I’m going to do my best Financial Samurai impression here with this controversial post. I firmly believe that unions are a unnecessary relic of economys’ past. While their purpose was necessary in the past, they have long outlived their purpose.
The economy has changed drastically over the past 200 years. In the beginning, it was literally a free for all. Industrialists needed workers to produce things and the workers needed the employers to pay them. Employers soon realized that workers needed them more than they needed workers, especially with large numbers of replacement workers either immigrating or migrating from the farms to the cities. So the employers started exploiting their workers. 16 hour days were the norm. Children were forced to start working at earlier ages. It was a mess, and change was needed.
Enter the union. The workers eventually figured out that if they all banded together, they had some power. They used that power, along with governments changing employment laws, to drastically improve working conditions.
As the 20th century unfolded, a different problem came up. Working conditions were no longer dangerous, pay was fair and hours were reasonable. Unions had accomplished a great deal, especially in the manufacturing sector. With the big problems taken care of, the unions set out to get additional benefits for their workers. With American manufacturing rolling along, the industrial companies could hardly afford an extended work stoppage. So they complied with the union’s wishes, ushering in a period of terrific health benefits, golden pensions and wages that some would argue as inflated for the amount of skill needed to do the job.
Fast forward to the 21st century. The American automotive industry lays in ruins. Manufacturing of almost every kind has been exported to cheaper countries, notably China. The largest retailer in the world is fighting tooth and nail to block the formation of a union in its stores, even going as far as closing down stores that have voted to join a union. Governments of states and provinces are facing looming pension shortfalls from the generous pensions they gave public employees during the boom times.
This all adds up to one conclusion: Unions are broken. They don’t need to be fixed, they need to be squashed.
In the land of socialism, Saskatchewan, Loblaw’s is unionized. You have got to be kidding me. All the past and present employees I’ve talked to agree that the union is a joke. It makes it harder to get rid of employees that deserve to be fired. It has done little to increase wages. Union fees serve as a burden to employees who aren’t paid very well to begin with, probably because they work in a flippin’ grocery store.
Say you’re a nurse or a teacher and you live in Canada, which means you work for the government. A union is necessary, you might argue, because without the union the government wouldn’t pay their employees what they deserve. While I believe this argument was true 50 or 100 years ago, it holds little relevance now.
In just about every industry, you are a google search away from knowing what the median salary is. If certain jurisdictions paid their employees less than others, they would have problems attracting workers. We live in a world where somebody moving out of state to get a better job is practically the norm. Employers are no longer just competing with competitors down the street.
Chances are, you work in a highly specialized industry that takes either training or experience to get to where you’re at now. They just can’t hire some random guy on the street to take your spot. If you’re one of those people, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
Or perhaps you’re like the poker dealer who works for the government ran casino in the bastion of socialism I met over the weekend. The union is prepared to fight hard for the employees of that casino. Why? The union is mum on the reasons officially. Unofficially, I heard dealers talking about shift premiums for working after 4 pm (!) and a general pay increase. I also heard comments that the union will pay them more to go out and picket then the casino would pay in wages, since the union’s pay is tax free.
If your job can be very easily replaced by somebody with a week’s training, clutch onto your union as tightly as you can. If your at least somewhat educated, tell your union to find some other patsy. Your paycheque will thank you.