Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Discuss whatever you want here ... movies, books, recipes, politics, beer, wine, TV ... everything except classical music.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply

Are unions useful or hurtful to society

a. they represent a form of "regulation" which historically pre-dates federal or state regulation.
1
20%
b. they lower a country's competitive edge, world-wide.
4
80%
c. they gravitate to the more profitable groups and neglect the exploited ones.
0
No votes
d. the whole "labor vs. capital" idea was bankrupt to begin with.
0
No votes
e. Adam Smith wrote nothing about them.
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 5

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by piston » Wed Mar 10, 2010 8:14 pm

Seriously, do they serve a socially useful purpose?
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

BWV 1080
Posts: 4451
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 10:05 pm

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by BWV 1080 » Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:00 pm

well e is wrong

“We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate…Masters, too, sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy till the moment of execution; and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people” In contrast, when workers combine, “the masters..never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combination of servants, labourers, and journeymen.” - A Wealth of Nations

Barry
Posts: 10230
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 3:50 pm

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Barry » Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:02 pm

As with so many things, I'm not sure it makes sense to throw a single blanket over all unions and say whether they're good or bad. But if that's what you want, I think they went from being largely a good thing in the early days, when workers were treated like dirt to doing more harm than good in more recent times. And I'm sure it was a gradual change. It didn't happen over night.

I say that as a union employee, by the way. I've had some eye-opening experiences where I work. It's become apparent that it's virtually impossible for my company to fire anyone, no matter how much they deserve it. And it's the union that causes that. I know of several cases where employees were so irresponsible for so long, that it's hard to imagine anyone arguing that they deserved to keep their jobs. Yet they were able to win back their jobs, with back-pay after being fired, because the union's lawyers went to bat for them. The extent to which the company had to prove the misbehavior on the part of the employees was ridiculous based on what I heard. And now, those same employees are back to behaving just as irresponsibly as they were before, and the people who work in their departments are left to pick up the slack for them; which causes a lot of bitterness on their part. The strict seniority rules when it comes to lay-offs are also a problem. The company is forced to keep people who are frankly either terrible at their job or too old to still do them effectively, while letting go people who could do three and four times as much work, and do it better, than some of the people who are still there.

Looking at the larger issue, we just saw what happened with GM. The fact that their union contract mandated that they pay the full health care expenses for their retired employees had a lot to do with the financial difficulties the company was having. And we see the same thing in this part of the country over and over when it comes to government employee unions. The fact that those public employee unions have some of the most unbelievable sweetheart deals I've ever heard of means that the rest of us are left to pay more and state and local taxes. In Philadelphia, the mayor now wants to tax both trash collection and soda rather than facing off with the city employee unions. I'm also willing to bet that most of the jobs that are outsourced over seas were union jobs when they were here. Of course we all want to make a nice salary. But if paying those big salaries, and in some cases permanent benefits, will make it difficult for the company or government to stay afloat, aren't the unions defeating their own purpose?

So yes. I do think unions do a lot of damage in terms of killing the competitiveness of some companies and governments.

But as I alluded to in my first sentence above, it's not a completely black and white issue. I'm sure some of the unions out there are still necessary in certain instances. But on the whole, I don't think we're in danger of going back to the worker conditions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries if unions were to suddenly disappear. But since that's not going to be happen, it would be nice if they'd at least think longterm and not cut off their noses to spite their faces.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Jean
Posts: 313
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:09 pm

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Jean » Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:49 am

If you have ever belonged to a union and relied upon their support to resolve issues, you would know that they are very necessary. They serve an important purpose by giving the employee, who would ordinarily be a lonely insignificant and often disposable worker, a voice and some measure of power.
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. - Albert Einstein

I haven't got the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out - David Sedaris (Naked)

Barry
Posts: 10230
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 3:50 pm

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Barry » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:16 pm

I'd just like to add to my earlier comments that in the area of public education, teachers' unions are an unmitigated disaster who try to set up roadblocks at every corner to needed reforms.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:25 pm

Unions are archaic and obsolete in western societies where the majority of concerns that once motivated unions are now the subject of government agencies designed by and for unions. The fact that so many government employee unions are able to control candidates for public office to such a degree that only committed union candidates win and in turn jack up union pay and benefits. The UAW, SEIU, NEA, and AFSME/NTEU are lighting their funeral pyres in the aggressive posture of this administration. The civilized world can't be rid of them fast enough for me. Leave 'em to the third world that needs them.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Jean
Posts: 313
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:09 pm

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Jean » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:52 am

Corlyss, I could not disagree more. Do I recall correctly that you worked for the IRS?
I worked there for five years. I saw a lot of abuses of employees, particularly seasonal employees, that were stemmed only because on union intervention.

