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Should You Join a Union?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/26/2011

Many youngsters fresh out of college wonder if joining a union is a good or bad idea. Truth be told, there are pros and cons to joining a union and many economic experts say unions are one of the reasons America is in so much financial trouble. Jean Scheid offers a bold insight on unions.

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    Union Perspectives

    AFL-CIO Headquarters The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations aka AFL-CIO tells us right off why we need a union on their website. Although the one paragraph they provide doesn’t seem like it says it all, what it does say is that “Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members." And “…Union workers’ wages are 30 percent higher…" and “68 percent of union workers have pensions…" and finally, “Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce."

    On the other side of the table, John Hawkins of Townhall Magazine offers up five reasons why unions are hurting Americans. His five reasons include unions are bad for large industry in America, are hindering education, cost tax payers a lot of money, are anti-democratic and are causing both cities and states to go bankrupt.

    So, as a job seeker, do you want higher wages and a guaranteed pension or to destroy education and be anti-democratic? Hard choice I know! Before we look at unions, keep in mind there are always the promoters and the naysayers all across America, but in this writer’s opinion, It’s time to put an end to unions—and I’ll tell you why.

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    Promises, Promises

    Hoffa loved unions but where is he now My father was a steelworker for U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and was a proud member of the USW (United Steelworkers Union). After serving in WWII, he joined the union, got married, had four daughters and bought his own home in 1959—not bad and things seemed to be right in line with that American dream.

    An accident at the steel mill caused major burns on my father’s right side leaving him disabled and required a lengthy recovery period. I must give credit to the company who did pay his for his healthcare needs but injury wages were very small during the recovery period. When he was healthy again, his union rep had nothing to offer him, no union protection--nada. Hence he had to start a new career, with zero union support and no pension. When he died in 1982, my mom got a whopping $200 from his pension…go figure.

    Since 1982, I have disliked the union environment and how they really don’t stand by their workers. In fact, only the top union heads (think Jimmy Hoffa here) are the only winners via dues, hush-hush meetings, and trips and vacations of grandeur having nothing to do with the union employees at all—other than all these extravagances are paid by union member dues.

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    Do We Really Need Union Protection Anymore?

    Factory Workers Unions were, at one time, necessary because factory owners were tough and no government agencies set rules for on the job injuries or workplace safety. When the U.S. Government created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this hurt the unions and they knew it. So did organizations such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

    These organizations mandated safety and fairness for all workers, so why pay fees or dues to a union when you can get the help you need for free? As far as higher wages and benefits, the compensation unions demand only makes the products or services they provide more expensive.

    Unions, however, disagree with this and pledge they want to help their members achieve better wages, benefits and pensions, but at what cost to the America economy? Unions are more of a dirty little secret society these days and those in the group will go to their deaths supporting their right to unionize. Because we do live in America, I guess they certainly can, but like other organizations, shouldn’t someone regulate unions?

    I realize the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Department of Labor try to do their best by overseeing unions, but with union lobbyists and top leaders throwing campaign funds at top candidates, unions are more of a government on their own and you have to pay to get into this secret society. It’s a sort of a "you grease my hand and I’ll grease yours" type of environment.

    Today’s union worker will shout from the tallest mountaintop about their union reps—they help me when I need it, they protect me, they argue for all things I need and protect me from corporate America! Really?

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    Why Unions Should Go Bye-Bye

    Goodbye Let’s take a teacher’s union for example. Teachers want tenure and their unions protect them but what if a teacher is a really bad teacher and is protected by their union? Who really suffers here? You guessed it, the children in the classroom. Even if a long-term teacher is accused of generally being a terrible teacher, their union rep is at their side, pleading their case, ensuring the big umbrella union will cover them—no matter what.

    Autoworker unions are a mess in America. They want top pay and the best of the best in benefits and pensions but wonder why so many car parts and vehicles are built overseas? Wake up here autoworkers, the auto manufacturers can’t afford you and still make a profit on selling a vehicle. Well, they can but this only increases American car prices—and it has for many, many years. That is why so many car buyers out there seek to buy the more affordable import. Autoworkers can’t stand up and say imports are poorly made and are inferior products to defend their case anymore either. They’re not and in fact, many imports have higher safety standards than those made in the U.S.A.

    Industrial unions also need revisiting. We have plumber and electrician unions and too many to list but if you hire a union plumber to install your air-conditioning system, he probably can’t plug it in without checking with the union electrician. That’s ridiculous—really folks, it is.

    To me, union members remind me of a bunch of men and women who love their weekly bowling teams, a pitcher of beer or two, a union hall to meet with their buddies to discuss and vote on new secret laws all the while raking in money for less work and more pay.

    I remember back when I worked for the University of Pittsburgh and a union organizer came to all of us and urged us to unionize and protect our jobs. Most of the people ignored this woman but I wondered, protect me from what? If I do my job well and complete what is expected of me, I was pretty sure I would continue to receive regular increases and great evaluations.

    Union Strike “But who will protect your rights?" asked the unionizer.

    I looked at her dumfounded and said, “I thought that’s why we had a Constitution?"

    “But what if you’re hurt at work or are forced to work too much overtime?" she argued.

    “I know where the workman’s compensation poster is and how to get aid for my injury and if I work more overtime, I’ll make more money." I said.

    “Wouldn’t you like to have an organization that can protect you from upper management?" she urged?

    “From what?" I asked.

    “Upper management holds all the cards and you could get fired at any time, but with our protection…" she started, but I stopped her.

    Shaking my head and chuckling I reminded the wannabe unionizer it was upper management who gave me a job so “why piss them off?" I offered.

    “Because they are the bad guys and want too much from you!" she said.

    “Isn’t it my job to provide a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay?" I asked.

    “Well of course, but a union could increase that pay! And no business can fire employees for forming a union!" she grinned.

    “How much are the dues?" I asked.

    “That’s not important now, what is important is your job and your rights!" she stated.

    “But I feel they treat me fair here and I like my job, why change everything?" I pointed out.

    “It’s your right to unionize!" she said forcibly.

    “For what purpose?" I again wanted to know.

    “Upper management holds all the cards….," she started but I stopped her because her reasons were starting to sound like the tale we told as kids, “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night," where every verse is repeated again and again. I walked away from shouts of “But wait!"

    This secret government within our government—the union—didn’t sound like something I wanted to join and it doesn’t to this day. Give me a reason here folks, why are unions still needed in America today? I suppose they protect the lazy workers and discourage members from giving a wee bit more on the job than a non-union worker and if that’s what they do, it’s time for them to go. Whatever happened to “One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?"

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    References

    AFL-CIO – “Why You Need a Union" retrieved at http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/why/

    Hawkins, John – Townhall 3/2011) “5 Reasons Unions are Bad for America" retrieved at http://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2011/03/08/5_reasons_unions_are_bad_for_america

    USW Website - http://www.usw.org/

    Bellamy, Francis – US History – The Pledge of Allegiance retrieved at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm

    Image Credits:

    Jimmy Hoffa - Wikipedia.org/Public Domain

    AFL-CIO Headquarters - Wikimedia Commons/MBisanz

    Factory Workers - Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

    Goodbye - Sxc.hu/johnnyberg

    Union Strike - Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain






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