Monday, November 15, 2004

Unions, Uh, Good God, Y'all, What Are They Good For

Alot, Actually, But They Were Blasted By a (Ronnie) Ray Gun

As I've said many times in person conversations, unions are a very good thing. I know that a lot of people have a bad opinion of them. They either think that they're all mobbed up and corrupt or they simply think they are ineffective.

Let's dispell some myths:

1. Unions collect more in dues than they give back to the workers in wage and benefit increases.

FALSE - The average monthly dues payment is 2.5 hours of pay per month. If you were getting paid $10/hr, that would mean about $25 a month. It is fair to say the average full time worker has 160 paid hours a month. If the union simply got your hourly wages increase by 16 pennies an hour, it already has paid your dues for the month...and that is without factoring in their power to reduce what you pay for your benefits and the introduction of additional low-or-no cost benefits (tuition reimbursement, on-site daycare, etc.).

2. Unions are always making their workers go on strike.

FALSE - Workers in almost every union have to take a vote to authorize their leadership to call a strike. That means no one is forcing anyone to go on strike. According to the AFL-CIO's own myth-busting portion of their website (, 97% of all negotiations are settled without a need for a strike. In the cases where it is needed, it is hard to argue with its effectiveness.

For instance, in CWA's strike against SBC Global, the company wanted to increase healthcare premiums, guarantee the workers' jobs for only 3 years of a 5 year contract, and continue outsourcing internet service telephone support. Through the strike, they negotiated to get the jobs guaranteed for the full 5 year contract, 3000 outsourced internet support positions will be transitioned back to the US over the next three years, and for the premiums not to be raised quite as much as the company had planned. On top of that? The workers received a $1000 annual bonus. All from a 4 day strike.

Now, like any good diet pill or MLM ad on TV, let me say that these results may not be typical. But they are possible and...this I'll guarantee...they're 100% better than the average worker could negotiate with HR on their own. I'd like to see an hourly wage worker walk into HR and get lowered insurance co-pay, a 5 year guarantee, and an extra $1000/per year (on top of hourly wage increases). Not bloody likely.

Want an example of success without striking? Check out and the details regarding the Lucent contract.

3. Companies fold because of unions.

FALSE - Unions decrease employee turnover rates and increase productivity. Again, according to the AFL-CIO's site, about half of employers illegally threaten their workers with plant/location shutdowns if they unionize, but only 1% of newly organized shops/locations shutdown. A vast majority of companies that close their doors for good are NONUNION.

4. Unions have corrupt leadership.

FAL...well... - can check out for a more apologetic explanation...but unions are, at their core, democracies. Translation: their leadership is only as good as the voters decide it will be. One man, one vote...and with no such thing as an electoral college, that means a helluva lot more in a union. In my opinion, any union corruption (which is statistically a very rare thing) is caused by the rank and file membership being asleep at the wheel. The response to finding corruption isn't to throw out the system, but to throw out the offenders and re-double your efforts to get things running right. If we dismissed systems due to the corruption of individual leaders, tell me what system of government this great country would be practicing?

That's enough for me. It is 6am here in Chesapeake and I need to be at work at 2pm. Screw that "recommended 8 hours of sleep a night" stuff, eh?

Oh...and if you'd like to see a little bit of what my "(Ronnie) Ray Gun" reference is about, check out

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