Home Budget, Economy In Defense of Unions: a Real American institution

In Defense of Unions: a Real American institution


( – promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

So, you say, unions have lost their purpose in the U.S. Unions are invalid, corrupt, and a drag on the U.S. economy.

You show me charts, graphs, and figures about the inefficiencies of unions and their detrimental effect on business growth. But have you heard the stories about how unions have saved the middle class in America? Do you care to know that thousands, even millions, of hard-working Americans have a stable job that won’t be sent overseas or slashed so top executives can make windfall profits?

There is a gap in the libertarian and conservative discourse regarding the pros and cons of unionized workers, with the latter taking the wholly disproportionate focus of these individuals attention and vitriol.

I will be the first to point out the many flaws that many different unions in the U.S. have, but do we simply throw the baby out with the bathwater? No of course not.

My father is a member of the Communication Workers of America and a retired member of the Air Force. If you mean to tell me that my father and his family do not deserve respite from the tumultuousness nature of our economy after all of his hard work then the U.S. has surely lost its way.  

Those who argue against the existence of unions claim to want innovation, entrepreneurship, and a reduction of red tape. Unions, it’s argued, stifle all of these desires. But in your thinking, you only see yourselves and not the bigger picture that is the social whole.

I value the rights of individuals just as much as anyone, but I also realize that a republic lives and dies by the willingness of its citizens to sacrifice for one another and the social good from time to time.

Unions are not the cause of recessions, depressions, or bankruptcies. Unions have simply become a convenient bogeyman to brush all of our economy’s problems onto.

Unions, just like any other institution, can lose some of its original meaning after successive generations step into positions of power. But the goals and purposes of unions still retain a vastly important place in our society, now maybe more so than in many years past.

Having a life-raft on a tumultuous ocean is not a crime and it is not an incentive to wreck the ship. The life-raft can be the biggest incentive to work hard and live without the constant fear of drowning.

The ultimate issue is not about innovation, entrepreneurship, or cutting red tape. It’s about the lives of real people, and how well they can live their lives in the wealthiest country our planet has ever witnessed.  

  • glennbear

    I retired from a public safety career in NJ four years ago and moved to rural VA and was quite surprised at the distaste for unions down here. For a period of time in my career I was a vice president for the largest public safety union in NJ and saw how the union benefited not only it’s membership but also the general public. One of our proudest moments was when the governor signed legislation we had lobbied for giving our officers the right to carry weapons off duty and make arrests. To paraphrase the governor at the time, “As I sign this bill, I am making NJ a safer place by putting 4,000 more sworn law enforcement officers on our streets.”

        In my opinion the traditional distaste for unions in VA and other southern states dates back to plantation days and slave labor. The plantation owners (corporations) had total control over their slaves (non unionized labor). This power continued post emancipation since plantations were still holding all the cards. Those who claim to be “red neck and proudly anti union” should read some history about how the term “red neck” was used by the PA miners who were attempting to organize and wore red bandannas as a sign of solidarity.

        In my own family my grandfather was a union activist at a wire weaving mill in the north which ironically made products for the non union southern textile mills. At one point they shut down the mill to protest sweat shop conditions which caused the mayor of the town to pressure the company owners to improve conditions before the town suffered economic disaster. My late father was in the Army Air Force in WW II and a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross. Several times during his white collar career in wholesale drug companies he had to change employers as companies closed when they were unwilling to deal with Teamster organized labor in their warehouses. As can be seen my family has seen “both sides of the union coin” but my father always supported my union activities.

        Locally I saw the effects of non unionized law enforcement a few years ago when the local county sheriff was opposed for reelection by a retired state trooper who was backed by several deputies. Within weeks after winning reelection the incumbent sheriff announced the layoff of several deputies who coincidentally had worked on his opponent’s campaign. This race is taking place again this year with the same opponent and deputies are too intimidated to actively participate. This is democracy ?

        The term “right to work state” should be analyzed beyond the fact that it bans “closed shops”. It also gives employers tremendous leverage over workers trying to improve working conditions when they do so at imminent risk of summary dismissal. This power is exponentially increased when unemployment is high and jobs are scarce. To be totally accurate the term should be “Right to disregard human dignity in our quest to maximize sacrosanct profits state”  

       As has been said above, over the years there has been union abuses but I maintain that employer abuse is much more prevalent. The organized labor opponents like to use the pejorative image of a cigar smoking, organized crime connected “union boss” sucking money out of free enterprise but this is highly inaccurate. The executive board of the union I helped lead was composed of working cops who received no compensation for their union work beyond lunch when we held an executive board meeting and hotel rooms at our annual convention. I daresay this pales in comparison to the “perks” enjoyed by corporate officers at the expense of their workers.