Are Labor Unions Outdated and Unneccesary? Are They Doing More Harm Than Good?

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posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 04:45 PM
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Concise Encyclopeida of Economics

Although labor unions have been celebrated in folk songs and stories as fearless champions of the downtrodden working man, this is not how economists see them. Economists who study unions—including some who are avowedly prounion—analyze them as cartels that raise wages above competitive levels by restricting the supply of labor to various firms and industries.

Many unions have won higher wages and better working conditions for their members. In doing so, however, they have reduced the number of jobs available in unionized companies. That second effect occurs because of the basic law of demand: if unions successfully raise the price of labor, employers will purchase less of it. Thus, unions are a major anticompetitive force in labor markets. Their gains come at the expense of consumers, nonunion workers, the jobless, taxpayers, and owners of corporations.

According to Harvard economists Richard Freeman and James Medoff, who look favorably on unions, “Most, if not all, unions have monopoly power, which they can use to raise wages above competitive levels” (1984, p. 6). Unions’ power to fix high prices for their members’ labor rests on legal privileges and immunities that they get from government, both by statute and by nonenforcement of other laws. The purpose of these legal privileges is to restrict others from working for lower wages. As antiunion economist Ludwig von Mises wrote in 1922, “The long and short of trade union rights is in fact the right to proceed against the strikebreaker with primitive violence.” Interestingly, those who are expected to enforce the laws evenhandedly, the police, are themselves heavily unionized.

U.S. unions enjoy many legal privileges. Unions are immune from taxation and from antitrust laws. Companies are legally compelled to bargain with unions in “good faith.”
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Additional Thoughts - Blog
Unions: Outdated and Unnecessary
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Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, has written: “Organized labor is an aging, doddering prizefighter still relishing trophies earned decades ago.” But in the next breath, he wrote: “But it's the only fighter in that corner of the ring. There's no other countervailing force against the overriding power of business and finance.”

Are unions still relevant? Do they matter? There seems to be a growing rift between those who believe unions are on the side of the working class and those who believe unions have become a big part of the economic problems... out for themselves, power hungry and money grabbing entities.

If unions do still matter, what is their purpose in the the 21st century? How can we strengthen them? Should unions focus more on political activity - changing the legal environment for organizing? Or should unions focus on organizing - changing the social environment for politics? How can private-sector unions reach middle-class workers, and should they?

What do you think, ATS?




posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 05:09 PM
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posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 05:39 PM
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It's really a great question. I wrestle with this issue all of the time due to my job. I've found my opinion has changed over the years and now I feel we need Unions now more than ever. Corporations have a vise grip on this country and our future, if not the world itself.

I have watched good people come and go, policies come and go and company initiatives come and go but one thing remains the same - corporations view people as a commodity or a resource and not as human beings.

The ability to unionize to protect our basic interests and rights as humans and citizens prevents us from being more chewed up and spit out than we already are by the corporate machine. It cares not for workers, or for the environment, hell lately it doesn't even seem to care about consumers. If Unions didn't stand in the breach, capitalism would eat itself.

But, people far more intelligent and eloquent than I have weighed in on this issue:



"All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms is treason. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other."
Abraham Lincoln


"If capitalism is fair then unionism must be. If men have a right to capitalize their ideas and the resources of their country, then that implies the right of men to capitalize their labor."
Frank Lloyd Wright


"The labor movement means just this: It is the last noble protest of the American people against the power of incorporated wealth."
Wendell Phillips


"The American labor movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America. Those who would destroy or further limit the rights of organized labor--those who cripple collective bargaining or prevent organization of the unorganized--do a disservice to the cause of democracy."
John F. Kennedy


"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Abraham Lincoln


My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: "We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing."
Mother Jones



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 05:47 PM
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I have mixed feelings about Unions, but I feel they are needed. Without unions, companies will take advantage.


When I was in a union, I will admit that I was overpaid for the job I did. I knew it, they knew it but that was the agreement in the contract. Nobody in their right mind would complain about being overpaid.

Along with being overpaid, came many other goodies and benefits. Hiring was rare and when they did hire, majority time the new hire was related to someone in the plant.

