Author Topic: Unions  (Read 585 times)

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Offline shnozzola

Unions
« on: June 06, 2012, 07:35:10 PM »
Watching the Wisconsin’s vote, I found this editorial from Joe Nocera, NYTimes.

http://www.ohio.com/editorial/joe-nocera-the-income-gap-and-the-decline-of-labor-unions-1.312032

I remember as a teenager, unions seemed so wrong - seeing a bricklayer that could only lay bricks, not mix concrete, or carry bricks ,or back up the forklift, or hook up the water supply.  By union rules, as a bricklayer, that was all that he could do.  Unions had lost common sense and therefore the average person.  But – not so fast!  The Nocera article mentions a book from the early 90s – “which side are you on:”

http://stevereads.com/weblog/2008/07/02/thomas-geoghegan-which-side-are-you-on-trying-to-be-for-labor-when-its-flat-on-its-back/

Looking back where I worked for years, with the owner a Millionaire, and me making $12.50 an hour as one of the higher paid employees – hmmmm, I begin to think unions may be on the way back - the pendulum is just about to reverse – maybe worldwide.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 07:38:39 PM by shnozzola »
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Offline Nick

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Re: Unions
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2012, 08:34:00 PM »
Lots of people see unions as a relic of the past.  Good at one time but no longer.  They were good to keep a kind of checks and balance between corporations and the workers. In this global economy we have to lower our standards to compete.  Therefore, we must return to corporations controlling our lives.  Its just the way it is.  Sweat shops may take care of our obesity problem.
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Offline Kimberly

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Re: Unions
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2012, 08:56:44 PM »
BM

All I know about unions is that I had to sign an affidavit about never joining one, starting one, or basically mentioning one at work, about work, for work, etc. I'm pretty sure they can fire me for even dreaming about joining a union.

That alone made me curious... are they really that dangerous to corporate America? I suspect my employer strategically picked my state for two of their offices because it doesn't seem union friendly and is a right to work state.

IDK I imagine if we had unions I'd have better health insurance, but aside from that I think our benefits package is pretty fair and competitive. I do wonder what all the fuss is about unions and I admit to not researching much about this topic.
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Offline Frank

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Re: Unions
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2012, 02:03:37 PM »
Lots of people see unions as a relic of the past. 

Like pay rises.

Wherever I have worked I have joined a union. I'm in one now. I've been a shop steward in my time. I have always supported unions and I always will. Decent pay, decent working conditions, decent holidays, to be treated with dignity and worth. None of these things happened just because your employer likes you so much he just can't wait to reward all your hard work. They happened because generations of working men and women formed themselves into unions and fought for them.

But now that everyone is comfortable and have a decent standard of living suddenly unions are out of fashion. Well easy come easy go.
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Offline eye over you

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Re: Unions
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2012, 02:28:41 PM »
    I have been a member of a union (IBEW) since 2004. I believe in unions. It's not perfect, but nothing is. When I went from non union to union work, my pay doubled. I also instantly had health insurance and a retirement package. Unfortunately the construction boom in Vegas is over. I am not working and its a pain. I am actually going to go drive truck (long haul team driving with my brother) this summer to get through the tough times. I think unions should be a little more flexible. We actually gave up 2 dollars an hour in our last negotiations. Being a union worker (construction) in Las Vegas was wonderful up until 2008. Now, it's just sign the books and wait.
   I do admit that some union workers have such a sense of entitlement and are so stubborn it can make union workers look bad, but it's just a loud minority. If they spent as much time being productive as they do bitching about shit......

   Also, my father was a Teamster and my mother was a member of ESEA (educational). My brother is IBEW also. :)
« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 02:40:51 PM by eye over you »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Unions
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2012, 03:50:13 PM »
I've never been in a union, but I generally support them, understanding they are imperfect and need to be more adaptable. 

