July 25, 2005

Jimmy Hoffa's Spinning In His Grave

Wherever that might be.

Like Martini Boy, I find it particularly delicious that the unions are turning on one another. And they deserve it.

After years of horrific mismanagement, corruption and thuggish behavior, they're trying to find a way to make themselves more relevant in this modern age. Problem is, as Martini Boy pointed out, is that everything they're "fighting for" has now been enacted into legislation, with OSHA and other regulatory agencies fighting their battles for them, ergo they're irrelevant.

They've shot themselves in the foot, in other words, and now they're whining about who pulled the trigger.

The husband's family---his father, in particular---have spent their entire lives working in manufacturing and trucking and some of the stories they've told could and will make your hair curl. What happened to Stephen's uncle, while appalling, is hardly uncommon. One of the husband's uncles worked for Maytag for years---in Iowa, which is a Right to Work state---and, in direct violation of the laws of the State of Iowa, was outed to the entire factory as a non-union member in a union newsletter. Which, of course, led to harrassment on the factory floor. Nothing was ever done about it. Another uncle, in the late sixties, ran a trucking operation out of the Quad Cities. He managed a non-union shop that did runs from Moline up to Chicago. This, if you know the history of the Teamsters, was not a good idea. This particular uncle was in Chicago one time and was "invited" to come and chat with a particular individual. That particular individual turned out to be Jimmy Hoffa himself, who told the uncle, in no uncertain terms, that he'd better start hiring Teamsters to do the driving---and only Teamsters---or there would be trouble. This uncle eventually took another job, but found out some twenty years later that "Mr. Hoffa" had put a contract out on his life. And that the contract was still good, all those years later.

Even the father-in-law has had his own run-ins. An apprentice tool and die maker, he worked at the Rock Island Arsenal when he was just starting out and, partly because of the harrassment he'd seen dished out to his elder siblings, he refused to go union. I believe the fact that the arsenal was a federally run institution saved his bacon on union membership, but I could be wrong. What's particularly interesting in the father-in-law's case was that he eventually worked his way up to management, winding up as the general manager of the first car parts manufacturing plant in America that actually shipped parts to the Japanese. He's moved around in his career quite a bit, but he's still a manufacturing manager and he's never worked in a plant that was union since his days at the Arsenal. He always makes sure his employees are safe and well-paid because he doesn't want the unions coming in. He learned the lesson the unions were threatening and coercing people to learn with their tactics: treat your employees well. The father-in-law did so and he's never had to deal with a union ever again. He may bitch about OSHA's lock-out/tag-out procedures, but he follows the law to the letter: he just doesn't want to have to deal with it, so he works hard to make certain he doesn't have to.

Unions, in this day and age, have painted themselves into the corner of irrelevancy. Most people think them corrupt: which is an image the unions have worked hard over the years to downplay. What I find interesting is that the proof is always and forever in the pudding. When I managed the Caribou, it was located inside a grocery store, which was, of course, union, Minnesota not being a Right To Work state. I cannot tell you how many cashiers worked 39.5 hours a week. These employees were union members, yet the union never stepped up to ensure they could get benefits to go with this full-time employment. They never lobbied the management of the grocery stores to list full-time employment at less than forty-hours a week. I, the manager of a non-union coffee shop, hit FT when I worked 36 hours a week. My employees were elgible for health insurance and the company 401K plan when they worked more than 22 hours a week for three months. This, of course, says nothing of the poor stock and bag boys and girls, who were mostly under the age of eighteen, who were excited to receive their first paycheck and yet were dismayed when it actually arrived. Why? Because a big percentage had been automatically deducted for union dues. Dues for a union they were ineligible to join because they were under the age of eighteen, and, more importantly, a union they had never signed up for membership in the first place. When the story became clear---that they could not work at the grocery store without being a member of the grocery union---they came looking to me for a job. Which I couldn't give them because my store was grandfathered into a verbal agreement wherein the grocery store management wouldn't poach my employees and I wouldn't poach theirs. I felt bad for all of these people. They paid money to a union who took money from their paychecks without their permission and who did absolutely nothing for them when it came right down to the nitty gritty of the matter. Mr. H's dad was a Teamster for years. His trucking company offered him early retirement, in part because the math dictated that it was cheaper in the long run to hire younger, less senior labor, and to put the more senior union members out to pasture than it was to solely rely on the more senior union members for this company's workforce. Mr. H's dad took the deal and retired. Now he's working again, driving shipments of gravel for a nursery who supplies landscapers. Why? Because the cost of his Teamster's health insurance went up. He has to work to be able to afford the union health insurance. I could go on, but I think you get the gist: they've made things so expensive, not only for employers, but for their members as well. There is more of a downside to union membership these days than there is an upside.

You'd think the Unions would slap each other on the back nowadays, telling each other "good job," and then move on to other labor causes in other places. But they don't. They stay in highly developed countries, where in the level of living is high---hence the dues they collect are high---and live off of that, whilst bleating on about a cause that has less and less relevance in said world. After all, it may be the AFL-CIO International but international only means the U.S. and Canada. There are plenty of people in Asia, Central and South America, to name a few places home to the world's sweatshops, that could use their help. These workers are truly underpaid, abused and work in unsafe conditions. But the big unions don't go there and organize the labor. They stay here and cause trouble because it's more comfortable.

Makes you wonder what Eugene V. Debs would think of their behavior, eh?

Posted by Kathy at July 25, 2005 12:04 PM | TrackBack
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