Monday, April 16, 2007

On Labor Unions

I tend to be pro-labor union. That is not my universal position, I have seen union work rules that I thought were unreasonable. Labor unions were formed at a time when workers were being exploited by business, however, and they have performed a valuable function over the years. The balance of power has shifted back and forth, but I have no doubt that labor unions have done far, far more good for this country than they have done harm.

When I see actions like that of Circuit City, where higher paid workers are fired for no reason other than the higher wage that they have worked hard to achieve, and are then offered a chance to apply for positions as starting employees at a lower wage, then my pro-union stance becomes more pronounced. (Do I need to tell you that I won’t be shopping at Circuit City any time soon?)

The climate today is much too pro-business, and labor unions need all the support they can get. Today more than ever, in the absence of information to dictate otherwise, a union/business dispute will see me siding with the union.

Sometimes, though, union members badly shoot themselves in the foot.

San Diego has three major grocery chains whose workers are affiliated with a major union. Three years ago they went on strike which lasted for quite a long time and which became quite rancorous. They eventually settled, but the workers were not particularly happy and now the contract is expiring and the negotiations are not going well. We don’t know what the offers are on either side, because the negotiations are closed and the sides are not permitted to discuss it.

Since I don’t know what the position of either side is, my sympathy would normally be with the workers.

I shop regularly at one of those stores and in the past the staff has been very friendly and helpful, which is why I have made it a habit to shop there. Over the past few months though, as the labor negotiations have gone on, the staff has been increasingly rude and unhelpful. I am not the only one to notice this, several of my friends who shop at the same chain have also observed it.

The union members have a problem with management of the store, it seems, and are taking it out on the customers.

That attitude is just not in their best interest. If they drive the customers away the store will need fewer employees and there will be fewer union jobs. Additionally, if they do go on strike, they are not going to want shoppers crossing their picket lines. They need the shoppers to be in sympathy with them.

If they have been rude to me for the past several months do you think that I am going to be sympathetic? I can tell you as a point of fact that I am not. The union members’ attitude has cost them my support. I will make an exception to my usual pro-union stance, and hope that these particular union members do not prevail.

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