Are Unions Evil?


I think it’s important to ask and then answer this question.  Are Unions, by themselves, bad or damaging?

My answer might surprise you.  And that might be my fault for not explaining my position well enough.  I do not think that the act of individual laborers joining together collectively and forming a union is, by itself, a bad thing.

After all, we live in a free society where people are able to freely assemble.  This freedom, this liberty, ought and does extend to all forms of assemblies.  Including the assembly of workers seeking common goals.  I absolutely reject the notion that we create a structure that takes away this ability of free individuals.

However, where I think the modern union has crossed the line is that they have co-opted government to their cause.  Today’s unions have created the scenario in which they are able to elect politicians who then craft legislation that forces employees to assemble in support of their cause.  For example, if my shop votes to join a union, I am forced to allow that union to represent me.  And to extract dues in support of that representation.  Further, they may represent me in ways that I don’t feel I agree to.  Again, for example, I may find that I am quite satisfied with my wages in light of not having a job.

But that’s not the way it works.  Today’s unions can force companies to negotiate.  They can bring in arbitration.  They can coerce union membership and demand union dues.

With all of that said, I don’t wanna destroy the idea of unions.  I just wanna destroy the modern implementation.  No more forced association.  No more legislated requirements on the part of companies.  And no more government acting as the “stiff arm” when it comes to dues:

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House delivered a major blow to public employee unions Friday, approving a bill that would ban automatic dues deduction from a government paycheck and require members to sign off on the use of their dues for political purposes.

If these are the laws that come about as a result of the labor strike in America, I would call it a win.  If a union wants to collect dues, they should have to act as the collection agency.

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7 comments
  1. Henry said:

    I am not a huge fan of actions taken by my union, but membership in the union is not nearly as restrictive as you imply. Making membership optional would not likely change anything where I work. Nearly everyone would join and willing pay their dues, myself included. The small amount deducted from our pay checks each month is more than compensated for with better benefits and higher wages.

    • pino said:

      but membership in the union is not nearly as restrictive as you imply.

      I think that unless it is “open shop” if a majority of employees vote to unionize, all the employees are in the union.

      The small amount deducted from our pay checks each month

      That’s part of my problem. If the union wants to collect dues, they should have to collect ’em on their own.

  2. How about if employees can choose automatic deducation? That would fit within your desire to maximize employee freedom to choose, would it not?

    Here’s the problem I see. I believe capitalism works best when it is associated with a strong public sphere — democratic oversight in the shape of worker protection, regulations, and assurance that big money cannot use its power without some kind of accountability outside pure market forces. I do not believe the market is on its own able to adequately reflect social values. A lot of what happens — tax cuts for corporations, regulation reduction (often needed, but sometimes going to far) and tax cuts for wealthy individuals while attacking middle class workers in unions seems to be a move towards reducing the public sphere in favor of faith in the market to handle things. The market is not democratic, it reflects the interests of who has the wealth. Unions are a way to allow those with less wealth/power to have a stronger voice. Moreover, big corporate money has more clout over big government than does big labor. Attacking big labor (which often does abuse power) while embracing big corporate America seems unfair. Saying unions affect government too much while overlooking the impact of lobbying and big money (or some would say succumbing to it) misses a big part of the problem. I’d be happier if going after union power was done alongside a cynicism of corporate power.

    • pino said:

      How about if employees can choose automatic deducation? That would fit within your desire to maximize employee freedom to choose, would it not?

      Absolutely fair. If the employee would like to allow the union to deduct the dues from their bank just like car insurance, church offering or YMCA monthly payments.

      democratic oversight in the shape of worker protection, regulations, and assurance that big money cannot use its power without some kind of accountability outside pure market forces.

      I would say a market works best when government assures that contracts are binding [if we contract to trade milk for grain, you can’t sell me sour or watered down milk and I can’t sell you grain mixed with buck shot]. Further, that individual Liberty is maintained. I can not imprison or coerce you to work. And that government doesn’t regulate product or price. That is, I can sell my grain at whatever price any one will give me for it; regardless of any other situation–like someone is starving.

      I do not believe the market is on its own able to adequately reflect social values.

      I don’t think it should try. I am quite willing to give generously of my time and money as I see fit. I do not think that we can force the market to do the same.

      A lot of what happens — tax cuts for corporations, regulation reduction (often needed, but sometimes going to far) and tax cuts for wealthy individuals

      I think that whatever the tax rate is, it should be paid. No special carve outs. See GE and Charles Rangel.

      tax cuts for wealthy individuals while attacking middle class workers in unions seems to be a move towards reducing the public sphere in favor of faith in the market to handle things.

      That’s the straw man. I’m not attacking the union members. I’m attacking the union that demands and gets special legislation in it’s favor. Further, you understand that when an individual pays no taxes, he can not have his taxes cut?

      Unions are a way to allow those with less wealth/power to have a stronger voice.

      That’s fine. Don’t legislate it.

      I’d be happier if going after union power was done alongside a cynicism of corporate power.

      Here we agree.

  3. A lot of great points here, guys. I, too, don’t hate unions but I do dislike what the modern one has become when it crosses the political line. As “pro-business” as I might be, I no more support unions bullying government (or getting into bed with them) as I do their large corporate counterparts.

    As an employee, I should have a choice as to who speaks for me and who doesn’t. Like I’ve said before, I think unions need to have the power taken away from them that makes the non-union employee their enemy, and consequently remove the tactics that many unions use to coerce or intimidate them.

    • pino said:

      remove the tactics that many unions use to coerce or intimidate them.

      This largely my point. I applaud free men associating for their mutual benefit. I do NOT support those same people effecting legislation to support their cause.

  4. Yup. Just agreeing with ya!

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