Further, when I was a kid I worked at GRand Union (a large chain of grocery stores like A&P or Piggly Wiggly...depending upon where you're from.) The part-time employee would have been thoroughly trounced on had there not been a union for these minimum wage earners.

There most defintely is still a vital role for unions in this country.
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. - Albert Einstein

I haven't got the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out - David Sedaris (Naked)

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by DavidRoss » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:45 am

Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Yes. Both.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:30 pm

Jean wrote:Corlyss, I could not disagree more.
Doesn't matter. They are doomed in western nations as a matter of economic evolution.
Do I recall correctly that you worked for the IRS?
I worked there for five years. I saw a lot of abuses of employees, particularly seasonal employees, that were stemmed only because on union intervention.
Jean, the problems with that cesspool beggar the imagination. I could tell you tales. One reason the union was so active there is because of the problems that beggar the imagination. The other reason is because the employees are public employees represented by an aggressive union that at one time was on the cutting edge of government employment relations. My take-away from the government employee union idea is that it is disatrous and never should have been agreed to in the early 1960s. Between the herculean effort it takes to get rid of non-performes in the government generally and the power of the unions, the government will always be stuck, to the tune of thousands if not hundreds of thousands, of under-performing employees to compensate for which more workers have to be hired. But you will be comforted to know that things will never change now. Too many vested interests. Just a little insight into the NTEU: I once inquired of my boss why it was that only the people who progressed to management in General Legal Services office were the ones from the personnel branch. He said it was because the Union was so important to the Service and its concerns paramount in the security of GLS that only people from that branch were considered suitable to represent the office to the IRS Chief Counsel and thence to the Treasury General Counsel. One of my earliest warnings that I needed to abandon that place as soon as possible.

Unions don't give a rip about their members, and are incredibly corrupt and self-destructive.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by piston » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:56 pm

Of course I stand with Jean on this one. Time and time again, history demonstrates that in order to remain competitive and "profitable" companies will do anything! Not unlike Jean, I witnessed some pretty brutal exploitation and, interestingly enough, it often occurs with small businesses, not the big corporations.

All it takes is a "desperate housewive" with delusions of grandeur to drive half a dozen hard-working individuals to the point of desperation. She wants diamonds, a winter vacation in the Caribbeans, an extended European tour during summer, and there you go! Six workers and their respective families are suffering the consequences of such foolishness. Oh, she's very religious! Helk, her brother is a Jesuit. And she loves opera! Because so many important people are in attendance.... And when she cruises to what used to be called Yugoslavia, what does she remember from this cultural immersion? Food, nothing else but food.

To sustain such a lifestyle, people with their own wives and children are working and are not getting the fruits of their labor.

Get a clue! There is exploitation all around us.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

Brendan

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Brendan » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:13 pm

Gave up on 'em when my own union (that of general public servants in Australia) worked against me (as an I.T. worker) in conditions, wages and tenure of employment. I had been a union representative, organiser and activist for years, and was organising the research and protest action against blanket I.T. outsourcing. Bad move, Brendan. Once I was "outsourced" - with full union collaboration with the government - I have despised them without reservation.

All PC talk and lining their own pockets (not to mention the scamble for pre-selection in Labor seats). Typical Left.
Last edited by Brendan on Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by piston » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:15 pm

Unfortunately, Brendan, unions are not always directing their energy in the "right" direction. But, then, neither are governments or private enterprises. I'm sure though that they're doing just fine in professional sports and among outstanding artists.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

Brendan

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Brendan » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:20 pm

When your own union sells you down the river (the fix was in, and I.T. workers were the unwilling sacrifice) it tends to personally rankle. I knew the government/employer was out to get me - and they said so, pretty much front up. It's the lies and backstabbing while preening themselves as champions of the "workers" that makes it worse with the vile scum of uinion filth, IMHO.

I can still recall the shock on the faces of most of the I.T. folk at the voting meeting when they realised that I was saying the truth - the vote was stacked/rigged against us by our own union, when we were trying to vote for industrial action to save our jobs, wages and conditions.

