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Old 12-10-2008, 03:47 PM
 
5,273 posts, read 11,904,652 times
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Have unions outlived their usefulness?

First, let me say I have belonged to three unions. One when I worked for UPS, one with the Federal government when I worked for the Dept of Veteran Affairs and one for the state of Oregon when I worked for the Employment Dept.

IMHO, when unions began they were at the forefront of the battle for decent wages, benefits, job security (or at least where workers had some sort of internal redress when discharged), work safety, reasonable work week, women suffrage and child labor. What unions accomplished in these areas far exceeds what Congress did and we all are indebted to these struggles.

But today every state has numerous laws protecting workers in all the above areas and then some. Laws govern the amount of hours that can be worked, over time, breaks, lunches, age restrictions, various laws on all forms of discrimination… and even though some states are still “at will” for employment, that has been substantially chipped away.

So what do unions do for employees? For a fee, they negotiate wages & benefits and to a much lesser degree, look out for work safety. I thin it can be safe to assume that in the majority (but not all) cases, negotiate a higher wage & maybe benefit package for the worker. And those should be worthy of mention.

However, what about the negatives (if any) from unions? As we see in the UAW and other industrial based unions, employee wages & benefits became so high that they were partly responsible for near or complete collapse of industry. All our electronics industry has left overseas and one of the reasons was high wage contracts. Other companies out source tremendous amounts of ex union labor to other countries and thereby cutting jobs. My best friend was part of a layoff involving the two largest printing facilities in the country when they went union and the demands broke the backs of the companies. About 1400 people lost their jobs and the printing facilities are now in Canada. These are common stories.

So all this begs the question if, for the most part, have unions outlived their usefulness?
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Old 12-10-2008, 04:17 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
7,091 posts, read 10,486,058 times
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I think unions have been at the forefront of many good battles for workers rights and laws that have provided for things people enjoy now. Now on the other hand I think unions have taken too much power and often abuse it, I work in an environment now where unions are tiptoed around as tenured workers sit on their butt waiting for retirement enjoying high union wages. On the other hand I have been in the situation where the employer has all the cards, and abuses workers...firing anyone who complains.

There needs to be a nice middle between the two ends...what is not something I can really think of.
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Old 12-10-2008, 04:34 PM
 
Location: San Antonio
10,148 posts, read 18,123,288 times
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Like any other economic player a union exists to maximize it's own benefits, in this case the benefits of it's members (just as a corporation exists to maximize the benefits to it's stockholders). As such a union has no need to justify it's actions or apologize for it's existance to anyone but it's members.

Unions may have driven some companies out of business but management has driven many more companies out of business and I don't see anyone asking if management is still useful.

When I was young the furniture business moved from Michigan to North Carolina to get away from unions and high wages. Now the furniture industry has abandoned North Carolina for China. The same happened with the textile industry which left New England for the south and then went to China. Point being that lower paying non-union American jobs are as likely to go overseas as higher paying union ones. NO American worker can work as cheaply as a Chinese one.

Much reform has happened because of unions and the very existance of unions holds employer's feet to the fire and non union operations often pay well to keep the union out. But take the unions out of play and laws protecting workers will come under attack (they are already) and we'll be back to the dangerous conditions and poor pay of the 19th Century. Unless you have a pollyannish belief that human nature has changed since 1900 and businessmen are now filled with kindness and consideration. I don't think so.
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Old 12-10-2008, 04:36 PM
 
Location: Orlando, Florida
43,858 posts, read 43,559,234 times
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I agree with subsound. Without doubt the unions originally played a major role in organizing a safer work environment and a wage they could support their families on for masses of laborers that no one else cared about. So, it is hard to discredit unions. However, greed got in there (as greed usually does) and before we all knew it, unions turned into a big ugly giant that made it impossible for American manufacturers to compete in the world marketplace. Now all these laborers are losing their jobs and America is in a panic.

So, yeah, there needs to be a middle ground....but also like subsound, I have no idea how we would even begin to get there.

It is a good debate question Blazer Prophet. (I have given you all the rep points allowed in one day already!)
I hope the topic can be discussed with a nice blend of ideas without blaming Bush or bashing Obama.
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Old 12-10-2008, 04:50 PM
 
5,273 posts, read 11,904,652 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GloryB View Post
I hope the topic can be discussed with a nice blend of ideas without blaming Bush or bashing Obama.
Yeah, here's hoping!

Some of the areas of middle ground have been voted out by state legislatures or ballot initiatives. They include not allowing union reps to "personally" watch workers vote (Oregon just passed a ballopt initiative that allows union reps, but not other employer reps, be with the worker when they vote and the intimidation factor is huge), allowing employees in a union workshop to determine if they want to be a union member or not (called an "open" workshop) as well as mandatory "re votes" every three years to see if the employees still want the union.

Unions are a very powerful lobby and special interest groups carry a lot of weight.
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Old 12-10-2008, 09:09 PM
 
3,288 posts, read 3,872,628 times
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I don't really have any problems with unions, and think they've done good stuff throughout our nations history.

Despite this, I think we're at a point governmentally where they have outlived their usefulness. A lot of laws that have been passed regarding workplace safety, etc. are things unions officially fought for. So regarding that they have outlived their usefulness.

