Labor Unions

It’s time for someone to say something nice about labor unions. Recent generations have forgotten the bloody, indeed murderous conflicts which our grandfathers and great grandfathers fought to gain humane working environments for employees. In those protests, larger companies sent thugs to beat protestors with clubs – even to the point that many died while protesting. That horrendous time was at the turn of the century. Franklin Roosevelt provided cover for twenty years. However, since the 1980’s there has been a concerted effort on the part of corporations and state governments – consider Scott Walker as Governor of Wisconsin who pushed through anti-union laws:

NBC News, March 9, 2015

“Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law anti-union legislation that prohibits union workers from being required to pay union dues. The so-called right to work law is an effort to reduce the power of unions in the Midwestern state and is one that will give Walker additional conservative bona fides in his likely presidential bid.

Walker refused to indicate during his reelection campaign in 2014 if he would support the legislation. His signature Monday morning makes Wisconsin the 25th state to implement the ban that was passed by the Republican legislature earlier this month.

Opponents of the bill say it will decimate unions and have a ripple effect of suppressing the ability of workers to organize while supporters, including Walker, say that this will lead to economic growth.

“Adjusted for cost of living, employees in forced unionization states have almost $2,000 less in disposable income. Bottom line, this reform is pro-freedom and pro-work for Wisconsin,” Walker wrote in a recent opinion piece for the conservative website Red State. [Still, he did not mention reduced health and retirement benefits and vulnerability to tax cuts affecting jobs.]

This is the second major anti-union legislation that Walker has supported. In 2011, he ushered through highly controversial legislation titled Act 10 that reduced the bargaining power as well as health care and pension benefits of public sector unions. The move led to a recall election, which Walker won.”

Well, Wisconsin gets what it deserves with its vote. But the workers of Wisconsin clearly are not better off when their health care and pensions are cut; their right to negotiate a fair wage and benefits is negated, and the right to work law virtually denies any union votes to organize in the workplace.

Twenty-two states have right to work laws. The name is deceptive. It means one has the right to work for a company without having to join a union. It also means, depending on the language in most states, that unions cannot solicit a worker to join a union.

Just about every common citizen agrees that middle and lower class workers are being screwed. The United States is an oligarchy, not a democracy. There are only so many ways for workers to participate in the profit curve denied them at this time:

  • Have union representation.
  • Have a fair profit sharing system based on hours and tenure, not salary.
  • Have employee-owned corporations with comparable seats on the board of directors.
  • Have unions bid on job creation opportunities.

The first and last options go together. Unions have retirement funds that can be leveraged to bid against corporations. An example, provided by Bill Clinton, is for a union to bid on the reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport in New York. This has moved forward. The reconstruction belongs to the union, not a corporation. Fifteen thousand jobs will be created for a long term project and it will be owned by the union.

There are dangers in this kind of arrangement. The mariner has written in the past that power corrupts. Nevertheless, at these moments in history when income is so imbalanced in the US, maybe it’s better for unions to manage corruption than the Congress and state legislatures.

Ancient Mariner

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