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Educate Me On Unions... Please


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So I accepted a job that requires I pay union dues, and a union initiation fee if I decide to become a union member.

I have second thoughts about it, as I will save $24 or more a year by not joining, plus I avoid the $350 initiation fee if I don't join.

Either way I have to pay union dues, just a little less as a nonmember.

Personally I have little faith in unions, since the last one I had did nothing for me I was aware of... just took money out of my paycheck.

I read somewhere that unions in the beginning were needed to protect workers, but once that was accomplished mission creep occurred and they found other issues to justify their existence so they could continue to be funded and exist.  I do not know how true that is... but given what I know of humanity, it sounds about right.

So what do you know about unions?

Anything I should know? Pros? Cons?

 

Edited by Spacescifi
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My father worked in a union job at a bakery for 19 years. He was involved in an accident at work, which was judged to be the company's fault by Worker's Comp, but which left him with 80% disability. When he came back, he was able to perform all of the job responsibilities that his supervisor position required, but he was no longer able to perform all of the extra work that he had been performing, such as picking up other guys slack when they weren't able to finish their work by the end of their shift. So the company "eliminated his job position" and hired a younger guy to do the exact same job with a different title. So he filed a complaint with the union against the company. And the union turned him into a bargaining chip. They went into the conference room with management and said, "Look, if you give us this contract concession and this contract concession, we'll just let this complaint go away." And they did. And my dad knew for a fact that this happened because (unbeknownst to both the management and the union leadership) the guy who was the union ombudsman at the time, who sat through the entire meeting, just happened to be my dad's best friend at work, John, who told him the whole story afterwards.

So my dad filed suit against the company and the union for his lost pension and wages. So what did the union do? They lined up guy after guy after guy to testify at the hearing, all guys my dad had worked with for ten, fifteen years. All of them got up there and told bald-faced lies. That he stole from the company but they looked the other way. That he was a sloppy worker they had to cover for. That he played favorites with the schedules and monkeyed around with the times on the timesheets. And they did that because the union told them to. And then the company tried to say that this was the real reason they let him go. And they all turned white as sheets when my dad's attorney called John as a witness, and he testified about the closed-door meeting where the union sold Dad down the river. And, wouldn't you know, the company and the union decided to settle in the hallway before it went to the jury. John quit the next day with 17 years on the books, he couldn't stand to look at any of them anymore.

So, no, I've never been impressed with unions.

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24 minutes ago, TheSaint said:

My father worked in a union job at a bakery for 19 years. He was involved in an accident at work, which was judged to be the company's fault by Worker's Comp, but which left him with 80% disability. When he came back, he was able to perform all of the job responsibilities that his supervisor position required, but he was no longer able to perform all of the extra work that he had been performing, such as picking up other guys slack when they weren't able to finish their work by the end of their shift. So the company "eliminated his job position" and hired a younger guy to do the exact same job with a different title. So he filed a complaint with the union against the company. And the union turned him into a bargaining chip. They went into the conference room with management and said, "Look, if you give us this contract concession and this contract concession, we'll just let this complaint go away." And they did. And my dad knew for a fact that this happened because (unbeknownst to both the management and the union leadership) the guy who was the union ombudsman at the time, who sat through the entire meeting, just happened to be my dad's best friend at work, John, who told him the whole story afterwards.

So my dad filed suit against the company and the union for his lost pension and wages. So what did the union do? They lined up guy after guy after guy to testify at the hearing, all guys my dad had worked with for ten, fifteen years. All of them got up there and told bald-faced lies. That he stole from the company but they looked the other way. That he was a sloppy worker they had to cover for. That he played favorites with the schedules and monkeyed around with the times on the timesheets. And they did that because the union told them to. And then the company tried to say that this was the real reason they let him go. And they all turned white as sheets when my dad's attorney called John as a witness, and he testified about the closed-door meeting where the union sold Dad down the river. And, wouldn't you know, the company and the union decided to settle in the hallway before it went to the jury. John quit the next day with 17 years on the books, he couldn't stand to look at any of them anymore.