What better weapon for a modern union to have than the I.T. staff as militant acitvists! We didn't even have to strike, just work to rule (do no overtime/weekends) and everything would fall to bits. Yet the union sold us out in a heartbeat.

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by piston » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:27 pm

whatever happened to your employer? bounced back? gone further down?

I would say that any rhetoric is seldom rational when faced with hard realities.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

Brendan

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Brendan » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:44 pm

My employer of the day was the Australian Government. Their I.T. systems are now garbage (the Department I worked for, Immigration, is now implementing their new I.T. Sytems For People - which the folk I know who still work there are dreading). We did stuff with electronic visa applications and airline advanced passenger clearance in the 1980s that we (Immigration) can no longer do in 2010, even with all the improvements to technology. We did with bits of string and paper-clips (no internet!) what they can no longer do with $500-an-hour consultants, reliable global communications, outsourcing companies and teams of legal experts to enforce contracts instead of building systems internally.

But, ah, nostalgia! Anyone remember this? The guy who sings it, Dave Cousins, is now filthy rich as a capitalist involving franchise business ventures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdOCWUgwiWs

Now I'm a union man
Amazed at what I am
I say what I think
That the company stinks
Yes I'm a union man.

When we meet in the local hall
I'll be voting with them all
With a hell of a shout
It's "out brothers out!"
And the rise of the factory's fall.

Oh you don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
Till the day I die, till the day I die.

As a union man I'm wise
To the lies of the company spies
And I don't get fooled
By the factory rules
'Cause I always read between the lines.

And I always get my way
If I strike for higher pay
When I show my card
To the Scotland Yard
This what I say.

Oh you don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
Till the day I die, till the day I die.

Before the union did appear
My life was half as clear
Now I've got the power
To the working hour
And every other day of the year.

So though I'm a working man
I can ruin the government's plan
Though I'm not too hard
The sight of my card
Makes me some kind of superman.

Oh you don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
You don't get me I'm part of the union
Till the day I die, till the day I die.

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 13, 2010 3:09 am

piston wrote:Of course I stand with Jean on this one.
:shock: I"m shocked! Shocked.
Time and time again, history demonstrates that in order to remain competitive and "profitable" companies will do anything! Not unlike Jean, I witnessed some pretty brutal exploitation and, interestingly enough, it often occurs with small businesses, not the big corporations.
For every bad story like that, there's at least 6 or 7 good ones, not counting the fed up employees who go start their own businesses and do it better.
All it takes is a "desperate housewive" with delusions of grandeur to drive half a dozen hard-working individuals to the point of desperation. She wants diamonds, a winter vacation in the Caribbeans, an extended European tour during summer, and there you go! Six workers and their respective families are suffering the consequences of such foolishness. Oh, she's very religious! Helk, her brother is a Jesuit. And she loves opera! Because so many important people are in attendance.... And when she cruises to what used to be called Yugoslavia, what does she remember from this cultural immersion? Food, nothing else but food.
Cripes, Jacques! That's straight out of Dickens and the 19th Century. You're living in the fairy-tale world of the chronically aggrieved. That's not the standard. Hell, it might not even have been the standard when it was the standard!
To sustain such a lifestyle, people with their own wives and children are working and are not getting the fruits of their labor.

Get a clue! There is exploitation all around us.
Right! And most of it is coming from a government hell-bent on guaranteeing equality of outcomes: genteel poverty for everyone.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 13, 2010 3:32 am

Brendan wrote:When your own union sells you down the river (the fix was in, and I.T. workers were the unwilling sacrifice) it tends to personally rankle. I knew the government/employer was out to get me - and they said so, pretty much front up. It's the lies and backstabbing while preening themselves as champions of the "workers" that makes it worse with the vile scum of uinion filth, IMHO.
Most unions exist for the betterment of their leadership and the mobs for which they are the cash cows. Now that the Obama administration has ended the DoJ oversight of the teamsters, I'm waiting to see how quickly it takes them to hunt up their old mob allies and re-establish their fruitful relationship.

Here's the SOP for unions:
Obama’s labor initiative gives union leaders a blank check to commit fraud and engage in corruption by removing mandatory fiscal record keeping and reporting.

***The Department of Labor is revising the standard for disclosure that up to now had made mandatory reporting of potential conflicts of interest and itemized spending reports on expenses a necessary part of union practice.

