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Question of the day

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2008

* There was some surprising news the other day…

In 2007, the number of workers belonging to a union rose by 311,000 to 15.7 million, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics

But that’s not the question.

* The Question: What is your opinion of labor unions?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:09 am:

    Greedy, but no more greedy than CEO’s. They are a necessary evil as they are the Yin to the CEO yang.

    Of course, they have done excellent things in the past, no diminishing that. The CTA union did something admirable in giving up concessions to make the transit deal work.

  2. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:12 am:

    Indispensable to the development of the American Middle Class in the 20th Century, and consequently the victory of Democracy over Fascism and Communism.

    Victims of their own success as far as diminished influence in the 21st. Still relevant in some of the trades, but virtually no presence in the Information Economy.

    In public education, an impediment to creating true excellence in schools. Schools are becoming like the Ameican auto industry, with their primary purpose being the delivery of benefits to employees, and not the excellence of the product.

  3. - Reality Check - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:14 am:

    Unions are the collective voice of working people and the best force for positive change in our workplaces and the halls of government.

  4. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:17 am:

    I have been a union supporter all my working life. While I recognize how unions effect costs within organizations, costs are not the most important item within organizations. Unions protect an organization’s cultural infrastructure from short-term profit seekers and vision-less executives. They provide balance within a business and government world that currently champions monetary status to the dereliction of other vital elements within these organizations.

    Unions remind organizations that financial investment isn’t the only kind of investments made within organizations. What employees bring to organizations are not completely compensated through salary agreements made with each employee. Unions bring needed balance and all organizations that have effective unions benefit in the long run. It is only those who view results within a closed prism of reality who would prefer disposability over investment. Anti-unionists are poor executives, fingerpointing and blaming unions as their managerial decisions fall short. Any business that believes it succeeds because it is union-less doesn’t understand business.

  5. - Perry Noya - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:26 am:

    The real story is not the increase in union membership but the fact that most of it is due to the unionization of the public sector. So now we have teachers and other government workers as powerful lobbies for more taxes and job protections. I was a (private-sector) union member for years and the local shop was stuck in 1930s Woody Guthrie, which-side-are-you-on-brother romanticism.

  6. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:27 am:

    The unions wrecked the American workforce. It’s one thing to pay union workers a good wage but I know people making $100,000 a year in the shops.

  7. - grand old partisan - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:31 am:

    “Unions are the collective voice of working people”

    In reality, they are hierarchical and exclusive, and only care about their members.

  8. - dept. of anti-labor - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:46 am:

    Come on Miller… only a link to Bush’s Dept. of Labor busting? That release is very slanted, but if you look at the report, Perry Noya’s claim is wrong about the public sector being the cause of the increase.

    Private sector union membership grew by 133,000 and density grew to 7.5 percent in 2007, the first time private sector density grew since 1979. In construction alone, more than 96,000 members were added last year, bumping union density in that industry to 13.9 percent from 13.0 percent in 2006.

    The largest increase in union membership was health services, where unions added 142,000 members, a 0.9 percent increase in density from 2006 to 7.9 percent.

    Union membership among women grew again in 2007, continuing a trend in recent years. More than 201,000 women joined unions in 2007, nearly twice the number of men. Women now account for 44 percent of all union members, a new high.

  9. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:46 am:

    If they represent their members in a way that is not as greedy, self-aggrandizing, corrupt /manipulative as too many “managers”/”corporations” are, then they are critical as a balance to ensure fairness/justice.

  10. - Anon Sequitor - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:55 am:

    I would be an unabashed supporter of unions if not for their constant exercise of power to limit competition, i.e. restraint of trade, as defined below:

    Descriptive of unreasonable acts or contracts which prevent a person from carrying on, or engaging in, their profession.

    Combinations, contracts, or other oral or written arrangements designed to establish a monopoly position, impede competition, fix prices, or prevent entry by potential rivals.

    Monopolies, combinations, and contracts that impede free competition.

    any act that tends to prevent free competition in business

    Restraint of trade is a restriction on a person’s freedom to conduct business in a specified or unspecified location for a specified or unspecified length of time. Such restrictions are normally enacted by contracts.

  11. - Napoleon has left the building - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 11:58 am:

    I think most of them have a valid and useful purpose to protect workers and fight for higher wages. I wish for example there were unions in many food processing plants and other low wage environments where immigrant workers are victimized.

    However, I think that some unions (not LABOR unions) such as the teachers unions actually impair progress in education and hurt our ability as a society to improve and modernize our schools. I’m primarily thinking of the school calendar, it should be longer maybe even year-round but I don’t see it ever happening because the IEA won’t allow it even if studies were to show it benefits students.

  12. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:00 pm:

    State employees are increasingly being unionized. Middle management employees, for whom unionization would be unthinkable 20 years ago, are now in or on the verge of getting in, likely in the interest of self-protection in an environment that is a lot less stable than it used to be, and also as a result of applying strict Department of Labor definitions of “managerial functions”. Basically, most “Rutan exempt” state employees now have a shot at being unionized, as I understand it.

  13. - Gene Parmesan - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:02 pm:

    When it comes to unions in the education field, I agree with Steve Jobs: “I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way.” “This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy.”

  14. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:05 pm:

    Extremely negative.

  15. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:05 pm:

    Oops, I meant “Rutan covered”.

