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View Diary: What's the Deal With Unions Anyway? (103 comments)

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  •  I appreciate your commentary (7+ / 0-)

    and questions. To answer your first question: "Why aren't people lining up to join?"
    All you have to do is read the last paragraph I wrote. If you received free health insurance, why would you voluntarily pay for it? People aren't lining up because they are being told they don't have to in order to benefit. They are walking into a work environment that has already benefitted from the work unions have done to make it better.

    And to your second inquiry regarding unions only supporting union members: This would be a convenient option however you can not single employees out when improving the quality of their factory or work environment. Everyone is going to benefit. The improvements are made to the environment as a whole. You can not exclude one person or several from a company's policy of overtime just as you cannot give one employee a holiday and not the rest.

    •  These are completely fair points (1+ / 0-)
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      It almost seems like you can divide the benefits gained from union membership into tangible and intangible benefits.

      Tangible benefits would be things like higher pay, pensions and retirement, health plans, vacation days, representation with management, etc. These are things that can be easily quantified and negotiated for. I don't see what the problem would be in contracting separately with union and non-union employees for these sorts of benefits. Something like, if you're in the union you get this much additional pay, these extra vacation days and so on because they were negotiated for you, and if you're not in the union you don't get those but you don't have to pay dues. Except, of course, that that's illegal. One possible workaround might be to offer a lot of these benefits directly through the union without involving the company at all (and to my knowledge this is already frequently done).

      Intangible benefits would be the benefits to the workplace as a whole from union activities. Things like having a reasonable work week, a safe working environment, and the knowledge that complaints will be addressed. This is where the "free rider" problem comes in, and I do see the point that non-union members receive these benefits without paying for them.

      I wonder, though, how many of these intangibles are already addressed by existing legislation and regulations. Is the presence of a union at a particular company the reason that company has good intangible benefits, or is it the fact that unions have fought for those things nationwide for the last century and they've become accepted practices at all companies?

      This might be a big part of the reason for the decline of unions. They still do a good job of fighting for tangible benefits, but on the intangible side, most of the big battles have already been won. If someone looks at the benefits a union can provide, and decides that they don't make sense financially, there really isn't much of a point in joining. Hence the desire for right-to-work.

      •  "most of the big battles have already been won." (9+ / 0-)

        Except if Republicans have their way, they won't stay "won".

        “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

        by ahumbleopinion on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 07:40:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I live and work in FL, an "RTW" state. Wages here (0+ / 0-)

        suck, along with working conditions, and both are getting steadily worse. Because the mass of Big Bidness is so much greater, with a Red Lectroid Legislature and for decades a Red Lectroid governator. He is a REAL "ScottDog," no half-measures about it. http://www.figmentfly.com/...

        Your restatement of what "right to work" means does not begin to capture the "if you want to eat, you'll take whatever you are offered" mentality of the Kochists who propound RTW as something "fair."

        Some union leaderships have gone off into their own form of highly privileged LaLaLand, gotten in bed with the Kleptocratic Capitalists, and sought special favors not for the general welfare but for their own tax scams and pension thievery. It's the nature of the human beast to be corrupt if the opportunity allows. That's no reason to denigrate and discard the gathering together of people who just want to do an honest day's work for a living wage and a chance to down tools and rest for a few years before they die.

        Do you have a plain, simple statement of your position on unions as good, bad, or indifferent?

        "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

        by jm214 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:52:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  More on tangibles (0+ / 0-)

      In my experience, companies very often do single out employees for benefits. I don't work in a unionized company, so I don't know if unions change this, but in my company, employees are forbidden from discussing pay and benefits with each other. There is a standard amount of vacation time offered, but it is frequently increased as an incentive for new hires. There are also raises based on performance and such.

      What I'm getting at is that differential treatment between employees exists and is quantifiable. There are a ton of illegitimate reasons for doing this--gender, age, etc.--but I could see union membership as a legitimate one. You can ask your company for benefits, but they won't give them to you because you don't have the strength of a union negotiating on your behalf. If you get fired, don't expect the union to come save you.

      At any rate, I am completely against requiring unions to represent people who do not pay dues. That isn't fair on any level.

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