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why we need unions

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  • Center Left Democrat
    Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    My dad was a union man.

    He worked for the United States Post Office from 1956 until his retirement in 1976, and his postal wages were high enough to allow our family to live a comfortable, but not lavish, lifestyle. To a very large degree, my mother was a "stay at home" mom, as were the mothers of most of the people that I associated with.

    Union membership in this country peaked at roughly 33% of the workforce (in 1955) but now stands at about 12%:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Union_membership_in_us_1930-2010.png

    This morning's New York Times had an article about Scott Walker's efforts to destroy the unions of Wisconsin, and it provides details on the people who are helping him do it:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/08/us/politics/behind-scott-walker-a-longstanding-conservative-alliance-against-unions.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    As we all suspect by now, the Republican Party no longer exists, and has been replaced by a party that encompasses an awful lot of extremists who cling to ideas that are held dear by the John Birch Society. To give you an idea how far the party has strayed from its principles, I'd recommend reviewing the 1956 Republican platform in detail.(the link is at the very bottom of this page). The part related to unions and worker protection is as as follows:

    ************************************************************************************************************************************************************

    Labor

    Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: "Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America."

    The Eisenhower Administration has brought to our people the highest employment, the highest wages and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any nation. Today there are nearly 67 million men and women at work in the United States, 4 million more than in 1952. Wages have increased substantially over the past 3 1/2 years; but, more important, the American wage earner today can buy more than ever before for himself and his family because his pay check has not been eaten away by rising taxes and soaring prices.

    The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen's compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.

    In addition, the Eisenhower Administration has enforced more vigorously and effectively than ever before, the laws which protect the working standards of our people.

    Workers have benefited by the progress which has been made in carrying out the programs and principles set forth in the 1952 Republican platform. All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.

    Furthermore, the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government. This policy has brought to our country an unprecedented period of labor-management peace and understanding.

    We applaud the effective, unhindered, collective bargaining which brought an early end to the 1956 steel strike, in contrast to the six months' upheaval, Presidential seizure of the steel industry and ultimate Supreme Court intervention under the last Democrat Administration.

    The Eisenhower Administration will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will:

    Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;

    Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;

    Strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system;

    Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;

    Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;

    Clarify and strengthen the eight-hour laws for the benefit of workers who are subject to federal wage standards on Federal and Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts;

    Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;

    Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;

    Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;

    Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public. The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration. In 1954, 1955 and again in 1956, President Eisenhower recommended constructive amendments to this Act. The Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked these needed changes by parliamentary maneuvers. The Republican Party pledges itself to overhaul and improve the Taft-Hartley Act along the lines of these recommendations.

    **************************************************************************************************************************************

    http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25838

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    It's so sad to see the war waged against labor unions is all but over with and the corporations have notched a resounding victory...but that victory will not last forever.

    I say that because the pendulum always swings back and every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Big business might have won the battle, but the people will win the war. We have gone down this path of big business running our government before and the people fought back. We fought back and won a 40 hour work week, work site protections, child labor laws, and a host of other things.

    The Republican Party has surely lost its way, but they will soon be the Whig party of yesteryear if Americans decide to start voting again. Young people and minorities have revolted against them in record numbers. If they ever decide to show up to the polls then the Republicans are done for. Unfortunately, we Democrats have only ourselves to blame for our current state of politics. When 30 percent of Americans vote then we get the anti-union/anti-worker Congress that we are currently blessed with.

  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    As a union man for pretty much of my adult life I have mixed emotions about this, here in philly, with our beleaguered School System getting broker by the day if that is at all possible, but there was a influx of cash to help out the District thanks to the State, but then the unionized cafeteria workers, who had gone a whole year without a raise, got a 2% raise, this from a school district that has declining enrollment, thanks to parents sending their kids to charter schools, low national test scores, and many ,many closing of schools, high schools as well as middle and elementary schools behind them with the threat of more such closings, the union is worried about a raise for its members, which if the school that some of these members may work were to close, 2% of no wage is $0.00. This only gives fuel to those anti-union advocates.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    I seriously think that unions help a great number of people. However it just doesn't matter. Workers could get 95% to go to vote and it would be a segment that many candidates want to win. It doesn't matter because when a manufacturer pulls up stakes and moves to China - eliminating hundreds of jobs - nobody cares into a second day. It's because the poor displaced workers are now a burden upon society because there aren't other jobs for them to go to. Who does matter is the old factory owner because by moving to China he just reduced his overhead and increased profits. Therefore he can still make major political contributions.

    It's about smoothing the path so the 1% can one day become the .80% and money talks.

    Big money will eventually kill the unions entirely because greater costs = less profit. Unions are still in some jobs which can't be shipped over seas. Postal (A dying presence that will be outsourced eventually), Police and Fire, some truck drivers, some trade groups.

  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    TJ Wrote:

    I seriously think that unions help a great number of people. However it just doesn't matter. Workers could get 95% to go to vote and it would be a segment that many candidates want to win. It doesn't matter because when a manufacturer pulls up stakes and moves to China - eliminating hundreds of jobs - nobody cares into a second day. It's because the poor displaced workers are now a burden upon society because there aren't other jobs for them to go to. Who does matter is the old factory owner because by moving to China he just reduced his overhead and increased profits. Therefore he can still make major political contributions.

    It's about smoothing the path so the 1% can one day become the .80% and money talks.

    Big money will eventually kill the unions entirely because greater costs = less profit. Unions are still in some jobs which can't be shipped over seas. Postal (A dying presence that will be outsourced eventually), Police and Fire, some truck drivers, some trade groups.