I've been on both sides of the fence.  One job I had was minimum wage and the employer was horrible. Our schedules were never consistent and we did not know them from one week to the next.  I had a string of 16 consecutive days without a day off and without overtime.  I only worked 40 hours on any given week, but many days I worked 4 or 5 hours.  They made employees pay for the chemicals they accidentally mixed wrong. We would have benefitted greatly from a union.

On the other side, I was an intern - technically management - at a shop with a strong and belligerent union.  They gave me all kinds of crap and wrote grievances against me for the most inane things.  It was a broken relationship between the union and the employer.

I dislike both extremes. 
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Online nogodsforme

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Re: Unions
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2012, 04:41:35 PM »
I also had to sign a non-union paper, back in the day. That should be illegal-- how can the government allow the prevention of a group of people freely being able to assemble? That is a constitutional right.

I am currently a proud union member, as my parents were before me and even my grandfather who worked on the railroad (and not all the livelong day, because they had a union....).

The decline in living standards in the US is partly due to the lack of working people being organized to hold the line against the corporations. You can bet your a$$ those corporations are organized to hold the line against the workers!
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Offline eye over you

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Re: Unions
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2012, 04:44:20 PM »
BM

All I know about unions is that I had to sign an affidavit about never joining one, starting one, or basically mentioning one at work, about work, for work, etc. I'm pretty sure they can fire me for even dreaming about joining a union.



    That's the way Station casino's here in Las Vegas works. They are the largest group of "local" casinos in town. By local, I mean off strip casinos that people who live here frequent. They are terrified of their employees organizing. Even still, the unions are beneficial to non union workers by making the non union employers at least come close to the pay and benefits that union workers get. Just so they won't organize.




I am currently a proud union member, as my parents were before me and even my grandfather who worked on the railroad (and not all the livelong day, because they had a union....).


     :D
« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 04:47:02 PM by eye over you »
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Offline shnozzola

Re: Unions
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2012, 05:57:02 PM »
Lots of people see unions as a relic of the past.  Good at one time but no longer.  They were good to keep a kind of checks and balance between corporations and the workers. In this global economy we have to lower our standards to compete. Therefore, we must return to corporations controlling our lives.
Bold mine.   -  Are you sarcastic here or not, Nick?   I can see the need for wealthy nations to lower pay to compete globally.  Unfortunately because it will be a long time until poor third world workers get paid correctly to make things like clothing for wealthy nations.  That shows the need for unions.  But the other problem with unions that is mentioned lately is the huge overhead in pensions - for example - General Motors.  Frank, Nogods - what are your feelings on pensions - especially when people retire at 65 and live to 90? 
« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 05:58:50 PM by shnozzola »
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Offline Quesi

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Re: Unions
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2012, 06:19:21 PM »
When my great grandfather died, my 8 year old grandfather went to work along with he older brothers in the coal mines of Pennsylvania.  It wasn’t a union job.  And it wasn’t a safe job.  But he did it to support his family.  He saw men die in the mines.  And decades later, he watched his brothers die young from black lung. 

In his early 20’s my grandfather got into a free training program, and became a welder.   

He got a union job in the steel industry, and they took good care of him.  He worked with them for decades, until he was in an industrial accident and his leg was crushed. Unable to work as a welder after the accident, the union trained him to be a draftsman, and he was a draftsman until the day he retired.

My grandfather loved the union.  The union changed his life, and gave him opportunities that his brothers never had.  He was a smart man, and a hard worker, who was cheated out of a childhood and cheated out of an education.  But the union took care of him.  They offered him protections and opportunities that non-unionized industries would not. 

From the time I was a child, I remember my grandfather telling me he would be proud of me, whatever I did.  So long as I wasn’t a scab.

His daughter, my mom, was a teacher.  She was part of a teacher’s union that fought to protect the excellent health benefits that my family always enjoyed.  She supported the union, and went on strike with them when contract negotiations broke down, and future benefits (not her benefits, but benefits for those hired after her) were threatened.