Alternatively, unions are a product of the free market, so you can't really deny them. If capital was a bit better with negotiating with workers then unions wouldn't be neccesary. My father's company has a manufacturing base that hasn't unionized because they have it pretty good.
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Old 12-10-2008, 09:28 PM
 
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I guess when I think of union corruption, how the majority of the auto bail out money (according to the news on TV) is going to the union, how much political power they have, how many jobs have been lost due to out of control wages "negotiated" by unions... it just makes me wonder if for the past 20-30 years if they have hurt the economy rather than helping it.
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Old 12-11-2008, 07:01 AM
 
Location: Charleston, WV
3,105 posts, read 6,487,273 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BLAZER PROPHET View Post
.... how much political power they have, how many jobs have been lost due to out of control wages "negotiated" by unions... it just makes me wonder if for the past 20-30 years if they have hurt the economy rather than helping it.
I agree with this and points made by other posters.
Also, unions need to get rid of the "us" vs "them" mentality. Wonder if part of that attitude is to convice their members that they are needed.

Here's a couple examples of how unions harm productivity of which I am personally aware.
1. This happened several years ago so I don't know if the "rules" still hold true.
Construction site, a piece of equipment is unexpectedly needed on the job that day - takes about 10 minutes to do the job and job can't continue until it is done. None of the workers on site are "union authorized" to run that equipment even though they know how. "Correct" procedure - shut the job down until a person authorized to run that piece of equipment can get to the job site. What actually happened - management hopped on the equipment and did the job. A grievance was filed on management. It was cheaper to pay the fine than shut the job down until the correct worker could be contacted and get to the job site.

2. Union rules stated a supply of drinking water must be on the job site when the men are working. That is reasonable. However, there is so often a "bad-apple" in the bunch. Several times one worker dumped out the water when no one was looking. This caused the job site to shut down until a fresh supply of water could be brought to the job site.

So often the union protects workers who are not productive and those who abuse the system.

I think unions were one of the best things to ever happen... originally. But I think they became a "monster" which has harmed our economy.

I certainly hope Obama's proposals concerning union do NOT come to pass.
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Old 12-11-2008, 07:24 AM
 
Location: Atlanta, GA
2,290 posts, read 4,946,160 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BLAZER PROPHET View Post
Have unions outlived their usefulness?

First, let me say I have belonged to three unions. One when I worked for UPS, one with the Federal government when I worked for the Dept of Veteran Affairs and one for the state of Oregon when I worked for the Employment Dept.

IMHO, when unions began they were at the forefront of the battle for decent wages, benefits, job security (or at least where workers had some sort of internal redress when discharged), work safety, reasonable work week, women suffrage and child labor. What unions accomplished in these areas far exceeds what Congress did and we all are indebted to these struggles.

But today every state has numerous laws protecting workers in all the above areas and then some. Laws govern the amount of hours that can be worked, over time, breaks, lunches, age restrictions, various laws on all forms of discrimination… and even though some states are still “at will” for employment, that has been substantially chipped away.

So what do unions do for employees? For a fee, they negotiate wages & benefits and to a much lesser degree, look out for work safety. I thin it can be safe to assume that in the majority (but not all) cases, negotiate a higher wage & maybe benefit package for the worker. And those should be worthy of mention.

However, what about the negatives (if any) from unions? As we see in the UAW and other industrial based unions, employee wages & benefits became so high that they were partly responsible for near or complete collapse of industry. All our electronics industry has left overseas and one of the reasons was high wage contracts. Other companies out source tremendous amounts of ex union labor to other countries and thereby cutting jobs. My best friend was part of a layoff involving the two largest printing facilities in the country when they went union and the demands broke the backs of the companies. About 1400 people lost their jobs and the printing facilities are now in Canada. These are common stories.

So all this begs the question if, for the most part, have unions outlived their usefulness?
I wouldn't say that unions are no longer useful in American employment; they still are a good model for achieving the health care benefits that American (non-union) workers so desparately need.

I would, say, however that unions today might not appreciate that there really isn't a whole lot of money on the table, and that the demands that were appropriate in 1988, aren't feasible in 2008.

We ought not forget that, traditionally, most American industries become profitable at the expense of the American worker. And an informed worker with demands, is always a threat to profit. Unfortunately, greed and mismanagement will always bring down a profitable industry. And it's too bad that unions get the blame for that.
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Old 12-11-2008, 07:49 AM
 
48,519 posts, read 80,998,062 times
Reputation: 17978
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishtom29 View Post
Like any other economic player a union exists to maximize it's own benefits, in this case the benefits of it's members (just as a corporation exists to maximize the benefits to it's stockholders). As such a union has no need to justify it's actions or apologize for it's existance to anyone but it's members.

Unions may have driven some companies out of business but management has driven many more companies out of business and I don't see anyone asking if management is still useful.

When I was young the furniture business moved from Michigan to North Carolina to get away from unions and high wages. Now the furniture industry has abandoned North Carolina for China. The same happened with the textile industry which left New England for the south and then went to China. Point being that lower paying non-union American jobs are as likely to go overseas as higher paying union ones. NO American worker can work as cheaply as a Chinese one.

Much reform has happened because of unions and the very existance of unions holds employer's feet to the fire and non union operations often pay well to keep the union out. But take the unions out of play and laws protecting workers will come under attack (they are already) and we'll be back to the dangerous conditions and poor pay of the 19th Century. Unless you have a pollyannish belief that human nature has changed since 1900 and businessmen are now filled with kindness and consideration. I don't think so.

That is like saying it is Ok for CEO's to get as much as they can in salaries despite what happens to their workers or compani8es. It may in many instance be what is happening but it doesn't make it etihcal or right. I have worked for unions and they always wanted more than other workers got and only thought of themselves. In the meantime they like to say they were the voice of all workers. Many times they did not really act in the interest of their workers in the long run. They also were willing to out the shaft to workers in the future to get the present workers more. They also tended to fighy for workers they knew were doing wrong and often criminal things. In the end this setup a workers against the company attitude which is just foolish and a union verus non-union worker attitude. Many workers have experienced this and I thnik that is the reason unions are lossing favor woth many workers.
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