Labor Unions: Quality and Legality Run Amok

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

When I entered the work force, I attained a job at a local GM dealer washing cars. By law, dealers are privately owned entities, so while we sold GM products, we were not owned or operated by General Motors Corporation. I worked there for five years, learning all I could about the business, striving to earn raises and promotions that might come my way.

In previous years, GM factories had created a group of stand-by employees to their labor pool. It consisted of workers that were hired to sit idly in an office for a shift in case subs were needed for normal laborers who missed work or had to leave unexpectedly.General Motors

This might seem frivolous to pay people whom often did nothing, but at the time, factories were running at full capacity. GM determined that as people missed work, the costs of having stand-bys compared to the cost of assembly slow-downs if they didn’t have stand-bys made fiscal sense.

Eventually, the quality of the overseas competition caught up to the domestic trio of Ford, Chrysler, and GM, and demand for domestic autos waned. As a result, GM had no need for such extra workers; they needed more money to build a better product buy cutting that staff to free up money for research and development. However, because of the United Auto Workers’ contracts and their unwillingness for concessions for the good of the company, GM was required to keep them on staff for a period of time. So GM opted to send them as helpers to the dealers and give us some free “labor”. The hope being that their assistance help cut costs for the dealers, who then might invest in more product.

Photo: Sheldon Dick, Strikers guarding window entrance to Fisher body plant #3, Flint, Michigan - via Library of Congress
Photo: Sheldon Dick, Strikers guarding window entrance to Fisher body plant #3, Flint, Michigan – via Library of Congress

The observant of you will notice I put quotation marks around labor. Let me explain. The “labor” we were provided took a 10-minute break every hour, moved at a snail’s pace, and he couldn’t even spell quality, nevertheless deliver it.

One day we had 24 cars to clean that came back from auction. The day we were to do this, I did 21 of them in the time he did the other three. Knowing that he was making well over twice my pay, I was furious. I asked if this was how he always worked. He didn’t seem to understand the meaning of the question, for indeed, it was his normal work ethic. He was twice my size, so I let it go.

For the record, I fully understand one instance doesn’t constitute a pattern, but almost all my subsequent encounters with unions have been equally disturbing, leading me to believe that I cannot argue in any way, that they provide superior labor to their employers, a claim unions often try to make.

While the quality of their labor is atrocious compared to their non-union counterparts, the issue that truly troubles me, are the laws they’re allowed to break, specifically because legislators have carved out exceptions for them in the law.

I only have a layman’s understanding of law, but here are what I believe to be, some reasonable questions:

  • If I take the financial risk to start a company and grow it into a large corporation, what right does someone I hire have to tell me what I will or won’t do for them? I’m the one that took the financial risk; I own it, and it’s my property. If I choose to hire someone, shouldn’t I have the right to determine how they work and how they are compensated?
  • Monopolies are illegal. Yet, if I go to work for GM, I can only join the UAW, there’s no other union I can choose. This is true for all unionized businesses as far as I know and even true for most unions in an industry. So is this not a monopoly?
  • Some states have right to work laws, but in others, if you go to work for a company whose labor force is unionized, they don’t have a choice. They must join the union. How can a union legally force me to join them? What’s next? If I buy a house next to a golf club, I will legally be forced to become a member there as well?
  • People say that the unions “negotiate” with the employers. But is is an actual negotiation? In a normal negotiation, if the two parties cannot agree to a mutually beneficial deal, they will decide not to do business together. However, if a company doesn’t like the deal the union is offering, the law says they legally can’t just walk away; they call that “union-busting,” a practice that can sometimes be illegal. In a normal free market capitalist environment, I would choose to do business with someone if I saw value in doing so. But with unions, I’m not REALLY given a choice.
  • The documentary “Waiting for Superman,” pointed out that one out of every 57 doctors loses their license to practice; one out of every 97 lawyers loses their license; but union teachers lose their job one out of every 1000. The private sector averages around 3 out of 20 as a whole. Unless one is attempting to argue that teachers are universally 10-20 times better at what they do than everyone else, this is clearly an indication that unions are preventing proper turnover that weeds out under-performing employees. It’s not important though, they’re only teaching YOUR children.


The fact is that there is likely no organization that would choose to do business with unions if they weren’t forced to and likely none that have benefited financially from that relationship. In a free country, it should be their right to do business with whomever they want. If unions offered a valuable product, people would gladly do business with them. So the idea that we have laws forcing people to join is contradictory to a capitalist system. Let them compete in a free market like everyone else under the same laws as everyone else so that they can evolve like everyone else. Enough is enough with allowing them to infect and destroy the wallet of American businesses and our government.

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3 thoughts on “Labor Unions: Quality and Legality Run Amok”

  1. I couldnt agree more. I work in a hospital that unfortunately is union. I was forced to join. I am forced to pay union dues. In the short four years I’ve been working here, I can honestly say this union has not done ONE useful thing…for ANY employee. All the union does is protect the shitty workers from being fired while employees with a good work ethic pick up the slack. You nailed it on the head Gary.

Drop some genius on me here.

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