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The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
The Decline of Unions
This article looks at the decline of unions and how it parallels the overall decline of middle/working class and the widening of the income gap in America.

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wolfbrotherjoe From: wolfbrotherjoe Date: March 7th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
The problem with the numbers they're giving on the 'decline in unions' - how many per capita are 'protected by unions', is that the types of jobs in the economy have also changed during the same time period. Even if all of the same jobs were union-protected as they used to be, you'd still see a large decline in how many per capita are union-protected, because the restrictions on a production-based economy, combined with the message that Americans are 'too good for' production-level jobs, have caused a lot of that production to move elsewhere, turning us into more of a consumer-based economy and a consumer-based society.

And at the same time, the government has been getting bigger and bigger, having for itself more of the workforce, and taking a lot of the production-level work onto itself. For instance, people used to be responsible for taking care of their own front yards, sidewalks, the strip of grass between sidewalk and street, and keep the street itself clean, in front of their house. Now, while many people still do so, the government has 'official government employees' whose responsibility are to clean the street, trim that grass, trim the trees along the street, etc.

So in that manner, too, even if all of the same jobs were union-protected as they used to be, you'd still see an increase in government union jobs, and a decrease in private union jobs.

I see, quite differently, a vast increase in union power over past years. Look at the private sector in the last decade... when you saw unions working together to shut down Detroit auto plants. Look at the public sector here in Wisconsin, where *unions* decide who works and who doesn't.

Admittedly, this is not universal across the entire United States. Other areas of the country need stronger unions, where basic-level employees *are* being mistreated horribly.

But Chicago is the center of union power, and Wisconsin is caught up in a lot of that. The unions here in Wisconsin have been *very* powerful. My family has been witness to mafia-style violent threats by official union representatives, with no legal repercussions, and the most ridiculous examples of abuse of power. Of employees knowing because they're union, there's nothing they can do to protect their jobs. Only seniority can do that - no matter how hard they work, they can still be fired over the guy next to them who picks his nose all day and does jack shit, because the guy next to them has seniority, or because he plays golf with his union rep.

A solution is not universally 'give unions more power' or 'give corporations more power'. The solution is to seek a balance point.

Right now, in Wisconsin, the actions being taken against Unions are just a *starting point* in regaining that balance that we found sometime after World War II, and making the lives of workers better.
ravan From: ravan Date: March 8th, 2011 12:30 am (UTC) (Link)
For instance, people used to be responsible for taking care of their own front yards, sidewalks, the strip of grass between sidewalk and street, and keep the street itself clean, in front of their house.

Even in the "liberal" bastion of California, we still have this responsibility, BY LAW, and it must meet city standards, to boot. There is no government union employee that cuts our grass, in the bastion of liberaldom. I suspect the problem is not union power per se, but city councils who are on the take and padding the payroll.

If the city "has to" trim your lawn (including the easement), they add that bill t5o your property tax assessment. TANSTAAFL.

I am not in a union job - I work in the tech field which is hostile to unions. But I see the stuff in Wisconsin as more an attempt to screw union workers in preparation to screwing everyone else, maybe worse than what Reagan did to the air traffic controllers.

Yes, union power needs to be balanced - but annihilating it isn't balance. Unchecked corporate power is a threat to union and non-union alike, the same as unchecked government power. Right now the corporates are running both parties, so they have control of the government. The only thing that hopefully will effectively balance that is strong unions. (But if the three get in bed together, we're all screwed.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 8th, 2011 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

The balance to unions is not corporations, but non-union workers. A company that willingly treats its workers well and thus needs no union is quite likely to out-compete a unionized company that treats its workers tolerably under duress. A non-union company can be more flexible and more relaxed than a unionized company, if the atmosphere is positive and cooperative rather than having an adversarial divide between corporate owners and employees.

Trying to "balance" corporate vs. union power is likely to shaft the workers, because unions were initially designed to give workers a way to face the tremendous power of the corporations without getting completely crushed. It's never a level playing field.
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