Some union leaders have been quoted as saying that such detailed reporting is not necessary because there is very little corruption. Statistics from the Labor Department unfortunately still show that labor fraud and corruption remains rampant. From 2001-2008 there were 1,000 fraud-related indictments and 929 convictions. Between 2001 to 2005 there was a dramatic increase in the amount of ordered restitutions from $42.5 million to almost $200 million. Former Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, points out these figures represent significant evidence that ongoing and tight regulation is needed especially when one considers that union workers make up less than 8% of the total workforce and the enforcement resources of the government have been slashed since the Clinton years to very few investigators and prosecutors.

The law regulating unions is called the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act , also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, was enacted in 1959 after severe corruption was publicized in many prominent unions including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Longshoremen’s Association, and the United Mine Workers. Unions were subsequently required to hold secret elections regularly, maintain records available for review by members and the government, to develop fixed rules for membership, grievance, election and how they generally conducted their affairs.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) strongly supported the Obama campaign financially and organizationally . Many on the political scene say that without their money, influence, and “volunteers” Obama would not have won the Democratic nomination. ***

During the 1990’s SEIU leadership began to wrestle control of the union movement from the traditional leaders of the AFL-CIO whom they criticized for being too interested in politics and not enough in building membership. Since 2005, SEIU has been the lead voice for unions when they created the Change to Win Federation which essentially replaced the role of the older and now weaker AFL-CIO.

*** Several recent leaders of the SEIU were discovered to have been involved in corruption leading to their resignations. Tyrone Freeman, President of the Los Angeles local chapter was caught spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal use. Annelle Gradjeda, the former Executive Vice-President for the SEIU was “gifting” her boyfriend who was the former leader of another union tens of thousands of dollars. Finally when Rickman Jackson, the President of the Michigan SEIU, decided to get married in Hawaii he used union funds in addition to already using them to pay for his house. The discovery in his case also revealed he was receiving $200,000 a year for a fake job.

Critics of cutbacks in the budget of the Federal agency in charge of union oversight and prosecution of fraud say that relaxing reporting requirements will prevent future exposures of union leader malfeasance. The Center for Union Facts cites a 2004 Zogby poll that said 71% of union members want the government to do more to protect union members from corruption and supported detailed reporting.

Union corruption and fraud played a significant role in the decline of the labor movement of the United States. One would think that labor leaders would welcome more transparency and accountability on the part of labor leaders to assure union members and entice potential members that union membership will truly benefit the worker. Unions can potentially be advocates for the lowly educated but hard working workforce of America’s working class against manipulation. But without regulation and oversight this same group can just as easily be abused by their labor bosses as their job bosses. * * * deregulation of union leadership will put the leaderships interests ahead of the membership.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Madame
Posts: 3552
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2005 2:56 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Madame » Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:30 am

I've seen both sides, and the thing they had in common was total lack of concern for the long-term health of the organization, it was all about abuse of personal power. Employees are assets, and to destroy the good ones is the same as driving a forklift into the side of one of its products. On the other hand, non-performing employees are a drain on the company and make it worse for those who do perform.

My parents both had good union jobs, beginning in the mid-50's. BUT they brought a good work ethic with them, they worked hard and were reliable, more than willing to do it because they never had it so good. But there were those in both of their workplaces who did shirk, abused the system, and the company's hands were tied. Productive workers were intimidated and harassed for doing too much work.

The teachers in our school district went on strike over a pittance in the late 1970's, and the music teacher didn't agree with it and went to work anyway. When the teachers returned, they punished her by boycotting the music programs and pressuring their students to do the same. She threw up her hands and retired the next year. My son's middle-school teacher spent the first week back stirring the kids up about what a rotten deal the district gave them in their settlement. He could have cared less about the kids' educations. Picketing teachers would chase the substitute teachers down the freeway, putting everyone in danger, in their frenzy. One man threw himself across the windshield of an elderly woman's car as she drove into the parking lot. The police were called in both cases. Nothing happened.

There is a mob mentality in some unions which says, you join in our conflict, or else. Talk about abuse, far more than anything they experienced in the work place.

They never regained what they had lost going out on strike, and they never learned that lesson. In fact, some companies benefitted financially from not having to pay their wages during that period, especially those with strike clauses in customer contracts.