My dad was a college professor, and was part of a union as well.  He hated his union, for many of the reasons that we see teacher unions criticized.  In an era in which tenured professors still represented the majority of teaching staff, my father was critical of a system in which he saw colleagues who he believed were lazy or who were not particularly skilled teachers, whose jobs were protected.  I honestly don’t know enough about how much of it was tenure and how much of it was the union, but my father hated his union.

I have mixed feelings about professional unions, as opposed to labor unions.  But I feel very clear about labor. 

As long as we don’t have adequate laws to protect laborers from profit-hungry corporations, workers need protections.  Sadly, union membership has become a sort of elite class unto itself.  The vast majority of laborers do not enjoy union protection.   

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Re: Unions
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2012, 06:28:15 PM »
In my state a Union has to protect you, and back you whether you're in the Union, or not. In saying that: I find some good things about Unions and bad.

1. Good: they usually keep the company you work for in-line.
2. Bad: they sometimes take more out of your pay check for fees etc., than the government does.
3. Good: they protect you from idiot supervisors.
4. Bad: if you're not for them: you're worthless piece of shit and should die[1]

I'm sure there is more but I haven't been in an Union since 1997, and they were taking a good chunk of my paycheck. Of course, I was making $4k a month because of the Union. An oxymoron, I believe.

-Nam
 1. remindsme of those people who call other people unpatriotic or against whatever they are for
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Offline Nick

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Re: Unions
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2012, 06:30:38 PM »
I saw on TV tonight that in the 70s 29% of workers were union workers.  Today it is less than 7%.  They have lost a lot of power and influence.  We saw that in Wisconsin.  Unions were/are also a major financial donor to Democrats.  Things are changing and not for the better.  The Republicans and their backers (Koch Bros and others) see the finish line.  Money will win it for them.  Romney will be their pupit along with congress.  Dark days ahead folks...thats a fact and reality.
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Re: Unions
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2012, 06:35:25 PM »
For me, it's the excessive fees. If the fees weren't so much, i'd be in the Union. But when you're sometimes working for minimum wage or a couple dollars more, it's just too much.

-Nam
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Offline Frank

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Re: Unions
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2012, 01:55:56 PM »

I can see the need for wealthy nations to lower pay to compete globally.  Unfortunately because it will be a long time until poor third world workers get paid correctly to make things like clothing for wealthy nations.  That shows the need for unions.  But the other problem with unions that is mentioned lately is the huge overhead in pensions - for example - General Motors.  Frank, Nogods - what are your feelings on pensions - especially when people retire at 65 and live to 90?

I see no reason to lower pay at all. CEO's never lower their pay. The gap between them and the shopfloor has never been greater. High wage costs are just propaganda. If you live in a 1st world country then you need 1st world wages to live. We cannot compete with 3rd world countries on wage costs.

As for overheads, nevermind pension costs what about healthcare costs? America is the only country were healthcare costs are met by companies. Every other western country and many others have universal healthcare so healthcare costs are met by the taxpayers for everyone and not just the employed. The number one cause of bankruptcy in America isn't pensions it's healthcare costs.

Employees pay into company pension plans during their working lives on the understanding that they will receive a pension when they retire. The company and the employee have entered into a contract. Now it seems to me to be unfair on the employee for the company to try to bailout just because their ex-employees aren't dying fast enough. On top of that can any country afford to have millions of impoverished pensioners who simply become a burden on the state after all if the companies aren't going to pay as usual it will fall to the taxpayers.

Now I don't see how unions can be blamed for getting their members a decent pension. If anything they are doing their jobs. Looking after their members interests. The companies didn't mind signing these agreements when times were good and pensioners died early into retirement. But now that people are actually getting to enjoy their retirement they want out. Of course as usual the upper tiers of the companies have fantastic retirement plans guaranteed.

