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What is the value of a Union?


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What is the value of a Union?
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-04-20, 15:21

I'm really not trying to start a flame war or politics but I don't understand the value of unionizing. I'm seeing it all over the news more and more between Amazon, Starbucks and now Apple stores too.

My exposure to unions is fairly limited though. I have a family member (more than one actually but one that I'm talking about specifically in this case) who was a loyal member of a labor union. He paid his dues religiously even if he couldn't eat "nice food" that month because the budget was tight.

His life was a standard cycle: Work a job site doing his skill until it was done. Get laid off and claim unemployment benefits until they run out. Find a job and work that job using his skill until it was done. Repeat ad infinitum until he retired.

The only thing thrown in the mix was when he was told to strike and go stand outside, not working or getting paid, holding up a sign chanting "catch phrase". Those times his family really struggled to make ends meet.

So really, what is the actual value of a union? It seems I can get comparable pay without having to give up another "tax" on my pay to fund union leadership.

I know I can google this stuff but I really have no desire to delve there so I figured I'd ask here hoping for some actual education on this. I've never been in a situation where joining a union was even an option so I just don't know. From the surface it doesn't make sense though.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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drewprops
Space Pirate
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2022-04-20, 15:29

I am in a union and can discuss it with some depth, when I have more time.



...
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PB PM
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2022-04-20, 16:52

It’s called, getting paid more, and putting in less effort. Simple as that.
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chucker
 
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2022-04-20, 18:09

Sometimes, unions are ineffective, corrupt, expensive.

Sometimes, they successfully fight for higher wages, better safety, shorter hours, etc.

We’d be working far longer hours than 40 without unions.
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Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2022-04-20, 18:10

Unions bring the concept of collective bargaining to a world where everyone otherwise is completely fending for themselves. That power enables people to demand things like a living wage and to help curb workplace abuses that individuals are powerless (or bullied into believing they are powerless) to fight. They aren't a cure-all, and certainly some bloated unions exist out there that need reform, but by pretty much all accounts, having some union presence is better than having none when it comes to most folks at the "individual contributor" level (i.e. everyone not at the 1% executive/upper management level).

I've never been a member of a union because there's never been one available to me anywhere I've worked, but I'd love to see more or frankly any presence of unionization in the software engineering field.

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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-04-20, 19:54

The collective bargaining chip is what I assumed it would be. Thing is, my exposure has always been more along the PB PM comments. I have seen where a handful of employees walked out at once and they employer handled future employees better as well as those who stayed. No union needed.

This actually reminded me of when Northwest (or was it TWA??) went on strike in 1998. This strike left me stranded in Amsterdam while trying to fly home from a Persian Gulf deployment. Back then we weren't connected so I didn't REALLY have any warning. I saw stuff was going down with the airline in Malaga Spain, but didn't realize I would arrive at my terminal in Amsterdam to be told to go see the KLM desk for help with my flights. The whole wing of the airport was closed and taped off like a crime scene. Crazy.

Here the "unions" screwed me. It cost me time of my personal leave (vacation) while having to jump through hoops just to get back to the States. Killed my vacation plans that involved a trip to Grand Junction Colorado before going back home to Va Beach. My seabag didn't get to my doorstep until almost two full months later. Thankfully I left most of my uniforms on the ship which I was able to meet when it returned to home port about two weeks after I parted ways in Spain.

As an "end user" I'm still not sure I see the value of a union. The collective bargaining thing seems to be the only thing that makes sense. Then again, it seems to be more like a way to pull the businesses into doing what the union wants.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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Ryan
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2022-04-20, 20:40

Anecdotally, I lived in two different refinery towns growing up. One of the refineries was unionized (ConocoPhilips), the other was not (Valero).

The Valero plant had issues constantly, from emergency shutdowns to illegal spills and emissions. ConocoPhilip's unionized plant was a smooth-running machine.
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PB PM
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2022-04-20, 21:07

It really does come down to the people who run the union, and the people in it. Good workers and good employers don’t have big issues. Bad employees and employers do.
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drewprops
Space Pirate
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2022-04-20, 23:18

I belong to a labor union called IATSE.

Last year was my 25th year of membership.

I currently work for our local.

Georgia is a right to work state.

There is a joke among our crews that people who don't participate in unions in a right to work state have the right to work, for less.

In truth, they benefit from the rates and conditioned through collective bargaining, because the union will make sure that non-members are paid the same as our members. There's a spur conversation from this, but for now I'm moving on.

Turtle, the reason that many people can "get comparable pay" is because of sacrifices over the decades by people like your relative.

I can go fetch you a list of benefits that are now common and expected in the workplace, but were borne from advocacy by union members many years ago.

