As you can see in the image below, I was a proud member of a union in Tucson, AZ where I worked as a test technician. Arizona is a right-to-work state so it was unusual to have a union at all. It happened because the employer, Raytheon, has a legacy union from when it was Hughes.
Now, I know all the complaints people have about unions. I also know the pros and cons of having unionized labor. I support labor unions in general as they are the best way (sometimes the only way) to keep employers in check and ensure jobs are paid equitably with proper ancillary benefits (like health insurance). The recent writer’s strike is a good example. Without the strike and a new agreement, many talented writers could have been on unemployment and may have needed to change professions. Personally, I would rather be entertained by clever, interesting, creative and inspired stories from actual humans than have to dumb-down to what an AI (Artificial Intelligence) would come up with.
Unions provide the kind of check-and-balance that keep capitalism from becoming imperialism. If they weren’t needed, we wouldn’t have them. I have heard the argument that a union can become “too strong” and hurt the business and the consumer. I do see some of the logic in those arguments, so let me apply my logic.
The employer provides work and pay for the union employees.
If the union demands more than the employer agrees to provide, there is a strike.
If the strike is not settled, the employees lose their job. Not an optimal outcome.
If the employer agrees to the demands and then raises prices to compensate, they could fail.
If the employer fails, the product/service will no longer be available and people lose jobs. Also not optimal.
With the above parameters, it is illogical for the unions to become “too strong” as they would endanger the very employer that their members rely on. In my experience, unions ask for fairness and respect. I support that. I also know that I was not treated with respect or fairness when I worked non-union jobs.
I can hear it now:
‘Unions make things cost more!’ – Makes sense. The employer needs to pay more to the workers and/or improve their benefits, so the extra cost is passed on to the consumer. Wait, how about instead of raising prices, the employer stops paying the top brass so much and cuts the enormous benefits and perks those at the top get? Well, I guess the CEO, CFO, CIO, President, Vice Presidents, etc., etc., need to have those seven-to-eight plus figure incomes to continue their established lifestyle. You don’t want me to go on THAT rant!!
‘Union workers are lazy and the employer can’t fire them.’ – To quote John Wick, “Yeah, not really.” At Raytheon there was a strict and agreed upon set of rules that would lead to termination, union or not. It’s just that the union forced the employer to put a well-defined process and rules in place that must be followed before an employee could be terminated. Like I said, fair. Unions stop an employer firing a good worker to make room for a favorite nephew, that kind of thing. There is a down side here. I knew a few union workers who were amazing and got three times as much work done as other employees at the same job and level. So yes, there can be job and pay inequities within the union. However, without a union that disparity can be greatly exaggerated by the employer giving the good worker more responsibilities with no increase in pay. I am sure you have heard those stories as well.
‘The union went on strike. Now I can’t get to work using public transit. I can’t watch my favorite late night talk show. The next Marvel movie will be delayed. I have to cancel my European Vacation.’ – Yes, it’s all about you. Never mind the worker trying to make ends meet, feed their family, provide for good shelter, healthcare and education for their children, or try to advance in a career. If it inconveniences you or makes something more expensive for you, it must be bad. Right? Personally, I (retired and on a fixed income) have no problem paying more for a better-quality product/service sourced in the U.S.A. That keeps the money in this country and in the hands of working U.S. citizens. Are you not in favor of that?
If this hits a nerve or if you want to write a rebuttal, you can find me on NextDoor and LinkedIn. I see NextDoor every day, LinkedIn every week. I am also at the Vestal Library with Maria Sexton from 7:00-8:00 PM every Thursday until the election. I would enjoy hearing from you!
Best to you and yours - Glenn R. Miller
Aside: Yes, I have been a Thor fan since childhood! And “Professor Miller” is my uncle!