Archive for ‘The New World’

June 2, 2011

Labor Unions Are Dinosaurs And Will Soon Be Dead

Labor Unions are really dinosaurs that haven’t yet figured out the environment has changed.  They continue to function as if the world is the same as it has been for the last 100 years.  But the world HAS changed, and it has changed radically, and the only ones who haven’t noticed are the labor unions.

I predict that the labor union as we know it today will be dead within the next decade.

If you are currently a member of a labor union, you might disagree with me.  You might see your union membership as a positive in your life, as something that actually supports your way of life.  And if you’ve been a member of the same union for a long period of time, you are right… but only to a point.  Let me explain….

Last fall, I took a part-time job as a grocery clerk to add a little extra money to the family budget.  Part of accepting the position was the requirement that I had to join the union.

My experience as a new member of a long-standing union was surprising, enlightening, and in the end, not a positive experience for me.  But it gave me an insider’s view into an otherwise closed culture.

Here’s a summary of the outdated thinking currently driving the Union management:

  1. The Union MUST control starting wages.   My manager wanted to hire me at a wage consistent with my experience, telling me, “If I don’t, you’ll go somewhere else.”  However, the wage she wanted to give me was above the Union’s approved starting range.  She attempted to get this approved by the Union, but was denied.  Controlling wages is a benefit to the employee when the wages otherwise offered by management are below what the market currently offers, or when they create substandard working conditions.  But when controlling wages results in a job offer that is actually BELOW market, the Union will not attract the best, brightest, and most qualified applicants.
  2. Membership dues are uniform and mandatory for all workers.  It didn’t matter that I was guaranteed only 12 hours a week, I still had to pay the $299 initiation fee, plus $45 a month dues.  Granted, if you are working full-time, those dues don’t seem excessive, but in my case, that was a significant dent in my take-home pay.
  3. Hours are assigned based on seniority.  Availability, quality of work, and attendance are not nearly as important as how long you’ve been a member of the union.  This policy gives long-timers the best schedules and leaves the less-desierable shifts to the new people.   This also makes it difficult to schedule the more seasoned workers next to the new ones to give them a hand.  On my first night closing, the most experienced cashier had been there 2 months.  I feel sorry for the customers who had to wait in line that night.  It didn’t matter what line you were in, they were all slow!
  4. Pay raises should be based on time invested.  The Union has a very strict  pay grade schedule that is based solely on number of hours worked.  This policy seems fair as it guarantees regular pay raises.  However, what it does in actuality is stifle creativity and innovation on the part of employees.  Outstanding service, going above and beyond your assigned duties, these may net you a sincere “Thank you” but they won’t earn you a raise or a promotion.
  5. Medical benefits are a right afforded to all workers.  During my first month on the job, the Union was threatening to strike over contract negotiations.  One of the biggest sticking points was that the Union objected to the company raising the deducible from $50 to $100 a year.  While this is a 100% increase over what the members have been paying, most people would consider a $100 deductible a luxurious gift.
  6. Labor Union membership is required in order to obtain reasonable work.  Whenever I had a conversation with my Union, they justified their policies by stating, “You are working in a union shop.  Everyone working there has already done/paid/agreed to this.”  This policy assumes that Union Membership is a requirement for obtaining reasonable work.  50 years ago this was true, before the rise of white-collar work, but it isn’t anymore.  Union membership is a choice for most people.

Labor Unions are promoting and supporting a work environment that simply doesn’t exist in the world outside of organized labor.  The expectations that they foster in their members are actually holding their companies back from staying competitive in an increasingly competitive world.  If labor unions refuse to adapt and change, they will be left behind.  Companies that are forced to choose between staying in business or keeping the Union, they will all choose to dump their Unions.