Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Union. Yes or No?

You're working for a company, pick one, any one that has a unionized labor force, and your under the guidelines and work environment that entails specific jobs and titles that involve bidding in order to obtain a new position. For example, a Coal Mining Industry, let's say -- strip mining.
1. You are currently the operator of an excavator, and you want to train to become the operator of a front-end loader.
2. First, you check to see if that current position is open, and if so, you bid on the excavator position.
3. What you are bidding with is not currency but seniority, or how long you have worked at that particular job, job site and/or company in comparison to everyone else. That is what determines the amount of seniority you have.
4. If someone else has put in 5 years, and you have only been there 3, guess what? You lose out on that position.

Now, In a general sense, if both employees bidding on this position are equal in all aspects except seniority, then I would agree with that concept 100%. However, let's just say that Mr. 5 years of service tends to miss work, not enough to lose his job, but definitely a borderline case; and let's say you, Mr. 2 years of service, have not missed but maybe a day or two, for legitimate reasons. (ie. you really were sick, including a valid Dr.'s excuse, etc...). Now, let's also say, that not only do you put in 100% effort while on the job, you follow any and all guidelines set out by your employer, but you also keep complaints to their minimum, at least looking over the minor issues that will arise with any job (it's a job afterall, not a vacation); and not only that, long ago you realized that ever since you entered the adult world and started having to pay your own bills, feed your family and what not, that sometimes rocking the boat was a luxury that belonged to the 18 year old newcomers who still lived with their parents. That being said, Mr. 5 years is the total opposite of Mr. 2, do you still think he deserves the position both employees are pining over? I think not, but that's a personal opinion and should be taken with your own grain of salt.

In my opinion merit should outweigh seniority 100% of the time and without exception. I'm not trying to imply that anyone should go out of there way to be favorable to their supervisor(s) (some people label individuals like this a "suck" or a "brown noser"); no, I am simply saying:
1. Show up for work, every day you are scheduled to.
2. Do your best, at all times, not just when you feel like it.
3. Show some respect for your fellow employees, your boss, and your job in general. You may just have dependents that rely on your income, it's not always just about you.
4. If you feel a task is unnecessarily dangerous, then speak up; but don't complain about the toilet paper in the men's room not being the two-ply kind that keeps your bottom feeling soft and pampered.
5. Ensure that you follow the rules and regulations that are laid out upon your date of hire. Any complaints made thereafter concerning those guidelines should have been a consideration before you gave your word, usually in writing, that you would comply with the terms of your employ.

In the business world, as complex as it may seem, a lot of times it's far simpler than people like to let on. Follow the money and it all goes downhill from there. If your position is making money, and you are a good representative of that position, then relax, you need no protection for the most part. If however this is not the case, then more than likely you do not need to be there. If a company is not making money then it makes changes, plain and simple. If you yourself are the reason for your position not making money then wave goodbye, dramatically if you wish, for the end result will be the same. I've heard it said many times, a union keeps the lazy man working, and a business that turns a reasonable profit simply does not close it's doors. Pretty simple formula:
- Profit = Available work
- Available work done well = Paycheck
- Paycheck = Paid Bills + Financial security
- Paid bills + Financial security = Better quality of life

Another example is as follows:
1. You are on a construction crew as a helper for a carpenter, and you do very well.
2. You find a few minutes to yourself and you notice a pallet, or skid, of roofing shingles that need transported up top and the person in charge of that is either backed-up or simply taking his sweet time, so you decide to jump in and lend a hand.
3. The next day, in the union world, the person who was responsible for doing that job files a grievance against you for doing his job, when all you were trying to do was help.
No joke, ladies and gents, that's a real-world scenario and it does happen. In the situation just described, the union helped keep a lazy man his job, and also empowered him to penalize someone who was not said slacker; if he was simply backed-up and filed against you, then he isn't necessarily lazy, but he definitely felt threatened or was just being spiteful. The way it was when I grew up, you jumped in and helped just because it made it easier for everyone in the long run. Go figure.

In my own experiences, and in the experiences of others that I am acquainted with, a business with a unionized labor force tends to be far more expensive to keep the doors open on. Case in point:
Two different companies, one union and one non, produce the same product, we'll call the product "doomathingers," and the doomathingers are sold to the same retail outlets. The retailers in this example have a price they are willing to pay, and no higher. The non-union company has to pay their employees a wage, and if their labor force works full-time hours, they are required by law to provide a certain amount of medical benefit coverage, and a lot of times, if the company is in high standing and does well for themselves, more than over-compensates their employees, and I say this out of personal experience. Now with the unionized company, there is no telling what amount of funds are contributed towards their employees. It could be anything from paid medical coverage, to whatever the union decides their employers have to pay in the way of wages, benefits, bonus incentives, outrageous amounts of vacation time, sick leave, personal paid time off, ridiculous hours that are not as productive, and therefore not as financially sound as far as job security, so on and so forth.
That being said, both companies have "x" amount of money to work with due to the price set by their retailer client(s). Which do you think holds the higher job security? Well, if I were to be a company executive or owner, I would most definitely be losing less and less people due to position termination and lay-offs from the non-unionized labor force than the unionized one; but that speech doesn't sound as good to ol' Johnny blue-collar because his mentality is "Why should I make the company more money instead of putting it in my pocket?" Well, you have a point Johnny, but I'll guarantee you, I'll still have my job when you are on the unemployment line complaining about how you stood up and fought the man

And before we discuss wages, remember this folks, the government has stepped in over the years and regulated a lot of things that were highly exploited before the days of unions. Companies realize this, and they realize that in order to get specific jobs, or types of labor in general accomplished, they simply have to pay a decent wage or they will most certainly get what they pay for. You offer minimum wage for someone to sky walk across a steel beam that's 30 stories in the air, the people you do find willing to risk their lives for such a thing stand a good chance on being either under the influence of drugs, mentally ill, convicted felons, or illegal immigrants. Now again, we go back to saying nothing is 100%, but in this case, I'd be willing to say at least 75% accurate. In order to get me to do something as risky as the previous example, I'd without a doubt be hitting the liquor store on the way home each and every night just to calm my nerves enough to sleep, and to accept the fact that I'm being shown hardly anything for my efforts come payday.

The unions, back in their early years, had a huge impact on creating this country's middle class and was a needed element in our nation's work force; but these days, more often than not, a union exists just to keep that union in existence. Union dues are paid, and some one's pocket is just a little thicker than the rest. Do not be naive and think that this does not happen, constantly, everywhere.

The opinions I seem to run across concerning other people's views pertaining to union vs. non-union, are often surprisingly linked to that person's class in society. This is not always the case, but very few things are ever 100% when it comes to the variance in people's viewpoints. Johnny blue-collar seems to be my biggest opponent when it comes to any negative critisism I have for unionized labor systems; and for whatever reasons they give at the time of the argument, it usually boils down to one of two different reasons.
1. Their father was union.
2. They tend to be the very same people whose employment a seriously profit driven business would not think twice about terminating, especially after having already missed five sick days within a six-month time period; complaining daily about things that become more mundane each time; show poor work ethics and even worse company loyalty when it comes time to push a little harder in order to ensure their job's existance the following fiscal year.

You simply have to accept the fact that if you are making your company money, then you are an asset. If you are rocking the boat, or simply just becoming a cancer for the morale of your fellow co-workers, then sorry to say, but if you worked for me you may want to consider keeping an up to date resume at all times.

I cannot remember where I seen the following quote, so long as anyone reading this knows that these are not my words, but someone else's. I find them to hold a good bit of wisdom: "People need to get out of the union halls and take an economic class."

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