Monday, February 28, 2011
Unions? Are they outdated?
Even though I have never been a union member, I would like to sincerely thank those union members of the past for making my time in the workforce a lot easier than it was way back when. They risked and sacrificed a lot to bring about the 40 hour work week, reasonable wages, work safety, etc. I don't know if I could have lasted in those old workplace environments of the pre-union days.
This process of collective labor representation had its roots in England way back in 1807. For over 200 years, brave men and women have defied the very people who held their means of making a living in their hands. The working conditions these unions fought for these last two centuries have resulted in solid labor laws which are now government regulated and strictly enforced.
So why still have unions?
Many critics will state that today's unions keep wages artificially high. These high wages, while highly desirable to their beneficiaries, tend to ultimately place the workers in a position of losing their jobs to outsourced labor in countries with cheaper standards of living. This short-lived union benefit has a foreseeable end game which is the 800 pound gorilla no one seems to want to address. In this modern world economy this trend has accelerated with each global free trade treaty that's signed.
While private unions still serve their constituents by keeping wages and benefits at a "competitive" level with the private sector, public unions are an altogether different story. They should be done away with as soon as possible. Even the greatly revered liberal Democratic president, FDR, stated that public unions should not be allowed to exist. Even back in the 1940's, he understood the conflict of interest public unions represent.
Collective bargaining between public unions and public officials is a system fraught with the temptation to undermine the political process. The injured party is the tax-payer. In typical negotiations, one side agrees to wage and benefit increases and the other side agrees to supply the financial backing for the other side's reelection. In effect, the negotiators occupy BOTH sides of the negotiating table with the taxpayer picking up the ever-increasing tab. I strongly suspect that this cycle of give and give instead of give and take, without thought of future sustainability, has placed the finances of city, state and country in dire jeopardy.
As recent events have shown, the public union membership up in Minnesota (and other places) need to realize that a large portion of private and non-public sector workers have suffered loss of jobs, pay freezes and the burden of paying a much larger shares for benefits these last three years. The ongoing public union protests are like a slap in the face of every non-public union and private sector employee since what is being protested is the duly elected people's representative's attempt to curtail the continuation of a cycle of raising taxes to satisfy the ever increasing "HIGHER STANDARD OF LIVING" that public sector union employees are enjoying and are fighting to keep. Most non-public and private sector workers had no choice but to adjust to the present economic slump but these protesters seem to be refusing to even budge in the face of obvious state and city financial budget collapse.
No matter how I try, I just cannot find any reason to sympathize with their protest movement. Whenever self-interest trumps the larger common good, it makes for bad feelings and a kind of "us/them" mindset of partisanship.
The good ride is over, it's time to face reality.