On the other hand, I had a whiz-kid manager who spouted against unions because they promote mediocracy :)

It's crazy-making, I tell ya!

Madame
Posts: 3552
Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2005 2:56 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Madame » Sat Mar 13, 2010 8:00 am

Another memory ...

My dad was re-roofing his house in his spare time, and a neighbor was helping him. When we had a few days of hard rain, they covered it up until it cleared. I was home alone one day when a man came to the door and demanded to know who was doing the roofing. I told him my dad was. He wanted to know if anyone was helping him, and I told him that our neighbor was. He became very aggressive and wanted to know how much my dad was paying him, was he a member of the roofers' union, and of course I had no idea. Then he tore into me, saying you tell your dad that roofing is considered union work and he better not have hired some scab. I was shaking after he left.

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26867
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Mar 13, 2010 8:28 am

Madame wrote:Another memory ...

My dad was re-roofing his house in his spare time, and a neighbor was helping him. When we had a few days of hard rain, they covered it up until it cleared. I was home alone one day when a man came to the door and demanded to know who was doing the roofing. I told him my dad was. He wanted to know if anyone was helping him, and I told him that our neighbor was. He became very aggressive and wanted to know how much my dad was paying him, was he a member of the roofers' union, and of course I had no idea. Then he tore into me, saying you tell your dad that roofing is considered union work and he better not have hired some scab. I was shaking after he left.
As a military musician, my father was ineligible to join the unions (this has since changed) and always had to stay one step ahead of them when he worked moonlighting gigs. If the union discovered that the place was paying non-union musicians, even if it was union scale, and even if they would have joined the union if they could, they would be forced to stop playing there and could get into disciplinary trouble with the service. (It was a Catch 22, you see.)

On the other hand, the last government contract I worked for had no paid sick leave, not even for professional and management-level employees. You read that right: No paid sick leave. In order to accumulate sick leave it was necessary to put in advance comp time, meaning you had to work a total of an extra day to take a day. How did they get away with it? A loophole, and no union protection. Direct labor contracts are almost always awarded on the basis of lowest cost, and if you can lower your bid by not offering your employees sick leave, then that's what you'll do.

In spite of the fact that everyone has one or more union horror stories and you can find more of them from reading the news over a period of years, I think we would do well to remember that management didn't organize to address the abuses of unions, but rather the other way around. Quality of worker life for the hired help beyond getting the most for the least is not an inherent concern of business, and as long as individuals are holding the living of other individuals over their head in an us-them fashion there is going to be some need for people to organize to safeguard their own interests. People who simply want to eliminate unions because they are frustrated by abuses are like people who want to reduce government to thimble-size because, you know, it's just so annoying that it spends so much money but still doesn't work perfectly. (Of course, I'm not implying that they tend to be the same people. :twisted: ) If you want a de-unionized micro-society, work for a one-tenth-of-one-percent club like the Instituted for Advanced Study or Bell Labs. Don't have the qualifications? As Ronald Reagan used to say, "Well....."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by piston » Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:39 am

Speaking of Ronald Reagan, guess in what capacity he first really made a name for himself (and first met Nancy)? Apparently, unions are useful when they serve one's purpose and harmful when they no longer do so! People sitting on a comfortable retirement fund -- an idea originally advocated by labor unions and frequently negotiated on behalf of retirees by such unions-- can be critical of them now that they're no longer useful....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by DavidRoss » Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:15 am

piston wrote:Speaking of Ronald Reagan, guess in what capacity he first really made a name for himself (and first met Nancy)? Apparently, unions are useful when they serve one's purpose and harmful when they no longer do so! People sitting on a comfortable retirement fund -- an idea originally advocated by labor unions and frequently negotiated on behalf of retirees by such unions-- can be critical of them now that they're no longer useful....
Most folks know that RR was President of the Screen Actors Guild, in which capacity he began to gain the management experience that eventually qualified him to serve as Chief Executive in the White House. As with most people, RR's youthful idealism was tempered by experience and wisdom as he grew older and he became more practical and conservative as he matured.

As for your claim about retirement--can you support that, or did you pull it out of thin air? In the U.S., public pensions began in the colonial era and the first private pension plans originated with the railroads in 1875. See http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/shor ... history.us
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by piston » Sat Mar 13, 2010 11:24 am

Wow, Mr. Ross! Why is it so hard to state that Mr. Reagan first made his political reputation as a union man? Your flowery rhetoric notwithstanding, that is the fact.

