Why I Won’t Join A Union

July 31, 2009 at 2:36 pm (Family Life, Politics)

I was recently invited (again) to join the union at work.  When I declined, I was asked why.  Since my answers were so intelligent and well articulated (yeah, right), the union member asked if I would mind putting it in writing.  Here’s what I gave them:

I will not join the guild for the following reasons.

The ‘service’ that the union provides is a monopoly.  A monopoly is a bad thing, when applied to the provider of goods (Standard Oil), and services (AT&T), but it is equally bad when applied to collective bargaining.

The advantages provided by a union are an inverted bell curve, with the unskilled at one end and the obsolete at the other.  Both are afforded protections that are disproportionate to their value.

Dues for membership are based on salary, with members that earn more paying a larger share.  The lowest paid employees are charged the least, while they enjoy benefits that are significantly more than they could expect doing the same work for a non-union shop.  The membership dues should be a flat fee regardless of salary.  Or to be completely fair, inverse to salary, charging more to those who benefit the most.

In the name of ‘fairness’, the wages of less valuable employees are artificially inflated, while simultaneously lowering the pay of more valuable employees.  It is immediately recognized as wasteful and wrong when the company pays more for an item from one vendor, when the same item is available for less from a different one.  The same principle applies to salaries.

The ‘fairness’ of the wages also tends to drive the most skilled (and most valuable) employees out. It wouldn’t be ‘fair’ for some employees to receive merit pay or bonuses while others didn’t, so people who are highly skilled can get more somewhere else.

My first experience with the union at <company> was during the orientation.  While I oppose unions on principle, I attended with an open mind.  That was short lived, because I had a few questions and wanted to see how a guild meeting worked.  The short answer was that the meetings were open to members only, and that I could go if I joined.  If I didn’t like what I saw at the meeting, I was still a dues paying member until the opt-out period next year.  I believe the exact words I used at that time were ‘pig in a poke’.

Twice, I have seen employees leave <company> for greener pastures simply because their salaries could not exceed the union-agreed scale.  I have been personally told by my manager that I would have received a merit pay bonus because of my performance during the virus crisis in 04, but that they did not give them out any more because the union had filed grievances every time one was put forward.  I was given a few days off with pay instead.

I had some experience with AFSCME prior to coming to <company>, and my experience with AFSCME was no better.  On several occasions, I saw first hand how damaging unions can be.  When dealing with people, there will always be an occasional ‘bad apple‘.  Most people are conscientious workers and respectful co-workers.  In a non-union shop, the ‘bad apples’ are quickly removed.  When one of the ‘bad apples‘ turns up in a union shop, it is usually difficult to remove them.  The process varies, but it inevitably wastes the time of everyone involved, and pushes more work onto the coworkers of the ‘bad apple’ while they exhaust their levels of arbitration.  If the arbitration is successful in keeping the employees job, morale in their unit will suffer.  After all, if THEY can get away with it, why can’t everyone?  One of the extreme examples of that occurred at <company>.  Our unit (bargaining unit employees only, btw) had a ‘good riddance’ party when he was finally paid enough to leave.  The cake was bitter-sweet, because that was money that could easily have been put to better use in profit sharing.

One fo the frequent reasons given for why we need to be part of the collective (union) is that employees would be mistreated if they didn’t.  They claim that weekends, sick leave and vacations, as well as bathrooms are all a product of union efforts.  While that may be true in the strictly literal sense, much more has been gained by the skill of individual workers.  There were examples of this during the dot-com boom, where companies that couldn’t afford the extreme salaries demanded got creative with their benefits.  Movie nights in company conference rooms, guaranteed work-from-home, game rooms, and gourmet cafeterias were not uncommon.  While most of those companies failed in the crash, some survived – as did their benefits.  The Google campus is a prime example.

A skilled worker will ALWAYS be able to negotiate a benefits package that better suits them than the ‘one size fits none’ type that the unions negotiate.


1 Comment

  1. J.T. said,

    You shouldn’t forget that while it is illegal to use union dues to contribute to campaigns, the union still endorses candidates that you may not like, essentially putting your name on it, and they can use your money for other political purposes, whether you agree with it or not.

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