So, no, I've never been impressed with unions.

 

Thought so.

I had a job with a union once and still lost it... no protection.

A union does not guarantee anything. And there is no job that is 100% secure unless you are the boss and sometimes not even then.

I rather just take my own chances on my own merits, as I don't trust a union to do anything for me because they do not know me and at best feign to act like they care about total strangers who work for companies they are tied to.  Especially to get you to join.

I am not saying unions do not do any good, I bet they do... for some.

Just that they have not for me so far so I see no reason to add any more pay to their roster than necessary.

Edited by Spacescifi
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3 hours ago, TheSaint said:

My father worked in a union job at a bakery for 19 years. He was involved in an accident at work, which was judged to be the company's fault by Worker's Comp, but which left him with 80% disability. When he came back, he was able to perform all of the job responsibilities that his supervisor position required, but he was no longer able to perform all of the extra work that he had been performing, such as picking up other guys slack when they weren't able to finish their work by the end of their shift. So the company "eliminated his job position" and hired a younger guy to do the exact same job with a different title. So he filed a complaint with the union against the company. And the union turned him into a bargaining chip. They went into the conference room with management and said, "Look, if you give us this contract concession and this contract concession, we'll just let this complaint go away." And they did. And my dad knew for a fact that this happened because (unbeknownst to both the management and the union leadership) the guy who was the union ombudsman at the time, who sat through the entire meeting, just happened to be my dad's best friend at work, John, who told him the whole story afterwards.

So my dad filed suit against the company and the union for his lost pension and wages. So what did the union do? They lined up guy after guy after guy to testify at the hearing, all guys my dad had worked with for ten, fifteen years. All of them got up there and told bald-faced lies. That he stole from the company but they looked the other way. That he was a sloppy worker they had to cover for. That he played favorites with the schedules and monkeyed around with the times on the timesheets. And they did that because the union told them to. And then the company tried to say that this was the real reason they let him go. And they all turned white as sheets when my dad's attorney called John as a witness, and he testified about the closed-door meeting where the union sold Dad down the river. And, wouldn't you know, the company and the union decided to settle in the hallway before it went to the jury. John quit the next day with 17 years on the books, he couldn't stand to look at any of them anymore.

So, no, I've never been impressed with unions.

Reading this made me twice as libertarian as I already was.

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I can see where this is going...

If I responded as I should respond I’d probably get in trouble. But I’ll try to respond.

Unions. A pretty big topic.

Unions have been deliberately weakened over time - they’re just less capable of providing protection than they were in the past. The reasons for this are political by their very nature, so I won’t get into them. But this means that being in a union today will you give you less protection than in the past. Ultimately it’s up to you, but there may be some benefits to joining regardless. If this is your career (or the same field as your career) I would recommend joining. If it’s just a job that you don’t plan on really staying at for too long then there’s probably not much point.

@TheSaint That’s justification for disliking that particular union and/or its leadership. But not disliking unions in general. It’s been established that unionized workers earn more in total compensation, have more paid leave, lower healthcare deductibles, better pension plans, and so on. Certainly impressive if you ask me. Any institution has its flaws and corruption though. But don’t mistake a single example for a large scale trend. Unions are generally a positive thing for workers, and were even more so many, many decades ago. 

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The farther from the British peasants driven from farms into mines to work for 16 hours per day for food, the more the unions get into equilibrium with other branches of human resources management. It's normal.

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4 hours ago, pTrevTrevs said:

Reading this made me twice as libertarian as I already was.

like all power structures, they seldom evaporate when they have served their purpose. 

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It seems that US unions are bad at doing their job.

In Germany unions are powerful counters to the employers, at least in more skilled jobs where most of the employes are in a union. They usualy ensure high wages, good working conditions, help with legal battles and make sure that workers arent simply another resource for the company but also have power over the decisions, especialy when it comes to laying of workforce.