Getting fired from the job was basically impossible. Best job in my area.

Needless to say the job or company no longer exists.

Did the Union bankrupt it?

Honestly, no. The business and union made agreements based on what they both thought they could give up/afford.

Unfortunately, predicting future and continuous success of a business is risky at best and I think this is where most businesses and unions get themselves into trouble.

They promise too much based on an unknown future.



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 05:54 PM
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I think Labor Unions can and should be necessary institutions in our society, but their thinking is outdated. Labor unions are still stuck in an early 20th century mindset where companies like GM had to either strike a deal with local workers, or shut the plant down.

Today, companies like GM have a third option every time the local union hems and haws, they can close the plant in the US and reopen it in China, Vietnam, or Latin America. Unions are compelling companies to export their workers' jobs rather than giving companies a reason to keep their workers' jobs.



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 05:56 PM
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And just to add:




posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 06:04 PM
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As a former Chief Steward, I have three comments:

1) No employer gets unionised that has not demonstrated the necessity to their workers.

2) Even the most enlightened employers can have managers that pull crap on the workers, who must fall back on the collective agreement for protection.

3) Unions...those people who brought you the weekend...raise employment standards for everybody.



Originally posted by hotpinkurinalmint
Unions are compelling companies to export their workers' jobs rather than giving companies a reason to keep their workers' jobs.


Nonsense...the essence of capitalism is to pay your workers enough to buy your product. If you land a paid of Nikes for $9...and sell them for $109...that margin is going to Wall Street. Do the math...follow the money! They want you to blame your neighbours!

[edit on 9-1-2010 by JohnnyCanuck]



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 06:36 PM
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Something very important to think about...

Manufacturing vs Service/Merchandising and the relationship to union organization and relevance, as well as contribution to economy both domestic and global. Bottom line: a country that has a manufacturing base (which are traditionally unionized), will also typically have a strong middle class and a strong GDP.

Outsourcing Manufacturing and moving to a Service/Merchandising base, has significantly impacted the US economy, job opportunities and wealth. While the push for unionization in the service sector (Walmart for instance) may have value, it will never bring the wages/opportunity that a manufacturing base would and may actually sink the economy further, while contributing to the further decline of the middle class... if you don't produce anything, where's the money going to come from?





[edit on 9-1-2010 by LadySkadi]



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 07:09 PM
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This comes from my husband who works with union workers in several unionized plants that he works in. His father and brother are both union workers, so he knows the union. This might not be popular on this thread, but this is his opinion.

"Unions had a time and place. In the beginning it was a decent day's pay for a decent days work, and now it's become outlandish amount of pay for a minuscule amount of work. Unions breed complacency and the feeling of entitlement. " He says he can't get any work done because unions are all about delaying, getting as little done as possible, creating more shifts with more people than needed, causing the company they work for to go bankrupt. The only people who support unions are union people, and they know the corruption is rampant. The Unions are what's killing the Big 3.
They shouldn't expect to get raises year after year when their company is losing money every year.



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 07:22 PM
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Originally posted by Schleprock
The only people who support unions are union people, and they know the corruption is rampant. The Unions are what's killing the Big 3.
They shouldn't expect to get raises year after year when their company is losing money every year.


The collective agreement is signed by the employer as well. It is a set of rules, and both sides function better that way. Today's economics are a ponzi scheme fueled by the fact that work is being sent overseas for cheap labour...and North American workers can no longer afford to buy the product...cuz their jobs are gone! It ran on credit...til that crashed.

Is your car that much cheaper since the jobs went to China? Notice that the jobs are leaving Mexico because labour costs are 'too high'?

Who's pocketing the difference? Notice the economy tank lately? Blame globalisation, but don't blame the auto worker who used to put his wages into your community. And don't blame the unions that negotiated a decent wage package...which was relfected in yours, too.



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 07:33 PM
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reply to post by JohnnyCanuck
 

Agree with your assessment... but it begs the question; are labor unions now outdated? If we're to establish that the current system cannot support them any longer? Which "seems" to either be the case currently, or very likely headed that direction given the shift from a manufacturing to services based economy/structure... (which I feel was a very bad call, but it has been transitioning for 30-some years now).





