February 06, 2005

Union musings

I think that THIS STORY demonstrates some of what is wrong with Union protected work today. I do think that workers shouldn't be capriciously used, but there comes a point where protection starts hurting business and ultimately the workers themselves. To pay a worker at full pay and benifits for work not done may make sense as a short term proposition; it's wise to keep skilled workers on tap during a small downturn situation, but to keep them on for years on end just doesn't make for a good company policy.

Worse, it engenders within the Union mindset that they are inviolate, and that mindset only leads to greater conflict. Don't think that it does so? From the article:

"That 10,000 number is not trivial, it's a pretty good percentage of their union work force," said Dan Luria, research director for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center and long-time auto-labor researcher.

"It's one of those differences between the Big Three and the foreign automakers. The UAW put it into place so the companies would think of labor as a fixed cost and keep workers busy."

Now I find two things wrong in the thinking embodied by the Union in that statement.

1) Labor costs are never "fixed" in the long term. There is always new innovation that can and should lower production costs, and labor costs are tied in with that; to artificially set those costs in stone eventually leads to a state of the company as a whole being uncompetative and going out of business alltogether.

2) Companies WANT to keep workers busy, to suggest otherwise is just idiocy, a busy worker is (hopefully) a productive worker, adding to the bottom line. To have to pay for a large idle workforce is the last thing a company wants to do.

The idea of companies as a social provider for the worker is what is the basic flaw of the Union mindset. The company is in the business of profit, plain and simple. The workers should have the same mindset in selling their product (their labor) to the company. The Union should be the negotiater between the two in what the company is willing to provide for the service and what the worker is willing to do for the profit. That is what unions were set up to do, as prior to their inception, the Company had all the power in the negotiation and set out unfair conditions to the worker in the interest of higher profit. Unions evened out the power to provide a better equity of power to BOTH sides of the equation.

But the Union mindset has changed to not "what is best for EVERYONE" overall to "just how much can we squeeze out of the company" without regard for the economic facts of life. In the end such a mindset kills the cash cow(company).

The Union officials aren't hurt by this (at least short term), they have influence in a broad range of companies, they just try to get more out of the remaining sources. But the workers who overextended the demands in the first instance are left out in the cold.

Unions have made (Company) profit a dirty word, as if that was money that deservedly only goes to the union worker, without considering that the worker isn't the only part of the equation. In some respects, the Union has taken the place of the Company in the "bad old days".

What are your thoughts?

Posted by Delftsman3 at February 6, 2005 09:23 PM
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