    T.J. absolutely correct that is the way it works; people forget this is a "capitalistic" country. "Unions" do not fit into that; let them work and sweat to give the 1% indeed more profit which they then can squander on horse races and yachts.
  • Democrat
    Missouri
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    I see Unions as critical in saving our workforce from bigoted and greedy people that will manage labor with intimidation, force and arrogance. However, I do know people that have their own company employing many people and it is harmony in motion. Since those type companies may be few, most of the workforce will be working for someone that is far from being fair management.

    My experience in the Union became necessary to join where I was in a management circle that determined they are the only ones to make decisions, which is often scandalous and unprofessional. While working as a Professional Engineer, you need to protect your status and perform excellent in all phases of the job. Products and services you deliver may be subject to legal issues if property and life is damaged. Safety is paramount and all consumers and people that utilize your products and services require your upmost professionalism.

    On several occasions management will see benefits to performing less based on economy, costs, and a project that may be taking longer than necessary. Management will force the employee to shortchange the delivery and ultimate product by breaking Public Law, degrade quality, and allow something for consumers to be injured or killed. Toxic waste releases are common, maintenance intervals relaxed contributing to shorten lifecycles and hiding quality reporting from legal reviews.

    I joined a National Engineers and Architects Union because I was told to falsify records and not spend funds to cleanup a toxic spill location. All that was required for me to do was inform my Union Representative and Management oversight stopped. Cool!

    Many in my family are Union affiliated and a common discussion is that most workers in any industry are poorly training and have bad job skills with insufficient tools to do the work correctly. A Union forces a Company and management to provide training, tools and safety protection for a model work environment.

    If you want something done "cheap", less professional, and possibly that it is in unsafe condition/performance use NON-Union Labor. Unions are good for America, even though they can become corrupted just like politicians. The Union must be allowed to grow and create their labor movement.

  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    Unions were brought about because of the greed of certain corporations and the horrible treatment of it's work force, the boom years after WW11, the unions really gained strength in numbers, then certain union leaders recognized that buying politicians would yield greater power, and there were plenty of politicians for sale, and in doing that they ( union leaders) themselves became corrupted.
  • Strongly Liberal
    Independent
    Seattle, WA
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    This video puts it in perspective.

  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    You are not saying that the major Union leadership did not help their cause by being corrupted or is all of the blame laid at the feet of Corporate and political corruption only?
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Pensacola, FL
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    The attack against unions as well as central government as well as entitlements appears to be a policy of a theme similar to divide and conquer. But it goes further appearing to be divide and destroy. All the actions taken together really present an attack on law and order. Remember "United We Stand"? On any level a successful accomplishment requires planning, organization and co-operation. Yet the far right seems bent on disrupting everything. The attack on unions is simply to divide and destroy. Unions have represented strength in numbers as opposed to strength in money. Destroying unions destroys the voice of the worker. That leads to abuse. Something lacking that can reinforce the strength of numbers is the understanding of the fallacy of arguments used to attack organizing. Accepting and understanding exceptions are not a fair way to judge the worth.mThe right singles out and sensationalizes single acts of misuse and uses that to characterize unions as a whole. That is a successful tactic because we all tend to react to acts in a disproportionate response to waste and abuse. We hold accountability in a high regard. . It has to be accepted that the end result overshadows exceptions. It is hard to watch a work for food person walk into a liquor store and by booze with a donation. That makes a good argument for ending charity. Accepting the exception in exchange for the overall good is a union saver. The overall good needs always to counter any sensational act of misuse. Everything has to reflect "United We Stand". Extend that to everything. States rights is an argument that supports union busting. But if you look at the overall negative effect of states rights United We Stand makes sense. Commerce would benefit if there were only one standard for laws. Trucks could traverse the country quicker and cheaper with one set of laws for interstate transportation. One small example is the myriad an oversize load has to go through to deliver a product. Every state line has different rules and each one requires a visit. One pass for the whole country and then divvy up the fees after the fact. United We Stand is the only answer.
  • Independent
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    johnnycee Wrote: Unions were brought about because of the greed of certain corporations and the horrible treatment of it's work force, the boom years after WW11, the unions really gained strength in numbers, then certain union leaders recognized that buying politicians would yield greater power, and there were plenty of politicians for sale, and in doing that they ( union leaders) themselves became corrupted.

    Corruption did happen but was really not relevant to why unions lost power. The unions were co-opted.

    i suggest Steve Fraser's " the age of acquiescence: the life and death of American resistance to organized power and wealth,"

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Pensacola, FL
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    As far as the Unions losing power consider how they gained power. They were a solution to a problem. Soldiers doing battle for a cause. When the problems were lessened and economic times got better, unions were finished. Hard to be a soldier or keep a soldier when the enemy is diminished. There was a story about Pancho Villa and how he maintained relevance. When a village was in danger of harm from the Federales it was said that Pancho would stand idily by until a few citizens were harmed. Then he would swoop down and become the saving hero. Unions were in the predicament of being defenders when there was nothing to defend against or for. It is hard to be a soldier when times are good. Conditions have to be right.
  • Liberal
    Independent
    Durham, NH
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    Unions provide the power balance between corporations and workers. Without both, one will upset the balance of the other. This is one reason EU corporations are basically pro union - they understand they can be more profitable and successful by working with their employees rather than the typical U.S. philosophy of working against them!
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    Hey JC

    SO. you're only pro-union for yourself of course,.... and screw everyone else????thgis could be the only reason you have mixed felling about unions.

  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    That is not what I posted at all, what I did say is that some of the Unions here in philly are more concerned about their political power than their workers grievances, the School teachers union for one , and also some of the other municipal unions who do not concern themselves as to where the money comes from as long as they get theirs, again I am not anti-union but their must be a form a trust on both sides of the table before any equitable solution can be worked out, what usually happens is that both parties lead negotiators that are involved are looking down the road when they will be held accountable to either the voters or the membership of the union rather than what is fair.