Unions: The End of the Gravy Train?

Categories: Opinion

I believe strongly in individual freedom.  I believe that's what made America great.

If I start my own business and need help, I'll hire an assistant.  I'll negotiate with that assistant, and he/she and I will reach an agreement on wages and working conditions.

The employee has the right at any moment to choose to terminate the relationship.

If conditions change, such as the economy, and I'm no longer able to afford that employee, I may need to reduce the working hours or lay off the employee.  I don't believe that employee has a right to information regarding the specific conditions that prompted the changes.  If the employee does not agree to the changes, he/she has the right to seek employment elsewhere.

If conditions improve and I decide to hire more assistants, I don't believe the first employee has any right to any involvement in the negotiation of wages and/or working conditions of any subsequent employees.  If I choose to pay subsequent workers more money in exchange for working fewer hours than the first employee, that's my prerogative.  My negotiations with the second employee have no impact on the first employee - the first employee continues to work the agreed upon hours for the agreed upon wages.

If all employees band together and decide they should all be paid the same wages for the same amount of work, they've just trampled on my rights as an employer.

Keep in mind that during all of my hypothetical examples, there's no mention of any employee being overworked or underpaid.

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


There are many employees in many countries who are overworked and underpaid.  This occurs, I believe, because the people in those countries are relatively poor, and the employees are struggling to keep food on their tables.  The employers have the upper hand.

In America, it's a different story.  Most American workers are relatively rich.  We are incredibly blessed as a nation.  Unfortunately, most American don't realize this.  Many Americans tend to believe that they are being mistreated simply because they don't have what the Jones' have.  This is where unions take advantage of employees.

To be fair, there are benefits to unions.  Union employees probably earn more than non-union employees.  Is that fair?  It's more than fair for the union members, but overall, I don't think so.  It's not fair to the employees who go "above and beyond" as a result of the ethics instilled upon them by their parents, the church, etc.  Too many union loafers receive the same benefits as those who bust their buns.  It's also not fair to the employers who are forced to pay wages and provide benefits against their will.

Many employees aren't able to work at all because of unions.  For example, musicians in Las Vegas must be members of a union.  That means I can't work as a musician in Las Vegas.  I would be willing to work for far less than the wages demanded by the unions, and I'm a fairly competent musician, so I think employers would be more than willing to hire me.  But I don't have that chance.  Fortunately, I'm able to work in other fields where I'm not required to join a union.  Despite a poor economy, those fields - all computer-related - are bustling where the Vegas shows are struggling to fill seats.  I'm willing to work for what my employer and I agree are fair wages, where the show performers are demanding wages that are difficult for the producers to meet.

To me, unions are destructive.  They are representative of socialism, which is un-American.  A union is a collection of selfish, self-centered individuals who are more concerned with themselves than they are contributing to the success of the company as a whole, and their country, and benefitting fairly as a result of the company's and country's growth and success.  Union employees basically want a free ride.  If you're a good, hard-working employee, your employer will not take advantage of you, especially not in America.  The best employees receive the best treatment and compensation.  If you are not being paid what you are worth, it is your fault, not your employers.  If you believe you are worth more than you're able to negotiate on your own, there's no reason why you shouldn't prove that by working for another employer at the higher wage.

The one possible exception to my opinion is in the mining industry.  One of the goals of the union is to improve working conditions.  If there's any industry in America where working conditions need to be improved, it's the mining industry, particularly coal mining.  According to the United States Mine Rescue Association (http://www.usmra.com/saxsewell/historical.htm), there have been 17 U.S. mining disasters since 1970, 16 of which occurred in coal mines.  But where are the unions?  Aren't they supposed to ensure that the mines are safe?  Isn't that what they're fighting for?  Isn't that what you, the union members, have been paying for?  This appears to be an example of where the unions are needed most, but have failed.  That's because of one simple truth: "If you want something done right, do it yourself."  If any individual wants safer working conditions, it's up to him/her to either work in a safe environment, or work some place else.

Unions have been part of a gravy train in America for decades.  The only reason unions have been left unleashed is because the wealth in America was so vast, everyone has been able to benefit.  No one really cared that they unions and their members were taking so much because there was still plenty left over for the rest of us.  But times, they are a-changin'!  Our capital is exhausted.  America is now busted.  We're broke.

According to this FoxNews.com report, the Wisconsin senate recently voted to pass a bill that "that severely limits the collective bargaining powers for the vast majority of the state's public employees." (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/03/11/walker-signs-stripping-unions-collective-bargaining-rights/)  This will be seen as one of the first steps to ending the union "gravy trains" in America.  The American workers have demanded too much in wages, and the American consumers, including union workers, are now shopping from China and other countries.

A few days ago, I received an email sent as part of a campaign to encourage Americans to stop buying products made in China.  The activists, whoever they are, want us to buy American products.  I already check the see where merchandise is manufactured.  If it's China, and there's an alternative, I'll buy the alternative.  If there's no alternative, I'll probably buy the Chinese-made product.  I would never buy an American product simply because it's American.  I know from my experience that, in most cases, it's going to be overpriced and inferior quality.  American cars are the best example.  The last time I shopped for a car, my top three choices were Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.  There are very few American cars I would be willing to own.  Why?  American workers don't seem to put pride into their work, yet, through unions, they demand wages that few, if any, other countries can or are willing to afford.  The recent problems Toyota has seen may be a good example.  When Toyota cars were made in Japan, they were considered among the world's most reliable and affordable cars.  Today, they're made in the U.S., and the news stories about the poor quality just don't seem to stop.

Now that the economy in America is starting to fizzle out, unions are going to have to face the fact that they are part of the problem, and not part of the solution.  American is so buried in debt, we may never recover.

America doesn't need unions.  For the most part, there are no American employees who are overworked and/or underpaid.  As Americans, we are wealthy beyond our comprehension.  But unions and government interference are sapping resources from the American economy at a time when we desparately need those resources.  My opinion won't change anything, but maybe it can serve as a warning to those who are just entering the workplace.

Read "The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard", Matthew 20:1-16, from the Bible (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+20&version=NIV).  This story illustrates how workers compare what they do and receive to what others do and receive, and conclude that there is something unfair about their comparisons.  These workers become disgruntled, and fail to realize that their employer was generous to them all, and that they were blessed to have been given the opportunity to work.

Here's my advice:

  1. Seek honest, reputable work.
  2. Negotiate for compensation based on what you and your employer believe is fair.  "A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward." — Proverbs 11:18
  3. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" — Colossians 3:23
  4. Don't worry about the Jones'.
  5. Whether you're Donald Trump or Ronald Chump, thank God every day that you have a job!

Do these things, and you'll not only serve yourself, you'll serve your entire country.  That's American!

© 2010-2013 Jonas Maxwell. All rights reserved.