Unions Are Bad News

In light of the ongoing problems with the dispute between the NFLPA and the owners squabbling over the almighty dollar and jeopardizing the game we love, I felt this was a perfect time to address the issue of unionized labor. Keep in mind (an open mind preferably) this is not just about the union and the owners, but unions as an entity / philosophy.

The subjects of unionized labor and contract negotiations are matters close to my heart and ones that I am intimately familiar with. By the way, for a good read concerning negotiations (unionization and negotiation go together), I suggest Winning With Integrity: Getting What You’re Worth Without Selling Your Soul by Leigh Steinberg. Steinberg is a high profile Sports Agent and the person who inspired the movie Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Now, back to unions.

I have been around unionized labor my entire working life. While employed at Kennedy Space Center for over 25 years, I worked side by side with members of two different unions. While pursuing a Bachelors degree in business / psychology, I did a thesis on the origination of unions and what, if any economical effect they have on society. While working on my MBA, I continued my research on the subject and did my Graduate Research Project (GRP) on unionized labor, with an emphasis on “public unionization”. Simply put, public unions include any type of profession that is paid by the taxpayer (you & I). Private unions (while they are fewer) are paid by companies in the private sector (the guys who pay the taxes for public unions).

Not only did I have daily interaction with union employees and hundreds if not thousands of hours of research, but my best friend was a loyal union member when he worked for GM (he called them Generous Motors) in Kalamazoo, MI. He would call and gloat how much money he was making for so little work, and that he could get any prescription for $2.00 and zero co-pay for office visits. I had good benefits too, but not that good. Worse yet, I ended up marrying a lady whose father was a VP for the Doll & Toy union in NY., NY. I distinctly remember when she told me what her dad (my soon to be Father – In – Law) did for a living (yes, it was a FT job). We were having dinner and I damn near choked. Conversations around the dinner table changed drastically after that day. Ha Did we dislike each other because of our polar views on a subject so close to our hearts? No, of course not. I loved Bill and he was as likeable as they come. He was in the perfect job for his personality. The man could sell an ice cube to an Eskimo on the coldest Anchorage winter day. Meticulous? Bill would routinely spend 40 minutes trimming his mustache, and never went out of the house without wearing an expensive suit. RIP Bill.

It wasn’t all bad. In the end we just agreed to disagree, just like I will with those staunch proponents or members of the union that are reading this article. There were great times. I want to thank the union for paying for more than one of my family vacations. Every six months the union would have a “hmmmm, Executive Conference”. The families were included at no cost to them in these conferences, and we went to a few. The most memorable was a 5 day stay in Disney World’s most expensive hotel called The Contemporary, which is actually located INSIDE the theme park itself. I remember fresh squeezed FL. orange juice costing $5.00 for a glass and it was being ordered by the pitchers. I can only imagine what the total bill of that conference set the union members back. Thanks again Bill; union members. Keep those dues coming!

Without going into a tremendous amount of detail, I will explain why I am so adamantly opposed to unions in all but the most extreme circumstances.

They Are Inflationary: Simply bad, bad, bad. This reason is the elephant in the room and is responsible for an incalculable cost of who knows how many jobs, dollars and even industries. This lone rationale has had a dramatic economic effect on our country and has greatly increased our national debt.
Compensation packages (salary plus benefits) continue to sky rocket over the rate of inflation and commonly outpace the labor rates and associated costs of similar entities, making the company / organization non competitive. One of my previous directors who shared my view of unions had an interesting business philosophy. He used to say, “If I hire a toilet bowl flusher and keep giving him more money on a periodical basis for doing the same job, the time is going to come when he is overpaid. Flushing the toilet is only worth so much to my business.”

Unions Reward Longevity: Do you believe that an employee should get a pay raise (no, it isn’t a merit increase, you need to EARN that) just for hanging around for a long time and turning oxygen into carbon dioxide? Unions do. This in turn creates ill feelings with new employees coming in doing the same job as someone who has been in the job for say, 20 years for half of the salary. General Motors is going through this as we speak after the union was forced to relent after the federal bailout.

Unions do not promote innovative or exceptional work habits: It doesn’t matter if you out work or out produce a co-worker. Your pay and raises are set in contractual stone. There is no motivation to “do better”. In fact, if you do out produce a co-worker, the union might have to sit you down and have a talk with you. I have seen it happen several times, even to the extent of physical threats. Pathetic!

Unions Promote Self Entitlement: This is probably the one that bothers me the most. The psychology of a long term union member changes. Things that were once considered a benefit for services somehow becomes a God given birthright. Have you ever tried taking a bone away from an angry dog? The current case with the teachers in Wisconsin is a perfect example of this. The teachers union is dead against making the teachers pay a small portion of their medical insurance. Why? Because it has always been given to them. It is now a right, not a benefit.

Not My Job Mentality: Make no mistake, union management and representatives are extremely detailed in creating job descriptions for its members. Workers are told to never deviate from these duties, and don’t worry, they don’t. In fact, a co-worker can be “turned in” to the union and reprimanded for going “above and beyond” for the common cause. So much for teamwork.

I could go into further detail as I have not touched upon how difficult it is for an employer to terminate a non preformer without legal preceedings or how hard it is to keep good workers over a  poor worker in times of downsizing due to “seniority” rules.  However, I have covered the main reasons why unions are not in the best interest of a private company, public agency or the United States of America in general. I am sure there are those who disagree, and that is well within your right. However, I do hope that I have given you something to think about.

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