Probably like many of you, I have been involved in a lot of conversations about the pros and cons of union membership following the United States Supreme Court’s decision on Janus V. AFSCME. Interesting are the conversations I have heard among non-union employees.
Conversation #1: I call it the “gone fishing” conversation. You know the saying “gone fishing,” to drop the duties of daily life and go do something fun, something of your own choice? Sounds like retirement, right? The conversation went like this: “I have seven siblings, so there are eight of us, all of retirement age. Four of us are retired, four of us are still plugging away at full-time, five-day-a-week jobs. Care to guess which siblings, including those younger than I am, are retired? The four who worked union jobs and have a pension! I don’t begrudge them, I envy them!”
Union membership has many advantages including pensions and the ability to retire at an age in which you can still go out and enjoy life. We know pensions are under attack and probably always will be. Workers cannot fight the attacks on pensions individually. There is strength and power in numbers and a vigorous force with unions. Unions are on the frontlines of the battlefield when it comes to protecting your pension. Unions know when a fight is on the horizon, whether it comes as proposed legislation, or an initiative and they work to squash any attempt to take away a promise that has been made to employees. Unions are key to your successful and enjoyable future.
Conversation # 2: The “go-it-alone tough-guy” conversation. The conversation went like this: “I am perfectly capable of negotiating a contract including salary, benefits and working conditions. I don’t need to pay someone to do that for me.” And his former co-worker replied, “But what happened when a supervisor came in, and not only cut salaries and items employees were previously able to expense, but began demanding 10 and 11-hour days, quick turnarounds and employees were physically and emotionally spent. You had no power on your own to change this. Employees joined together to effort a change and still nothing. And what happened when they began to unionize and vote on unionization? That supervisor was fired prior to the union vote, and following the vote, when employees voted to unionize, who else was fired? The supervisor’s supervisor.”
Unions stand up for employees. They stand up to irrational employers and bosses whose only focus is on production and bottom lines and not the health and well-being of their workers. Healthy workers are productive workers and worth their weight in gold. How’d you like to work for an employer who didn’t care about you or your family? Need an example? Just watch the 2008 video on YouTube of a billionaire corporation owner throwing the f-bomb out to an employee asking a question: FTVLive.com: Tribune Owner Sam Zell says “F#@k You”. Did I mention his employees lost all their retirement stock when his company later filed for bankruptcy? The employees did not have a voice! Unions give employees a VOICE!
Those are just two conversations I’ve heard or heard about since the Janus V AFSCME decision. I know the conversations are taking place. Conversation is a good thing. Unions are a good thing. Talk to those who don’t belong to one.