[edit on 9-1-2010 by LadySkadi]



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 07:42 PM
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reply to post by LadySkadi
 


LadySkadi, excellent thread, and one about much controversy, conspiracy, and crime.

This thread will go far if enough people think about the conspiracy enough.

What better example of this particular conspiracy, than "Mr. Union", then Jimmy Hoffa?




Quote from : Wikipedia : Jimmy Hoffa

James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa (born February 14, 1913 – disappeared July 30, 1975, declared legally dead in 1982) was an American trade unionist.

Hoffa served as the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from 1958–1971, despite being incarcerated during the latter four years of his tenure.

Hoffa, who had been convicted of jury tampering and attempted bribery in 1964, was imprisoned in 1967 after exhausting the appeal process.

However, he did not officially resign the Teamsters' presidency until 1971.

This was part of a pardon agreement with U.S. president Richard Nixon, in order to facilitate Hoffa's release from prison.

Hoffa was last seen in 1975 outside a suburban Detroit restaurant called the Machus Red Fox.


Retrobites: Jimmy Hoffa (1960)


Robert Kennedy Vs. Jimmy Hoffa


Jimmy Hoffa's Disappearance


Personally, I believe Union's had a real use, at one time, in our society.


Quote from : Wikipedia : Trade Union

A trade union (or labor union) is an organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals in key areas, such as working conditions.

The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (rank and file members) and negotiates labor contracts (Collective bargaining) with employers.

This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies.

The agreements negotiated by the union leaders are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers.

Originating in Europe, Labour unions became popular in many countries during the Industrial Revolution, when the lack of skill necessary to perform the jobs shifted employment bargaining power almost completely to the employers' side, causing many workers to be mistreated and underpaid.

This gave rise to the concepts of Marxism and Communism.

Trade union organizations may be comprised of individual workers, professionals, past workers, or the unemployed.

The most common, but by no means only, purpose of these organizations is "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment".

Over the last three hundred years, many trade unions have developed into a number of forms, influenced by differing political and economic regimes.


The problem of course comes when organizations like the Mafia see them as a threat to their so called "business interests" .

This is of course when the Mafia would send in people, like Agent Provocateur's, in order to infiltrate them, and or through the Rico Act the F.B.I. becomes involved.

Stop SPP Protest - Union Leader stops provocateurs



Quote from : Wikipedia : Agent Provocateur

Traditionally, an agent provocateur (plural: agents provocateurs, French for "inciting agent(s)") is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act.

More generally, the term may refer to a person or group that seeks to discredit or harm another by provoking them to commit a wrong or rash action.


This of course is something very controversial because of the "conspiracy theorist" mentality of our nation, the United States of America, especially when it comes to the Mafia utilizing "Union's" as nothing more than shakedown muscle.


Quote from : Wikipedia : Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly referred to as RICO Act or RICO) is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

RICO was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Pub.L. 91-452, 84 Stat. 922, enacted October 15, 1970).

RICO is codified as Chapter 96 of Title 18 of the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. § 1961–1968.

While its intended use was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its application has been more widespread.

It has been speculated that the name and acronym were selected in a sly reference to the movie Little Caesar, which featured a notorious gangster named Rico.

The original drafter of the bill, G. Robert Blakey, refused to confirm or deny this.

G. Robert Blakey remains the country's foremost expert on RICO; his former student Michael Goldsmith also gained a reputation as one of the nation's leading RICO experts.


The Federal RICO Act & The Injured Worker


RICO lynching of our Inner Cities part 1


Starred, flagged, and D.I.G.G.'ed, Lady Skadi, keep up the good work.

[edit on 9-1-2010 by SpartanKingLeonidas]



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 07:47 PM
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reply to post by hotpinkurinalmint
 



I think Labor Unions can and should be necessary institutions in our society, but their thinking is outdated. Labor unions are still stuck in an early 20th century mindset where companies like GM had to either strike a deal with local workers, or shut the plant down.

Today, companies like GM have a third option every time the local union hems and haws, they can close the plant in the US and reopen it in China, Vietnam, or Latin America. Unions are compelling companies to export their workers' jobs rather than giving companies a reason to keep their workers' jobs.