I was raised to be conservative and still have an instinctive view of unions as a place where innovation goes to die, and graft comes to stay.

However, in my actual experience, our union has established base wages for people who would have otherwise been played off of each other in a race to the bottom.

Hit my sleepy limit for tonight.



.
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Dr. Bobsky
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2022-04-21, 05:26

I'm also in a union.

The fundamental value of these institutions is that employers have zero loyalty to their employees, and unions rightly fill this void.

I work at a university, where the central administration makes bad fiscal decisions that are then passed down as 'voluntary' redundancy when the budgets get broken (read firing whole sections of staff). Our salaries are not keeping up with inflation, so year by year, we're effectively getting salary cuts, making it harder to survive, let alone thrive (and this isn't because inflation is extremely high this year -- they didn't manage when inflation was 1.5% either).

The union works to put pressure on the University to match salaries with inflation, it provides limited legal advice when the University is behaving badly (which they often do), it provides support when little twerpy students decide to abuse complaints processes.

Academia is a grind even with the unions; I am not sure what it would look like if they didn't exist.
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PB PM
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2022-04-21, 07:55

It would likely look the same as everywhere else, nobody else gets yearly raises just because of inflation. If people want a raise, they need to step up and earn it. It’s not like the employer is magically always getting more profit when there is inflation either. An employer who doesn’t give loyalty to an employee, doesn’t deserve it in return, simple as that.

Now, I agree that without unions some employers would treat their employees poorly and not compensate them well. I get it, my dad was in the local teachers union for 35 years. They got good pay and benefits as a group, not something you are always going to get otherswise. The downside, from his point of view, was the politics of the union, which had a knack for getting in the way of getting some things done. In the school district, for example, there were several unions, one for teachers, another for support staff, and another for the tradesmen working for the school board, another for the cleaning staff. Heaven help them if one union needed something and other wasn’t around to do it. Door has an issue? Wait 4-6 months to fix it, or fix it when nobody is around and risk getting reprimand? Other times it was politically driven union issues as well, since the union members were all government employees.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-04-21, 08:31

Ok, so what are the dues that I would have to pay were I to join a union? Is there a "normal rate" or rough numbers? I mean, if dues are $100 per $1000 then I would struggle to see how that would actually be beneficial in the end. I really have no idea what dues are and I'm sure they vary per union but I really only have my family member making off and general comments about the "high dues" mostly during his lean times.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2022-04-21, 10:43

This is all I have to say:

I can understand a union for coal mine workers, but not for retail store employees.

Your life is not in danger; your are not being abused; go find another job!

The end result of all this unionizing is higher prices and inflation for everyone. They all sound more like entitled brats that have never held a difficult job.

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Last edited by kscherer : 2022-04-21 at 15:41.
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Matsu
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Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-04-21, 18:11

The kind of workplace is perhaps not as relevant as some would like to make it. The more wealth is concentrated amongst relatively few, the more the rest of us need some kind of leverage. Just getting another type of job is not in the cards for everyone.
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Brad
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2022-04-21, 21:05

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
The end result of all this unionizing is higher prices and inflation for everyone. They all sound more like entitled brats that have never held a difficult job.
I dunno.

At least in the US, union representation is pretty much at its all-time low since peaking 70 years ago.



I'm pretty sure nobody can reasonably blame unions for higher prices and inflation. In the US, inflation has continued to rise despite the dwindling presence and powers of unions.



Meanwhile, wealth inequality has continued to grow slowly over the last several decades.




This is exactly the kind of thing unions fight against, which unsurprisingly is why large corporations with wealthy and powerful leaders (Amazon and Bezos immediately come to mind since they've been in the news) are bending over backwards and breaking the law to prevent unionization.

The quality of this board depends on the quality of the posts. The only way to guarantee thoughtful, informative discussion is to write thoughtful, informative posts. AppleNova is not a real-time chat forum. You have time to compose messages and edit them before and after posting.
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Quagmire
meh
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-04-21, 21:15

Yep. Wages have been stagnant for decades barely keeping up with inflation( before this latest round) let alone being a meaningful raise.

It’s a joke to say high prices is due to unionized shops. Not when Apple is making record profits, Tesla’s margins shot up 10% despite citing inflation being the reason for price hikes, etc. But hey at least the claim isn’t as bad as Papa John complaining about having to raise pizza prices by 10 cents if he had to provide healthcare to workers….. Management have a lot of room to increase wages, but they won’t since it hurts the share prices therefore their own wallets since they have their income tied to stock ownership.

giggity
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Dr. Bobsky
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Join Date: Feb 2015
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2022-04-22, 03:50

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
It would likely look the same as everywhere else, nobody else gets yearly raises just because of inflation. If people want a raise, they need to step up and earn it. It’s not like the employer is magically always getting more profit when there is inflation either. An employer who doesn’t give loyalty to an employee, doesn’t deserve it in return, simple as that.

