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Why Unions SUCK!

August 27, 2012

I just got back from my local grocery store. While there I talked to a former coworker who relayed to me what all the commotion was with the chatter between the clerks in the store. They had the rest of the day to vote on their latest (ultimatum, I mean) labor contract through the United Food Commercial Workers Union, or UFCW. I was familiar with the machinations and sub par performance of this union and I inquired about what concerned them. This individual told me that they were given a proposal that was given to their union steward, and that nobody had been allowed to see it or know what was in it… This set off alarm bells for me.

My grievances with the UFCW comes in their practices. Oftentimes they swarm new UN-unionized stores, tell the workers of all they can get from a union, and how bad it is that they are left helpless and vulnerable to the whims of the company that hired them. They give you promises that they will redress grievances for you and negotiate in YOUR best interests. But this all but never happens. Oftentimes what we saw with the UFCW is that they hard sell the youngest and least experienced workers who most of the time are NOT long-term employees… and get them to sign for a union. Then the workers with the most experience have to deal with less hours, less pay (when you factor in the unions cut through dues), little to no engagement or information shared as far as what the union and the company are discussing and negotiating amongst themselves, basically complete secrecy, except for a privileged few.  It truly does NOT measure up to its lofty promises and ideals.

When we probed further, my friend suggested that a big problem with the local union is precisely that. It is local, not all-inclusive, and concerns can be ignored and access blocked. She suggested that the unions be bigger and broader in scope. Not the Soviet ideal where there is one union, “everybody in, nobody out,” like  “the WobbliesWorkers of the World attempted back in the early 20th century. Instead what she proposed is that the clerks have a union, (like in California) the baggers have a union, the stockers have a union, and so on, and so on… This calls for a decentralization of the modern union structure and allows it to be more accountable and in line with the needs of the skilled, trained, professional individuals that make up a typical union.

A relative who is in construction often tells me stories about the electricians and other tradesmen, who have trade unions, that protect their salaries, their benefits and include their tradesman’s concerns with every new contract or job that they enter into. They are not in a detached and insulated position from their prospective client or employer, they negotiate with them directly and are therefore empowered. There is a difference between that kind of union structure and the current, hopelessly corrupt one today. Union leaders can be intimidated or corrupted by cash, blackmail or other forms of collusion. But if the unions are so specific and small that the members can police the unions themselves, and be empowered in their own actions, they are in a much stronger position than they would otherwise normally be.

A company can threaten to fire an individual and replace him with another one at the same price or less, because the worker’s skill is not valued. However if they cannot replace that worker with another one because ALL of the workers of that profession have a duty to not put their interest above the interest of the group, then everybody would be protected. This is “direct democracy” in action. This is the antidote to modern bureaucracy. This can save the modern union that is losing members and relevance left and right.

I tell everyone I come across who brings it up that “you have to be a member OF a union, before you can REALLY hate it!” But if these kind of reforms were made, and the unions serve their members interests, and NOT  their self-interest or the corporations or businesses that under the current arrangement they are actually PARTNERS with, since they rely on the companies permission to get access to workers and their income…. THEN people may be actually PROUD to be in a union and engaged enough to fight to preserve the gains that would be inherent from such a union in perpetuity. THAT is a cause worth fighting for… The overwhelming majority of unions today sadly do NOT meet that test,  nor are they worth even a fraction of that sacrifice… THAT forever needs to change, and that right Soon!

Forget the fact that they use members money to pass legislation and install candidates that the worker may vehemently OPPOSE! Lets just focus on the fiction of what a union does, and the reality of what they actually end up doing, for their workers, and ironically against them. Aside from the over hiring, the decrease in hours for those with more experience, the cuts in earned benefits and health care, just look at what advocating constant increases in the minimum wage does. It locks out the youngest non college educated, inexperienced workers from getting experience or a work history, just as much as it locks out experienced workers who are paradoxically “overqualified” for the positions they are forced to settle to apply for. You don’t need a college degree and mountains of debt to learn how to be a retail clerk. But a kid just starting out would be perfect for that “ground up” opportunity to gain experience in the business.

Similarly you don’t need to be in debt, to work in home-building or labor, but your still at a disadvantage because you have less experience than you would have had on the job, and have to compete against those experienced workers, when you as a result of the health and labor laws, have to have reams of paperwork and expense just to be employable, while your competition apparently is exempted by government laws and the careless, lackadaisical enforcement of such. This has to change, this MUST end. And government is the PROBLEM, NOT the solution… The members of the grassroots MUST assert their principles and DEMAND that the current corrupt union model be reformed or replaced. Unions exist in principle to serve the interests of their workers, but today all they seem to be effective at is negotiating away their clients rights, and collaborating with their opposition for a piece of the fruits of the people’s labor. This perversion of the modern labor movement has gone on for FAR too long, and must be corrected finally, once and for all, for the benefit of every worker in this country and on this land.

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One Comment
  1. screwedunionmember permalink

    I am a member of UFCW 1262 in NJ. It sucks. They pit full timers against part timers. I originally worked for Foodtown from 1988-1994. I was vested in their pension. This was my first job which I started at age 15. . I am now 41 and returned since I was out of work. I have learned that I “lost” my pension since I had a “break” in employment of more than 5 years. I am only making $10 per hour and I remember leaving in 1994 I was making 9 something per hour. So much for wages keeping up with inflation. So why do I work here? Because Costco has not hired me or any other employer for that matter. If they do. I am gone that day!!!!!

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