Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unions: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

One of my favorite books of all time was assigned to me in 11th grade as part of an AP English report. It was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It was pure genius. Sinclair observed the squalor of the working and living conditions of Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. Here, he witnessed the vast evils done to the people who worked here, most often immigrants with little grasp of the English language fresh to the country. From his observations, Sinclair wrote a fictional novel following the trials and tribulations of a family of Lithuanian immigrants and their experience with the meatpacking industry in particular. In it, Sinclair described life changing work related injuries, sexual exploitation, con artists and death and how the family dealt with living in a world determined to kill them. While at first president Theodore Roosevelt refused to believe what he had read, after sending representatives to observe he knew that Sinclair's assertions were by and large true. The representatives' report was submitted to congress which in turn passed the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 which in turn established the Bureau of Chemistry (later became the Food and Drug administration in 1930).
Obviously At this point in time Unions were a necessity. People were being maimed, killed and exploited by their employers and their employers' lack of concern for working conditions. The goal of a union is to bind together members of an industry (ie. teachers, autoworkers, etc...) so as to most adequately bargain for wages, working conditions and benefits. Obviously they do much more, but that is the basic goal. Represent yo.
As I am from a Right to Work state (Texas y'all) I've never put a whole lot of thought into unions.
(A Right to Work state where people do not have to join unions to obtain employment in an industry that in other states you must join a union to be employed in.) That is, until tonight. A current teacher from the high school I attended (Thank God I never had her) responded to a joking status on a friend of mine's wall with such tact, class and professionalism that I was overcome with the need to not only share it with you, but to explain to you why she is incorrect:
**Bonus Point: Saying F**** you to former students? Really? This isn't really a point against her argument just more against her professionalism. This wasn't even directed at me and I'm offended. A teacher is supposed to act as a role model to his or her students even after they are no longer are in that class. But I won't hold that against her. 
Point One: Unions Now Exploit Industries.
A union is ideally supposed to act as a medium between the individual worker and the big mean industry that wants to exploit it. However, unions are getting greedy. The wages they expect for their members combined with benefits that most people outside of a union could never dream to afford are literally bankrupting industries. Heard of the GM bailout maybe? Yeah they can't afford to give every worker the wages and Cadillac of benefits that these unions want and still sell these cars at a price people can actually afford.  
Point Two: Unions Are Costly... To You
You're not in a union? Guess what? You're still paying for them. Government workers are in unions. Government workers whose salaries come from your tax dollars are organized in unions that are demanding higher wages and better benefits. While this seems like a reasonable request, keep in mind that working for the government has never been a bad gig. Good insurance, good wages and while yes the "company" you work for just got a down graded credit rating and is $15 trillion in debt, they aren't going out of business anytime soon.. hopefully. So you have pretty good job security too. Constant demands for upgrading wages and benefits are unnecessary and costly to tax payers.
Point Three: Teachers
The Teachers Union is probably the biggest thorn in the side of the American people and most don't even know it. They're part of the government workers demanding better wages, benefits and job security that a good portion of them do not deserve. While a good teacher that teaches his or her students deserves to be adequately paid for their services, bad teachers don't and the unions don't discriminate between who joins. In other words, Cameron Diaz at the beginning of this movie
would theoretically makes the same as Robin Williams would from this movie. I wonder which kids would learn more? I wonder who is more worth the money they are being paid and the job security they would have gleaned from a union?

I will definitely be adding to this and forming a sensical summation of my argument when I am not deliriously tired and covered in green paint/ sparkle/ whatever other green stuff got thrown on me this afternoon. My final word as of now is that while in theory unions are good, they have morphed into a monster that is no longer solely focused on looking out for its members, but rather on growing and profiting from their respective industries. Union reform is essential.

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