  16. - Bookworm - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:06 pm:

    I have a hard time deciding what I think on this issue. I have never belonged to a union myself, nor has anyone in my immediate family, other than my grandfather who was a steelworker (and had very little good to say about unions because he and his family had suffered through a number of lengthy strikes).
    On the one hand, it’s easy to blame unions for driving up labor costs so high that companies are “forced” to move to other states or countries, thereby costing jobs in the long run. Local governments also will be facing serious financial issues now and in the future related to unionization of the public sector.
    On the other hand, would we have ANY middle class today if there had been no unions around in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to counter-balance the power of “robber barons” who treated workers like children at best and chattel at worst?
    One big problem with unions may be their getting too wrapped up in politics to the detriment of actually looking out for their members. If I remember correctly, isn’t this what prompted the recent (within the last several years) split in the AFL-CIO?

  17. - Squideshi - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:15 pm:

    Article 23, Section 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides, “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

    Article 22, Section 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” The United States signed this treaty on October 5, 1977 and ratified it on June 8, 1992.

    Article VI of the United States Constitution, provides, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all TREATIES made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” (Emphasis added.)

    In other words, according to the United States Constitution, it is the “supreme law of the land” in the United States that everyone has the human right to form and join trade unions for the protections of their interests.

  18. - here we go - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:16 pm:

    There’s an IEA school in Springfield that is year-round. Teacher unions don’t want modern schools? What are you smoking? Do you mean modern as in close to poverty salaries and zero job protection from school board members whose kid doesn’t get an A? I still don’t know why anyone would want to teach anymore.

    Without unions, the middle class would be gone. The days of corporations actually taking care of employees are already gone. The GOP and right wing love to talk about values and morality, but what about corporate morality? Today it’s ok to not give employees health insurance but have middle managers who are millionaires. It’s only going to get worse for the cubicle workers of the world as their jobs go overseas as well.

  19. - YNM - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:19 pm:

    I always am interested, intrigued, and sometimes humored by questions like these. So many of the “well, unions are okay, except for those evil teachers unions that are against true progress and excellence in education…”

    Actually the IEA itself is not necessarily against things like year-round school. You will find a lot of communities against such changes. Most unions, teachers unions included, want a voice at the table when decisions are made that affect their working conditions. I can’t fault anyone for wanting that.

    While unions are always having to reevaluate the way they do things so they are relevant and beneficial to their members, good unions represent the concerns and voices of their membership.

    Here’s an interesting clip about the impact and importance of labor unions:

  20. - YNM - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:25 pm:

    By the way … the clip does contain some vulgar language - sorry. Other than that, it was too good to pass on.

  21. - Bobby - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:31 pm:

    Unions protect benefits and make sure those they represent make a living wage. The greedy ones are the higher ups and CEOs raking in millions.

  22. - Gregor - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:40 pm:

    Vanilla Man as usual says it all and with panache’.

    I also think unions are vital, serving as a necessary counterweight to management and owners in a system that would otherwise be unbalanced and inhumanely cruel.

    Now I have seen the dark side of unions as well, and I have to say that I think if they are to succeed into the next century, as a whole they need to rededicate themselves to aspects they’ve ignored too long: policing their own members, supporting and guiding their personal development and improvement, acting to strengthen the skills of their members and raise and hold them to standards of quality, excellence, and moral behavior that help justify whatever their fair wage is. It was never supposed to be a free ride for members to be lazy, corrupt or incompetent. Bring on competition within union ranks to bring out the best in their people, and then reward them fairly for that.

  23. - zatoichi - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:42 pm:

    I fall on both sides of the fence. When working construction long ago, I was given clear education on “this is our acceptable working pace”. Our company currently uses skilled union trades and, while they do a fine job, they are far from inexpensive, but worth it. My brother’s employer was unionized and based on how they treated people it was a good move. A past employer had several unions and after negotiations, all non-union got a .5% salary increase over union rates. That CEO met regularly with everyone to explain the organization’s financial status. Locally I have watched several companies close/leave the area because contract or operating costs got too high. At other companies, I fail to see exactly what the union is doing except collecting dues since salries are low. Execs and unions can both go too far. What becomes a fair salary when a job can be done overseas for 1/4 the local cost or, as the car industry shows, guaranteed expenses become a large percentage of what an item must sell for for a company to simply stay in business. At the same time a $20M+ golden parachute for a fired CEO is pretty excessive also. However, I would gladly accept that payout and feel real bad about it.

  24. - Irish - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:46 pm:

