Monday, September 7, 2009

Have unions outlived their purpose?

In the shadow of the recent debacle up in Fond du Lac with Mercury Marine, I have to wonder, have unions become obsolete? I have never worked in a union, nor have I been connected to unions in any way, but as an outsider I am forced to ask why would so many people risk losing their jobs because the union told them to?

Granted, back at the start of the industrial revolution, unions were the only way that the worker had any control or any protection from unscrupulous owners. In those days, most jobs didn't require many skills and there were dozens of guys on the streets who would jump at the job in half a second. Safety wasn't a great concern for those owners either, mostly for the same reason.

Today the environment is different. Many unions are in the manufacturing industry where fewer and fewer of the jobs are unskilled. Owners need to treat their employees much better because there isn't, for the most part, people waiting on the corner for the job. Safety concerns are dealt with much more efficiency. With OSHA looking over their shoulder and with the competitive news industry always looking for a scoop, things are harder to sweep under the rug.

So why do unions still exist? I believe that the unions exist to serve themselves. What other explanation is there? Obviously in the case of the Mercury situation, the union did not have the best interest of the workers in mind. How could they? Telling people who are making 12-16 dollars that they shouldn't accept a wage cut and risk losing their jobs. How could that even be remotely considered looking out for their members?

I do realize that without unions, work conditions would be so much worse today than they are. They served a valuable role in the past, lobbying on the behalf of their members. However, there are enough checks and balances in place as a part of society that unions are no longer relevant.

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