Why Unions Matter

I’m getting into it a bit with Steven Greenhut at the OC Register. The man sees no value in unions, particularly government unions. He actually posted a note online that he was happy to see pro-union companies like General Motors doing poorly (hope the GM ad buyers didn’t see it).

I’m the product of a union household and have long supported unions. My family didn’t cross the picket lines when grocery workers at my local Albertson’s went on strike a few years back.

Here is why Unions matter:

Unions provide workers with seniority which aids longevity on the job and a higher retention rate. If business falls off or tax revenues are down, it’s last hired, first laid off. Seniority is something of value with benefits attached to it for both the employer and employee. Workers with seniority are less likely to quit and employers benefit but the experience and not having to recruit and train a new employee; productivity increases with retention. Companies with higher retention, lower training costs, and experienced workers are good for companies and government agencies.

For smaller companies, benefits like a pension plan are costly. But many unions have group benefits such as multi-employer pension plans that allow even small union shops to offer competitive benefits compared to a non-union competitor and comparable benefits to a larger company.

Managing upwards is easier with union support. If you have a concern, bringing it up with management often means your concerns fall on deaf ears. Union representation provides a process to communicate complaints and concerns in a professional manner without fear of retaliation.

Union workers demand and get better training, especially in new procedures and new technology that increases productivity.

Greenhut’s contention that Unions protect the worst employees is flat wrong. No union can protect a worker from being fired for just cause. If the company shows the worker is frequently absent, not productive, incompetent, stealing from the company, or a threat to co-workers, no union in the world can save that person’s job.

Senior management usually has contracts; unions effectively give one to workers. The US is one of the least unionized countries in the world (look it up) and there is an enormous gap between CEO pay and that of the average worker. Care to guess why?

Unions do matter; the question Greenhut continues to dodge is “how much should a police officer, a firefighter, or a teacher be paid?” If you’re being robbed, your house is on fire or your kid needs the extra help at school, the answer is they aren’t paid enough. You want a real example of those severely underpaid? How about the American soldier?

  1 comment for “Why Unions Matter

  1. July 27, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    I worked for the US Postal Service for 27 years and I was a union member for all of them. Without the union, the USPS would have gladly paid us minimum wage ($5.15) and worked us double shifts every day, for straight time pay. That is what it was like before unionization in 1973.

Comments are closed.