When the American auto industry became the next in line for a big government bailout, there were those who immediately tried to blame the unions. The topic of unions seems to come up in my world rather often, so I thought I’d make it this week’s subject.
Are unions bad or good? Being a socialist at heart, I always thought an organization to protect workers’ rights was a good thing. But when I grew up and belonged to one for the first time, I started hearing tales of how corrupt they were. But none of these stories was really backed up by any specific detail or example. So I never knew what to make of them. All I can rely on is my own experience. And I have three examples of why unions are a good thing.
Example one. I was in a situation where my supervisor retaliated against a coworker and me for going to the union about something. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but after the union set it straight, we were both suddenly written up on bogus “out of uniform” charges. All it took was the word “retaliation” for my union rep to get on the horn and have the write-ups removed from the files. Score one for the union.
Example two. Our personnel office commented that it was wrong for me to be classified as a “technical” series (read: blue collar qualifications) while a coworker doing the exact same thing was a “professional” (white collar). I’d never though much of these arbitrary categories, until they cost me a promotion. So with HR as backup, I initiated the process of being reclassified. Unfortunately, both my supervisor and her supervisor were uninterested in helping me. In fact, they actively blocked me at every turn. Enter the union. I didn’t want to file an actual grievance, but just having them on my side lit enough fires under the right butts to get the job done. Score two.
Example three. In my current situation, I serve on a team. Everyone on the team does pretty much the same job. But some of us are GS-11, and some are only GS-9. How is that fair? Why should someone get paid more to do the same thing? I know what personnel would say, and I know what a union would say….if only I had one here. Because this is a non-union forest, I get to remain screwed as one of the lesser-paid employees. No score here, because I don’t have a union to defend my rights.
So for me, unions are good. I’m sure there are corrupt elements out there somewhere – but that could be said of any and every field, union or no. Is union corruption any more prevalent than anyplace else?
To realize what would happen if there were no unions, just think of the plight of Wal-Mart employees. It is well-documented that Wal-Mart keeps employee hours just below levels that would require benefits, that they deny worker’s comp coverage on bogus technicalities, and all manner of other abuses. And let’s not even mention the recent trampling……(ok, I’ll mention it but that’s all).
As government workers, some of us are unionized and some aren’t. It would be nice to live in a society where all workers’ rights were protected. But we don’t. And I don’t like that. There are too many loopholes for the big guys, and not enough for us. Unions are the only way to ensure that we receive fair treatment at the hands of our employers.
And if anyone thinks that unions have anything to do with the problems facing the Big Three auto makers, they’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid.