FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Do Union Members Make the Best Workers?

Of all the obnoxious myths about labor unions (e.g., they’re too strong, they’re too weak, they’re mobbed-up, they’re anachronistic, they’re undemocratic, etc.) the one that most rankles is the claim that union members don’t make good employees because, being protected by a big, bad labor union, they have no incentive to work.

People with even a modicum of common sense have to see how absurd that premise is.  Jobs in the community that pay the highest wages, offer the best fringe benefits, and provide the safest and most comfortable working conditions (in other words, union jobs) are going to attract the best people, the most qualified people.  How could it be otherwise?

In truth, based on everything I’ve personally seen and heard, I’ve always been stunned by the converse of that dubious claim.  I’ve always been impressed by how hard union people were willing to work, especially on those occasions where slacking off, taking a breather, or flat-out throwing in the towel would’ve made far more sense.

Take for example the graveyard shift of Kimberly-Clark’s tissue converting (Kleenex) department in Fullerton, California.  These folks worked like demons, like frenetic, crazy people, doing everything in their power to keep the machines running—up to and including violating department safety rules.

Mind you, no one would have been reprimanded or even frowned upon for having succumbed to human nature and allowed a distressed production line to shut down as a result of a plug-up or other mechanical malfunction.  No one would have uttered a peep.  Fear of punishment didn’t factor into the equation.

Nor did personal gain.  These were hourly workers who received the identical pay whether the production line was cranking out product at 260 clips (boxes of Kleenex) per minute, or whether the machinery was lying there cold and eerily silent, dead in the water.  It all paid the same.

Moreover, there were no bonuses for record runs, no commissions, no incentive pay, no extra money of any kind.  The crews could set a shift production record, a department record, a corporate record, and receive no more compensation for the hours they worked than had the machine lain idle for that entire period.

Given that there were no incentives and no fear of punishment, why were these people—men and women, young and old, white, black and Latino—willing to sweat their rear ends off at three o’clock in the morning to keep the production line running?  Because they were good workers—workers who would be attracted to a job that offers exemplary wages, benefits and working conditions, which is to say a union job.

So how did the bizarre myth of substandard union workers ever get started?  Presumably, it was invented and circulated by anti-union people looking to undermine organized labor—undermine it the same way virulent anti-government people try to undermine the feds by portraying them as predatory and destructive.

Consider another myth, the one Sarah Palin is peddling.  Palin has gained a following by regularly lambasting the federal government as inefficient, intrusive and wasteful.  In her Alaskan hillbilly twang, she intones, “The government isn’t the solution; the government is the problem!”  Catchy as those that slogan is, Palin must know that her state receives the highest per capita amount of federal aid in the nation.

Like the myth of substandard union workers, Alaska’s image of flinty self-reliance is fake.  Despite the pseudo-libertarian gibberish, it couldn’t survive without federal assistance.  Indeed, Alaska  is to the U.S. government what Albania used to be to the USSR:  A client state.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

WORDS THAT STICK
?

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail