Monday, March 06, 2006

Are Unions Fair?

When Labor and Capital, (business owners), work together we see synergy beyond belief, but when they are at odds, we have unfairness and usually at the expense of Capital.

For example: When employees get together to bargain with ownership it is called a Union, but if owners get together to bargain with employees it is called “collusion.”

Let’s take the Auto Industry. If the “Ford” Union bargains with “Ford” ownership, then there is fairness and equal power on both sides, but if the “Ford” Union gets together with the other Automakers unions and form a “giant” union and then negotiate with the individual Automakers, we have an unbalance of power that is slanted to the employees. The Automakers are selling competing products.

Next, let’s take the National Football League. The owners work together with the players to promote/sell the same product, called NFL Football. The players from separate teams have a single “giant” union that negotiates with the owners as a group. This seems to allow a balance, but if we look further we see that as in the case of other Pro sports, there is an imbalance towards the players. The NFL is selling the same product and are not competing for sales. They escentially sell to one buyer called Television.

If the players decide to abandon the union, or more importantly “threaten” to abandon the union and “decertify”, then the owners will not be able to work toward keeping the “League” together. They will begin to lookout for their own interest before the interest of the League and the “bigger market” teams will eventually be the only ones left standing.

If the owners try to keep the league from loosing its small market teams by working together with common fiscal rules, they will be brought down by our “big brother” government for “collusion.”

Baseball is a good example of how this is currently happening. The Yankees can spend as much as they want on player’s salaries and can compete for a championship every year by “buying” the best players no matter the cost….Because they can afford it!

I was an employee for 90% of my working life and had the same opinion as I do now as an owner. As an employee I wanted the company I worked for to be as profitable as possible as I saw that as being my best chance at being more profitable in my paycheck.
Why are there people who “love employees” but “hate employers?” Labor and Capital need to work together, not against each other, but there must be a “balance of power” and right now the government helps labor to have the upper hand way too often.



At 7:11 PM, Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Unions are for the protection of the incompetent. Talented, dedicated, hardworkers do not need bullies to keep them employed. Only numbnuts do.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 07 06

Glad to see you are back. II, sometimes I don't get what you are saying. But I disagree. If companies cared about protecting their workers, and I mean having a safe work environment, the function of unions would be limited. Personally, I get annoyed when the BART union threatens to strike or any major transportation workers threaten to do it; while I think they should have some advocates for their positions, I DON'T think it is ever right for them to stop the economy from functioning.

Good example:
Secretaries and clerical workers at UCSF's Laurel Heights office went on strike. They protested during their LUNCH and two fifteen minute breaks. They did NOT interrupt the productivity of the University because they did it on THEIR time. I see no issues with workers having a right to express discontent; it is just a matter of how they do it.

My parents are teachers and have been for many years. My father has been active in his union and I don't blame him. He is neither incompetent, untalented or not dedicated and I resent your words II.

I do think that some unions totally have abused their positions, but when a union steps in to help out workers who have been abused etc, I have no issue with that at ALL.

And unions are also private entities who can give to political campaigns but don't receive federal funding to my knowledge. So what is the problem?Good post FAR.

At 11:59 PM, Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 07 06

Gary: How does the government help unions? I asked my father about how his union is funded and he said it is a private entity that doesn't get funding from anywhere EXCEPT its members. I haven't seen government helping unions and lately it seems like there is a lot of anti union sentiment going around.

If the focus of unions is to ensure that workers are safe (e.g. OSHA rules enforced) and that they are treated without malice, I am fine with that.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...


If your father is talented, then he would be a valued employee whether he was in a union or not.

The problem with unions is that they are not voluntary. I can't be a teacher without paying the union protection money; same with being a cop, fireman, etc. If it was a voluntary associaton of people, that would be one thing, but when a union guards the door to an industry like the way SAG, for example, does with Hollywood, it prevents a lot of people from earning a living.

In my job, we deal with the Hollywood guilds and they are bastards. Try to do a non-union commercial as your break in the business. You will never get a SAG job ever - you will be blacklisted forever. SAG even muscled flip-flopper Arnold into guaranteeing that all his commercials would be union produced.

Every pro-union person I have asked always says that without unions, employees can be fired, as if that is some horrible thing (join the rest of us at-will employees). I worked on a lawsuit representing a company that was sued by an employee injured by another employee. The offending employee was an idiot; she nearly killed her co-worker, maiming her severely and, with her stupidity, she probably would make the same mistake again if put in the same situation. My client couldn't fire that moron because of the union. Nope, the worst punishment that could be assessed was two weeks suspension without pay. So instead of replacing numbnuts with someone with a brain, the company is on the hook for the injuries and still has to employ the moron with the possibility that it will be sued for future incidents. How does that make sense?

Good employees are valued. Good employees have choices. They don't need a gang to keep them employed. Especially teachers MSR. Ask your dad and I am sure he will tell you how hard it is for school districts to find good teachers these days. I would bet that when they do have a good one, they treat them like gold or that person goes elsewhere.

At 1:37 AM, Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 08 06

"Good employees are valued. Good employees have choices. They don't need a gang to keep them employed. Especially teachers MSR. Ask your dad and I am sure he will tell you how hard it is for school districts to find good teachers these days. I would bet that when they do have a good one, they treat them like gold or that person goes elsewhere."

II: That is where your idealism clouds your outlook. In an ideal world, competent and talented workers would be valued. But not in the Valley. Send me an email if you want more specific information, but if you look at the stats, we have been compared to Apppalachia. Our college graduation rate is 14% or less so cronyism is FAR more important than competence.

I worked for MCI for a while. They DID NOT value their empolyees at the call center where I worked. That is one of the few places where I saw supervisors voluntarily DEMOTE THEMSELVES. Trust me. Being an at will employee sucks when you are a regular JOE. Being an at will employee when you work in Hollywood is something different. For all of the examples of incompetent workers you can site, I can site workers who went above and beyond the call of duty and were unfairly SCREWED.

I feel as though Unions should have limited power. And I once worked at UCSF and didn't sign up to be part of the clerical union but they had my position. Well, when I received a retroactive raise from over a year, due to union bargaining, I wasn't complaining.

Sure some unions abuse their power, but there are some industries that could use them. Trust me.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Hey FAR,

welcome back!

Unions exist to give employees, collectively, a better position in negotiations vis-a-vis their employer. In the ideal world sketched out by my dear libertarian friends, where everything is measured solely on merit and there is perfect fairness, yes, you wouldn't need them. But here in the real world, the imbalance in power between employer and employee is pretty major, the workplace is often enough a place of petty squabbles, and individuals feel constrained from asking for socialist perks like a 'raise' or 'paid vacation'.

So the question of unions being fair should probably be answered in the affirmative. Are indivual unions perfect? No. Are individual union members saints? Definitely not always. Do some unions turn into job protection rackets? Hell yes. But that's the broader human imperfection you'll find on the business end as well, as the Enron trial currently demonstrates.

:-), StS

At 5:54 PM, Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


My point in my post is that Unions are protected by the government by allowing them to price fix as a gang/group.

Unions should not have more power than an individual company. In the case of the UAW, if the FORD union votes to strike, then the UAW could go on strike against all auto makers that gives them a government blessed advantage because if the Auto Makers get together to "set/fix prices" it is against the law.

Unions should work with a company not against it. In almost all cases where I have been involved with a union, the union workers worked for the union and not for the company. How do you have happy customers when you cannot control the bad apples because you can't fire them?

When I was in Australia, my waitress came over to my table and was extremely rude and snotty. She brought me my eggs, then 5 minutes later she brought me my bacon and then 15 minutes later she brought me my toast. I am one who likes to eat my toast with my eggs.

I complained to the owner and he said..."I am really sorry, but my employees work for the union and I can't tell them anything."

I have see this every time a union is involved.

The best companies will always attract the best employees and bad companines will not be able to retain the average to good employees.

If you, (not you, but people in general), need a union to bargain for them then they don't know how to do it and they will no grow as a person.



At 6:02 PM, Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


Thanks for the welcome back. I missed you guys. :)

I have been busy with work to the point of almost no free time to do anything but eat and sleep and sometimes I miss some of that too.

I don't favor unions because of my bad experiences with them everytime I have been involved with them. From my very first job at Safeway when I was in high school to the time I was in a "show booth" at a sales convention, I have never found them to be good for the economy.