I would definitely agree that the union M.O. seems to be quite outdated, given the current economic base (service rather than manufacturing) and one need only review the operations of GM and Chrysler (Ford seems to be doing ok) and compare them to Toyota, who has not lost, but made profit for the past several years in row.

The idea of Kaizen

[edit on 9-1-2010 by LadySkadi]



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 11:38 PM
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Originally posted by LadySkadi
I would definitely agree that the union M.O. seems to be quite outdated, given the current economic base (service rather than manufacturing) and one need only review the operations of GM and Chrysler (Ford seems to be doing ok) and compare them to Toyota, who has not lost, but made profit for the past several years in row.


I was a chief steward for an employer consistently cited as one of the best employers in the city of Toronto...indeed in Canada...but I was a very busy lad, dealing with violations of the collective agreement, to actual human rights violations, up to breaking of the labour laws. This tells me that unions remain relevant...as without representation, employees would be fighting very lonely (and expensive) battles. It went the other way, too...where HR would come to me to assess management who were abusing their staff.

A collective agreement is a set of rules agreed to by both parties.

And to bring Jimmy Hoffa into the debate is nonsense. May as well talk about Pinkerton's machine-gunning railroad workers...I think we've all moved on since then.



posted on Jan, 9 2010 @ 11:41 PM
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I wish there was a strong union sticking up for people doing the same career as me, unions are strength of the skilled people over their unskilled, moneyed employers and for this we should all solute them.

Unions are the closest to a peoples army that we have.



posted on Jan, 10 2010 @ 12:01 AM
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Great thread. I don't think they are obsolete, but their operation as seen today is definately outdated. I've had to deal with unions thankfully only twice in my life, neither was very inspiring. Quite the opposite actually. I think they started as a wonderful think, and gradually morphed into the monsters they have become, just like anything else, a few in power, easily corrupted by money. Star and flag.



posted on Jan, 10 2010 @ 12:06 AM
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With Unions you also get proper protection of Safety Codes.

There are many "blue collar" jobs that have the potential to cause harm

to workers, if the safety of the worker is negated because of the cost.

The union also insure these safety codes are followed.



posted on Jan, 10 2010 @ 12:10 AM
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In today's global economy Unions will no longer help the labour market. Protection from abuses such as forcing work through breaks, forced overtime, low pay etc.. are no longer relevant as the government has most of those basic human rights covered. Federal mandates in Canada guarantee the worker a safe. clean work place. It assures your basic freedoms and really when Unions first became needed none of the basics were covered. Teh probelm is the current system is a no win for employers as the ability to compete is removed due to higher wages and benefit packages. If I hire some one to work for me , full time at say $12 per hour it actually cost me 14.50 avg. due the costs of maintaining this employee. This cost must be reflected in my product or services in order to recoup my investment. Since I run my company to earn a profit and not a loss must raise prices in effect reducing my effectiveness in the marketplace. Citing GM as an example the company proposed a wage reduction and scaling back of benefits in order to keep a plant open and functioning (in the red) and the union and employees refused. The employees have no jobs today, the govt. extended their benefits and provided programs for reintegration into other careers and the Union still gets paid. Gone are the days of sweat shops and abuses by employers whee people fear going into work to make an honest living, workers have alot of protection now all they need to do is seek it out if they feel wronged at he work place. The only area Unions would be helpful in are wages and benefits, job security. These are the only things that the employer would try to minimize in order to maximize profits but, in today's world, you have to believe people will leave a company that is not paying or treating them fairly rather than stay and help that company prosper.



posted on Jan, 10 2010 @ 12:13 AM
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Originally posted by Sean48


With Unions you also get proper protection of Safety Codes.

There are many "blue collar" jobs that have the potential to cause harm

to workers, if the safety of the worker is negated because of the cost.

The union also insure these safety codes are followed.


The govt. has that covered and abuses are illegal, at least in Ontario.



posted on Jan, 10 2010 @ 12:13 AM
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reply to post by habfan1968
 


if you think the problems of GM are worker related , you are seriously

mis-informed, dig deeper before you post total nonsense.

In these days of high unemployment, without unions, we would all be working

5 dollars a hour.





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