    It does not surprise me that unions are gaining strength. When egotistical, greed driven, upper management blatantly shows no regard for their workers or their workers livelihood the workers turn to unions to get them what is due to them.
    As far as public sector employees joining unions, why not? We work just as hard as private sector employees. As a front line public sector employee I have been told countless times, by members of the public when they are dissatisfied, “I pay your salary.” Well if they work at Walmart then I pay their salary every time I shop there. Or if they work in manufacturing I pay their salary every time I purchase a product they make. Yet I would never think of walking into their place of business and demanding special treatment because “I pay their salary.”
    I happen to be middle management and have recently been covered by a union. The reason we sought union protection is because for the last five years we have not gotten any raises and before that our raises were dependent on whether the politicians wanted to raise the ire of the taxpayers by saying they had given state employees a raise. Even as this was going on upper management was telling us they were in this with us and feeling our pain and getting no raises just as we were. They were, however, getting annual “salary adjustments” to the tune of $5,000.00/year.
    The problem with unions is they do not police their own ranks. I have been on both sides of this issue and have seen union employees who should have been fired because of their actions; actions that were even detrimental to other union employees. Yet they were protected by the union who went to the mat for them even while admitting the employee was bad. This is what gives unions a bad name. This and tenure is what has allowed poor teachers to remain in the school system.
    The other thing unions due or cause, is the removal of the thought process in it’s members. They become mindless sheep following the direction of the Union bosses. I have seen and heard numerous times a union member say, “I am going to vote for so and so.” I ask them what impresses you about that person. The response is “I don’t know the union told me to vote for them.” I wonder if the IFT is reconsidering their resounding endorsement of Blago.
    If unions could ever correct these two faults they would be held in higher regard by non union folk.
    They have made some progrees though. It used to be that unions NEVER gave back any ground they had gained. They kept what they had and got more even as the factories where they worked shut down. They have in recent years began to understand that they are also responsible for the success of their workplace and as the CTA workers did have offered concessions to keep things going during hard times.

  25. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:51 pm:

    Is there confusion on the non-zero-sum nature of wealth creation? That greedy ceo isn’t stealing your money. If you don’t like his salary, run for the board. Otherwise, it’s not money out of your pocket–it’s not as if it’s government waste. Labor is a voluntary contract, and there’s plenty of happy, non-unionized labor forces.

  26. - EL SALSA - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:51 pm:

    Looks like none of the constitutionals have taken a decent amount from Rezko. Hope the media doesnt pick up on that!

  27. - EL SALSA - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:53 pm:

    ha. Meant looks like ALL the consitutionals have taken a decent amount from Rezko. Sorry

  28. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 12:58 pm:

    Admittedly there are some abuses (pension scandals come to mind) but overall I have an extremely high opinion of unions and of union workers. Labor needs to stand up for itself and unions provide the best means to do so.

    I personally would never hire a plumber or electrician unless that person had a union card. When I see the card, I know the person had training and that more likely than not, their work will not cause my house to flood or burn down. I sure can’t say that for non-union construction workers. It is a complete gamble when hiring those guys.

  29. - Ghost - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:06 pm:

    Labor Unions have served their purpose and are no longer of any benefit.

    Consider this:
    Unions are losing membership in private sector, the largestt employer of Union members is local/state/federal government. The cost of Union salaries and benefits have caused a lot of American buisness out of business; From airlines to keebeler etc.

    Unions gurantee poor quality of work and workmanship. The primary purpose of the Union is to uarantee that all workers are homgenized, so that excellent workers are penalized and poor workers benfeited. Union rules and the grievance process gurantee that no emplyee should work harder then ther worst employee. The worst worker gets the same pay as the best.

    Consider also that many times the Unions fight to keep employees who harass other union members employed. They work to make sure that quality standards are kept down low. Great employees are held back and bad employees are protected.

    Their is a reason that airlines and automotive workers in the US, those that are left, are going out of business. Unions are growing in Govt at the expense of taxpayers and, in illinois, education. SOme of the largest increases in State spending under the Gov have been the guranteed pay plus COLA increases for union members.

    I have seen a number of buisness’s die in bankruptcy because the union refused to neogtiate down benefits.

    One caveat to the above. We absolutely need Unions still in the construction feilds.

  30. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:08 pm:

    Not to digress (and this may be a QOTD for another day), but it would be interesting to determine if the Bush policies have actually caused the increase in union membership. Tax breaks for the rich, tax benefits to companies that off-shore, economic uncertainty — it sure makes unions look good to a lot of people.

  31. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:11 pm:

    Do you mean Mike Madigans precinct workers? At least they are his precinct workers now. If he doesn’t make sure there is a capital bill soon there may be more than Bill Dugan’s clan knocking on doors for republicans

  32. - What can I say? - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:14 pm:

    The beginning of unions was absolutely necessary and through the years they’ve done many good things and help many people, but when they make it virtually impossible to fire an incompetent employee and the like, they cause business untold $$$ and prevent godd workers from filling those jobs.

  33. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:17 pm:


    Following up on the last line of your post —

    With regard to construction, unions actually guaranty a higher quality of product. You are not allowed to do the work unless you’ve gone through an apprenticeship which teaches the worker proper and safe methods. Depending on the trade, the apprenticeship typically last around three years in which the worker is supervised by journeymen.

    Even with the union, the better workers are not penalized, as they tend to stay with contractors longer (move from project to project with the contractor as opposed to dealing with layoffs at the end of a project) and of course can be promoted to foreman and then on up to your Project Managers and Superintendents.

    When it comes to construction, unions do a far better job of producing a quality product than non-union.

    With regard to airlines:

    I should publish a string of e-mails that I had with United. That airline is bankrupt because it has miserable (off-shored) customer service, and not because of union issues. If they had a quality product I would buy it, but instead United turns out a sub-standard product but then charges as much as better carriers. That is management’s fault and not the fault of the unions.

  34. - Trafficmatt - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:23 pm:

    Some good and bad.

    Very good to protect the workers from abuse and get a working wage.

    Very bad when they act like businesses. I’ve seen cases where one union member can do a certain task, but then a different local comes in and says that particular task has to be done by their union. Hard to say you are working for the people when two unions are staking out turf.

    Mixed bag.

