The ‘right to work’ laws now being enacted in various states are a step in the right direction
The trouble with unions
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Back in the early 1970s, I briefly worked for Canadian National Railways as a car checker. My job was to walk the tracks at three in the morning in the dead of winter with a flashlight and a clipboard and write down the boxcar numbers of trains that had just arrived. One condition of my employment was that I had to belong to the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway, Transport and General Workers (CBRTGW), the union that represented clerical staff at CN.
The first day at work was total cultural shock, as the office, which was staffed by some 30 clerks, felt more like a kindergarten for retards than a work environment. There were people doodling, people playing chess, people playing solitaire, people dealing drugs and people sleeping. There were very few that were actually working.
Nevertheless I got to work walking the tracks and making sure that I had written all the boxcar numbers correctly. I soon realized that my job consisted of about two hours of work for which I was paid 8 hours. I was bored and started to look for things to do, things like tidying the office, putting away old files and bringing paper from the storeroom to the various desks. It wasn’t long before I received a visit from my friendly shop steward who informed me in really unfriendly terms that I was working too hard and that could result in an accident with bodily harm. I knew then and there that working in a union shop was not my cup of tea because I enjoyed working and made it fun by keeping busy.
My experience is by no means unique in that I have heard even scarier anecdotes from others who also worked in union shops in different industries.
Currently there is a lot of talk about rich capitalists who “ship American jobs overseas.” No one in government seems particularly concerned that companies like GM can’t build a car for any less than $78/hr, whereas the Toyota plants in the US are building them for somewhere on the order of $46/hr. And they’re building a far superior product.
Better to blame the rich “fat cats” (Republicans) who live to steal food from struggling workers’ mouths. The recent rash of states that have enacted right to work legislation is the peoples’ push back against union power, whose entitlements bear a large responsibility for the trouble that American manufacturers have experienced. And don’t believe the pap about the government having saved GM and Chrysler, as certainly GM is going to enter another crisis, as Americans find buying a battery powered car that will only go 80 miles on one charge and costs $40,000 a really bad joke. Chrysler may survive, having been taken over by Fiat, if they manage to get their unions to be more productive.
Hostess recently killed its Twinkies brand as a result of unions making demands that would result in the company going bankrupt. 18,000 people lost their jobs as a result. Is the union happy now that 18,000 of its members are unemployed? And more importantly, are those 18,000 union members happy not to have jobs?
The truth of the matter is that America is finding itself in a vicious circle. Its manufacturing jobs are going offshore because American workers and specifically unionized American workers can’t compete with the low-wage economies in Asia or South America. While on the whole goods produced in America are of a much higher quality, their production cost is prohibitive, especially in a consumer society that flourishes through retail spending. When politicians urge citizens to go shopping in order to keep the economy afloat you know that the nation’s in trouble.
As a result America is no longer a manufacturing-based economy and has become a service-based economy, which naturally offers lower paying and relatively insecure jobs. The rich, fat cats that are being blamed for these job losses do indeed bear some of the responsibility because they did not take a hard enough line against union demands, instead collaborating in the eventual demise of their industries.
The ‘right to work’ laws now being enacted in various states are a step in the right direction. The Michigan law is a case in point. Mainstream pundits are stunned that the law passed in the state purported to be the birthplace of unions. Had they been paying attention they would know that ‘right to work’ was a ballot initiative in Michigan on Nov. 6th that was passed by a majority of voters. Michiganders had taken note of what happened in nearby Indiana after that state enacted the right to work.
So long as unscrupulous and corrupt politicians, like those currently running Washington, continue to wage class warfare, the impetus to change has to come through individual states. So far 24 states have taken the first step to control their economies. It won’t be long until the other 26 follow suit.