As for the early impetus for pension plans, it serves little historical purpose to merely identify the first one of them if it never proved representative of reality for generations to come. The labor movement generated the first impulse during the Progressive Era and, then, the federal government set the example for private companies by implementing its own employee pension plans during the Great Depression. All "liberal" stuff, I'm afraid.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/articl ... tml?cat=55
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by DavidRoss » Sat Mar 13, 2010 12:06 pm

piston wrote:Wow, Mr. Ross! Why is it so hard to state that Mr. Reagan first made his political reputation as a union man? Your flowery rhetoric notwithstanding, that is the fact.
I neither denied nor contradicted that and cannot figure out how you could possibly read something so contrary into my statement. In fact, I acknowledged RR's union leadership as something very well known and not at all surprising. As for flowery rhetoric, there is none of that in my straightforward statement that his experience leading SAG contributed directly to his eventual qualification to hold the office of President of the United States.
piston wrote:As for the early impetus for pension plans, it serves little historical purpose to merely identify the first one of them if it never proved representative of reality for generations to come. The labor movement generated the first impulse during the Progressive Era and, then, the federal government set the example for private companies by implementing its own employee pension plans during the Great Depression. All "liberal" stuff, I'm afraid.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/articl ... tml?cat=55
You're shifting the ground. You claimed that the idea of retirement funds originated with labor unions. I questioned that, asking for sources for your claim and providing a source to historical information contradicting it. Is it factually true or not?

My only dog in this hunt is trying to sniff out the truth. When you made your claim I thought, "Hmmm, I didn't know that," and so I googled the issue to learn more. The first three sources all said the same thing: that private pension plans in the U.S. originated with the railroads in the second half of the 19th Century. (I presume you recognize the interchangeability in this context of "pension plans" and "retirement funds.")

So, did they or didn't they? Is your claim true or false? If true, please be considerate enough to support it. If false, please be responsible enough to acknowledge it.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by piston » Sat Mar 13, 2010 12:36 pm

Oh, I am not inconsiderate, sir. But I can see where this is heading already. Yes, the "original idea" can be attributed to railway companies at a time when the Knights of Labor were advocating industry-wide unionism, in distinction to trade-oriented unionism. Nevertheless, as a social movement to improve society at large, the source I referred you to states:
In order to begin this investigation, it is first helpful to consider a broad history of the corporate pension fund and its origins. Gross (2000) in his examination of public employee pension funds notes that these funds were developed in response to a growing concern about family economic well being in the early twentieth century. According to this author, growing social concern about the need for providing workers and their families with financial support during times of change—i.e. retirement, death or disability—became an integral part of labor movements by 1915.
But if we are to get legalistic about terminology then I'll make sure to submit drafts of my posts to a lawyer first....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by DavidRoss » Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:00 pm

piston wrote:Oh, I am not inconsiderate, sir. But I can see where this is heading already. Yes, the "original idea" can be attributed to railway companies at a time when the Knights of Labor were advocating industry-wide unionism, in distinction to trade-oriented unionism. Nevertheless, as a social movement to improve society at large, the source I referred you to states:
In order to begin this investigation, it is first helpful to consider a broad history of the corporate pension fund and its origins. Gross (2000) in his examination of public employee pension funds notes that these funds were developed in response to a growing concern about family economic well being in the early twentieth century. According to this author, growing social concern about the need for providing workers and their families with financial support during times of change—i.e. retirement, death or disability—became an integral part of labor movements by 1915.
But if we are to get legalistic about terminology then I'll make sure to submit drafts of my posts to a lawyer first....
The source you cited is specifically concerned with the history of the development of public employee pension funds--as the citation in the excerpt you quoted above specifies (emphasis added by me). The same source, Gross, states that concern about providing for workers' retirement "became an integral part of labor movements by 1915" (emphasis also added)--forty years after American Express offered the first private pension plan for their employees and by which time hundreds of other companies had followed suit. See http://www.investmentsandincome.com/ret ... plans.html

Where this is heading is where I always seek to go: to the objective "truth" insofar as it is knowable from a rational assessment of the known facts. This has nothing to do with "getting legalistic about terminology," but only with improving our understanding of the world we live in by learning more about it. The facts I've uncovered so far, as reported by the sources I've linked to, suggest that employee retirement plans originated rather differently than you claim. If you have sources for facts supporting your claim, I would like to see them. My own searching hasn't uncovered them, so your help would be appreciated.

