No doubt about it, there certainly was a time in America’s history that unions played an important role. One of the union pioneering examples originated during the early days of mass automobile production. Plant workers hosted a “sit-in” where they came to work but all refused to do any work until their demands were met. Early “strikes” and unionization like this ended up leading to all kinds of good things for union members and even other blue collar workers. Things like:
- better pay
- improved working conditions
- paid vacations and holidays
- pension plans
- the 40-hour work week
- overtime pay after 40 hours
- improved benefits
- job security
All of these are good things, and most of them are now standard for employees – union and non-union. Unions absolutely played a major role in improving employer to employee relations, and some laws were even born as a result (such as overtime pay after 40 hours).
Abuse of Power
Over the years, unions started to realize their power and started to abuse it. Whether consciously or not, they figured out that they could demand and get whatever they wanted simply by refusing to work if their demands were not met. This led to things like contracts between employers and employee unions. Having contracts that defined employment criteria, benefits and pay led to regular contract negotiations. If unions didn’t like their side of the deal in the negotiation, they would threaten to strike. The employer would have little choice but to meet their demands because they couldn’t afford to have all of their workers not working.
Eventually, union jobs became premium jobs in the workforce. Workers who were part of a union earned far more than their non-union counterparts who did similar or exactly the same work. Union workers typically received better benefits and had unprecedented job security (meaning it was nearly impossible to terminate employment for any reason).
What do you think happens to the motivation of an employee who knows they can’t be fired because they are protected by their union?
You guessed it. Production and performance go down while pay and benefits continue to go up. There are exceptions, of course, but in a nutshell this has been the typical result of unionization.
Public unions are unions for workers who are paid by governments. Teachers unions are a good example. When their demands increase, they are met by the government. Who funds the government? We all do, through taxation. When public union demands go up, it is we the people who end up paying for their increase.
Here is a recent example of the teachers union in Chicago going on strike to start the 2012 school year because their demands are not being met.
From an article on FoxNews.com:
While the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools have offered a 16-percent raise over four years to its striking union, the Chicago Teacher Union has requested a 35-percent pay hike and a guaranteed call-back of any educator who was laid off.
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union – the AFT’s oldest local – walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations.
They are pitted against Emanuel, who wants to extract more concessions from teachers while the school district faces a nearly $700 million deficit.