  35. - What planet is he from again? - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:32 pm:

    I too am strongly mixed. I agree unions have their place in preventing abuses of the workers and protecting jobs. But on the other hand, in protecting jobs, they make it difficult to impossible to actually get a job (for example, union members get top priority when bidding on many State jobs, but to be a member, you have to have a State job. [Digression: Doesn’t a union benefit by having the most members, so wouldn’t it be in their best interest to get people off the street and into the union instead of having members swap from one place to another and freezing out everybody else?])

    A second example, some years ago there was a strike at a Hormel plant in Minnesota, and what saddened me was that the fact that there wasn’t any violence during the strike was news-worthy.

    Then there are things like the musician’s union which mandates how many musicians theaters have to hire whether or not their show requires that many. So there are times when theaters have to hire musicians to literally sit and do nothing (”walkers” is the term used.)

    Working in a unionized goverment bureuacracy (sort of the trifecta of suckiness there), I really feel like a commodity…you don’t get ahead by doing a good job, you get ahead by sticking around the longest.

    And then there’s the whole grievence thing…I swear, people spend more time and energy worrying about stepping on other people’s toes and grousing about having their toes stepped on than actually getting the job done.

    Thanks for letting me ramble.

  36. - plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:38 pm:

    Unions are a mixed bag.

    At one end of the spectrum, that protect workers, at the other they stifle companies.

    At the governmental end its scary because governments do not go bankrupt, they raise taxes!

    Hard to understand why in Illinois, small towns are being forced to hire workers to satisfy the snow plowing season, while there is not enough work to go around during the other seasons. Seasonal help is not tolerated.

  37. - Justice - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:39 pm:

    Unions are inept, archaic, and do what is in their own self interest regardless of the consequences to others. They will barter themselves benefits and raises and leave other in the same organizations and doing the same work to fend for themselves. I see no one group as anti-business, and non-progressive as unions. They alone are responsible for the huge sucking sound of jobs leaving the US. Now they are spreading to the service industry and starting to erode excellence in that arena. Public education, public transportation, manufacturing….you name it, wherever the unions are today, the result is sub quality service and product. What once was a strong and proud organization has become the epitome of greed with a assumed motto of less for more. Just in the education field we have allowed unions to deliver us to the bottom in record years while other countries are flying past us in quality of education. People join the unions just to keep up financially and the result is devastating our economy and our country.

  38. - Reality Check - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:41 pm:

    A second example, some years ago there was a strike at a Hormel plant in Minnesota, and what saddened me was that the fact that there wasn’t any violence during the strike was news-worthy.

    Oh please. The Hormel strike was almost 25 years ago - 1984. And the only threat of violence came on behalf of the employer - when the Minnesota governor used the National Guard to escort strikebreakers into the plant.

    I challenge you to provide an example of “violence” during a work stoppage. If you can’t, please stop talking — your ignorance is showing.

  39. - Mickey - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:44 pm:

    Unions brought us such things as the 40 hour work week, employer paid health insurance, paid vacations, and many other benefits that today’s young people take for granted, and think come from the good nature of their employer, or worse yet, they believe the government mandates them. In reality, Labor Unions today are the last line of defense against the Conservative Republican Establishment which, if it had its way, would capture all the wealth of the nation and distribute it to a very small number of “bosses,” and destin the rest of us to shop at the company store. Seriously, each time these goons get control of Congress and the NLRB, we lose more. Eventually we’ll all be paying for our own health care, we’ll be expected to fund our own vacations, and overtime will be an antiquated notion.

  40. - HR guy - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:46 pm:

    I have been in HR for years, and I can tell you that union officials know better how to run our company than the management who inherited the company from their father. If it were not for the unions here, the company would have already gone under, thanks to the incompetents who run it. If it were not for the unions nationally, there would be no middle class and we would all be the victims of the rapacious owner/management class.

    My only regret is that union density is not 100%.

  41. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:46 pm:

    Mickey, if you don’t like your job, quit, and work for yourself. You’re not a slave.

  42. - He makes Ryan Look like a Saint - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 1:51 pm:

    Now the Other Headline: “250,000 Jobs moving overseas to deflect skyrocketing cost”

  43. - auntieem - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:01 pm:

    Unions are the best engine of social change, since they are dues-supported and their mission is to improve the lives of working people (in other words the whole country); they have their faults, as any organization does, but who else will speak for the teacher, the nurse, the hotel worker? Their weakness, and the systematic attacks by the administration and the media is the primary reason that we are in the grip of the worst corporate greed in history.

  44. - Garp - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:01 pm:

    I am very pro union. That is the reason I am a Democrat. I have seen how companies exploit their workers and without the right to organize this country would be in a world of hurt. Go Union!!!

  45. - Joe in the Know - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:04 pm:

    Two words: McCormick Place. Need I say more?

  46. - Jake From Elwood - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:11 pm:

    As long as there is capitalism, there will be corporate greed.
    As long as there is corporate greed, there will be liberties taken against the working class.
    As long as there are liberties taken against the working class, there will be unions.
    We know that unions, like many organizations, contain some dysfunctional elements, corruption, etc. They do screw over members from time to time and they do sometimes fight too hard for the hopeless lost causes. But, it is hard to argue with the gains that unions have made on the whole.
    . . . That being said, I wish the writers union would settle their contract so I can get new episodes of CSI.

  47. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:15 pm:

    –liberties taken against the working class–

    What does this mean? Enslaving them? Molesting them?

    Or do you just object to how a private company is allocating its profits?

