Spring City Chronicle on unions

by thoughtfulconservative

Huckleberry Dumbell notes

Unions are an anachronistic, socialist throwback to the industrial revolution. I’m currently an unwilling member who sees his dues sent to political candidates who support positions and policies which are personally and morally abhorrent to me. I can’t opt out because the great believers in a free democratic and just society, the union, won’t let me.

This seems to be the experience of many union members.

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16 Comments to “Spring City Chronicle on unions”

  1. How many? What percent?

    I think it behooves those who would do away with organized labor to a) admit what they have done for the American middle class and b) explain what’s going to take its place when it’s gone. So far all I’ve heard is that they’re a) awful and that we should b) get rid of them lest our economy fail. Or something.

  2. How many? Those I’ve talked to.

    Unions were great in their day, no doubt. What benefit are they to the modern American worker? Are you a union member? What have they done for you?

    What will take place when they’re gone? Enlighten me because I’ve never belonged to a union so I’m unaware of all these great benefits that would be mine.

  3. If nothing else, the unions act as a counterbalance to what would be the near-unlimited power of management against labor if the unions didn’t exist. Their very existence mitigates at least somewhat against what would certainly be abuses against workers.

    Socialist is a term that’s been thrown about a lot lately simply as a scare tactic. We were in no danger of becoming socialist when Eugene Debs was garnering significant amounts of votes for president, and we’re certainly in no danger of it now.

    Also, strictly speaking, union dues can’t go to political candidates; it’s against the law. Unions must set up voluntary PACs to be able to contribute to political candidates.

    My union (Texas State Employees Union) has worked hard to keep the Texas Lege from cutting back our already low benefits any further, and was instrumental in getting us the small raise we managed to get last session. Given the chance, the Lege would be cutting our pay and benefits.

  4. Thinking about it, the union dues/PAC thing might be a state-to-state thing, I don’t know for sure. I’m pretty sure it’s national, though.

  5. Thanks, apc, for sharing your experience. I sometimes think the power of management in today’s economy is sometimes overstated although I would not completely exonerate businesses.

    I don’t use the socialist label too much myself, but it was in the quote so I left it.

    I’m not sure how union dues/issues advocacy works either. All I know is unions advocate for some things that it seems like a lot of union members don’t agree with. I suppose they vote on these things, but thanks for explaining what you understand goes on.

  6. We have really strict campaign finance laws in Texas. If you’ll recall, that’s what Tom DeLay was indicted for-campaign finance fraud. It’s enforced pretty haphazardly. A judge recently ruled that donations made in the form of checks only have to be listed as check or gift. The amount doesn’t have to be listed, essentially saying as long as you’re not handing over duffel bags full of cash, you can donate whatever you’d like.

  7. In WI, the dues/PAC monies are separate.

    Dues go to paying officers, people hired by the union (district presidents, secretaries, etc), lawyers, lobbyists and the like.

    PAC donations are strictly voluntary, and go solely for political purposes, i.e. campaign contributions, commercials.

  8. Thanks, capper. As I noted, I’ve never belonged to a union. My dad did but I don’t remember much except how he and his boss used to get around the strikes so he could keep earning money. He died while his union was on strike. I used to blame them. Irrational, I know, but youngsters can be irrational (I was 22, but now I can consider 22 irrational 🙂 ).

    I know that business/management can be as greedy as union workers.

    Thanks to you and apc for giving me a little education on the subject.

    I still think there should be secret ballots of unionization, but I think they should be allowed to unionize if they want without interference from the company.

  9. I regularly hear conservatives say things like “sure, unions were great in their day, but..” Were they great? Why? It would really go a long way toward earning enough trust for me to listen further to your arguments if I could at least be sure we were on the same page with regard to the history and influence of labor unions in America. I suspect that many people who hate unions are merely regurgitating something they don’t understand, and have no idea of the positive role that organized labor has played in our history.

  10. Were they good? Yes, in the early days when there was no protection for workers, they fought for it. And not just wages, but working conditions. And I’m not saying they’ve outlived their usefulness.

    But there are many government regulations protecting workers today so that unions may not be as essential as in the late 1800’s.

    If you’re implying that without unions, we’d go back to conditions before 1930, I think you’d be hard pressed to prove that with the laws that are on the books.

    All I was doing is illustrating what I hear from members of unions. And they are conservative, so there is that.

  11. Are unions still necessary. Just look at all the lawsuits WalMart is losing left and right for violating workers’ rights. These lawsuits, and our tax dollars that go towards the work put into them (judges, clerks, stenographers, etc.) could be largely avoided if Wally World was unionized.

    Furthermore, what is to say that these laws that are in place would stay there if the unions weren’t watching?

  12. “But there are many government regulations protecting workers today so that unions may not be as essential as in the late 1800’s.”

    But the agencies responsible for ensuring those regulations are followed have been largely gutted over the last 30 years or so. To use capper’s Wal-Mart example, if the laws on the books had been enforced (more accurately, if management knew there was enforcement in place), Wal-Mart’s employees might not have felt forced to sue to obtain their rights.

    I’m certainly not going to argue that there haven’t been union excesses and mistakes through the years. The same can be said of lots of movements and longtime organizations, like, say, the Democratic and Republican Parties. Nobody really argues that parties should be abolished, though. But companies like Wal-Mart can openly make it company policy to discourage and even disrupt union activity without fear of consequences. It all goes back to enforcement (that’s my theme for this thread, it seems). All the regulations in the world don’t mean much if they can be ignored with impunity.

    I’m not saying we’d go back to the days of Pinkerton squads clubbing striking workers, either, and I recognize that you aren’t saying they’ve outlived their usefulness. But I really don’t understand the venom and hostility that a lot of people harbor against unions as an institution.

  13. APCs last paragraph goes for me too.

  14. apc, I would certainly agree with enforcement. No organization, person, entity should be above the law. And I’m not advocating doing away with unions. I’m not that pro-business.

    If we had enforcement of laws on the books (and I’m not aware of all the laws so my pro-business conservative friends should please, cut me some slack here), would the status quo be acceptable. Or do unions and their members see more things that should be done?

  15. I’m certainly no expert on labor law or corporate law, either, but I’d certainly say enforcement of existing law would make the status quo a lot more bearable. Just as an added thought, I live in a state with really weak unions and a really strong corporate culture that has the full-throated backing of state government. That’s bound to color my perceptions to a degree.

  16. Incidentally, I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a member of a labor union.

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