Thanks!
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:16 pm

DavidRoss wrote:
piston wrote:Speaking of Ronald Reagan, guess in what capacity he first really made a name for himself (and first met Nancy)? Apparently, unions are useful when they serve one's purpose and harmful when they no longer do so! People sitting on a comfortable retirement fund -- an idea originally advocated by labor unions and frequently negotiated on behalf of retirees by such unions-- can be critical of them now that they're no longer useful....
Most folks know that RR was President of the Screen Actors Guild,
A lot of folks don't know something I heard a number of years ago: portraits of all of SAG's former presidents line the halls of their HQ offices, save one: Reagan. And yet Reagan is the only, count 'em, only, President of the United States of America ever to have been a union president, never mind the president of such a picayune outfit as SAG. I recall there was some sense from the conversation that as long as breath remained in SAG's organizational body, it would never, never, never put Reagan's portrait on its walls. Seems kinda silly, if you ask me, to behave that way, esp. for such a popular president.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Barry
Posts: 10230
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 3:50 pm

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Barry » Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:18 pm

piston wrote:Speaking of Ronald Reagan, guess in what capacity he first really made a name for himself (and first met Nancy)? Apparently, unions are useful when they serve one's purpose and harmful when they no longer do so! People sitting on a comfortable retirement fund -- an idea originally advocated by labor unions and frequently negotiated on behalf of retirees by such unions-- can be critical of them now that they're no longer useful....
He also made his name as a Democrat. What can be said other than the man learned from experience and got wiser with age. :wink:
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26867
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Mar 13, 2010 3:51 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
piston wrote:Speaking of Ronald Reagan, guess in what capacity he first really made a name for himself (and first met Nancy)? Apparently, unions are useful when they serve one's purpose and harmful when they no longer do so! People sitting on a comfortable retirement fund -- an idea originally advocated by labor unions and frequently negotiated on behalf of retirees by such unions-- can be critical of them now that they're no longer useful....
Most folks know that RR was President of the Screen Actors Guild,
A lot of folks don't know something I heard a number of years ago: portraits of all of SAG's former presidents line the halls of their HQ offices, save one: Reagan. And yet Reagan is the only, count 'em, only, President of the United States of America ever to have been a union president, never mind the president of such a picayune outfit as SAG. I recall there was some sense from the conversation that as long as breath remained in SAG's organizational body, it would never, never, never put Reagan's portrait on its walls. Seems kinda silly, if you ask me, to behave that way, esp. for such a popular president.
He got an airport named after him after busting the ATC union. That'll tell you something. :wink:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Barry
Posts: 10230
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 3:50 pm

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Barry » Sat Mar 13, 2010 3:57 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
piston wrote:Speaking of Ronald Reagan, guess in what capacity he first really made a name for himself (and first met Nancy)? Apparently, unions are useful when they serve one's purpose and harmful when they no longer do so! People sitting on a comfortable retirement fund -- an idea originally advocated by labor unions and frequently negotiated on behalf of retirees by such unions-- can be critical of them now that they're no longer useful....
Most folks know that RR was President of the Screen Actors Guild,
A lot of folks don't know something I heard a number of years ago: portraits of all of SAG's former presidents line the halls of their HQ offices, save one: Reagan. And yet Reagan is the only, count 'em, only, President of the United States of America ever to have been a union president, never mind the president of such a picayune outfit as SAG. I recall there was some sense from the conversation that as long as breath remained in SAG's organizational body, it would never, never, never put Reagan's portrait on its walls. Seems kinda silly, if you ask me, to behave that way, esp. for such a popular president.
He got an airport named after him after busting the ATC union. That'll tell you something. :wink:
Not to mention what if I recall correctly is the largest federal office building (although it is also used for non-governmental purposes) in D.C. after he campaigned against big government all those years.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

Ricordanza
Posts: 1878
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:57 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:Unions are archaic and obsolete in western societies where the majority of concerns that once motivated unions are now the subject of government agencies designed by and for unions.
There's a kernel of truth in your assertion that some of these concerns are now addressed by government agencies, such as OSHA, NLRB, Wage and Hour Division of Dept. of Labor, etc. But conservatives like yourself are constantly seeking to weaken or eliminate these agencies. One of the reasons that unions are still needed is to counter these efforts, and to ensure that where there are government agencies aimed at better working conditions and improved living standards, such agencies are preserved and strengthened.

