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Blog: Unions: Way Past Their Usage Date

Instead of protecting members and enhancing productivity and service in their respective fields, unions are causing more problems than ever for companies, consumers, and their communities.

What do our public schools, Hostess Brand Inc, Walmart, LAX, and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have in common?

They have all been hindered and crippled in their services because of the immoral power of unions. I do not relate this point of view in order that workers may no longer have the right to organize. Their right to peaceable assembly is protected in the First Amendment of the Constitution, but with the growing frequency of strikes and worker actions in this country, it's time that the voters acknowledge that unions are now way past their usage date.

I have read about the terrible working conditions which teachers and stevedores (nowadays "longshoremen") had to tolerate in previous generations. However, the rising standard of living, civil rights laws, and the growing negative consequences resulting from union action have hobbled public and private institutions at the expense of the company, the consumers, and the community.

Yet if one cabal of workers uses their right to organize and impedes on the public interest for free commerce, or forbids an employer to provide goods and services to consumers willing to purchase, or when a employee association demands stringent conditions which protect poor performance or perverted employees at the expense of the clients whom they are expected to serve, then an association has gone too far and their powers need to be curbed.

Our public schools poorly serve our students because of sclerotic resistance to reforms, like permitting youth in urban communities to enroll in any school that they choose. Teachers unions play a large role in stifling these reforms, compelling legislators to kill any legislation which would free up attendance.

Not only do they prevent school choice, teachers unions protect their worst members, putting their union dues ahead of the community and the primary consumers, the students. One glaring case highlighted this incongruous conflict of interest instigated by teachers unions. Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt allegedly got away with twenty years of sex abuse in the class, only to resign under duress because the district could not finance a lengthy case to remove him, a line of appeals propped up by the teacher union. The same special interests that protected Mark Berndt also influenced state legislators to kill SB 1530, which would have hastened the removal of pervert teachers.

Hostess Brand Inc., the manufacturer of Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, and Zingers, declared bankruptcy for the second time following the nation-wide collective action of the bakers' union. Lavish pension packages and worker rules made running the nationwide bakery unmanageable, and rather than face the costs of lengthy strike actions, the company closed its doors for good, taking down in its forced demise 18,000 jobs and a cheaper choice for consumers to purchase their daily bread.

SEIU (Service Employees International Union) lost the Safeguards Aviation Association from their ranks, a community of workers which then earned higher wages after separating. The SEIU picketed outside of LAX during the 2012 Thanksgiving weekend, throwing a number of travelers off schedule and hampering airline traffic. Some protests blocked traffic along Sepulveda Blvd. This kind of conduct is unacceptable, no matter what conditions anyone may be facing.

Black Friday at Walmart put the company in the black, but disgruntled employees throughout the country picketed the low wages and the cut hours. However, the majority of "workers" on strike were not even Walmart employees, and Walmart incidentally posted one of the most successful Black Fridays in the company's history. A handful of protesters were arrested for blocking traffic. The public square belongs to everyone, not just to employees on strike. Share your grievances, but not to the grief of consumers and the community.

Public sector union demands have brought a number of states to their knees. States like Wisconsin fought back, pushing past the loud crowds which infiltrated the capital. The budget reforms instituted by Governor Walker gave municipal governments and school districts more flexibility to negotiate medical and pension contracts without raising taxes or laying off workers.

In stark contrast, California has enacted weak and beggarly budget reform at best, with the Democratic supermajority and the Governor still refusing to stand up to the public sector unions which intimidate legislators and influence legislation. Instead of spending cuts and budget reforms, the state legislature offers tax increases.

Now the ILWU is on strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Holiday shipping season is in full-swing. Why should one group of employees block the legal and moral commerce of anyone? I will never forget the near-indoctrination of one youth whose parents worked for the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union). One disgruntled interest is not entitled to block the interests of shipping firms or the commerce of one of the largest ports in the country.

Unions are causing more problems than the pretend to solve. Workers have every right to organize. The First Amendment protects this freedom of association. The key word "peaceably" though, seems to have dropped out of the consciousness of collective bargaining units. Unions have disrupted operations, even destroying the equipment of the firms which they are protesting. Strikes harm workers, consumers, and the communities who depend on their service. Perhaps the recent spate of strikes and work actions will spur voters and local leaders to demand limitations on collective bargaining rights, the same reforms enacted to great effect in Wisconsin.

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.

Matt December 02, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Athur Christopher Scharper writes: "Now the ILWU is on strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Holiday shipping season is in full-swing. Why should one group of employees block the legal and moral commerce of anyone? " According to ABC News, ..."November generally is a slower time for the ports because most holiday goods already have been handled...." http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/la-long-beach-port-strike-enters-4th-day-17847430#.ULvepYXlW_E Athur Christopher Scharper also writes: "Strikes harm workers, consumers, and the communities who depend on their service. Perhaps the recent spate of strikes and work actions will spur voters and local leaders to demand limitations on collective bargaining rights...." Federal law governs collective bargaining rights with regards to the private sector like the port strike. What is it that you suggest local leaders do with regard to change federal laws?
Raymond Duke December 03, 2012 at 04:55 AM
It's interesting that you make the conclusion that the latest frequency of strikes is a sign "that the voters acknowledge that unions are now way past their usage date." It's interesting because you seem to believe that if a large majority of people are beginning to take a stand on something, then what they are standing for is something that is not legitimate. Working conditions have improved thanks to the unions, and only by the continuation of unions will working standards stay up to par with the times we live in. Take a look at any non unionized company and you will see how poorly the workers are treated (e.g., Wal-Mart). I'm not saying that unions are 100% necessarily; Starbucks treats their employees very well, so it is possible for workers to happily co-exist within a company. The thing I feel you have a problem realizing is that your argument against unions can go both ways. Your criticisms of unions can equally be applied to employers. Employers can deny services. Employers can protect their "inner circle" just like how you describe unions do. Corruption and ill behavior exists, with or without unions. It exists inside of unions, and outside of them. The big picture is not to fall into the category that union=bad because that limits your perspectives on how to understand what is happening. As for Hostess, it was more so a failure of management than unions - whom already took a pay cut while management got extreme bonuses. I'm running out of space...
Raymond Duke December 03, 2012 at 04:58 AM
In summary, I wish you would approach this topic with seeing both sides. Perhaps you could make an argument for the unions to better understand what their position is.
Raymond Duke December 03, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Matt brings up a good point: the Holiday shipping season is post full-swing. Most -if not all - goods are already here, in stores, and being ordered. Starting in December, the ports see a downward trend in cargo volume, and it continues to decrease - if not stop completely - in the first quarter as Chinese New Years takes place.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 03, 2012 at 09:40 PM
William Hutt, British economist, investigated the short-term and long-term consequences of union actions. He shared positive aspects of worker associations, like training workers, providing them employment, but he properly denounces the greater damage that work actions cause. http://mises.org/daily/5741/ provides a summary and further sources to view for information on the greater harm created by unions, both public and private. In the last month, local papers report that the Safeguards Aviation constituency broke away from SEIU, and their wages increased. San Jose reported that without pension and entitlement reform, the city will be eventually reduced to two workers who write the checks for all the retired employees. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304821304577438452821346064.html "Working conditions have improved thanks to the unions" Share this assumption with the parents and students at Miramonte Elementary. Gloria Romero, a reform Democrat, would also differ with this assessment considerably. The residents of Stockton, San Bernardino, and Vallejo would also challenge that argument. And then there were those 18,500 employees from Hostess Brand, Inc .. . .

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