Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Unions Matter

It's all about power!
From where does power come?

From the time one man figured out how to amass more trading power than another, whether that came from physical might, birthright, intellectual cunning, or marrying wisely, the currency of that trading ability has meant power.

From the beginning there have been those who do get power and use it to build more power. There is never enough power or wealth for such people then or now.

Today in this country where the military is not used to suppress the people, that power is enhanced mostly through advertising or the power of the group. One rich man cannot vote many times, but he can convince others to vote against their own personal interests if he is a clever rich man. He finds causes to fire them up and they end up forgetting they don't have enough food to eat or a roof over their own head that they own anymore.

Put enough money into almost any cause and people can become convinced of its rightness (there are exceptions) and this includes eating foods that are bad for their bodies, starting smoking that kills so many with lung, heart and assorted other diseases, being anorexic because all the models look that way, buying unneeded things they don't have any idea how to use and didn't know they needed a day before, and on the list goes.

Those are, of course, all individual choices, but where it hurts our country the most is when it undermines the principles upon which this country was founded, the hope that everybody has a chance for a good life if they are willing to work for it. When you get enough people not even knowing those original principles, who don't understand the words or take the time to read them, that's when one person with the power of advertising can control his world as much as if he was openly a dictator.

When he loses that power is when the people figure it out. Now that can be a mob that is into tearing down everything. It can be a group who comes together for something noble. Whatever it might be, the power of individual people is through numbers and it can then trump that of even the rich man when the group is directed, informed and determined.

Unions have been the basis of the common worker being able to negotiate for more money but it's not just about that. The very word union means coming together for a purpose. Without that ability to come together, workers don't know if they are being treated equally. When workers stand alone, they can be steamrolled. To claim unions, as we know them, have never abused their power would be to ignore history; but overall without them, by whatever name you call them, the middle class would have never come to exist.

Today, in the case of state, local and federal government, the finances to run the systems are in trouble. Whatever name you call it by, recession or depression, jobs have gone overseas or disappeared.

Adding to that, the promise of the good benefits had come from an expectation regarding the stock market that was more Ponzi scheme than reality. It wasn't counting on a reasonable rate of return on money invested, it was looking for way beyond what real growth could deliver. Benefits and pensions were promised based on something that didn't really exist. A lot of people not in government pensions found out the same thing with what they thought they had invested and found out they had not.

So the unions in Wisconsin faced that reality and agreed to cuts in those salaries, benefits and pensions. When they did, what happened?

The result was like a flock of chickens in a coop smelling blood. Give up anything and weakness is suggested and it's not respected. It's exploited and more is demanded. This is happening on a lot of issues throughout our country and the world. Reasonable negotiating isn't enough and getting what one might've started out wanting, that's not enough either. It's both the power and the problem of our modern world.

Republicans weren’t satisfied with balancing their budget. What they wanted was to end the ability to unionize, end the ability to come together as a group, the ability to be able to look at working conditions and salaries, to judge what is fair for the worker by the workers. The ability to make it hard to collect union dues was just part of the overall goal which was end them period and leave the individual alone to stand against the system. The economic hard times we are currently experiencing don’t have to last forever but ending collective bargaining would.

You'd think Christians with their concept of one body would be the first to approve coming together and standing as a body. You'd think a country founded on the principles of ours would be supportive of unions where people could talk over grievances and work out solutions. You'd think but be wrong. Unions aren't just out to get more money from the corporations or the government. They enable the workers to have some power over the work they do and the conditions under which they work. When unions were busted in the mining industries in our country the end result was less safe working conditions for the miners.

On one side is all the wealth and power. On the other side just the individual until those individuals stand together. People fought for those rights. There have been physical battles to establish unions. Those who believed in them have always been called names and communist is the least of it. The battles in both our country and elsewhere was often bloody and results were hard won.

For everyone who begrudges those union dues, just think what your salary would be without the earlier fights for fair wages and working conditions. It's easier than ever for companies to bring in people from other countries to do the jobs for lower wages than Americans could accept and still support a home here given the cost of everything.

Are you a civil engineer, building highways and buildings? Well they can get a guy who has been educated well from China or India to come over to do just that job. No benefits. No long term connection but the job gets done and they go back with their money, don't buy products here either probably when they were here. That was the idea behind using Chinese labor to build our railroads. What do you think has stopped that from happening everywhere? Union agreements mostly.

Farm Boss argued for these jobs they will always have to have at least one American engineer to stamp the work approved. Why do they have to have that? Government requirements. Insurance has become convinced it means it's better. What about when other universities (he inserted training and certification programs) around the world, are as good or better than ours because we didn't value putting money into learning and instead of the brightest and best, ours educate only the richest? What about when we have said government serves no purpose and should not be involved? Guess where our job goes then.

Unions matter because without them there is no middle class period. Call that fear talk but it's realistic talk. Sure there were companies without unions who have treated their workers well in the past. The stock market has changed a lot of that. There wasn’t the well-educated populace in the world. Some felt a loyalty to this country that meant more to them than stock market gains. Even if they had no union, there were other companies competing for the same workers who did have one.

Who besides unions fights for safe working conditions? Government. This bunch is trying to hamstring both. Get rid of the unions one by one and see more of what has been happening in this country with wealth more and more concentrated at the top. Stand with the unions or wait your turn to have it all collapse around you with nobody left to stand with you when that happens.

If you don't think that will happen, you haven't paid attention to history. I understand both government and unions can abuse their power. I suggest it's better we curb the abuses than that we throw them both out and leave ourselves standing alone with no collective clout.


wally said...

I saw this joke online and thought I would pass it on: "A unionized public employee, a teabagger, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the teabagger and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie."

Ingineer66 said...

On the Civil Engineer side, Farm Boss is partly correct. The engineer will have to be licensed here to work, but they can be a foreign national. We have several engineers on staff that are here on an I-9 Work Visa and they have a California Engineering License. California has extra requirements for Seismic that other states do not have and Gulf States have special rules because of Hurricanes.

And as far as Engineering Schools go, many foreigners come to the US to get an education, because we are still pretty good at that. We may not be so hot in our primary and secondary education compared to much of the world, but our universities are still highly rated. So even though they are from another country, they may have been educated in the US to our standards.

But many private companies have sent calculation type work offshore to be completed cheaper, but it still has to be stamped here.

When NAFTA passed that was the worry that Mexican licensed engineers would be able to practice in the US just like people were worried that Mexican trucks would be killing people all over our highways. So far neither has come to pass.

Rain said...

I love that joke, Wally.

and thanks, ingineer, for the extra information regarding the standards. All things we mostly learn about when they impact us.

Kim Hosey said...

I read that joke last week on Facebook. Definitely a good one.

Well stated.

I lost all respect for the non-union side when they tried to make the financial concessions, and it didn't matter. They want to end collective bargaining, period. It's sad.

Rain said...

Kim, I am glad you found the blog as it's always good to have those who comment and add to the conversation whether they agree with me or not.

CnC said...

one rich man may not be able to vote many times, but dead democrats can vote forever.

Rain said...

Ah a rightie... :) I hope you stick around for awhile and post your thinking so long as you don't insult anybody here. It's good to have a real conversation with a debate on the issues facing this country. I know I won't always have lefties always agreeing with me. There are often two ways to look at things-- even if many of us find that hard to accept.

If the left or right vote people who are dead, and it certainly has happened, just like punching out more than one hole to negate the vote, it's all a crime, and we should go after it as it ruins the whole premise of democracy. It's not new but it is always wrong.