Now, I agree that without unions some employers would treat their employees poorly and not compensate them well. I get it, my dad was in the local teachers union for 35 years. They got good pay and benefits as a group, not something you are always going to get otherswise. The downside, from his point of view, was the politics of the union, which had a knack for getting in the way of getting some things done. In the school district, for example, there were several unions, one for teachers, another for support staff, and another for the tradesmen working for the school board, another for the cleaning staff. Heaven help them if one union needed something and other wasn’t around to do it. Door has an issue? Wait 4-6 months to fix it, or fix it when nobody is around and risk getting reprimand? Other times it was politically driven union issues as well, since the union members were all government employees.
Everyone's wages should be matched to inflation. This isn't a raise -- its preventing a loss in real wages; if you want to actually earn more you work for it...

And yes: corporations often take more profits when inflation is higher because they can hide this profit taking in the inflation... which is precisely what is happening right now.
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Dr. Bobsky
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Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: UK's most densely packed city. It's not London...
 
2022-04-22, 06:32

I pay £10/ month to my union. It’s less than Netflix.
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
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2022-04-22, 07:40

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Bobsky View Post
Everyone's wages should be matched to inflation. This isn't a raise -- its preventing a loss in real wages; if you want to actually earn more you work for it...

And yes: corporations often take more profits when inflation is higher because they can hide this profit taking in the inflation... which is precisely what is happening right now.
If you are talking about big corporations sure, but small business employe far more people. As a small business owner, I can assure you, I’m not getting anything from inflation, other than a lower effective income, just like most people. We would get dumped by many of our clients if we increased prices to match inflation.
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Dr. Bobsky
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Join Date: Feb 2015
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2022-04-22, 08:00

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
If you are talking about big corporations sure, but small business employe far more people. As a small business owner, I can assure you, I’m not getting anything from inflation, other than a lower effective income, just like most people. We would get dumped by many of our clients if we increased prices to match inflation.
Then you would need to be clear to your clients that their prices are going up because you want to ensure that your employees (who I presume you care about/are loyal to) don't go broke working for you. It's better for your bottom line to keep trained employees, who might otherwise quit, and not have to lose time/money/resources to an employee search because you've let your current employees' real salaries drop owing to inflation.

Look at it from my perspective: I am effectively a small business owner myself, I've helped to bring into the university over £1.6 million (almost half of that exclusively from my efforts), and I hire people to do the work I've raised money to do. I fit in a system where I have no control over my salary or the salary of the folks I employee. I no more want to have my cost of living to be unlivable at my salary than I do for the people I employ. So I join a union which supports my goals of a sustainable academic practice, rather than do nothing as the government and universities cut into bone in the pursuit of the latest bauble...
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PB PM
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2022-04-22, 08:42

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Bobsky View Post
Then you would need to be clear to your clients that their prices are going up because you want to ensure that your employees (who I presume you care about/are loyal to) don't go broke working for you. It's better for your bottom line to keep trained employees, who might otherwise quit, and not have to lose time/money/resources to an employee search because you've let your current employees' real salaries drop owing to inflation.

Look at it from my perspective: I am effectively a small business owner myself, I've helped to bring into the university over £1.6 million (almost half of that exclusively from my efforts), and I hire people to do the work I've raised money to do. I fit in a system where I have no control over my salary or the salary of the folks I employee. I no more want to have my cost of living to be unlivable at my salary than I do for the people I employ. So I join a union which supports my goals of a sustainable academic practice, rather than do nothing as the government and universities cut into bone in the pursuit of the latest bauble...
Absolutely, those are the types of conversations we have with clients when prices do go up. Offering employees a good wage (the hourly rate we offer is slightly more than I pay myself to be honest) and benefits is simply a must to even get applications due to the extremely low unemployment rate (less than 5.7%) in our area. I’d like to think that since we do the same work as the employees, we can understand their needs reasonably well. I started with the company as an employee, so I hope that helps them see that I get where they are coming from.
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chucker
 
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2022-04-22, 08:50

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Bobsky View Post
Then you would need to be clear to your clients that their prices are going up because you want to ensure that your employees (who I presume you care about/are loyal to) don't go broke working for you.
Sure, but having that conversation every single year is impractical.

