Over the last week I have been preparing for investigations that were held between the company and employees that were charged with allegedly violating rules that the company hands out. As I did the work I was thinking to myself this is why unions still matter. Unions gives a voice to those that normally wouldn’t have a voice its democracy at its finest. Now I wont argue with anyone that yes there has been certain members of unions that have acted inappropriately at times took bribes, made threats I am certain you could make a post full of just examples of wrong doing. You have to remember however that those were choices made by individuals, and they were poor choices, that does not make unions bad, or even evil it just means there are bad people in the world. When Bernie Madoff made off with billions of his investors hard-earned money, I did not hear one cry out for ending all business, no it was one individual that made a bad choice. Every single human institution or organization of any size has its bad points. Corporations certainly do. Organized religion does. Academia does. The media does. The financial industry sure as hell does. But with the exception of a few extremists here and there, nobody uses this as an excuse to suggest that these institutions are hopelessly corrupt and should cease existing.
Some of the things unions have given us over the years. Weekends we all love weekends hell we have hundreds of songs, movies, and stories dedicated to the celebration of having that precious few days off away from the work place. So thanks unions for that.
Working conditions: In my industry (which is rail) prior to unions being involved the average life expectancy of a worker in the rail industry was roughly six months and that wasn’t because they went off to make more money elsewhere that usually meant they died in unsafe working conditions. If you read up on the early history of rail when they were done with a group of workers they would seal them in a mountain and dynamite them inside so they didn’t have to pay they the meager wages they were owed. Now because of union involvement the rail industry is a safer place to work and despite the fact that the majority of employees working for railroads are union employees the railroads saw their profits rise even during the recession.
Wages: a union worker on average makes more money then their non-union counterpart. Which is part of the discussion now why unions are bad. Isnt that however the American dream for you to make enough money in your craft or business to support your family. These average union workers aren’t making millions of dollars they are making a living wage with good benefits. Why does the meaning of that go away when the wages are agreed upon collectively. The free market principles are still intact even if the group striving for that is doing it collectively. For the record as well the year 2010 wall street and business as a whole had the greatest profits on record ever….ever.
Collective bargaining: the dirty word in the Wisconsin debate. How dare they want to give the workers a voice on their own wage and working conditions. When a CEO takes a job at a major corporation terms of that persons salary and benefits are negotiated and those terms are agreed upon prior to that employee taking over that position. Agreed upon is another important part of the deal, that means the company agreed to the conditions that they were going to give their workers. Where is the difference in the process except its one person versus a group asking collectively.
Teachers unions: the arguments against teachers unions are ridiculous as they make too much money. Anyone willing to point me in the direction of a rich teacher. Teachers on average make around 50, 000$ a year. As I was taught in school from a teacher in order to reach a 50, 000 average there has to be teachers making well below that and the inverse of some teachers making more.( I skipped the grammar and punctuation parts of school) If anything they need to be paid more to deal with kids today, and all the distractions that come with the information age. Teachers are one of the most important parts of all of our lives they get the chance to set up children for success as long as there are parents pushing to help them as well. As things sit now we are in a blame the teacher mentality, my kid is failing ( truth) my kid is perfect( not truth) = teachers are bad. Where is the taking responsibility for the parents. Why does that principle disappear? I want to personally thank some of the teachers I had in my life that helped me along the way. Mr Munkers you taught me that reading is important and you taught me that books can be fun and that has stuck with me and I still love to read and read anything I can get my hands on. Mr Shaw you made history important even for a bunch of loud whiny high school students, you made it come alive. I could list many more but the point is that they are important and should get thanked more for the thankless job they do.
Unions matter because they are the one institution that has dramatically improved the lives of the majority of the people and has the potential to radically transform both the economic and political landscape, making them both more democratic . Unions level the playing field, so the average worker has a say in the process.
Some of the music I was listening to today and yesterday