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May 2011
Steve K
Mon, Sep. 5th, 2005 08:04 pm
Labor Day

On this most auspicious of holidays, I am curious what people think about Big Labor in America and the impact of unions on today's economy.  Are unions still necessary?  Are they helping, harming, or not really effecting today's markets?

George Will recently had an interesting article on this subject in Newsweek, talking about the "heroic days" of unions compared to now.  He made an interesting point about how the most successful company in the country, Wal-mart, has no unionized stores.  Meanwhile, GM (which used to hold the top spot) has been reduced to junk bond status, in part because it is struggling to meet the demands of its union members.  It's a similar story with Ford and other older companies.  Pensions and other benefits, particularly those to a vast retiring baby boomer generation, have crippled many companies.  I find they have many unreasonable demands, all the way to the baseball players' union refusing to cooperate with mandatory drug testing.

I think their day is past, to be quite honest.  In this day and age where lawyers are churned out by the bucketful and people can sue over spilled coffee, I believe we can have less fear of poor working conditions.  The fact is that much of our manufacturing base has been shipped overseas, and I think unions are part of the reason why that is.  I don't think we should allow U.S. companies to exploit foreign workers who are outside the protection of American labor laws, but I would argue that companies should have a certain latitude in being allowed to produce their goods in a place that is cheaper and more willing to deal.  People thought companies like AT&T would never fail.  GM, Ford, and others are going to be on the chopping block soon if thing don't turn around fairly quickly.  Unions, in trying to "protect" their workers, may end up costing them their jobs and the American ecomony as a whole.

Current Mood: nerdy nerdy


Tue, Sep. 6th, 2005 01:18 am (UTC)

I pretty much agree with you. Unions are now running companies out of business. They were definitely necessary for a while and still serve some purpose, but I kind of think that they're now doing more harm than good.

Zach E
Tue, Sep. 6th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)

Don't some unions provide health insurance? I believe that people in professions like the film industry and media production get insurance through unions in that industry. I do think that unions have some purpose, but mostly they are for people whose jobs do not require college education such as machinists and stone masons. I could be completely wrong, but thats how I understand it right now.

Tue, Sep. 6th, 2005 01:50 am (UTC)

i'm really not sure how i feel about unions. they seem quite outmoded, as american law seems to have caught up workers' needs and, even if they hadn't, everybody knows how to exploit a story to the news outlets and get attention and probably legal advice.

i have no problem with workers organizing to lobby for benefits. i also have no problem with them not doing it.

but i did work at wal*mart where i was forbidden to even speak to union organizers. and i also worked at ups where i was forced to join a union. i have a serious problem with both those scenarios.

also, when i become a teacher i will most likely be mandated to join a union. and, if i'm not, i will still have to pay out money on a similar scale to dues. that crap is totally messed up.

unions aren't at all what they used to be. arguably, they don't need to be. both ups and wal*mart are listed as two of the top few companies to work for--one has unions the other doesn't. so, obviously, you don't need unions to accomplish the things which workers typically demand.

a business couldn't compete today if they didn't offer the competitive pay rates and benefits for which unions lobby.

and, if unions weren't mandatory at some companies, market forces would match union demands to labor offers by allowing others to work when union members wouldn't.

so, i guess i don't really like unions. from my experience, they tend to protect workers who exploit that protection through beurocracy and red tape.

still, i think a group ought to be able to organize as many of its members as it can if they can all agree that a company's business practices are unfair. they can argue their case because every company has a damn open door policy these days. and if they lose, they can go work somewhere else.