Clients are understanding when you do it, say, every five years.
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PB PM
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2022-04-22, 08:53

Quote:
Originally Posted by chucker View Post
Sure, but having that conversation every single year is impractical.

Clients are understanding when you do it, say, every five years.
This.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
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2022-04-22, 09:10

Lets also be more realistic about this part of the conversation: most end customers are price based. Period.

Raise your rates and they start looking elsewhere. There is always someone doing the same job as you for less. Many consumers are willing to lose the consistent for the cheaper. Especially when their dollar is already worth less than it was last year, etc...

It is easier to "stomach" when EVERYONE raises their rates, but still a hard pill to swallow.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-04-22, 09:17

I spent a little bit of time searching and the best I've come with is union dues are about 1 - 5% of pay. Some are set, flat rates across the board and others are based on things like hourly pay X2 + $5 or something like that.

This seems to be more in line with buying an insurance plan for your phone. In reality you will never use it but you would be glad you had it if you did. By and large though, you paid way more for the coverage than if you just went out an bought a new device when if breaks.

For a job this would be just leave the job and get a new one making more.

I found an article that talked about union dues being forced for certain employers and that if you are in certain states you would could object to paying the dues, but then you are required to pay the same amount out of your pay to a charity! That is crap right there.

From a purely financial perspective unions appear more like a pyramid. Lots of "little people" paying for fancy cars for those at the top of the union. I'm sure there are some great ones out there and all that, but the more I look into this I really have to question the value still.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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Quagmire
meh
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-04-22, 09:48

The issue with making paying union dues optional in an unionized shop is the person not paying dues now benefits from the collective bargaining of the union without having to pay into it.

It would be like a person getting welfare, social security, etc without having to pay an ounce in taxes.

People seem entirely focused on the dues without realizing the benefits of what the union brings…. Until they need it….

And in a seniority system, it’s hard to leave a job. I work in the airline industry. If I leave Airline A for Airline B, I lose my seniority and start over. And the RLA hampers what the union can do to limit abuse by management.

giggity
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drewprops
Space Pirate
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2022-04-22, 09:48

Our latest Area Standards Contract builds in a 3% pay increase for our crews every year over the next 3 years (the contract spans 3 years before being renegotiated).

Because employers pushed our union to the brink of strike last year many of our crews have become extremely vocal about their demands. Some of their asks seem a bridge too far to older members, who are sensitive to the give & take between employer and employee.

These (often younger) members are calling for wage increases to be tied to the inflation rate, which is in all likelihood technically unfeasible - I can explain why, if you don't understand the technical issues involved in making that happen.

A very thin, but vocal, portion of our membership are pushing for their jobs to be treated more like white collar tech jobs, which is tough for me to understand because film production is a physically demanding job.

Some of the employers are absolute shits.

Many are very professional, and make good will attempts to treat their employees fairly within the bounds of the agreements.

The widespread movement toward unions in these "lesser" jobs, like Starbucks, is tied directly to the financial conditions that the younger generation are facing.

Many feel they will never earn enough to buy a home, and the current buying spree of residential homes by large corporations has further moved home ownership beyond their grasp.

Brad's numbers are correct.

Most of the financial issues that face Americans now have happened during a period of low unionism - so tying it to unions is a talking point by politicians and people with money.

I still consider myself conservative, and I am sensitive to the historic cases of abuse by some unions. As a southerner my instinct about unions was formed by stories of automobile manufacturing unions getting crazy pay and benefits.

In my older years I have reframed my jealousy of their benefits.

Reasonable benefits are worth pursuing.

Many of the benefits our members now have took multiple negotiation cycles to achieve - which can translate into 12 years, 18 years, so they were long-pursued.

The back and forth is worth it, for the retention of good employees.

We love companies who step out and take care of their employees without prodding.

When that doesn't happen, collective bargaining is an answer.



...

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Quagmire
meh
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-04-22, 10:02

Yep I will be lucky to afford a home. But I will likely be waiting for the crash of this bubble before so. Houses shouldn’t be looked at as investment to make a profit.

giggity
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Dr. Bobsky
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2022-04-22, 12:59

Quote:
Originally Posted by chucker View Post
Sure, but having that conversation every single year is impractical.

Clients are understanding when you do it, say, every five years.
But prices everywhere go up month to month -- have you never noticed that the price of milk fluctuates week to week (or month to month)? It's not like the supermarket has to tell you that this is owing to variations in the supply chain and its employee costs...
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PB PM
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2022-04-22, 14:57

Working with clients is different, they have budgets, and other plans. Keeping a long term clients can in the long run be worth more to a business than charging them different rates month to month, or week to week. We tend to add new clients at new rates, and slowly bump up existing ones over a period of years.
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