  48. - Let Freedom Ring - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:18 pm:

    Nations which have a high degree of unionization have the highest standards of living in the world, have the best schools, the lowest poverty rates, and the highest level of personal liberty. Nations with low levels of unionization lag in all of these categories. Let freedom ring!

  49. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:18 pm:

    Why are you so opposed to freedom of contract? I thought that was the very heart of our American system.
    No one forces companies to sign union contracts. They negotiate and reach an agreement.
    But that doesn’t work for you.
    You want a large government that will reject these contracts as somehow unfair to management.
    Shouldn’t the parties be able to make any agreement they like?

  50. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:20 pm:

    Whoa Skeeter, I said nothing of the sort. Please explain where I implied any of that.

  51. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:22 pm:

    But you’ve got to respect your classic stlye of argumentation: make up your opponent’s position and then attack it.

  52. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:22 pm:

    I stand corrected.
    In all those posts, I somehow got the idea that you didn’t like unions.
    My bad.

  53. - Irish - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:24 pm:

    What planet…- What you are not understanding about the state job going to a union member already employed is that the members/state employees have the right to bid on a better job and/or another work location that is better for them. They might have taken a job that is not close to home just to get in the system. Then when a job comes open closer to home they have the opportunity to move to that job. This is no different than bid rights in any other union. Folks who want in the system have to do the same, take a job that isn’t perfect to earn the right to move to a job that is better. Thjat job opening will eventually go to the street and someone will be hired from the street to fill it. so you need to follow the opening and then apply for the position that eventually goes to the street.
    This is the downside to a state job in certain Agencies. There might only be four jobs in an Agency in an area that covers six counties. It is hard to move up because it means you have to change work locations. It really hurts when your position is eliminated and the closest place you can bump to is 50 miles away.

  54. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:25 pm:

    Ha! I don’t, but I love contracts!

  55. - Jake From Elwood - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:29 pm:

    Please don’t naively believe that all workers are treated as well as you might be in your company.
    Is it that farflung of a logical conclusion to believe that companies do require their employees to work in dangerous conditions for poor pay and no benefits?

  56. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:30 pm:

    Let me get your position right, as I may be confused.
    You like contracts, but just not contracts with unions. Companies should be able to enter into contracts, except union contracts.
    Is that your position?
    You like the free market, until your side starts losing.
    Sounds like a reasonable position to me!

  57. - K to the 3 - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:33 pm:

    Labor unions: good. Teacher’s unions: bad.

  58. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:35 pm:


    Union contracts are fine. I just don’t understand the brouhaha over “corporate greed.” That’s all. Hope that helps.

  59. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:37 pm:

    So your position is that unions can do what they want, except complain about how management allocates resources?

  60. - mpkomara - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:41 pm:

    Unions necessarily, and by design no less, eliminate individual freedom to move capital within the labor market. When an agent removes the ability of laborers to voluntarily and without coercion move between jobs, the agent increases the cost of all labor and weakens the return on labor.

  61. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:41 pm:


    How is this so difficult to understand? Unions can form whatever contracts they want, petition whatever they want, etc. I’m just criticizing the constant “greedy manager” theme in this thread. Further, that I’m critical of a group’s influence doesn’t mean I deny their right to excert it.

  62. - Levois - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:42 pm:

    They’ve had their time. They’ve done some good but now they might need to step aside and let the market take its course.

  63. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:51 pm:

    I love the phrase “weakens the return on labor.”
    Why don’t you say it in English: “It raises wages.”

  64. - What planet is he from again? - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:55 pm:

    MY ignorance is showing? Puh-LEEZE.
    2-1/2 minutes with Google found 4 instances (1984) (1994) (2007) (1995)

    And these are articles where there WAS violence/vandalism and not just threats, and just in the US.

    So if you don’t mind, I’ll keep on talking.

  65. - Bill S. Preston, Esq. - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:56 pm:

    Here’s my story about unions-

    I was back home (outside of IL) and stopped at a Starbucks in a grocery store. I paid for my coffee and had change leftover and asked the “barista” where the tip jar was. She said, “We’re not allowed to accept tips. I’m not a Starbucks employee, I’m a union grocery store worker. I make $18/hr which is more than a manager across the street at the stand alone Starbucks makes. So I can’t take tips.”

    I was actually disgusted. People working at the grocery store Starbucks make that much more? For what? Grocery store Starbucks always tastes worse that regular Starbucks. She gets more because the days of the week that she’s not assigned to the Starbucks kiosk, she’s stocking produce? It doesn’t make any sense.

    I’m not an organized labor history buff, but I do know that unions served an excellent purpose in their heydey. And I still think there’s a purpose for them in certain industries, especially the organization of agricultural workers, like Immokalee. But there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for the grocery store employee to be making more than the Starbucks manager when they are doing exactly the same work, less than a block from one another.

    I haven’t been to a grocery store Starbucks since.

  66. - Aaron Slick - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 2:57 pm:

    The original purpose of labor unions was extremely good and they did serve their purpose very well. But, like most organizations that fall due to one or two errant union officials, there original purpose has been corrupted by the greed shown by many (but not all) of their union leaders.

    The union leadership often calls on the membership to go on strike, knowing full-well that the union membership will never recover in benefits what they will lose in wages while they are on strike. These union leaders feel the need to justify their existence (and huge salaries) so every so often they call for an ill-advised strike. strike.

