation and ample political attention.

Middle class workers, outside of the immense political work by unions, get next to none.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:12 PM   #78
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So you do not understand why it is widely believed that "right to work" laws are detrimental to the effectiveness of unions?
The unions sell a service. If I am uninterested in that service I shouldn't be required to purchase it.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:13 PM   #79
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I am in a strange situation. A little background, several years ago I went to work for Boeing in Wichita Kansas. It was a high paying job for a guy with no college and no special skills. It was the job to have for blue collar workers in that town. At the orientation a union rep put on a presentation. I signed up not because of anything he said, just the knowledge that no where else in that town could I draw those wages and benefits. It was a union shop and I would not free load.

Wichita is a right to work state. I never once needed the union while I worked there and I have no problem saying many of the strongest union guys were among the weakest workers. I moved North Carolina to take a position with a company and there was no union. The company refused to tell anyone what raises they could expect or even define what any positions pay scale was. Several employees went for around a year with no raise. They finally received 13 cents and that was over a year ago. Because I came from Wichita and had experience I was hired at a different rate than the locals. I also trained new employees and was promoted to lead fairly quickly.

I worked as a lead for several months with no pay increase although I did get a merit raise that was 39 cents. I did get a raise for being a lead eventually, I later transferred to QA which included a small raise. I now provide training for both inspectors and production employees. The union and the company have agreed to a contract which includes a bonus. The bonus will barley even cover a year of dues for me as they are based on a percentage my wages...wages I attained without the union. At a snapshot I will receive nothing as it appears I am at what is consider the max of wages.

This is a 12 year contract which will cost me several thousand dollars in dues...several. I will listen to the contract tomorrow and am going to join for at least one year. At the end of the year unless I see some sort of compensation to justify my dues I will part company with them telling them we are even. I am not a free loader but I sure as hell am not going to give away my money for nothing. I will play along if it is only a small loss but **** throwing thousands away for nothing~
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:17 PM   #80
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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?
The the unions need to do a better job selling what they can do for their members. That's not a good enough excuse to make people join that don't want to, no matter how many times you repeat it.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:22 PM   #81
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Originally Posted by listopencil View Post
I made pragmatic choices every time I have taken a job, and decided whether to remain at one. Even when I worked in fast food I took advantage of several promotions (not that hard to stand out from the herd in fast food) to sign an agreement that benefited me. I don't need a group of people to negotiate for me and I consider it unethical to force me to pay for that disservice.
That's really fair, but you're probably an outstanding individual who is typing on his own personal laptop that you had the resources to purchase.

If you're a single mother of two with an IQ of 90 and no car to drive, your options really aren't that vast.

That's just one example of a hundred million, but my point is, you don't shop for jobs at a supermarket. You are beholden to an economic system that demands you be employed if you want to live above poverty, and employers do have most of the leverage. You might be able to thrive in it, and godspeed, but not everybody can, to put it mildly.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:25 PM   #82
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Originally Posted by listopencil View Post
The unions sell a service. If I am uninterested in that service I shouldn't be required to purchase it.
The unions do more than sell a service -- they fight specifically for middle and lower class workers. To the point where their absence creates an astonishing, troubling political void on behalf of the very lifeblood of the society.

So they are beholden to an entirely different approach legally than, say, a window-cleaning service.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:28 PM   #83
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Unions are perfectly fine in the private sector. They are an outrage when moved to the public sector, and even FDR (the biggest friend labor ever had) didn't like the idea.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:34 PM   #84
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Bzzt. Wrong.

You need an actionable organization. Things being hunky dory does not equate to proactive political lobbying.

Those at the top of the economic food chain, employers, CEOs, the wealthy -- they get ample representation and ample political attention.

Middle class workers, outside of the immense political work by unions, get next to none.
So only liberal Democrats get to support the middle class then? The only political work the unions do is to benefit the Democratic party, rather than represent the diverse views of their memberships.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:35 PM   #85
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I have no problem with unions. Free association is great. My problem is when the government intervenes to force industry to accept a union. A union should live or die on its merits.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:35 PM   #86
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
That's really fair, but you're probably an outstanding individual who is typing on his own personal laptop that you had the resources to purchase.

If you're a single mother of two with an IQ of 90 and no car to drive, your options really aren't that vast.

That's just one example of a hundred million, but my point is, you don't shop for jobs at a supermarket. You are beholden to an economic system that demands you be employed if you want to live above poverty, and employers do have most of the leverage. You might be able to thrive in it, and godspeed, but not everybody can, to put it mildly.

From when I was about two years old my mother was a single mother of five, with no skills at all. I wouldn't say that she had an IQ of 90 but we were in that situation more often than not. No car. No phone. Sometimes the oil for the heater wouldn't last all Winter. At one point when we lived in a trailer park, someone broke into our "home" in the middle of the day while we were out. The only thing they could find to steal was a five pound chub of bargain hamburger. Dirt poor. By the time I (her last child) moved out for the last time she was a ward supervisor at a private psychiatric facility. She was never a union employee although she was sympathetic to unions when they still appeared to serve a purpose.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:35 PM   #87
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
That's really fair, but you're probably an outstanding individual who is typing on his own personal laptop that you had the resources to purchase.

If you're a single mother of two with an IQ of 90 and no car to drive, your options really aren't that vast.

That's just one example of a hundred million, but my point is, you don't shop for jobs at a supermarket. You are beholden to an economic system that demands you be employed if you want to live above poverty, and employers do have most of the leverage. You might be able to thrive in it, and godspeed, but not everybody can, to put it mildly.
Nobody is owed a damn thing. If you want a good job then position yourself for one~
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:35 PM   #88
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The unions do more than sell a service -- they fight specifically for union leaders and Democrats.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:43 PM   #89
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Originally Posted by listopencil View Post
From when I was about two years old my mother was a single mother of five, with no skills at all. I wouldn't say that she had an IQ of 90 but we were in that situation more often than not. No car. No phone. Sometimes the oil for the heater wouldn't last all Winter. At one point when we lived in a trailer park, someone broke into our "home" in the middle of the day while we were out. The only thing they could find to steal was a five pound chub of bargain hamburger. Dirt poor. By the time I (her last child) moved out for the last time she was a ward supervisor at a private psychiatric facility. She was never a union employee although she was sympathetic to unions when they still appeared to serve a purpose.
That's a fantastic story about your mother (sounds like a great idol growing up), but I'm not sure how that's a response to my point.

I said that your options for jobs are really limited if you're in her stead of life as you originally described it, not the supermarket cornucopia of opportunity that you suggested all employees enjoy. And I also said that employers have by far the most leverage.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:44 PM   #90
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Nobody is owed a damn thing. If you want a good job then position yourself for one~
Alright?
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