One of the problems in understanding and dealing with unions is that most people are very misinformed.  They are lost in the past.  The images many relate to are  Jack Nicholson and Sylvester Stallone in the movies “Hoffa” and “FIST”.  They still think unions are absolutely necessary to “take care of the workin man”.   The same people often see business as a bunch of bullies that hire thugs to beat up the poor, mistreated employees of the union.  After all, isn’t that what Stallone and Nicholson portrayed about the union movement on the movie screen?  People assume that things haven’t changed and that the workers still struggle against the power structure of management.  It just isn’t that way anymore.  Not even close.  The pendulum has swung too far in favor of the unions!

Nicholson’s movie, “Hoffa” was produced almost twenty years ago – and it was about a character who gained notoriety over half a century ago!  Stallone’s movie “FIST”, about a Hoffa-like character, was produced in 1978 – thirty years ago!  Times have changed dramatically!  The government has stepped in with regulations that protect workers from the vast majority of the abuses unions corrected – and it has done so for both union and non-union employees.  Don’t get me wrong.  Some employers still abuse employees, but there are almost always remedies for those situations.  American business, in general, has become more fair, more tolerant and more employee friendly.  And as can be seen on the evening news these days, unions have become the ones who use “thugs”!

Most on both sides of current labor issues recognize that for years, unions performed a critical role in developing protections for working class people who really needed and deserved them.   But knowledgeable people who have put some effort into understanding what is going on in the business and labor arenas, know the work environment is much, much different from the “Hoffa days”.  You can’t compare the two times.  The pendulum has swung the other way and instead of protecting the worker, the unions are focused on greed and power.  The worker back then needed protection from business – but these days America needs protection from the unions.

Of course, the Unions don’t want you to believe that.  It works to their benefit to continue to have the public “misinformed” and sympathetic to causes they want you to see as “unjust”.   Let’s not forget that as much as unions laud his accomplishments and the strong-arm tactics he used, many of Hoffa’s efforts in the union movement were criminal.  He spent four years (of a thirteen year sentence) in jail for jury tampering, fraud and bribery before Nixon pardoned him in 1971 for political reasons!  And, as far as we know now,  Hoffa was murdered by organized crime in 1975 because they didn’t want him to regain the power they took during his temporary absence!

The labor movement fights to keep you from recognizing the truths that make them look bad.  Sound familiar?  It should.  It’s the same tactic politicians have relied upon for many, many years to pull the wool over your eyes.  Unions, if nothing else, are a very, very political body.  The less we know – the more they can get away with.  If we believe union members are treated like slave labor it’s good for the leaders of the labor movement.  If we aren’t aware that union wages and benefits now exceed public wages and benefits for the same work, it helps them perpetuate the “Hoffa myth” and allows them to keep us misinformed and sympathetic to their movement. 

It’s far from being an issues of just wages and benefits!  In general the public has absolutely no clue about how unions interfere with day-to-day common sense practices in manufacturing, the classroom, government and the service industries.  In some of our cities the teacher’s unions are so strong that teachers who are child molesters can’t be fired without going through a ridiculously expensive labor contract process that takes several years to complete while the offender collects full pay for sitting in rooms doing nothing.  Foreman on constructions sites can’t turn on light switches when they are the only one at the site without being subjected to endless grievances.  Buildings that serve no purpose can’t be sold by companies because labor contract clauses provide protection to a single worker in an obsolete position which serves no purpose.  The costs of these nonsensical work rules are huge.  Logic and common sense in the workplace are thrown out the window by a requirement to follow archaic clauses in the labor contract – clauses that sometimes baffle the union’s own members as much as they do management. 

Management deserved to have to deal with the unions in the past.  It had created the need for them by mis-treating employees and paying wages that people couldn’t survive.  The unions gained power that resulted in rights for workers that were legitimate and necessary.  But now the pendulum has swung way to far in organized labor’s favor.  If anything, unions have damaged America in more recent times.  They will swear it’s not the case but anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that they have almost driven the auto industry out of America on more than one occasion – and that’s only one example.

Now we have severe financial issues in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, California and New Jersey and most other states to serve as testimony to how much damage an overly powerful public employee union can cause.

Who’s paying the price for the efforts of the unions?  You and I, of course!  Unions were a large part of the reason we almost lost some of our greatest automobile manufacturers at the onset of the recession.  Obama certainly didn’t pay for the auto bailout from his own pockets.  You did!  And the quality of education in our organized school systems didn’t drop dramatically because we’ve had a run of bad weather.  School boards aren’t permitted to manage their teachers in a meaningful way anymore.  They can’t fire them when they prove to be incompetent and they can’t reward them for doing exemplary jobs.

We needed unions in the past century to protect workers and establish decent wages and working conditions.  They accomplished that.  Now they are focusing on “indecent” wages and working conditions that are far better than received by others in America doing the same work.   They are driving some states toward bankruptcy, driving businesses out of others to other states or even other countries.

It’s time for a “re-set”.

Here are a few things you need to understand about unions:

  1. The Unions fight for wages and benefits that are “higher” – not ones that are “fair”.
  2. Unions do not want companies to become more productive.  To unions, increased productivity is a bad thing.  If you believe it when they tell you they are working to make the company “more productive” or to improve the education of our children – don’t believe it!  They don’t!  It’s not even their job. 
  3. Unions will always push for work rules that require more union members – not greater efficiency.  They despise any efficiency improvements if they have the least bit of potential to cut back on the number of workers.
  4. Public employee unions are dangerous because politicians generally don’t have the will to stand up to them and many rely on their votes.
  5. Private business has a natural boundary limiting union wages and benefits.  If wages go too high, businesses can’t compete and go bankrupt.  Government has no such limits.  It can always gouge the taxpayer for more – unless we refuse to stand for it!

It’s time for America to wake up.  Forty-five states are going bankrupt and one of the main issues the governors must deal with is union contracts with excessive wages and benefits.  Don’t bury your head in the sand or automatically support the unions because you haven’t kept up with the times!  At least look into the issue honestly.  If you fail to do so it will be at your own peril!  Keep your eye on the pendulum!

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