  67. - mpkomara - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 3:03 pm:

    Skeeter, I believe I covered “raises wages” when I said “increases the cost of labor”. When I say “weakens the return on labor”, I mean that for a given worker, the quality of his/her work will be worse.

  68. - Goons - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 3:07 pm:

    Thugs and bullies if you do not tow their line.
    150 is the worst in IL

  69. - plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 3:08 pm:


    Bad management is bad management/ It is not Republicans alone who in your words exploit workers. There is a long list o prominent Democrats who treat their workers poorly.

  70. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 3:11 pm:

    That’s interesting. I thought “return” was a financial [economic] term. I should demand a refund from my econ courses. Thanks for the info!

    Why do you think that is? Is the union card all that heavy forcing the employee to be less productive? The mere association causes incompetence?

    So, what’s your theory?

  71. - What planet is he from again? - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 3:28 pm:

    Irish: Part of my point (and boy did I have one) was that qualifications for the open position aren’t necessarily the primary selection criteria…Union membership is. So I may have 25 years experience in a field and not even have my application see the light of day when someone with hardly any experience gets the job only because he’s in the union and I am not.

    The fact is, I *did* take a less-than-optimal job because I couldn’t get into the positions in my field for which I am well (and over) qualified. And even within the State system, there are obstacles which make going from one agency to another, from one bargaining unit to another, from one title series to another difficult. That’s good for union employees…not good for everyone else.

  72. - mpkomara - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 3:56 pm:

    skeeter- It’s not so much my theory, but one you can find in the Austrian School of economics, Chicago School of economics and maybe just economics in general. Artificial barriers to entry (not just in labor markets, but in any market) will raise the cost of a worker transferring between jobs or, more likely here, raise the cost of an employer both finding and firing employees. Higher costs of seeking and replacing labor disincentivize the employer to provide good service at the same price, for it is cheaper to employ an unskilled laborer than to attempt to fire him and replace him with a better-skilled laborer.

  73. - teachers - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:10 pm:

    A study by the Harvard Educational Review found that states with strong teacher unions had students with better SAT and ACT scores.

    2 Chicago Public High Schools with union teachers were ranked in the top 50 by U.S. News and World Report.

    The CTU actually has worked out experimental trials for merit pay and a new system for teacher evaluation.

    No further comment needed.

  74. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:17 pm:

    Let me get this right:
    According to your theory, medical school is bad economically. It provides a barrier to entry to a field.
    Let’s just get rid of those medical schools now.
    Nice theory you have there.

  75. - Irish - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:22 pm:

    teachers…… Are there public schools that do not have union teachers? Are all public schools having this same success? You might want to read the Small Newspaper Group’s investigative articles regarding “Bad Teachers in illinois”. It is basically about teachers who abuse children and through tenure and union protection are able to leave that ditrict and go to another without their past sins being on their record. only to repeat their abuse.
    No further comments needed

  76. - Greg - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:24 pm:

    Skeeter, you have this nasty way of skewing people’s arguments into ridiculous examples as a way of “proving” them wrong, followed by a sarcastic message of support. I suppose, though, that it’s a good way to get them to stop talking.

  77. - Reality Check - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:41 pm:

    re 2:55

    Gosh, four examples in the last 30 years. Versus what, maybe 100 or 150 strikes a year nationwide in that time? Yeah, unions are a real threat to homeland security, you really got something there.

  78. - Gene Parmesan - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:42 pm:

    teachers, there is plenty more comment necessary.

    First, your link doesn’t link to the actual study, and just to a page with a couple of paragraphs describing the study. No way to dispute the findings if you can’t actually access the findings.

    Second, 2 CPS schools were in the top 50 for US News and World Reports. Each are merit selection schools, and are hardly representative of the work of teachers unions as a whole.

    Third, CTU has worked out trials for merit pay and a new system for evaluation? Oh goodie. No solutions, but trials. Has the union done anything with tenure, the most obvious and blatant misuse of union power in education? Not so much.

    Teachers unions are hurting themselves the same way the baseball players union hurt itself. In order to protect the bad apples, they spoil the whole bunch. The minority of teachers that are not doing their jobs are destroying the credibility of the teaching profession. There are many excellent teachers out there, but the unions are suffocating the profession.

    Just look at the marketplace for teachers. Math and Science teachers are desperately needed and in great demand. PE teachers are not. Yet, because of union contracts, we have to pay PE teachers and math and science teachers equal pay, despite demand for one being significantly higher than the other.

  79. - another pro-gunner - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:46 pm:

    Had a buddy who was told he had to join the carpenter’s union if he wanted to work, even though he’d been a pretty good carpenter for about a decade. When he went down to the union hall to apply, he noticed most of the trim work was done wrong or real sloppily. Unions have outlived their necessity.

  80. - Dozer - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 4:49 pm:

    Goons — you seem to have a beef with Local 150.

    They are a shining example of what a Union can do. Membership has doubled since 1986.

    Better contracts, more money, better pensions and benefits.

    So what line didn’t someone toe?

    The members just reaffirmed — This is STILL Bill Dugan Country.


  81. - kimsch - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 5:06 pm:

    Public employee unions think that they can get anything they want for their workers because the government entity can always raise taxes to pay that guy’s salary and 100% of health care costs for him and his wife and his children until he dies, and maybe until the family dies too.

    Trade Unions are different I would suspect. Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, those are jobs that one would want done by someone who has been trained and tested in it.

    Unskilled labor, put part a into tab c of part b and send it on down the line? Nope.

    Then there are the unions that are actually meant to keep people out. Such as the Writer’s Guild. You see, for a chance at fame, some people would write for free, no payment, nada. So there’s the guild which is like other guilds in history, started to keep people out, started as an anti-competition measure.

    Of course this Writer’s Guild strike is affecting far more than just the writers. Actors, props, foley, craft services, editors, musicians, make-up people, costume people, accountants, typists, and so on are all affected by the strike.

    One of the automakers has a place called the job bank. It’s where union members go every day to sit and play cards, and watch TV, and nap and get paid their full salaries even though there isn’t a job for them. That’s just sick.

    When you go to a trade show and have to pay one person to move your stuff and another to unpack it and another to plug in your electrics and another guy to come empty your wastebasket even though there’s a large trashcan at the edge of your booth, that’s sick.

    Unions did get us the 40 hour work week, job safety regulations, eliminated child labor, and other things. But then the legislature made laws and regulations to cover those things. So I guess the unions did their job too well.

  82. - paddyrollingstone - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 5:37 pm:

    If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.

    Abraham Lincoln

  83. - johnson - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 5:42 pm:

    I believe there time has past. There work rules and high cost have left the buisness community withh no choice but to go overseas to be able to compete.

  84. - Annonymous - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 6:18 pm:

    I generally agree with Wordslinger.

    With regard to someone’s comment re: “They do screw over members from time to time,” it happens more often than you think. You just need to spend a year in Employment & Labor law to see the types of deals that are cut at the expense of union workers (both in legal expenses and jobs).

    Regarding johnson’s comment: the problem is not that simple anymore, as evidenced by what’s happening to IT. Companies are also taking advantage of the protectionism that’s running rampant in certain countries that subsidize sweeter deals than those you could or should ever negotiate here. Also, mercantilism IS making a comeback overseas.

    Bad, bad stuff.

  85. - 4% - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 6:24 pm:

    Unions once served a useful purpose but their time has long past.

    They are not generally fiefdoms with slush funds for those in control.

    Their exhorbinant rates (see McCormick Place) have driven business out of Illinois - both jobs and trade shows.

    Union leaders are CLEARLY out of touch with their workers. Hence the reason for the decline in percentage of union jobs and the reason that typically 40 percent of union members vote for candidates who were not endorsed.

    I got so tired of the “union leaders” who were brought in to break the companies in Decatur in the early 90s. These “leaders” were usually at Scovill Golf Course enjoying round after round, on a daily basis and getting paid, while the rank-and-file suffered.

  86. - 4% - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 6:25 pm:

    Meant to say “now” instead of “not”

  87. - Annonymous - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 6:30 pm:

    Imagine being a restaurant worker in Vegas.

  88. - YNM - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 6:41 pm:

    Irish: yes there are public schools that are not organized. And the data does seem to indicate that state’s with strong teachers unions tend to show better student achievement.

    The small newspaper group’s, ummm, research was not necessarily balanced. And I would maintain the issues the raised had less to do with unions and more to do with bureaucracy and poor school administrators.

  89. - Disgusted - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 7:26 pm:

    Without the union I belong to, I would still have the work of 3 people (unfilled vacancies)but would not have had a raise in five years. Solidarity!!!

  90. - HappyToaster - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 7:56 pm:

    Last shop I was in all they did was grouse about the “Canadians”. Unwillingness of the rank and file to extend solidarity to those not white & male goes to explaining the decline of union power much better than anything Reagan or NAFTA ever did. Same for the antipathy towards education and state workers here. Solidarity with an asterisk.

  91. - Good for workers... - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 8:03 pm:

    I have worked for several labor unions and I can honestly say that every one of them did wonderful things for their members.

    My biggest problem with unions is how they treat their own staff. Union management basically slave drive union staffers, usually to the point of driving them from the labor movement altogether.

  92. - Soon to Retire - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 8:24 pm:

    Before Blogo managers didn’t need unions as we were treated fairly with same bennies, then Blogo came along and unions got biggest raises ever and non-union got nothing. I even was one of about 1500 that lost the vacation perk as Blogo called it , when union contracts came up in 2004 he did nothing to change the vacation perk , why , he wanted their support.

  93. - AM60640 - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 8:48 pm:

    It’s not fair to lump all unions together–some are dinosaurs, some are innovative (like SEIU that’s actually growing in membership nationally), some are terrible managers of their members money, others are model examples.

    Good unions-ones that are nimble, responsive to membership and not headed up by corrupt bosses will likely thrive but ones in the crosshairs of both bad corporate mangagement and leadership living in the past (like, say the US auto industry and the) will like die out.

    BTW–union numbers dwindling also have a lot to do with federal governmental pushes to stock NLRB in management’s favor. Reagan started it, Bush 1 piled on, Clinton “triangulated” with NAFTA and now W’s goons are trying to put the last nails in labor’s coffin.

  94. - AM60640 - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 8:49 pm:

    sorry-should finished that thought with the UAW.

  95. - freedom lover - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 9:10 pm:

    If unions had gotten their way in the past we wouldn’t have containers, truck lifts, trucks and other innovations in society. They are fighting to maintain the status quo.

    Illinois is quickly losing out to Right to Work States where workers are given the true freedom to choose if they want to be in a union or not. As an example, you only have to look at where all of the automobile plants have moved to in the past ten years….all to RTW states.

