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Thread: The Purpose of Unions in Modern America

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    Speedster Member Stude Shoo-wop!'s Avatar
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    The Purpose of Unions in Modern America

    Given how this is a sore topic of debate regarding Studebaker I think it would yield valuable commentary if we delved into the modern role that labor unions have in American society. Are they needed as much now or have they become more of a crippling burden? Again, this is a debate, so while contention is fine I will not tolerate ad hominem attacks.
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    I just got done reading that Ringling Bros & Barnum Bailey Circus clowns have voted to form a union and it will be headed by Emmett Kelly.

    John S.

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    I know that was supposed to be a joke, but Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey gave the last show May 21, 2017. No need to say anything about Emmett Kelly RIP.

    This topic cannot be answered reasonably because it is so easy to go political and therefore would probably be shut down. I can only answer for me alone and I can also answer on both sides. I was in a union then I went through the process to become part of the management team. I care not to comment because of what I thought when I was a union member was not what I thought it was when I was on the management side. The one thing I will say was that the union was not permitted to strike.

    PM if you really want any thoughts, but I will not spend time answering or feeding into one side or the other of this unanswerable question. I need to get the front brakes freed up on my 1962 Lark as well as putting an electrical fuel pump so I can get the car running and drivable.

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    Before ww2 there was not that much union presence in the US. Working conditions were grim, cancer causing materials were very present, workers worked long hours and for not much pay. During ww2 production was needed so much that people who were not fighting were working making munitions and weapons. After the war many people had lots of money saved and were able to build new homes as my folks did in the early fifties. During the fifties and sixties and into the seventies unions were strong, blue collar workers came into the middle class, bought houses, cars, boats etc. The economy boomed with so many folks spending money.

    Gradually people forgot that the unions were responsible for much of this gain and began to not support the unions, thinking that they were being paid a lot of money just because they were so skilled.

    Many people will not realize how much the Unions have done until they are gone and wages drop to half what they are now. Then it will be too late. Blue collar workers will drop back into the lower class economically.
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    Golden Hawk Member DEEPNHOCK's Avatar
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    (opinion)
    Unions are needed to help the workers when management gets out of line.
    Managment is needed to implement the policies created by the executives.
    Both are needed only if one or the other does not consider the needs of the other.
    Both can co-exist in harmony only if they work together for the common good of each others area of responsibility.
    Neither will ultimately succeed when they attempt to change the workplace by supporting politicians to get them to legislate in their favor.
    Greed is the enemy. Greed exists on all sides. Greed corrupts. Power corrupts.

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    Yes Sir that about sums it up !

    Quote Originally Posted by DEEPNHOCK View Post
    (opinion)
    Unions are needed to help the workers when management gets out of line.
    Managment is needed to implement the policies created by the executives.
    Both are needed only if one or the other does not consider the needs of the other.
    Both can co-exist in harmony only if they work together for the common good of each others area of responsibility.
    Neither will ultimately succeed when they attempt to change the workplace by supporting politicians to get them to legislate in their favor.
    Greed is the enemy. Greed exists on all sides. Greed corrupts. Power corrupts.
    Joseph R. Zeiger

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    Silver Hawk Member 52-fan's Avatar
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    Big unions are bad for the same reason big government is bad. Once the huge sums of money come rolling in people get in control who care more about power and position than service of whatever membership and customers. The teachers unions are a perfect example.


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    President Member Gunslinger's Avatar
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    Unions came about for very good reasons...bad management. If a company has good management then the only purposes a union serves is as a social organization and a bowling league. I think it's undeniable that unions serve and have served a very good purpose...but whether that purpose still exists in today's world is arguable. It's also arguable that unions have become too powerful in serving their purpose...to the point they cause harm to their own members by dictating to companies and causing those businesses to shut down or relocate...sometimes offshore.

    When it comes to government unions, even FDR was opposed to them. The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers, however, don’t generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money. When government unions strike, they strike against taxpayers. F.D.R. considered this “unthinkable and intolerable.”

    I was an officer in a union and saw what bad and
    unfair management can cause. It's sad that there's such an argumentative and intolerance between management and unions...it shouldn't have be that way. Too many union contracts negatively affect the ability of a company to operate efficiently...it protects the incompetent and punishes those of ability by keeping them down.
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    Quote Originally Posted by t walgamuth View Post
    Before ww2 there was not that much union presence in the US. Working conditions were grim, cancer causing materials were very present, workers worked long hours and for not much pay. During ww2 production was needed so much that people who were not fighting were working making munitions and weapons. After the war many people had lots of money saved and were able to build new homes as my folks did in the early fifties. During the fifties and sixties and into the seventies unions were strong, blue collar workers came into the middle class, bought houses, cars, boats etc. The economy boomed with so many folks spending money.

