how much blame do the unions deserve?

At the risk of pissing off the majority of my readers, I feel as though I have to say that the unions of this country have, over the past several decades, in my opinion, done a piss poor job. They’ve allowed the American people to forget that unions, through their hard fought battles, were responsible for limiting the workweek to 40 hours, and ensuring a living wage for laborers. They haven’t articulated their value. They’ve allowed the prevalent union narrative in this country to become one of greedy and gluttony. If you asked 100 people on the street for their impressions of unions, you might have one or two mention the workplace safety regulations they were responsible for, or the fact that, thanks to their efforts, we no longer have kids working in coalmines. The rest would likely talk of drunks being paid $70 an hour to occasionally show up and push a broom. Unions have allowed this to happen. Focusing on the dollars, they’ve lost sight of the big picture. Union leaders should be the heroes of the American people, but instead, today, we see them taking the blame for what’s become of the United States automotive industry. It didn’t have to be this way, and it pisses me off…

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  1. mark
    Posted November 19, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for the rant. I love the unions, at least in theory. It just bugs the hell out of me that they’ve somehow lost control of the message. They got greedy. And they lost sight of what really matters.

  2. Brackache
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    The SAG strike led to the reality show pandemic.

    You can’t argue with results.

    Seriously though, everything is like in nature. Big corporations, unions, governments, whatever. Some prey population is too big and is eating all the foliage, so some preditors come along and eat them so they get thinned and the foliage comes back, then the preditors get too numerous and some starve so the prey come back, on it goes. Shit dying is just how things correct themselves and move on. No system is death proof.

    I’ve been watching Northern Exposure.

  3. fakenamesonananonblogaresilly
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    How many hrs is that worker WORKING to get that $70/hr average. I don’t like incomplete data. My observation is that the big wages for line workers comes with lots guaranteed hrs (the mandatory part of Guaranteed Overtime). And that reliance on guaranteed OT caused people to count on income that frankly their actual skillset would not earn them otherwise.

    Guaranteed overtime helps the company. They have 1 worker working the hours of 2, for the price of benefits for 1.

    Unions have definitely had mission creep and lost track of the real issue they were formed to address once they won the big battles that led to their formation.

    Demonizing workers, though, is always the company angle. It has taken about 55 years, but they have managed to turn most in the country against something that benefits the people and the company at the same time, at the price of removing some of the corporate ability to act capriciously.

    And this campaign is wrapping up during a time when they are taking every penny away and out of the country– and then wondering why no one here can afford their product.

  4. West Cross is the Best Cross
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I think the issue is the perception of the $70/hr drunk worker, not rather or not there really is such a person. Like Mark is saying, that is what a lot of people think of when they think of unions, and it hamstrings any good they may be trying to do. It’s their own fault, though. Now that working standards are higher for everyone (thanks in part to the unions) it is much easier for the employer to play the “everything is great, why do you need a union” card. The unions haven’t given a good answer to that question and their relevance has suffered because of it.

  5. CKL
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I’m just glad to see someone say something good about unions. Like Mark, I’m a fan. I know, from history, what life was like without them. Even with the corruption, we’re much better off.

  6. Robert
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    It’s just a natural tendency of mass populations to drift away from the understanding of what got them all that they have. I don’t blame the unions for not being able to keep the awareness fresh in people’s minds. It’s a losing battle no matter how well you fight it. I think it’s still pretty clear we’re all in for some very hard lessons as to our collective amnesia and failure to continually maintain our view of a bigger picture.

  7. The Exterminator
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Kind of how people forget why they don’t get malaria, yellow fever, typhus, or plague.

  8. Stalagtite
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    The unions are for the most part corrupt and they protect individuals who shouldn’t be protected.

    People died so that we could have unions, and I’m afraid that people are going to have to die again to get them back.

  9. Robert
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s too bad there isn’t an immunity one could have to exploitation.

  10. Robert
    Posted November 22, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    From the looks of things, you people are gonna need all the scapegoats you can get.

  11. Old Goat' Wife
    Posted November 23, 2008 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    You say “The unions are for the most part corrupt and they protect individuals who shouldn’t be protected.” But Unions protect all members, no exceptions, that is their beauty. Management however is lazy and doesn’t like manage. Sure the union will defend a worker, but it is managements job to document when workers don’t do their job. Instead you see lazy managers ignore and enable lazy workers. You see this in schools, factories, and the few remaining workplaces with union protection. In my workplace all raises are based on merit, and again dependent on management’s opinion of the quality of my work. I would take union protection over merit any day.

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