FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Seven Reasons You Should Join a Union

by DAVID MACARAY

One clue that this recession is going to be long and brutal is the fact that vocational guidance counselors are now suggesting to college graduates that they consider careers as open sea pirates.  Okay, that’s not true.  But still, one can imagine how daunting and demoralizing things must be for college grads entering the job market at this precarious time—and not just for those who were hoping to break into investment banking, real estate or the stock market.  Across the board, things are bleak.

And the situation is even worse for blue-collar workers, those entering the national job pool without benefit of a college degree.  With most of the attractive manufacturing jobs having been dramatically downsized or exported, unless you can luck into a tech industry or land an apprenticeship in an established tradecraft, your choices are going to be fairly limited.

That’s why, if you intend to be a blue-collar worker rather than a white-collar careerist, it’s a smart move to consider becoming a union member.  Here are seven practical reasons why.

1.  Money.  Let’s deal with this one straightaway, and let’s be sure to get it right.  Generally speaking, union jobs pay significantly more than non-union jobs.  From top to bottom, industry to industry, region to region, union wages are roughly 15 per cent  higher than non-union wages.  It’s as simple as that.  If wages matter to you, then you’ll want to join a union, because you’ll make more as a union member.  That’s part of the reason companies resist having a union workforce.  They don’t want to part with that money.

Of course, you’ll hear propaganda from anti-labor people about how that additional pay is going to be eaten up by monthly union dues, but that’s a pathetic lie.  Depending on the industry and geographical region, union dues run about $50-$60 a month, which is $600-$720 a year.  And $720  isn’t 15 per cent of any union worker’s income . . . unless he’s earning $4,800 a year, which happens to be less than half the federal minimum wage, which means that whole “dues will neutralize any gains” argument is absurd.

2.  Benefits.  Pensions, medical insurance, paid vacation, holidays, personal holidays, sick pay, overtime premium pay, penalty pay and shift differential are generally not only better in a union shop, often the only way to obtain them is through a union contract.  In truth, many of these benefits and perks don’t exist without a union providing them.  That’s another reason why companies don’t want to go union.  Under a union contract they have to share those goodies.

3.  Safety.  This is a stark and sobering reality.  The safety record of union facilities is demonstrably superior to that of non-union facilities.  Anti-unionists can talk all they like about OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) being the “great equalizer,” but it simply isn’t true—no way, no how.  Besides being understaffed and over-extended, OSHA has been effectively gelded by eight years of Bush administration anti-worker neglect and mockery.

A union contract gives employees the immediate right to insist on a safe work environment.  Rather than having to petition a remote government agency in the hope that they come to your aid, as a union worker you can instantly grieve an unsafe condition.  The safety provisions of a union contract guarantee immediate, hands-on control.  It’s no contest.  Union facilities have an infinitely better safety record.

4.  Dignity.  As a union worker you don’t have to put up with flaky bosses, arbitrary decisions, or co-worker harassment.  You can still be fired for substandard work performance, but you don’t have to tip-toe around in fear or be at the mercy of weird or grossly incompetent managers.  Because administering the provisions of a union contract requires a certain level of expertise, you tend to get better, more efficient bosses.  Instead of flitting about making arbitrary, off-the-cuff decisions, they’re forced to behave like “professionals.”

5.  Security.  The boss can’t walk up and fire you because he wants to give your job to his wife’s nephew, who’s looking for a summer job before returning to school.  Management can’t lay you off out of sequence.  They can’t demote you arbitrarily.  Nor can they prevent you, without sufficient cause, from promoting to the next higher job when it’s your turn.  African Americans and women didn’t get their fair shot at higher-rung manufacturing jobs until labor unions gave it to them, a fact that doesn’t receive enough recognition.

6.  Competence.  Surprise!  Union workers tend to be better workers than non-union workers.  Just think about it:  Which job in the community is going to attract a higher caliber performer—the one with the good wages, benefits and working conditions, or the crap job with low pay, lousy benefits and no air-conditioning?  Not only will better workers apply to a union facility, but management will have a significantly greater number to choose from, allowing them to hire the very best.

7.  Activism.  You have the opportunity—the privilege—of one day becoming a shop steward, of representing your fellow workers, if they feel justified in giving you that responsibility.  Shop steward is no glorified popularity contest, like being elected class president in high school.  It’s an important job.  People on the floor are going to select the person they deem best qualified to represent their interests.  As a union official, whose authority is recognized by federal labor law, you will forever be a footnote in the history of the American labor movement.  Very cool.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail