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Wholly Macro

Why bashing unions is an exercise of slicing off the nose to spite the face.

Friday must been bash unions day in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel letters section.

I totally don't get this. Unless you own a company that has been going at it with unions, why should you give a rat's tuckus if anyone belongs to one?

Except, if you are part of the right wing crowd where it is all politics. Can't buy into the idea of climate change because that's a Democratic Party issue. Can't attempt solutions for health care because that would make the liberals look good. And have to be against unions, because they support the Democratic party.

Silly people. Don't you know it's liberating to vote against your self-interest? Maybe there's a better reason for that brand of politics, but it ruptures the brain to imagine what that might be.

Mind you, I do not now belong to a union. The last time I did most of you weren't even a gleam in your parent's eyes.

So for Stanley Beranek and Tony Slusar in today's editorial section, unions are some kind of scourge to disdain, but yet it is great to see their imaginations on overdrive. According to Mr. Slusar, why would someone need a union when they can just hire a labor lawyer? Apparently Mr. Slusar thinks legal services are cheap, especially for someone probably making near minimum wage.

According to Mr. Beranek's view, just be God damned happy you have a job.

Both of these and all the other anti-union letters that flood the Journal regard unions as useless. We hear it all the time. "Unions have outlived their usefulness."

Yup, unions are so useless, that since the GOP with the help of blue dog Democrats have gutted them, middle-class growth has stagnated.

In the many of the letters, including the erudite comments on the demise of the Twinkie, high union wages are blamed for sinking companies. Never once is the obscene compensation drawn out of these companies by the members of the C Suite ever mentioned. How come those wages didn't wreck these companies?

For those who know what goes on inside of businesses, it could in fact be argued that it is grubby greed that quite often blows companies onto the rocks. That of course never happens in the world of Mr. Beranek or Mr. Slusar. It's those evil union workers and their desire to own a house they don't deserve or a desire to send their brats through college.

It is no accident that as executives have gotten more, workers have gotten less. We are urged to honor the initiative, smarts and hard work of these capitalist heroes, but at this level it all comes down to one thing. Leverage.

It also comes down to their ability with the help of the government they disdain to suppress union growth.

Two things have happened as a result. Economic growth of the country has slowed because the real job creators -- the middle class -- has less money to spend. Meanwhile, a strong democracy needs a strong middle class. Notice how our system of government has gone south -- literally -- in the past decade or so.

It comes down to this. Yes, we can nitpick about unions. About the salaries the leaders make -- no wheres near what corporate executives draw. We can complain about unions defending deadwood -- though I have been in UAW plants and the workers are so eager to suggest production improvements that middle management sometimes regard these people as a pain in the ass.

But this is all micro stuff.

I am always interested in the marco big picture. And the fact remains that at no time has this country been able to move massive numbers of people from being among the working poor into the middle class. And when that happens, everyone in the country goes along for the ride.

Got a better idea how to do that? I'm all ears.

The right is fond of talking about how this country is going down hill, but that has only happened over the past generation when unions have been under siege. If you want to eliminate the deficit, no better way than to have a charging middle class pouring money into the treasury.

And in the meantime, think about the right wing's opposition to unions. Think about how they are offering us no future. All of us.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CowDung January 15, 2013 at 07:16 PM
What do you propose as a solution Randy? Certainly, we don't want the government dictating how much CEOs are allowed to be paid, do we? To me, that is clearly something that the owner(s) of the business should be determining rather than outsiders that have little to no knowledge of the business, the industry or the responsibilities of the CEO.
Brian Dey January 15, 2013 at 07:20 PM
$$andSensese-less- until unions stop defending poor employees that sap dollars from a company, corporation or government entity; they are a drain on society. When a company has to hire 80 people to do the work of 50 because 30 of them won't show up, or will only do the minimum required; that is a drain on our society. The military is by choice, a choice employees don't have in a union shop. Your loathe of the military is truly a product of your blue-fister mentality.
The Anti-Alinsky January 15, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Randy1949 wrote: "Here's a thought -- stop paying the executives obscene salaries and bonuses to run a company into the ground. And tax the obscene salaries." Randy, it is up to the stockholders in a company to determine how much an executive should get paid. I agree that many, if not most, of them are waaaaay over paid, but unless you own stock, it is none of your business. I do a moderate investment in stocks, and one of the first things I look at is how much the CEO and other board members get paid. If I think it is too much, I just don't buy their stock. As far as taxes, accumulating it under one person will push them into the highest bracket. If you split it up as dividends among the thousands of stock holder, then you only collect a fraction of that.
The Anti-Alinsky January 15, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Actually Keith, it is just hard to take someone seriously when you need to give them several kicks in the pants to pay off their gambling debts.
Brian Dey January 15, 2013 at 07:26 PM
David T. - The point is that in non-union shops, the poor employee can be terminated with cause. Not so in a union shop. Ex. My ex-father-in-law was the head of the Letter Carriers union in Milwaukee. He told me a story of how a carrier who was drunk, drove his mail truck into a house, causing damage and injury to others. He announced how proud he was to save that man's job. Proud? Try that at UPS and you not only would lose your job, but probably end up in jail. You precisely make the point why unions are no longer useful.
Stormy Weather January 15, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Randy1949 - Think about this... We are paying public school district administrators outrageous salaries across the state of Wisconsin and across the Country. Yet, we can't afford basic maintenance and upkeep in our schools. Instead of teacher's being cut, school districts need to cut the fat at the top. A Superintendent making $200,000.00 or $300,000.00 can surely answer their own phone! Why does their assistant need an assistant? High taxes are forcing elderly people out of their homes, and the outrageous salaries at the college level are making it impossible for a middle class student to afford college. And another thing... Why do you always want to make this a Republican/Democrat thing? Can't we just ever have a discussion about ideas to fix things?
Brian Dey January 15, 2013 at 08:09 PM
There is a collective greed in our society that is to blame. Until we stop pointing fingers and accept that there is not one-size-fits-all solution to our problems, nothing will change. There are examples of both unions and management involved in the destruction of companies. There are examples of each being responsible. Why I am opposed to unions is the adversarial relationship they encourage between labor and management. Each needs the other. Both are needed in the success of any business. One of the biggest reasons there has been a shrinking of the middle class is that as the costs of employees soars, management is often tasked with trying to produce the same with less employees. I say this as total compensation 9salaries and benefits). Thus resulting in layoffs. Generally, middle management takes a bigger hit percentage-wise, than all employee sectors. The next to go are laborers, then skilled labor and finally upper management. This cycle has been going on for the past two decades. My point with the unions is tat not every single job should pay a living family wage. Someone that sweeps the floors should not be paid $45k per year because the company doesn't get that type of value out of the employee. Whatever happened to entry level jobs to get your foot in the door. And for every poor worker that doesn't produce and is kept because they are union, drags th company down that much further.
Greg January 15, 2013 at 08:18 PM
There are multiple reasons that Hostess went torpedoes-up, but the one that stands out for this discussion is: "Union-imposed work rules stopped drivers from helping to load their trucks. A separate worker, arriving at the store in a separate vehicle, had to be employed to shift goods from a storage area to a retailer's shelf. Wonder Bread and Twinkies couldn't ride on the same truck. Hostess has spent eight of the past 11 years in bankruptcy. As the company explained to its latest judge, the Hostess brands "have not been able to profit from many of their existing delivery stops and have been unable to enter potentially profitable markets, such as dollar stores, vending services and movie theaters." "Hostess's production costs were neither excessive nor out of line with the market but its distribution costs were—to the tune of between $80 million and $130 million annually."
Greg January 15, 2013 at 08:24 PM
The "Victim" hops into the mud again.
Randy1949 January 15, 2013 at 08:25 PM
From what I read, it was the bakers who refused to take a cut in pay. If production costs were not out of line, as you say, why were the bakers being asked to make concessions?
Greg January 15, 2013 at 08:28 PM
The money has to come from somewhere, correct?
Greg January 15, 2013 at 08:33 PM
"The snack giant endured $52 million in workers’ comp claims in 2011, according to its bankruptcy filing this January. Hostess’s 372 collective-bargaining agreements required the company to maintain 80 different health and benefit plans, 40 pension plans and mandated a $31 million increase in wages and health care and other benefits for 2012. Union work rules usually required cake and bread products to be delivered to a single retail location using two separate trucks. Drivers weren’t allowed to load their own vehicles, and the workers who loaded bread weren’t allowed to load cake. On most delivery routes, another "pull up" employee moved products from back rooms to shelves."
Stormy Weather January 15, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Brian... As usual, you nailed it!
Bren January 15, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Back in early 2011, when the AFP-funded anti-public employee union media blitz was in full swing, people said, "I have no problem with private unions, just public employee unions, for reason X,Y,Z..." Now, just a year later, the far-right talking points attack private unions. And the same people who last year had no problem with private unions say, "Private unions are bad!" Etc. Question One: Will making billionairess Diane "How do we make Wisconsin a Right to Work State" Hendricks happy benefit you in a significant material way? Or is it enough to know that you've helped lower Wisconsin wages over the next few years? Question Two: If the far-right strategists roll out a talking point like "Offshoring is patriotic, boycott domestic goods," will you do it? What level of unquestioning obedience are we "talking" about here? Reminds me of a book I read when I was a kid, 1984. "Oceania is at war with Eastasia." Etc. "Hate Week," anyone?
Bren January 15, 2013 at 09:54 PM
Well, GWB handed climate reports to pr folks in his administration for sanitization. Anyone who has opened the door of a car that has been sitting in 90 degree F temperature for hours understands that the sun has the power to heat metal. Anyone who has stepped on sand, cement, or tar on a hot day also understands the sun's power to heat these materials. If one has ever driven on the highway and seen the rippling effect in the air above very hot cement also understands this. It's rather obvious that the more heat-absorbing materials spread across a large area, the greater the amount of heat collected.
Bren January 15, 2013 at 09:58 PM
My father was in a private union all his working life. When companies hired union workers they knew they were getting well trained people. It was a symbol of pride. I have no intentions of disrespecting private unions because the American Legislative Exchange Council and Diane Hendricks think I should. Trade guilds/unions have a proud history going back centuries.
CowDung January 15, 2013 at 10:03 PM
Bren: The unions have some pretty obvious downsides, and often do end up hurting the company as a whole (and in turn the workers they are supposed to be helping). People should be paid according to the value of their work, rather than according to what their union is able to win through collective bargaining/strikes. Unfortunately, the global economy has reduced the value of many jobs, as there are now millions more people able and willing to do the work for far less money. Offshoring isn't patriotic, but rather it is often necessary to keep product pricing in line with the competition. Rather than trying to keep wages high for jobs that are losing value, perhaps the unions should be helping people increase/diversify their skills so they can move to jobs that are more in demand in this country.
Brian Dey January 15, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Bren- Sadly that is not the case today. Like I've said before; "This is not your father's union." I don't say that because ALEC says I should. I know that from personal experience. My father proudly served as Secretary of the United Steelworkers union in the early 60's. He denounced the union in the late 90's.
CowDung January 15, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Have you ever actually had to work with union guys, Bren? The union guys really aren't always as well trained as you believe them to be. I dread going to job sites that are union.
$$andSense January 16, 2013 at 12:15 AM
For polite Brian: Yeah... Those are some rather fair observations and statements. Management needs to think at the level of the rank and file, and the rank and file need to be informed of the big picture. I believe the destructive union types are those that think one dimensionally only, it's all about me.
$$andSense January 16, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Now at offensive Bwian Deedle-do-day: “$$andSensese-less- until unions stop defending poor employees that sap dollars from a company, corporation or government entity; they are a drain on society. When a company has to hire 80 people to do the work of 50 because 30 of them won't show up, or will only do the minimum required; that is a drain on our society. The military is by choice, a choice employees don't have in a union shop. Your loathe of the military is truly a product of your blue-fister mentality.” Hey numb nets, I gave you my objective thoughts on unions above and posted I have no love or hate for them. So my father was an IBEW ass cause he paid dues in order to work and support his family at a time when the economy was much worse than now? And at no time did I state any loathe of the military, just posted the facts of military service. You think it is otherwise? Are you on some Disney drugs? When did you serve? Don’t pull the snotty attitude until you fully comprehend the issue from another’s perspective and maybe ask some well thought out and stated questions. That is called constructive conversation my boy and you stink at it. Be honest here son, are you Gen X because you sure come across that way using a term like “blue-fister”.
Brian Dey January 16, 2013 at 03:41 PM
$$andSense- Your father is not an ass. In the 70's, unions weren't like they are today. As I said in a post above, this is not your father's unions. Not sure of your age and I sincerely thank you for your service, but today is a different military. Many join for various reasons but none are forced to join. I'm not sure what a Gen-Xer is, but I was born in the early 60's. My father and son served in the Army, my nephew was wounded while serving in the Marines, and my father-in-law was career Air Force. Many in my family have served and I was unable to due to a serious back injury. I did however work hard in support of our troops during all conflicts dating back to Desert Storm and have had a great relationship with the military. I know that military life is hard. I've seen first hand. I founded Just Cause Wisconsin, served with Operation Interdependence and my company offered help in services to families with deployments. But I do stand by my statement about unions. In my working life I have been in a union, served as a shop steward, served as management-union liason, currently own a business and was on a school board. And again, I don't know your age or if you were drafted, but today is different. You won't be forced to jin the military today, but you can be forced to join a union. Not exactly the freedom our country was founded on.