    Gradually people forgot that the unions were responsible for much of this gain and began to not support the unions, thinking that they were being paid a lot of money just because they were so skilled.

    Many people will not realize how much the Unions have done until they are gone and wages drop to half what they are now. Then it will be too late. Blue collar workers will drop back into the lower class economically.
    The truth is that unions built the middle class in this country.

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    My grandfather was a ship building foreman. When he had a good man he went to management and argued he be paid better. He did not like unions.

    I worked in a union represented college district. I was required by collective bargaining representation to pay the dues, but I was not a member. Sadly I saw people who worked very hard only get the same raise as those who hardly worked. That is the negative. The positive is that we had good benefits, for some of the low wage earners like cafeteria workers nearly equaling their income.

    At the end of the day the pie is only so big. Too bad the system can't be polite and everyone have an equal share.

    Oh..., and it is nice to see how civilized this discussion has been.
    Last edited by wittsend; 02-15-2018 at 11:40 PM.
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    Speedster Member bumpkinvilledano's Avatar
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    Like others, I have seen both sides of the coin. In the mid 70's I was a union organizer at large defense contractor. Working conditions were beyond wretched, safety was non-existent and supervision was a joke. I ended up leaving the company before there was a vote, due to some close calls that would have crippled me for life. Fast forward 3 years, I hired in to a company that WAS unionized. It was quite an eye opener, in that the laziest were protected by seniority, and the young, hungry go-getters, had no chance to advance. I only stayed there for about a year. Fast forward again 20 years. As a contractor, we were doing a LOT of work for this one particular company, machinery installations and work their maintenance people didn't want to do. They(all employees) were paid reasonably well, benefits were pretty good and the employees had a lot of freedom(if you wanted to leave the property on your break, no problem). Some were not overly happy tho, so a vote was had and they voted to be represented. As soon as the contact was signed, all of the little perks came to an immediate halt. There used to be coffee pots in every dept, all supplied by the company, they went away. Same with leaving the property on your break. It cost our company a good bit of work, because now the maintenance people were REQUIRED to do the work they had previously declined to do. What was at one time a mostly happy family, devolved into a bunch of bickering and finger pointing. 3 years later, when the contract was being renegotiated, the union called a strike. After 6 months on strike, trying to run with management and temp workers, the company(Canadian owned), decided it wasn't worth it and closed the doors. We ended up in there removing tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment and shipping it to Canada.

    So who won in the end? I'll say nobody. Over 150 people lost their jobs, we lost a repeat customer that was good for at least $250K per year, the local economy lost anther employer, even the union lost because now they had 150 less dues paying members.

    Myself and my partners company is now a lot smaller (by choice) and have managed to keep it from being unionized over the years. Our employees are well paid, fair benefits, and treated decent. If someone were to try to unionize, I would only want to know why? What can a union give you that you can't get for yourself?
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    In '73 I was the recording secretary for the labor union AFL-CIO while working construction & going to school. Continued my education and worked at UPS while being a member of the Teamsters. I worked for Eastern Airlines and ended up being the chief shop steward for the IAM. I argued, fought, lied, and did my best to keep those who should have been fired from being fired. After everything went south with Eastern I went back to school. Working for the airlines was the best job I ever had & would pay, to this day, to have as much fun as I used to have working a shift. United Airlines was hiring and I walked over with about 7 former Eastern employees to get jobs. Every single one of them got jobs except me. I was branded as being "Too Union." The IAM hung me out to dry. Not one union representative stood up for me after all I did to keep as many members from getting fired. That was my union representation when I needed it.

    Bad taste in my mouth? You bet. After working in another industry for 30 years for myself, representing myself, and not having to worry about saving the jobs of deadbeats, I have to say that you're better off on your own. That being said, the little guy is still going to be taken advantage of and brings little bargaining power against big $$ companies. Uber & Lyft are going through this paradigm. I'll retire within a year but the young folk need to decide how best to manage their futures. My father was loyal union member, earned his pension, and understood my position. Unfortunately this was a time when we had to protect the pensions of our parents at the expense of new workers. No easy answers to this dilemma.
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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    We have two large non union factories here in Lafayette. Subaru and Cat. They both pay great wages and great bennies. A lot of the workers are very proud of that fact and feel very superior. Of course if there were no factories in the same game that were union the wages would be half what they currently are, probably.

