Friday, December 14, 2012

Right to Work vs Unions.

Unions are a good thing.

They did wonderful work before anti-trust laws, OSHA and minimum wage laws were created.   In fact, their instance on high safety standards and high wages are probably why those bills were created.

They are in fact the primary reason America has a middle class.

They are also in fact good, not just for America, but often for American businesses.   They force us to be innovative, rather than just the low cost provider.  It is always better to be the smart business rather than the cheap one.

Unfortunately, Unions are in trouble.   They are losing members.  Part of this is due to their own success.  We have OSHA and tons of laws now in large part because of the Unions.  But that means we have less need for them.

As a result, the Unions did something that looks strange to a lot of people.  They passed contracts that said all employees - both the Union members and the non-members must pay for the Union's work.

Their argument is that the non-members are benefiting from the deals the Union generate, even if indirectly, so they should still pay.  That, is when the Union forces a company to have healthcare and a pension/401K, then even people that are not a part of the Union participate.

But what it comes down to is that they are forcing people to pay for a service they don't want.  The solution is not to force people to join the Union, but instead to not give them the same benefits.  

The Right to Work laws basically make this illegal.  That is, the Union can't force a non-member to pay them money.  While I am liberal, I agree that those laws make sense.   The methodology the Unions has been using is no better than the monopolistic tactics big business they were formed to fight.

The real problem is that while business has evolved, the Unions have not.  They have failed to innovate, instead trying to be the a monopoly - which was exactly the first thing they broke up in big business.

So here are a few ideas for Unions:

  1. Branch out of traditional areas   This is not a new idea, the Unions have been trying for years.   Push harder for it. Grad students should definitely get a Union.  Go after Professors as well.  Waiters and waitress.   There there are criminals that are forced to work.   Go after them.   
  2. Look at fixing the problems within existing unions - or simply starting competing ones.   The Screen Actors Guild has become more about keeping new people OUT of acting jobs rather than about helping actors.  What a joke - a Union that tries to limit it's membership????   Start a new Acting Guild for new actors and compete with SAG.  Unions are there to ensure fair treatment, not to restrict who can and can not work.
  3. Clean up the Union's demands.   Get rid of things we all know are foolish - the classic requirements of Electricians to turn on/off the lights, pension plans instead of 401Ks.  
  4. Stop protecting people that the Union doesn't represent.  That is, end the entire concept of a "Union Shop".   The Union negotiates only for it's members, not other people that happen to work for the same company.  Build that into their contracts.   If they want the benefits of the Union, they have to join the Union.  A simple rule would be to require that no non-union employee has their contract expire one month before or five months after the Union contract does.   That means when the Union contract is reset, they will have to wait at least four months to get the new deal.

Yes, a smart business will during good times, give their non-union employees almost the same stuff.  But when things get tough, guess which group of employees will suffer first.

Then throw in a 5 year contract for union members.  That is, when you sign up for a union, you agree to join for at least 5 years or until you are fired.   Then build into your union contracts seniority clauses - based on years in the Union, not years at the business.

This lets people decide whether or not to join the union, but doesn't let them free ride on it.

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