CowDung January 16, 2013 at 04:14 PM
...and I don't disrespect unions because ALEC or anyone else thinks I should. I disrespect unions because my personal experiences with them have all been negative, and find them to be a hindrance to getting work done correctly, in a timely fashion. Certainly not a good thing when it comes to success in business.
Keith Schmitz January 16, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Cowdung, I certainly respect that you personally had problems with unions in the past. But what about the original point that as union membership has gone down, the middle class has gone down with it? So far I have seen no one put up an idea that replaces the efficiency of unions for growing the middle class. What about strengthening the unions while putting in place significant reforms? Another idea would be to encourage businesses to be less adversarial towards unions? One thing that has not been acknowledged is the role of corporate management in driving companies get driven into the ground. Doesn't that bother some of you that when this happens, the executives responsible get huge golden parachutes?
CowDung January 16, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Keith: The problems with the union has been the past, present and future. They specialize in extracting as much money as possible from the company while failing to provide an increased value for their work. Union rules tend to require more workers than are actually necessary (see the post below about the 'bread loaders' and the 'cake loaders' as an example). Did you ever consider that the existence of the unions are what is causing the decline of the middle class, as entire industries have been ruined by union greed? Collective bargaining for employee compensation is a disconnect from the actual market conditions. When times are good, the unions are quick to demand better compensation for the workers, but when times are bad, unions are reluctant to make any concessions to help trim cost. Now that companies are having to produce their products at lower pricepoints in order to compete with overseas businesses, it is quite the challenge to continue to pay the inflated union wages. I don't have a solution for the 'golden parachute' issue. The compensation of employees (including the CEO) needs to be left up to the owner/Board of Directors of the company. I cannot support the government dictating compensation levels for any employee of a private sector business.
The Anti-Alinsky January 16, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Bren, the sun has had that ability for the last couple of billion years. It's one thing to modify and spin data results. It's a whole different thing for the people collecting the data to CHANGE THE DATA so it gives them the result they want.
The Anti-Alinsky January 16, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Actually Keith, I usually come to the table with my wagers. And if I make a spur of the moment bet, I pay off as soon as I can, even if I have to hunt the person down. I personally hate owing people money, and I do everything I can to pay them off ASAP!!!
$$andSense January 18, 2013 at 03:27 AM
Brian Thank you for a polite response and forgive my assault. We are not far apart on the issue but I despise the “one size fits all” labeling the current generation uses when it comes to unions. I come from a blue collar generation where most worked in unions: IBEW, machinists, tool and die, carpenters, masons, brewery workers, Western Electric, Wisconsin Electric and on and on. They built this country and we all have taken advantage of their fading influence and accomplishments. Most of my uncles are/were WW2 vets and my favorite is an Iwo Jima Marine hell raiser who took a bullet and is still here today. He went on to become a union employee for Shell Oil. All I ask is that you or anyone else be careful whose feet you step on and how you phrase your stance. I have dealt with unions in my line of work but cannot categorize all as being evil, greedy or self centered. Now, corporate greed and their political influence is taking us back over a century when these money mongers wrested charge of our lives. They have no issue of sending work to china, pakistan, bangladesh, mexico, etc. where they do whatever they want w/o consequence to make money.
rodbuster rich January 20, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Blah blah blah...............United we STAND, divided we BEG
Born Free January 25, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Why haven't the unions ever walked off the job at any of the shipping ports in this country to protest the proliferation of job killing import products? Maybe because they really aren't all that bright? Maybe because they figured pro union bumper stickers would stop people from buying non made in America products? Oh wait...correction...non union made products. Maybe because their complicit in the New World Order aka share the wealth? Noting they still only organize strikes for wages, benefits and something or other unfairness even these days, it's pretty obvious though that they don't strike to ban the purchases of imported products at the consumer level, however, to save a buck union minions will shop at those places. Why the discrepansy? Go with, 'because their complicit in the New World Order aka sharing the wealth scheme'. Unions are socialist/Marxist/progressive share the wealthers. Thee, New World Order was mandated to start in 1956 by the League Of Nations for the purpose of that sharing the wealth scheme. So this is why Joe McCarthy has been demonized by the liberal media and unions? Yes! Sharing the wealth is after all also "all about the children". Ring a bell? Union Marxist socialists have left in their wake since WW-1 suffering, death and distruction to the tune of 100's of millions of people and trillions of dollars the worst of which occurs is when the greed of their individual demigods clash with one another for ultimate control.

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