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:11 am

Ricordanza wrote: But conservatives like yourself are constantly seeking to weaken or eliminate these agencies. One of the reasons that unions are still needed is to counter these efforts, and to ensure that where there are government agencies aimed at better working conditions and improved living standards, such agencies are preserved and strengthened.
Unions are so consistently and determinedly self-destructive that they have accomplished far more than we pro-business, pro-growth, pro-prosperity folks could have ever managed all by our lonesomes. Politics 101: never interfere with your enemy when he is in the process of self-destructing. The 1987-2008 period saw the virtual collapse of union strength except in the government sector as technology and pro-growth policies delivered one of the greatest periods of economic expansion and prosperity, not just to Americans but world-wide via globalization. Coincidence? I don't think so. You want to see gifts that unions keep on giving? Look at Europe's sclerotic, lethargic, uncompetitive economies with their policies tightly bound up in inert labor markets and designed unemployment to control inflation. A pox on such debilitating arrangements! With the increase in the knowledge based economy and the growth in professional jobs and classifications and the off-loading of dead-end unskilled manufacturing labor jobs, unions will virtually disappear in the next 100 years. From somewhere beyond the vale I'll be smiling on the day the last of them folds up and turns their "second" set of books over to the organized crime prosecutors.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:15 am

jbuck919 wrote:He got an airport named after him after busting the ATC union. That'll tell you something. :wink:
"He" didn't do that. It was the Republican Congress post 1995. I will grant you that there ought to be a mandated 50 yr waiting period before naming public buildings for politicians. That would prevent such abmoninations as the John Murtha Air Port.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

living_stradivarius
Posts: 6724
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 9:41 pm
Location: Minnesnowta
Contact:

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by living_stradivarius » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:44 am

DavidRoss wrote:
piston wrote:Speaking of Ronald Reagan, guess in what capacity he first really made a name for himself (and first met Nancy)? Apparently, unions are useful when they serve one's purpose and harmful when they no longer do so! People sitting on a comfortable retirement fund -- an idea originally advocated by labor unions and frequently negotiated on behalf of retirees by such unions-- can be critical of them now that they're no longer useful....
Most folks know that RR was President of the Screen Actors Guild, in which capacity he began to gain the management experience that eventually qualified him to serve as Chief Executive in the White House. As with most people, RR's youthful idealism was tempered by experience and wisdom as he grew older and he became more practical and conservative as he matured.

As for your claim about retirement--can you support that, or did you pull it out of thin air? In the U.S., public pensions began in the colonial era and the first private pension plans originated with the railroads in 1875. See http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/shor ... history.us
There may be a link between the inception of private pensions and the proliferation public pension plans.
US public pensions gained prominence in the wake of the Civil War as enrollment mechanisms and payouts increased drastically over the same period private pensions began to spread. The idea that US war veterans were entitled to compensation in the form of pensions became a matter of patriotism... Teddy Roosevelt made a big deal out of it and so did his distant cousin FDR several decades later. It wasn't long before the line between servicemen and civilians blurred when it came to the idea of universal entitlement to pensions.
Image

DavidRoss
Posts: 3384
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 7:05 am
Location: Northern California

Re: Are unions useful or harmful to society?

Post by DavidRoss » Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:47 am

living_stradivarius wrote:There may be a link between the inception of private pensions and the proliferation public pension plans.
US public pensions gained prominence in the wake of the Civil War as enrollment mechanisms and payouts increased drastically over the same period private pensions began to spread. The idea that US war veterans were entitled to compensation in the form of pensions became a matter of patriotism... Teddy Roosevelt made a big deal out of it and so did his distant cousin FDR several decades later. It wasn't long before the line between servicemen and civilians blurred when it came to the idea of universal entitlement to pensions.
Seems likely, based on the very little I've learned about this in the past day or two. Pensions were first granted in the Colonial period for military service. If veterans' pensions in the wake of the civil war fueled a growing sense of public responsibility for those who had served their country, it's reasonable to expect the same value to crop up in the private sector, and the time frame sure fits: ten years between the end of the war in 1865 and the first private pension plan in 1875.

Have you found any information regarding the role of unions in originating private pensions?
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

Image

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 19 guests