Anyone who knows me knows that I am no big fan of unions, particularly public sector unions. Mostly, I feel that they no longer serve a purpose and that main result is that they end up eating into company’s profit margins and those losses are made up by increased costs passed down to the consumer and taxpayer. Specifically, I have a major problem with public sector unions, such as the teachers union, police unions and fire fighter unions. This is not 1920 and we have labor laws to protect workers today, so the only point to having a union is to take money directly from the pockets of the American citizen.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I actually live in a union household. My husband works in a private industry that is unionized. I will admit that because of his union, we have enjoyed excellent health benefits, a pension, a generous hourly wage, etc. For the 25 years that he has been in his union, they have never gone on strike. They have never failed to negotiate a contract with management, even when it has come down to the eleventh hour. I don’t take much issue with them, mainly because they are part of the private sector and for the most part have not made unrealistic demands on employers. His job is dangerous at times and his union does make sure that he is protected.
I have to wonder though, what is on the minds of the people running many unions today. While most of the country is happy to be employed and hanging on to whatever pay and benefits they are getting, unions are still attempting to bully and strong arm their way into higher and higher pay and larger benefits packages, to the detriment of taxpayers and employees alike. Considering that less than 12% of the workforce is unionized these days and union members are already known to have higher paying jobs and benefit packages, what position of power do they believe they are negotiating from? From my view in the cheap seats, they are losing support of not only the public, but their own members who are now finding themselves out of jobs when they would have been happy to just be working and making a living wage.
The unions seem to be shooting themselves in the foot. Let me give a few recent examples and you tell me, are unions imploding? Do you see them becoming nothing more than a memory soon?
Let’s start with what I refer to as “the great Twinkie tragedy of 2012.” Hostess, already laboring under poor management, a failing economy and a more health conscious consumer had been desperately trying to save their company. In an attempt to bring down costs and produce a profit margin, the company hammered out an agreement with the Teamsters Union to lower wages. However, the Baker’s union balked and walked. Hostess warned them that a strike would put the company out of business, but I guess it was more important for the union thugs to make a last grab for power than it was to keep 18,000 employees in their jobs.
When you get into the details of what Hostess has been dealing with in regards to all the unions, it’s pretty mind boggling and explains a lot. They have had to deal with 372 separate collective-bargaining contracts, 80 separate health and benefits plans, and 40 different pension plans. Bread products and snack products cannot be delivered on the same trucks even if they are going to the same destinations because of union rules. I won’t even get into who is allowed to load the trucks and who cannot.
Is it any wonder that unions have been blamed for the destruction of yet another American icon?
On Wednesday, November 21st, the busiest travel day of the year, the SEIU decided to stage a protest at the entrances to LAX, in response to alleged violations to workers contracts and city laws regarding living wages. The little fly in their ointment however, is that the workers had voted by a large majority to leave the SEIU, so they had no standing here. In fact, the employees themselves appear to be happy with their wages and benefits packages, so what did this accomplish other than to further irritate already stressed out travelers trying to catch their planes?
Wal-Mart has long been a favorite target of unions because they have managed to keep unions at bay. Their employees voted a long time ago not to become unionized and it has clearly worked to everyone’s benefit. While other big box stores are struggling through this economy, Wal-Mart has not only survived, but they are thriving, turning record profits. Some will argue that they are a product of corporate greed, but I have to disagree. Their job is to turn the biggest profit possible for their shareholders. Clearly, they have attained this goal. But they have done it while still selling quality products to their customers at rock bottom prices and managing to employ over a million people, paying higher than average wages and better benefits than many stores that have been unionized. In fact, Wal-Mart employees get better benefits packages and their turn over is a full 15% below the national average for similar jobs.
So having those facts, you would wonder, exactly what is it that unionizing would do to make Wal-Mart a better place to shop for its customers or a better employer to its employees. From my perspective, absolutely nothing. It makes you wonder then, why union organized protests were carried out at Wal-Marts across the country on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. The protests were touted as massive employee walk-outs in response to Wal-Mart’s extended hours to accommodate holiday shoppers. In truth, only about 50 employees across the entire country participated in the walk-out, while the rest were all brought in by the unions. Many were probably paid participants who were not union members, but more likely just people hired by the unions to “salt” their picket lines in an attempt at a greater show of strength. Did this “great show of strength” accomplish anything? Nope! Shoppers were not the least bit moved by their supposed plight and Wal-Mart reported record sales on Friday.
I have to say, this is the craziest way of winning the hearts and minds of the public that I have ever seen. These desperate acts seem to in fact, have backfired. When so much of the country is out of work or barely eking out a living, union heads are looking like little more than petulant children who are crying because they don’t have enough toys to play with. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the union model no longer works in this modern day economy. They have outlived their usefulness and with their outlandish contract demands and have contributed greatly to the demise of this country’s economy. I believe that private sector unions will be the cause of their own demise. As more and more employers are forced to lay off and even shut their doors rather than meet the outrageous demands of the unions, we’re going to see less people supportive of the union cause.
In part two of this article, I’ll be taking a look at public sector unions and how they are bankrupting municipalities across the country.
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