When we were setting up our show boot at the convention, we were all set to go except for plugging in the "Custome Show Display" that we paid thousands of dollars for. The visitors were streaming by and we were told we could not plug in the Display because it required a "Union" electrician and they would not be able to get there for a couple of hours. I said, "but all I need to do is plug in this plug?" I was told, "Nope, if yuo do, we will have to kick you out of the convention!"

Talk about job security! Talk about not caring about business!


At 6:05 PM, Blogger Free Agency Rules said...


As you can tell, I am definately on the same wave length as you.

While we live in an imperfect world, that is not a good excuse to continue to do the wrong thing by not trying to fix the "real" problems and instead giving government approved "protection" to certian groups.


At 6:52 AM, Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Forget about 'good for the economy' for a moment - seems to me the Bush government is doing everything it can to protect, say oil companies and other large donors.

Instead, take a look at normal working people. Who wouldn't like to have the kind of security and benefits union members have? And isn't the job of our economy, in the macro sense, to produce a decent standard of living for us as a people?

That's where any measurement of 'good for the economy' that focuses solely on shareholder value or corporate profits fails. Unless our economy also produces a decent standard of living for the people in it, what's the point? And that's why unions were necessary, are necessary and will remain necessary.

:-), StS

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Reign of Reason said...

STS - your first comment was right on.

Unions exist to protect the interests of workers who serve at the whim of the employer. (I am an employer... I currently employ 40 aerospace engineers). As you point out, in an ideal world where people are judged on their merit and the value they add to an organization everything works well.

But let’s snap into the real world.

Take UA (United Airlines)... The pilots union negotiates great salaries and protections for these talented workers... But UA is run like a dinosaur -- inefficiently -- ignoring the competition and the marketplace all the while rewarding top executives with exorbitant salaries -- while the company looses billions.

What happens? They ask the union for concessions: pay and pension agreements are changed (guaranteed pensions essentially thrown out the window even for previously retired pilots who get pennies on the dollar). The company files for chapter 11.

So, coming out of chapter 11 they ask for more concessions... But at the same time REWARD management for navigating the bankruptcy proceedings! The execs got tens-of-millions in bonuses at the same time the company was trying to become 'lean and mean'... It's a joke: run the company into the ground, get a bonus… File for bankruptcy, get another bonus… Come out of bankruptcy and reduce the labor force: good job, collect your salary and bonus!

And this isn't an isolated case. In big-corporate America it’s not about efficiency and innovation. Big companies are simply places for cronies to get their millions and move on: improving or maintaining the bottom line is not the measuring stick: again, look at big oil, big defense (of which I am intimately familiar), the US auto industry (how can Japan, Germany, etc – 2000+ miles away figure out what American’s want better than exec’s in Detroit?), etc. etc.

Sorry, but even tho unions have their problems I'll still side with protecting a laborer rather than protecting a millionaire crony - I personally know many of them that are completely useless and draw an annual salary that's bigger than my 10 year draw at MY OWN company.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger PB2c said...

FAR and all--just a short note on unions. I have never been a real fan of unions, as I too think they usually protect those who do not deserve protection.

However, there is a role for unions as you will see.

I have been employed for a government entity for almost 7 years. For the entire time I have worked in an office setting. During six of those years I complained of cold conditions in the office as well as leaking windows and mold. For six years I suffered and worked in temperatures that ranged from 52 degrees F. to about 64 degrees in the summer, when I opened a door to let some heat in. I, along with others complained daily and weekly to our manager and to the facilities operations managers about the heat and the leaks and the mold. Six years I complained and was always given excuses! Finally I decided (not being a union lover) to ask the union to file a grievance on my behalf.

This is no bullshit, The day after the formal grievance was placed the temperature in my office was 69 degrees and now, a month later, I can report that the temperature has been a constant of 70-72 degrees F. The plant operations manager has been here twice to check on the temperature and make sure I have the state required amount of fresh air in my office. A study is being conducted to determine the types of mold growing in the wall and under the carpet.

Know what? I work hard, get excellent ratings on my reviews and am appreciated here, but it took the union to get the office working environment conducive and legal.

Can you say, we just wanted to save money on our electric bill? :)

Who ever said government workers have it easy. We work in lousy conditions with less than stellar pay, because no-one wants to pay taxes. Yet, you expect us to perform miracles for you with a smile.


At 9:01 AM, Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...


Where are you?


Post a Comment

<< Home