    Let freedom ring!

  96. - Florida - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 9:13 pm:

    Labor unions have served their time. They are part of the reason why are economy is plummeting and healthcare costs are out of control. Look at Michigan…it’s a mess began of the automakers unions. Go Walmart!

  97. - Skeeter - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 9:43 pm:

    Hey Freedom Lover,
    Have you BEEN to those “right to work” states?
    How are wages there?
    One step above Mexico, but that really doesn’t matter, since the companies are taking those jobs from “right to work” states and moving them across the border anyway.
    Workers given “true freedom”? What an idiotic statement. “True freedom” for you means living in squalor in “right to work” states like Georgia and Alabama.
    I will take life in Illinois over life in those states any day.
    And frankly, every time I see a plant in Georgia shut and shift jobs oversees, I laugh. Those people were happy to take lower wages to steal decent jobs from states like Ohio, New Jersey, Michigan, and Illinois. I sure don’t have any sympathy when companies find out that people in India, China or Mexico will work even cheaper.
    They had it coming.

  98. - Reformed - Tuesday, Jan 29, 08 @ 10:00 pm:

    Of the 310,000, how many are the private HOME DAYCARE providers that the SEIU and the Governor allowed to unionize so that the SEIU could scam these people out of union dues? HOME DAYCARE PROVIDERS! Why do they need a union. They employed by themselves!

  99. - Greg - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 7:41 am:

    Classy and accurate response as usual, Skeeter!

  100. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 8:12 am:

    Thanks Greg.
    Nice to see you supporting people who would steal good American jobs.
    You are one fine American.

  101. - mpkomara - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 9:08 am:

    I fell asleep before you could compare unions to medical school. Here is a quick comparison of the barriers of entry in question.

    First, the unions. An employer in a market without unions can freely replace labor, pay wages determined competitive by the market, etc. When faced with a union, he is no longer free to replace labor without incurring either the high cost of lawsuits or the inherent cost of finding available labor within the smaller pool of union members.

    If you are a hospital and you choose to employ a person who has not attended medical school, the costs occur when you provide poorer medical service and patients die of gangrene. You lose customers to other hospitals, you pay more in malpractice suits, you lose money. It’s worth more to an employer to choose from the pool of students who have finished medical school than to run a hospital of 21-year old U of I alums.

    The difference between the two barriers is that the choices posed to the two employers are of completely different nature– the unions have *forced* the first employer into assuming these higher costs, while the hospitals are free to choose these higher costs.

  102. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 9:18 am:

    Interesting MK.

    I thought hospitals hired doctors who have been through medical school because they were required to do so. The hospital does not have an option.

    In fact, an employer has far more of an option when it comes to hiring union labor. Don’t want union labor? Don’t sign the contract.

    To me, it looks like the barriers are far higher for the hospital.

    Now, I look forward to your post about those damn laws requiring that doctors obtain licenses.

  103. - ACH - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 9:54 am:

    Unions are the backbone of workers. Decent wages, adequate working conditions and a voice in the workplace are just the tip of the iceburg that Unions provide for their members.

  104. - Greg - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 3:24 pm:

    –You are one fine American.–

    Seriously, Skeeter, is that necessary?

    You have no idea who I am.

  105. - Greg - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 3:29 pm:

    Also, explain: “Nice to see you supporting people who would steal good American jobs.”

    As usual, you make up your opponent’s position and add a gratuitous insult…something you have consistently done for as long as I’ve read this blog. It’s irrational, offensive, and reflects poorly on you.

  106. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 3:37 pm:

    Hey Greg,

    The person supports “right to work.”

    “Right to work” had the impact of taking good union jobs — where American workers could reasonably support a family — and moving them south for much lower pay. That is a fact. It is what happened.

    Those jobs in Georgia paid much less than the jobs in Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, or Ohio. That is fact. Those good jobs were taken.

    The companies learned from the experience. That also is fact. Those Georgia jobs then went to Mexico or China or India, where people did the work for even less.

    That also is true.

    Now if you don’t like the impact of “right to work”, blame “right to work” advocates.

    If you think it is a good idea to take jobs which pay enough to support a family from those people and give them to people willing to work dirt cheap, then you and I really don’t seem to share the same American values.

    As an American, I think we should support American families and American jobs. If you think that reflects poorly on me, that is your problem.

  107. - Greg - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 3:44 pm:

    I didn’t say it reflected poorly on you. As usual, those are your words. didn’t say anything of the sort. You mocked my contribution to this country.

    I don’t lob ridiculous insults at you; I’d ask the same. Please stop.

  108. - Skeeter - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 3:49 pm:

    Let me get this right Greg:

    Even though you wrote “It’s irrational, offensive, and reflects poorly on you” you actually meant “I didn’t say it reflected poorly on you.”

    You are upset because, when you insulted me, I saw that as an endorsement of the person who’s views I had ripped?

    You actually intended just to insult me, without endorsing the position that I had commented on?

    And you wonder why I am confused.

    I thought when you ripped me, you were doing so to support a position, and not just ripping me. My bad.

  109. - Greg - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 3:50 pm:

    How did I insult you, Skeeter? I said that your insults reflected poorly on you.

  110. - Kevin Fanning - Wednesday, Jan 30, 08 @ 3:52 pm:

    Alright Skeeter and Greg, enough already.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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