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Are worker unions good or bad?

Forums - Politics Discussion - Are worker unions good or bad?

I'm going to tag this as well, yes Unions are important.



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Unions are very important as they form a counterpart to the company's power.

OP asks the question of why not go to a lawyer but lawyers are expensive. In my country the losing party must pay the lawyer, so if you lose your argument, have fun paying a shitload of money for nothing.

Unions deal with issues that arise within a their own environment and tend to get better agreements than outsiders because they know who they deal with and they know the applied terms and conditions better.



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Unions had a great impact on working policies over the years, and, for that, I am very grateful.

However, the current Unions, mainly the ones from the public sector, in my country (Portugal) really disgust me, and I am talking from an 'employee' standpoint.

Nowadays, our Unions have a place at the government, the current party could not have a majority at the elections, so they've kind of formed a joint party with the communist and the far left party (lucky us...) in order to attain majority. The problem is that the Unions control the Communist party, so, they are now able to have a say on important decisions.

The 'heads' of these unions live at the expense of the money coming from the associates. As anyone can imagine, the cash flow is not insignificant, so, in order to maintain it, they must keep the associates happy, and are now in a position to obligate the government to meet their demands.
This should be a good thing, at least on paper; however, some things should be noted. Our country entered a huge crisis in 2008 (as so many other countries), and we ended up needing aid from the IMF. The situation was indeed, severe. In addition, we have way too many people working for the public sector (and this is not just an opinion).
Before this joint party, we were on the path of recovery, with a lot of strict measures I admit, but we were getting there. For instances, there were some companies that were being semi-privatized, companies that were causing severe deficit for the public accounts. The deals were already signed, and even, for some contracts, the payments had already been made. When the new party started functions, the Unions were able to make the new government cancel all the contracts, only because the workers (the public workers) were against this semi-privatization.
Also, we are now having a lot of strikes, with demands that, in my opinion, are completely ridiculous. For instances, in the public transport sector we are having like two strikes a month, imagine the burden that is for people that relies on public transportation to go to work, fortunately, that’s not my case. And, it is important to notice that, the great majority of the demands come from people that earn way more than the minimum wage.
The government keeps on meeting the demands, at least on some degree, and guess who ends up paying for this….. New taxes are being created, and this is completely unsustainable. I fear that we end up needing external help once again.

Well, that is just my 2 cents, and I do not want to generalize my opinion to all Unions around the world, but, for the Portuguese case, I really think that the Unions are ruining the economy.



When working for any company, whose main interest will inevitably be to make as much money as possible, the only way for workers to have a say is to unionize.

Let's look at Rockstar, which had their employee work 100-hour weeks. Without a union, you couldn't guarantee any adequate extra pay, cut the hours or even complain.
You would have been replaced.

Forming a union is the way to guarantee that the working force can bargain as a group, and get the just compensation it deserves.



Considering how things were before unions (IIRC) and how they don't seem to be causing much trouble over here, they definitely don't seem very bad.



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Tulipanzo said:
When working for any company, whose main interest will inevitably be to make as much money as possible, the only way for workers to have a say is to unionize.

Let's look at Rockstar, which had their employee work 100-hour weeks. Without a union, you couldn't guarantee any adequate extra pay, cut the hours or even complain.
You would have been replaced.


Forming a union is the way to guarantee that the working force can bargain as a group, and get the just compensation it deserves.

I'd actually argue that's a bad example. If you're working 100 hour weeks then your union has failed miserably!



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Depends. As long as it isn't forced I don't see the big deal and I'm okay with it. However, I will say this. Sometimes unions need to know where they stand in certain job sectors. For example, if you are easily replaceable by automation or outsourcing then you better keep your demands reasonable or else you can cost everyone their job.



Unions are great. They protect workers in many ways including making sure enterprise agreements are in the best interests of workers.



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Things unions are responsible for:
40 hour work week.
Vacations
Sick pay
Child labor laws
Safe working conditions
At least one day off a week for hourly employees.

Unions are generally very important overall to keep companies from being dishonest. When someone with a 'bright idea' figures out you can fire everyone - and have a temp company come in with no benefits - while the temp company hires all the fired people - who take a pay cut - etc. These things happen - today. They are the result of pressure from stock holders and management to 'save every nickle' and spending *all their energy on the job* finding ways to shave money from the worker if possible - which isn't 'evil' or 'wrong' in itself - but becomes so when the individual worker has no power to fight against tactics that harm them. This is why unions are useful - they give vastly more power to the 'worker' than they otherwise would have.

Despite the rhetoric - it is very hard and expensive to sue in this country - cases that make the news are always dramatized - but the truth is you aren't going to sue your employer because almost all states (even the super liberal ones) make it so the employer can fire you for almost any reason - and it's really up to you to decide to work there or not. Yes you don't have to put up with harassment - but it's still legal in all 50 states for your boss to tell you how to cut your hair and fire you if you don't comply with no recourse (assuming you aren't bald due to a medical condition - which is about the only 'out'). Unions tend to stop petty bullshit like this and enforce policy and rules based on contract law - which is strong law. Companies benefit from this because they can negotiate with a single entity - and so they can win concessions that would be impossible to enforce on large working populations otherwise.

The bad side of unions - is that the same contract that protects you from a power monger manager, also protects the idiot screw up - and processes that are put in place to protect workers from over zealous or malicious management can also drag out firing someone who is very bad at the job. This is where a large amount of complaining happens - because it's usually easier for a company to just shuffle someone into a job they can deal with - than to fire them - and everyone grumbles (the company for how hard it is to fire someone, and the workers for having to make up slack for 'screw up bob'). Sometimes people abuse this system - and it breeds resentment. Other large problems with unions - is that power corrupts - and you are just as likely to have a power hungry union boss, that uses the power for bad ends, as you are to have a bad manager that is petty and a pain in the ass to work for.

People forget that - and thus union leadership can become a cesspool - so you need to be careful - however if the union has a good method of electing leaders, and is clear and transparent to the membership - there really isn't any downside to joining a union.



XD84 said:
Research how working conditions were 100 years ago and compare them to today. That will answer your question.

Most of that is thanks to a shift in demographics and technology even when most unions were formed a hundred years ago ... 

100 years ago, a notable portion of Americans were still farmers working in unsanitary conditions so I doubt worker unions would've been much helpful at that point ... 

50 years ago, America saw an explosive growth in productivity with the rise in manufacturing which meant higher wages regardless since more value was added to the economy regardless so how exactly did labour policy play a pivotal role ? 

Today, most Americans have jobs in the service sector with an 8 hour work day on weekdays in nearly ideal working conditions and tons of other benefits to boot so how did unions also help us get there ? 

In 20 years, the average American will have 6 hour work days ... 

What all these examples demonstrate is that the key to getting better working conditions lies in a breakthrough with technology rather joining labour unions  in the vast majority of cases ...