Thursday, December 20, 2012

Are Unions an Anachronism

Are Unions an Anachronism?

          On 12/12/12 a right to work vote in Michigan turned violent and ugly.
The Union members drew first blood, violently attacking reporter Steven Crowder physically.
Union members practiced vandalism as they cut a news source’s tent to pieces. They offered the pieces to other Union supporters as a souvenir.
There is an online video where a Union member gets his entire face into a news camera to threaten anyone who goes against them.
Everyone has heard of the Air Traffic Controllers Strike in the 80’s and more recently the Hostess strike and the results thereof.
What are the origins of the Unions in the United States.?
The concept of a workers union dates back to the Pilgrims landing in the New World. Many New World colonists were craftsmen looking to profit from their labor.
Primitive unions or guilds of skilled laborers made appearances from time to time in various cities up and down the Atlantic seaboard of colonial America.
Seeking, “pursuit of happiness” through shorter hours and higher pay, organized printers were the first to go on strike in 1794. Several other groups of skilled labor followed suit in the next few years thereafter.
A lack of Federal laws to protect the worker led to the creation of many federations or unions in the United States.
 The National Labor Union or federation formed in 1866. They eventually persuaded Congress to pass an eight hour workday for Federal workers. The law did not hold up well as it was a casualty of the sweeping economic depression of 1873. Then, like now, the employee just wanted to be employed. The employee puts up with a little bit more as a trade off to unemployment.
The Industrial Revolution increased the demand for labor. However, this mostly resulted in great wealth for some and grinding poverty for others.
Safety and welfare issues were a concern as demand for manufactured items grew.
Teddy Roosevelt intervened in the Union Mine Workers strike in 1910. He appointed a commission of mediators to negotiate for a break in the strike.
The striking workers returned to work with an eventual ten percent pay raise.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Co. tragedy in 1911 led to the beginnings of government safety legislations, which are the roots of today’s OSHA.
The age old conflict of skilled versus unskilled, owner versus labor force, standard working conditions and the bottom line will most likely always be at odds.
That being said, and given the government’s continued involvement in the issue, resulting in better legislated protection of the worker, are Unions still a relevant, viable force for today’s worker?
This is where many will opinions will be brought into play.
Some say that in a capitalistic economy; to the winner go the spoils. You built it, they came, they manufactured, and they bought and sold. All that is left over from income and expense is for the victor.
Can the victor be victorious without a dependable labor force?
Unless the business creator is able to do all work with his or her own two hands, without any outside help, no.
The Golden Rule would allow for equal sharing in profit, or at least, some financial appreciation for a job well done.
Short of legislating morality, which is implausible if not impossible, the Federal government and union guidelines for the workplace have been established.
Writing from the viewpoint of one who has worked in a non Union factory and as a business owner, I can offer some insight on both situations.
From a business owner’s standpoint, there is waste in the Union labor system.
Hostess is a good example.
The Wonder Bread could not be delivered in the same truck as the snack cakes. It could not be loaded into the trucks by the same employees as the snack cake loaders.
This requires a parallel workforce and truck fleet to do the same work. It is a double expense to deliver to the same locations for distribution and sale.
Waste is contrary to a healthy bottom line. Non Union businesses can make do with one workforce to perform the same tasks.
The object of a business is to generate profit to either shareholders or owners.
A Union worker might argue that the non Union company would only try to work them twice as much for the same money. This is an issue as well, but where is the common sense factor? Forcing a double workforce cannot be logical, and abuse of the work force is not tolerable either.
The next bone of contention is the subject of CEO and top management bonuses.
Having worked in a non Union factory as the accountant, I remember the resentment I felt at the end of every fiscal year.
As the accountant, I was required to cut large bonus checks from the company’s annual profit to four or five top members of management.
The demoralization of this was felt by all workers who did not share in the success they had contributed to all year.
Right to work states do not allow for the security some might feel with the Unions.
Unions can often deter job growth or price the employer out of offering employment.
Is it better to have some possible security or an available job?
The government has legislated against many of the original abuses that caused the Unions to rise.
Employers have used this current recession and prior recessions to their advantage for squeezing maximum profit and work from a minimum of workers.
Unions often use force to enter a workplace and to control its workers.
Businesses and workers are vital to the economy and violence in the workplace is never an answer.
It seems that both the Employers and the Unions are guilty of exploiting the worker.

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