I would return to healthcare costs again. If Americans didn't pay so much of their income on health insurance then maybe they could afford to put more money into retirement plans.
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Offline Azdgari

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Re: Unions
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2012, 02:22:47 PM »
High wage costs are just propaganda. If you live in a 1st world country then you need 1st world wages to live. We cannot compete with 3rd world countries on wage costs.

We can if we lower the living standards of large amounts of our populations to 3rd world levels.  Not that we see that happening anywhere...
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Offline Hatter23

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Re: Unions
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2012, 03:56:46 PM »
If a corporation is an accumulation of an asset, capital, in order to maximize the benefits to those that provide the capital; and unions are an accumulation of an asset, labor, in order to maimize the benefits to those that provide the labor....WHY CAN YOU MAKE LATTER ONE ILLEGAL IF THE FORMER ONE IS LEGAL??????

Pure fucking hypocracy, that's how!!!!!!
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Online nogodsforme

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Re: Unions
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2012, 05:26:14 PM »
What Frank said. Especially about the health care--that is huge. Remember, when unions don't help people get pensions, those old people without sufficient income don't just disappear. Their costs just get passed on to the states they live in, their families, and local charities. And some, lacking those resources, will fall through the cracks. I don't want to live in a country where elderly people routinely freeze to death in the winter and suffer heat stroke in the summer because they can't afford to pay the electric bill.

I am not averse to raising the retirement age somewhat, since people are living longer. But that will not work unless everyone has decent health care.  By age 60-70, people can often downsize their income because their kids are grown, they don't need to buy work clothes, etc. But their health care costs go up. With universal health care, many older folks could afford to switch to part-time work instead of retiring completely, freeing up more jobs for younger people.

re: what Quesi said about the deadwood profs. I know a prof who just turned 70. He used to be a go-getter, really on fire for teaching. Now, after 40+ years, he is worn out, annoyed by students he can't relate to.  He never comes to meetings or serves on committees, and is not carrying his fair share of the workload. His heart is not in it anymore. Why is he still dragging in everyday?

Because his wife, a stay-at-home mom most of her life, will have no health care when he stops working. He cannot stop working until she reaches 65 and qualifies for medicare. (That's what you get for marrying your hot young student in the 1960's. ;))

We all know this, and look the other way and cover for him. He is protected by the union, so he won't be fired. It is not a perfect situation, but would firing him/forcing him into retirement be better? (Try buying health insurance for a 60+ year old woman on a retired teacher's income.)

The moral of that story is, of course, don't marry a woman way younger than you unless she has a good paying career of her own. And we need universal health care.
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Offline shnozzola

Re: Unions
« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2012, 08:05:52 PM »
Thank you everyone - this is the pro-union side of debate that does not get enough airtime in the U.S.  And most people do not connect the health debate to the pension debate the way we should.
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Offline Frank

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Re: Unions
« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2012, 09:41:31 AM »
Thank you everyone - this is the pro-union side of debate that does not get enough airtime in the U.S.  And most people do not connect the health debate to the pension debate the way we should.

The trouble with unions is that for most people the only time they hear about them is when they mandate strike action. Yet strikes are always a last resort because it costs union members lost pay to go on strike. I have been a member of one union or another for 40 years yet I can count the number of strikes I have been involved in on the fingers of one hand. All the behind the scenes good stuff they do is never publicised at all. Maybe that's where unions fall down. They need to do more to make people aware of the positive contribution they make to the lives of working people whether they are in a union or not, especially as to how much worse off they would be in terms of wage levels, employment protection, pension rights, holidays, equal rights, if unions did not exist.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2012, 11:22:42 AM by Frank »
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Re: Unions
« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2012, 07:23:44 PM »
^True.

I worked for this hotel years back, and there was no Union. Every minor employee only got minimum wage. No one ever got a raise unless the federal or state raised the minimum wage. Every year they'd award the employee with a $5 coupon to McDonald's. Also, you didn't really get breaks. And, even if you did, they didn't last very long. If there was a Union in place, there'd be guaranteed raises, and people would get scheduled breaks.

-Nam
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