Dead weight seems to be a given in most workplace situations. With the union the dead weight is safe and supervisory incompetence is the norm. (Claims of manager incompetence can be answered with claims of union disgruntlement)
In the union your consideration theoretically comes from your seniority, where it’s theoretically merit in the other world. In practice it’s a lot more arbitrary in both.
In the non union world the dead weight and the incompetent perceive themselves as being threatened by the ambitious and intelligent workers. In the union the dead weight think the ambitious and intelligent workers are trying to make them look bad.
In both places working too hard and doing too much makes duffers and twits worry. In both places if you work over and above it begins to be taken for granted
With no union, there’s nothing to protect the duffers from some ambitious manager when a worker shows they can do the work of 3 or 4 of them… The manager may ditch all of them and keep the hard worker and there’s your new normal.
In the union, on the other hand, the dead weight threatens the whole union when someone comes along and claims the dead weight justifies ditching the union and bringing in low paid contractors to save money.
But it’s harder to dislodge a union than it is to ditch non union workers. This sets up an interesting conflict since more and more jobs are non union. In a workplace where competence and ambition are a threat, they’ll hire only non-threatening people. Eventually a situation like that is bound to deteriorate.