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unions

I read about the UAW strike at GM... I hate union strikes. The whole thing is just a mess. I try to be a good progressive-minded liberal, fighting for the little guy, pro-labor, you know, that sort of thing. I realize that there was a time in this country where, if it hadn't been for unions, workers wouldn't even have safe jobs or fair hours. There are good things about unions.

So I'm really conflicted when it comes to strikes. Where I work, a lot of our factory workers are unionized, and it's annoying. If they ever go on strike (and every 2-3 years, contracts go up and they threaten) I'll be forced to cross their picket line to go to work or else be fired. I hear stories about how it takes three hours to get into the plant, and on the way in you have to listen to picketers yelling horrible things at you, keying your car and slashing your tires, not feeling any empathy whatsoever that people like me are totally stuck in the middle of this mess. I complained about this once to someone and they were like, "Well you can just start an engineers union." Yeah, technically, I could, but I don't want to for the following reasons:

1) Union dues are $40-$60 a month, and from what I've seen, they basically pay for the union reps to have cadillacs.

2) I don't mind talking to my managers, and don't want to create the super-nasty "us vs. them" deal that the union people feel all the time.

3) I might want to be a manager someday, then where would I be?

4) I don't really think my job is so bad. the only bad thing about it, really, is that they threaten to make me cross union picket lines every three years. Is that worth unionizing? I think not.

Finally, and here's the big thing, I think it's ridiculous that unions use their power and strike over things I consider total bullshit. Health care is a NATIONAL CRISIS, not some mean manager trying to ruin your life. I think it's flat out immoral for people who make good money to feel like they should feel no effects of an issue that's really destroying America right now. If anything I think employee health care craziness has helped the system destroy America. Everyone just thinks it should be free. Companies don't pay your car or home insurance... in fact, I pay over $100 a month in car insurance premiums and it wasn't until this year that our company asked people to pay that amount to insure their FAMILIES. I'm not kidding. Now, things are tougher for us in the office, premiums have gone up and the plans have gone more consumer-driven, forcing us to actually think about the health care we use and how much it costs. But not for anyone in the union. They've still got the cushy plans, where you can have major surgery for free, get all the name-brand drugs, go to any doctor in town, never worry about premiums.

UAW is striking, from what I've read, over health insurance and job security. Who gets guaranteed job security in this world? Granted, I know they're trying to look out for retirees and there they might be asking for something just, because those guys might be sort of stuck. But in my experience, unions tell workers that they're not valuable by themselves and should rally together to bully their managers, which I think is bad for The System, and eventually, the workers. I hate that this conflicts with my normally sorta progressive self, but it's where I'm at. Frustrated.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
daizylibra
Sep. 24th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm frustrated too. I drove through the picket lines today.
easter
Sep. 24th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
Granted, I know they're trying to look out for retirees and there they might be asking for something just, because those guys might be sort of stuck.

1. My Dad, forced to retire years ago from a GM job and now working at another company where he obviously has less seniority now, was kind of screwed over by GM. Nobody has job security, nobody has guarentees in life. Although I can hear in the back of my head a little voice saying: but if anyone deserves those things it's daddy which is why I can somewhat understand the mindset. Everybody from my dad's generation worked their asses off and pulled themselves up from almost nothing; I hate to see those old guys getting screwed over now. If indeed that's the case. It's been a busy week so I'm afraid I haven't been following the story as closely as I would have liked.

2. I've seen unions work for people who have almost no say and almost no money to say it with. Like graduate students, for example. I know a lot of people might stick their noses up at that example and say they are priviliged to be in such a position as graduate school to begin with. Which is absolutely true. But that doesn't take away from the fact that being denied health insurance when your stipend is $6,000-18,000 a year isn't grossly unfair. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Go on food stamps? Some grad students do, and while I see the unfairness of taking away from that system designed for people who are actually physically unable to work, many programs dictate that grad students cannot hold jobs outside of their program. So how are they then supposed to afford health care? So yes, I've seen unions work good things in that regard.

3. Where I disagree with unions (and this will probably piss people off) is the concept of tenue for teachers. They get tenure three years out for teaching kindergarten kids and can slack off for the next 27 years. OBVIOUSLY that's not true of every teacher, or even probably most of them, but I have absolutely been taught by people who have been stagnating and clearly not giving a shit since the time they were thirty (twenty-five years ago) and received a super crappy education as a result. I also went to college with a LOT of people who said, "Oh, I only have to work hard until I get tenure and then I can do whatever." I think teachers should be on a system where their contracts are renewed every five to seven years or something to ensure that fewer folks have this attitude.

belgand
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)
Tenure is a complicated concept and I can see how on the outside it looks bad. Fundamentally though it's really a good thing for everyone though actually getting tenure at a university is... god, such a pain from what I've seen. It's is not easy to get there and people who often don't get tenured typically leave to go elsewhere.

