Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor (Unions) Day

On a gut level, I don't like labor unions. They seem to me to be socialistic and coercive.

On the other hand, I have never been in one, and I can see how they could be useful in cases of a business that takes advantage of its employees. What I don't get is why people would form/join a union rather than finding a different way to make money if they are being abused.

My distaste for unions isn't based upon insider knowledge like it is in cases of things I have seen and been a part of from all angles- inside and out. I am looking at unions strictly from the perspective of an outsider looking in. I have never even been around anyone who was in a union, as far as I know.

I have read all the justifications for labor unions, and how the benefits they extracted from employers now grace us all, union or not. But would none of those things have come about anyway, given time and innovation? And what good things will never come about (and never be missed) due to the actions of labor unions? It's like those who claim that since "the government invented the internet" (no, it didn't, but that's another issue), anyone who uses the internet to criticize government is a hypocrite. Diseases can have beneficial side-effects, that doesn't mean you try to get infected.

So, I guess my feelings on Labor Day are pretty typical. Relax and ignore the original excuse to close some government offices.



1 comment:

  1. Hi Kent,

    I'm a union carpenter. I have no disagreement with any of your post. I'm union because the pay is 2-3 times more than non-union. The element of coercion is definitely there, but you won't ever see me on a picket line. I'd turn my hand to another line of work before I'd do that.

    There are some good things, though. Because of the nature of construction, there are no permanent jobs. When a building is finished, your job ends. If your employer doesn't have another project to start, you've got to find another employer. In my career I've worked for as many as 20 different companies in a year. For insurance, that's a problem. So my insurance is through the union instead of each individual company. A good solution.

    Then there's the ready labor pool for employers. Each carpenter has to go through a 4-year apprenticeship. The classes are rigorous. I know because I've taken some recently. Journeymen can take any of the classes to upgrade their skills. Last year I took First Aid/CPR and Scaffolding, both week-long. The union has a course for anything you can think of that a carpenter does, like metal stud/drywall, door and lock installation, rigging, fine woodworking, concrete formwork, etc...

    My union has a retirement pension in two parts. There's the regular monthly payment and the lump-sum annuity. A pension is kind of a paternalistic concept which rankles me a bit, but truth told, carpenters are not generally good money managers, myself included.