In honor of Labor Day, I thought I’d discuss labor unions.
I decided to visit Hispanic Pundit for some inspiration, because his blog is written with a strong focus on economics, particularly issues involving low-wage workers.
Boy did I find some inspiration! In Wal-Mart (cue scary music) Is The Poor And Minorities’ Friend, Hispanic Pundit notes that another blog, Latino Politics Blog, continues its boycott of Wal-Mart (cue scary music) despite the fact that Latina Style magazine named the retail giant one of the best 50 companies for Latinas in terms of promoting diversity and career opportunities for Latinas nationwide. For the second year in a row.
I love Wal-Mart (cue scary music) and I love discussing it and observing it being discussed. Why? Because in New York City, where I live, there is no Wal-Mart (cue scary music). Every time Wal-Mart (cue scary music) expresses interest in setting up shop anywhere in the Big Apple, our Democrat-dominated City Council (three Republicans out of 51 Council Members) holds hands with their biggest campaign contributors, the city’s labor unions, and tell Wal-Mart (cue scary music) to piss off. Then comes the whole shpiel on how Wal-Mart (cue scary music) hurts poor people by denying them a “living wage”.
In my experience, non-union jobs have far more benefits than the union jobs I’ve worked. How come? Because while I have been working on completing my undergrad degree I have had to survive by working low-wage jobs, that is, jobs that pay less than $10 an hour. Unless your union job pays more than $10 an hour, it’s likely that you are worse off with union representation (union interference is more like it) than if there was no union at all at your job.
Now I understand that unions greatly expanded the middle class in America and helped workers fight against employers who offered poor work conditions and horribly low wages. But that was almost 50 years ago. The labor unions of today have high-paid presidents, bribe Democrats in the same manner that big corporations bribe Republicans, and don’t do a lot in helping the working poor, which is what unions were created to do in the first place.
It is because of the union’s failure to help the lowest wage earners in this country that explains why union membership has steadily decreased over the years. The number of highly-compensated workers that actually feel they need union representation is dwindling, and low-wage workers who have worked both union and non-union jobs have experienced the uselessness of the modern-day labor union.
The truth is, if your employer treats you fairly and compensates you what you think your work is worth, then you don’t need a union. If your employer treats you unfairly and doesn’t compensate you what you think your work is worth, a union will not help you.
Here’s an example of how unions do little to increase the low wages for its members. When I worked at a supermarket with a union workforce, I was paid 25 cents more per hour than the minimum wage, thanks to the UFCW Local 100. But $12 in union dues was withheld from my paycheck every week.
When I worked at this supermarket, I worked an average of 20 to 25 hours a week. Thanks to the union, I earned 0.25 more per hour. So in a 25-hour work week, I earned $6.25 more per week because of the seemingly benevolent union.
But wait! Every week $12 was automatically removed from my paycheck for union dues. $6.25 (extra union wage increase) minus $12 (union dues for making such a wonderful wage increase possible) means I actually lost $5.75 each 25-hour work week, and the fewer hours I worked each week, the more money I lost because my hourly wage increase of 25 cents was less than the $12 I had to pay for union dues. I couldn’t work more hours, because I was already enrolled in college as a full-time student.
Seems to me if my old union cared so damn much for the working class they would’ve spared me the union dues. One might say that unions offer other benefits that are supported by union dues such as a pension plan. Unlike enrolling into a 401 (k) which has been offered to me at some non-union jobs, working a union job means that enrolling in the pension plan is mandatory, and (in the case of my supermarket job) they only pay out a meager amount if you work there at least two years and more money if you work there five or ten years.
The most common feature of low-paying work is the turnover. Most people working at a low wage often find better jobs as their skills and experience increase, and that may mean leaving the union altogether before the two-year mark, meaning that most low-wage union workers are merely paying into someone else’s pension. With a 401 (k), any money I would’ve paid into it would still be mine when I reach 65 regardless of how long I remain with a particular employer.
Unions also claim that membership ensure job security, which is a lot of BS. If an employer wants to fire you, they will find a way. What really happens is that unions often keep unproductive or incompetent members employed, as is the case with the United Federation of Teachers whose members work in New York City’s public school system. The UFT opposes merit-based pay for teachers and supports social promotion among students.
People tend to stereotype all unions as being benevolent heroes for the working class, and that anyone working at a non-union job is practically an indentured servant. That is why Wal-Mart (cue scary music) is portrayed as evil by labor unions and by their lap dogs, the Democrats. The retail giant is one of the largest employers in the U.S. and is non-union.
This scares the hell out of Democrats and union leaders, who realize their is a growing workforce that recognizes that it does not need third-party union representation. A workforce that understands such low-paying, low-skilled labor is temporary in nature, with the more productive workers either moving up in the ranks or finding better work elsewhere. Wal-Mart (cue scary music) is fine with that, and its employees are fine with that. The only people who aren’t fine with that are those who don’t work there.
Other non-union national retailers have also been picketed in New York City by Teamsters and other unions for building new stores, usually in neighborhoods with high rates of unemployment. One such case is when Home Depot purchased a large area of nearly completely vacant properties in an economically depressed area of Jamaica, Queens. I go to school in this neighborhood, which is known for its commercial properties which remain vacant and dilapidated for years, and I am familiar with the vacant lots and closed-down storefronts which Home Depot purchased.
As Queens Democrats rallied with their union cronies to protest the construction of the non-union Home Depot into this black neighborhood, known for its scores of semi-employed and unemployed black men on the streets, the area’s Congressman, U.S. Rep. Gregory stood up to his fellow Democrats and stated that Home Depot would be a welcome addition to his district, citing that black unemployment is significantly higher in the U.S. than the overall average and that unemployment rates in his district were than the rest of Queens. The politicians protesting the corporation’s new store in Jamaica represent parts of Queens that are nowhere near Jamaica.
He added that black people in his district need jobs, something that unions have failed to provide, and that Home Depot would provide those jobs, albeit non-union. Well, that was two years ago, and the area of Jamaica around Home Depot is revitalized, with some new businesses moving into previously vacant storefronts following the store’s opening.
I know I sound anti-union. But let me say this: it is just as inaccurate to say that all unions are bad as it is to blindly believe that all unions are good. The fact is, unions have done a lot of good in this country and there are workers in many industries whose lives have improved because of unions, but when unions are involved in workplaces that don’t need them or no longer need them, it is only expected that the union will harm that company’s workers and customers.