Fundamentally the concept of tenure is based around protecting the interests of research. The principle is that it allows you to be free to conduct controversial research that your employers might not approve of. They can still fire you for gross incompetence or such, but it means that you're free to pursue research of any sort (well, in biology/psychology there are still ethics boards as well) without having to worry about someone trying to pressure you with your job security.
easter
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
My fiance will someday be in this profession) which is why I didn't bring up professors and tenure. It's a complex issue, and one I'm not sure about, and one that will (selfish, I know) ultimately benefit my family greatly, so who am I to complain?

I was referring to K-12 teachers, because honestly...what interests of research? Hey, many teachers do great things, no doubt. But I have experienced enough instances where tenure is abused, either by people who don't really want to teach but are in college getting an education degree because they can not only have the summers off, but because they know they're in for "an easy ride" after those three years are up, and enough failures in my own education by complacent, lazy, mean teachers that I question the structure. I'm not saying there shouldn't be some kind of system in place for them, or that all teachers are like that...but I have seen an awful lot of bad eggs, especially in middle and high school.
spacefem
Sep. 25th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
I didn't think K-12 teachers got tenure, the teachers I know are usually worried about losing their jobs because they made a parent mad or school budgets are getting cut! this might be a local issue you're dealing with.
easter
Sep. 25th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
Really? Wow, I had no idea. The internet really opens your eyes to different parts of the country... I do know that in NJ, tenure and the teacher's union is a big deal, and they're always threatening to strike. I firmly believe they should have access to good health care and benefits, so I understand sometimes it's necessary...but I do know it gets sticky when there's a threat to strike...
ksushyguy
Sep. 25th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC)
My mother is a K-12 teacher in KS, and teachers there do get "tenure" but it doesn't provide much protection. Teachers that slack off or take the summer off will be replaced because their professional skills will not stay up to date. Where my mother teaches the summer is either spent training or teaching summer school. Also, the overwhelming majority of her colleagues are not involved with the union.
easter
Sep. 25th, 2007 04:42 am (UTC)
Well, I'm not a teacher so I'm not sure but I think in NJ you have no choice but to be in the union.
dreamingkat
Sep. 25th, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)
It's a state by state thing - for instance, I was shocked to hear that it's illegal for teachers to go on strike here in texas. they can have a union, but it's incredibly limited in power.
fairyring
Sep. 27th, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
Having experienced high school from the teacher's side for a very short period of time really opened my eyes. Teaching is never an "easy ride". A huge amount of work goes into it that most students never realize. I have a lot more application for teachers now that I have seen what it is like.

There are individuals who stay in the field because it is a job, even though they are not good at it. But I think what happens more often is that they are giving a huge amount of time and effort for little appreciation from society. The positive side is when I students comes up and says thank you or good job. Teachers get pay and compensation that is enough to live on and not be poor, but they make much less than classmates that they graduated with who used their degree for something else. I think that teaching is a very important job, and that should be recognized monetarily. Hey, if it paid better we could probable get better individuals going into the field. Kansas did have a teacher's union. They came a couple times to try and get us to join. The union would do things like negotiate contracts, but teachers don't really ever go on strike.

This might not be the case for every profession, but unions aren't the thing that is going to improve things for teachers. Society needs to recognize the importance of education.
feanelwa
Sep. 25th, 2007 09:35 am (UTC)
I agree that it sucks when people do that, but on the other hand if you can't get a stable permanent contract, you can't buy anywhere to live unless you get a shitty mortgage, and have to spend your whole life in magnolia-painted falling apart petless hell.
belgand
Sep. 25th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
While I often have no love for unions the thing that really bothers me is the idea of a union shop. The idea that if you take a job you're required to join the union regardless of whether you want to or not strikes me as fundamentally wrong. Likewise, the other side where the union uses it's influence to demand that only their members can get jobs. These are fundamentally thuggish tactics and one of the many reasons I'm typically rather anti-union.
feanelwa
Sep. 25th, 2007 09:31 am (UTC)
1) Not if you're the union rep
2) If you're the union rep you can talk to them and do it better than these "our manager had a stupid idea and we agreed with him because he's alpha dog" men anyway.
3) You'd probably have to let somebody else be union rep when you were manager, on grounds of conflict of interest
4) Well, maybe not, but if you only talk to your neighbours when your house is on fire, you have a miserable neighbourhood.
beskippy
Sep. 25th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
Because those UAW workers are no longer making auto parts, the Canadian factories that make cars from those parts don't have anything to do. I believe that GM is expecting to lay off several thousand people up here until the UAW strike in the US is over.
parcimony
Sep. 26th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
I share all your issues with unions, but there is one more that bothers me more. Through the power of their collective bargaining they created their own job instability. I'm all for people getting paid and having good benefits, but if you make your company unable to compete in the global market place you're trading short term gains for long term instability.
fairyring
Sep. 27th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
What gets me is the union dues. What about talking to your co-workers and when something is happening that you don't like, a resistance is organized? No expensive organization necessary.

Over-payed union reps? I think the pigs are starting to wear clothes.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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