    People have such short memories.
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    President Member Gunslinger's Avatar
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    My dad was a store manager for a grocery store chain back in the late 1940s and first half of the 1950s. The employees were unionized. My dad said that every time the union contract was up for a vote the company owners paid off the union leaders along with a minor concession in the labor agreement. The union leaders would go to the rank and file and tell them it was a good deal so they should vote for it and ratify the agreement. The union leaders got fat and happy, the company got an agreement not hateful to them and the rank and file got almost nothing.

    I'm not sure it still isn't somewhat the same today in some places.
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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    See that seems like a blatant generality. Are some leaders crooks, yes. But I am certain most are not.
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    I think unions have a place but IMHO I have to agree with FDR; public employees should be exempt. I'ts not hard to find evidence of politicians buying votes with public monies that eventually bankrupt the city or state.
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    I also agree that private unions have their place but not public employees unions. I came to this conclusion the hard way by having to deal with a teachers union for 6 years while serving on a local school board.

    John S.

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    I was on the school board here. I disagree about the teachers association. Teachers need the protection because after a period of time they are virtually locked into their school systems because of the expense of hiring experienced teachers so getting employment anywhere else is virtually impossible.

    I do think all unions would serve their profession better when they help managment deal with deadbeat employess.

    My dad and both my grandfathers and at least one uncle were either Studie employees or Ball Ban. Dad was a stewart for a year and quit because he was expected to get guys hired back when they showed up for work drunk.

    My Paternal Grandfather was the Union president at Ball Ban and an alcoholic, though he never drank while working and worked without incident until he retired.

    I agree with the guy who said Unions created the middle class. They also fought for the weekend and the 40 hour week.
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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Some may remember staying at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas in 1989 which was a unionized hotel. It took three staff members to get a photocopier from the basement storage area to one of the meeting rooms; someone from Maintenance to take it from the basement storage area to the hallway, just outside the door of the room it was requested, then a Room Service staff member to move it from outside the door to where the guests wanted it. Then finally, an Electrician on staff to come up, plug it in the wall, and turn the machine on.

    I have seen this kind of activity operate in schools from an early age, where a teacher was not allowed to clean up if something such as glue or paint spilled in the artroom, as an example. He or she had to call the custodial staff to perform the cleanup work. It was beyond the teacher's 'scope of work' as outlined in union documents.

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8E45E View Post
    Some may remember staying at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas in 1989 which was a unionized hotel. It took three staff members to get a photocopier from the basement storage area to one of the meeting rooms; someone from Maintenance to take it from the basement storage area to the hallway, just outside the door of the room it was requested, then a Room Service staff member to move it from outside the door to where the guests wanted it. Then finally, an Electrician on staff to come up, plug it in the wall, and turn the machine on.

    I have seen this kind of activity operate in schools from an early age, where a teacher was not allowed to clean up if something such as glue or paint spilled in the artroom, as an example. He or she had to call the custodial staff to perform the cleanup work. It was beyond the teacher's 'scope of work' as outlined in union documents.

    Craig
    Why would you want the teacher to clean up a mess? Who's gonna tend to the kids while she is doing that?
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    President Member Commander Eddie's Avatar
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    I think the relevance of unions today may hinge on the industry they represent. The only union to which I have ever belonged was SAG (Screen Actors Guild). The members of this guild work in an industry that is rife with money and the potential for corruption. The purpose of SAG has been, and still is today, to protect its members from the abuse of power and being victimized financially for the work they do in this industry.
    I have always felt protected by SAG and they have stayed out of controversy for the most part. I always got my checks and residual checks (I still get them to this day), and their representation has been solid and fair.
    All that being said, the entertainment industry is far different in many respects to other industries. A strong union for actors is still useful and needed. I cannot speak for other industries, however. (Your results may vary) as they say.
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    Golden Hawk Member rockne10's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DEEPNHOCK View Post
    Greed corrupts. Power corrupts.
    The corruptible seem very attracted to power. And when the job of the union becomes maintaining itself at the expense of its members it loses any support I may have given it.

    Locally, construction workers were contracted to replace window air conditioners in a classroom building, but were not permitted to plug them in; that fell to the electrical workers. And if the teachers happened to plug them in the electrical workers would walk out.

    The unions have certainly greatly improved the lives of the blue collars, and in some industries are still sorely needed. But, in many cases, both sides have entirely dropped the ball on common sense.
    Last edited by rockne10; Today at 02:45 PM.

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