August 30, 2007

Salute to Unions

Here is a post for Labor Day.

Many years ago I worked at a factory that employed over 600 people. I worked in what the union guys would have called management. After I left, I still had many friends that worked there, both blue and white collar. New owners had purchased the plant. They called in the Union President, and officials from the Union local. The company explained they were losing money. They asked for a relaxation of job classifications and concessions on benefits. At the time the union workers had a $5 copay and paid ZERO towards their health/dental/vision insurance. This was as little as 10 years ago, so it was a sweet deal even then. The company did not ask for wage concessions -- just pay some towards the insurance. A week later the Union President came back and said no to everything. He would not even budge on the job classification issue which would have improved production. The company promised no lay-offs would occur with job changes, but it might over time reduce the total workers by five or six (out of 600). The company promised this reduction would come through attrition. The Union said NO.

The next week the company announced that the plant would close and the production would move to a plant in another state. That factory had been there for more than 30 years. The wages were in the 12-15 dollar range plus benies. The jobs were gone. Never to come back. The average age of union workers in that plant was over 40. Few found jobs that could compete with what they were being paid. The salary employees lost their jobs because a schmuck with no education thought he was a big-time negotiator. He was heard to lament later " I thought they were joking when they told me one of the plants was going to close". He told a friend of mine the reason he wanted to President of the Union was that he got first choice on overtime, and then could not work, claiming he was doing union business. "I get paid OT for drinking coffee and shooting the shit." he crowed.

So this labor day when you think about unions remember the jobs they have cost. Remember the added thousands in the price of your car because of the unions. Ask where the American steel industry has gone. Thank the unions for the destruction of the textile industry.

Unions did much for the working man. They had a vital role in the past. Now I wonder if they do more good or harm?

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