Sunday, March 13, 2011

Some thoughts on the union issue

All the legal wrangling and protests going on in Wisconsin over collective-bargaining, pay cuts, benefit reductions, etc. has had me to thinking about unions lately. I'm honestly not a big fan of unions. I used to be in one and wasn't very impressed by it. It didn't keep mine, nor any of the 800 jobs at the plant I worked at from being shipped to Mexico. I'm not in a union now, but some jobs where I work are.

I agree that unions can gain too much leverage over employers. "Rights" {protections} can be stacked so much in favor of employees, especially in the education sector, that getting rid of a bad employee can be nearly impossible. It creates an expensive, inefficient system, one that in some ways can even be a risk to the public when severely incompetent people get to continue doing work they shouldn't be doing.

I can also see where some of the national unions have consolidated too much power, and seem to exist only as a means for generating money for party bosses and gaining votes for the Democratic party.

That said, I do believe in the concept of unions, and of collective-bargaining. I'm aware of many of the much needed improvements in pay, benefits, and safety which we all take for granted now that wouldn't have happened were it not for the efforts of organized workers.

And this is not just a thing of the past. Most businesses are ever trying to find new ways to increase productivity, cut benefits, and minimize pay all at the expense of employees.

Employers today have a great deal of leverage over employees. More than they probably have in several decades. And they are amassing more of it as unions dwindle, technology, outsourcing and a bad economy causes domestic jobs to become more scarce, unemployment rates high, and the cost of living is continually rising.

I can see where there needs to be some union and labor reforms. There is going to have to be more compromises from laborers, especially in the public sector. And certainly some limitations in the 'rights' of public sector workers.

But this union-busting is detrimental to working-class people, and it doesn't help from a tax burden standpoint either because it has the potential to depress wages & benefits. What good is lower deficits if wages & benefits stay stagnant?

The new surge in assaults on unions is part ideological, but mostly political — meant to tip the scales of fund raising and voter organizing away from Democrats and toward Republicans.

It's probably long overdue for a shake up, but what has taken place in Wisconsin and is beginning in Indiana and Ohio is more like a war. It isn't a war on public sector unions, it's a war on the middle-class, working-class people nationwide.

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