Sometimes the power of the unions come at a cost, for example if pilots or traindrivers go on strike and cripple a whole country to fight for higher wages/better conditions for a small fraction. But imho thats a small price to pay...

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9 hours ago, Bill Phil said:

I can see where this is going...

If I responded as I should respond I’d probably get in trouble. But I’ll try to respond.

Unions. A pretty big topic.

Unions have been deliberately weakened over time - they’re just less capable of providing protection than they were in the past. The reasons for this are political by their very nature, so I won’t get into them. But this means that being in a union today will you give you less protection than in the past. Ultimately it’s up to you, but there may be some benefits to joining regardless. If this is your career (or the same field as your career) I would recommend joining. If it’s just a job that you don’t plan on really staying at for too long then there’s probably not much point.

@TheSaint That’s justification for disliking that particular union and/or its leadership. But not disliking unions in general. It’s been established that unionized workers earn more in total compensation, have more paid leave, lower healthcare deductibles, better pension plans, and so on. Certainly impressive if you ask me. Any institution has its flaws and corruption though. But don’t mistake a single example for a large scale trend. Unions are generally a positive thing for workers, and were even more so many, many decades ago. 

 

Well... I found out I only will get medical insurance if I join the union, so there's the benefit.

I guess I never realized since I hardly need a doctor, but times change so it's good to have, especialy nowadays.

Thank you for your balanced advice, I appreciate it.

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Note: This subject is deeply political by definition, so I'm not sure, whether it's actually allowed by the forum rules in the first place. As a proud union man I will drop my two cents non the less :)
I live in Germany: 
Athough Germanys unions are a bit tame for my taste (they don't strike very often but prefer to do some kind of lame deal with management) , they still do a quite good job. They are weak in Industries with low membership, but even there they provide a quite good law insurance If you ever need to go to court because of an action of your boss (e.g. fireing you, cheat in your payment etc). The law department of its umbrella organisation  even has a quite comprehensive website about Germans working and social law: https://www.dgbrechtsschutz.de/

Depending of the sector they have other goodies (E.G: The union of teacher and kindergarten staff has a key insurance for their members, since losing a key to a school is not only a pain in the ass for everyone involved but also quite expensive (for the girl/guy loosing the key) , others have deals with insurance companys for an accident insurance  (including accidents in your leisure time ) etc).

And in sectors with big memberships, they actually do excellent work.

Two years ago automotive supplier Neue Hallberger Guss had a big fight with their most important customer (VW), where managment of NHG decided to close one of their factorys. Since about 90% of the company was organized in IG Metall, they started to strike. In the end, owners of NHG sold the factory to new owners. Although they still layed staff of: 50% of people losing the job is better than 100% lost jobs. And they mostly layed people of, who are young, had no family etc, so have a better chance to get a new job

A east german noodle factory (Teigwaren Riesa )  did a successful strike for getting a higher pay two years ago, too, but they also had 75% of the staff member of the NGG (union of gastronomy and food industry).

The same union did a great campain (called Deliverunion ) for organizing the poor guys, who devliver pizzas to people with long Kerbal sessions like me .
So yes an union membership is actually a quite good idea, especially If it's not so great at the moment: $24 if they are performing ok or good, is not a big deal for the benifts. I pay 1% of my income at the moment, because of Germans system they can't control it. If I ever would need their law support, they might ask for a confirmation of my income. That's just fair imho, their lawyers and staff need to eat too).
If you think they can do better: 24$ is also not a big deal, to get the right to vote and run for a position, to better things.
You might want to read Jane McAlevys "No shortcuts". She is a former union organizer, who wrote this as part of her academic education, to reflect what's working for getting better results and what's not.
tldnr: I'm a proud union man, always was, always will
Edit: Just saw your last replay after posting, sorry for spam. 24$ for medical insurance sounds great. Welcome to the union Kollege Spacescifi (coworker in Germany, we adress fellow unionists with this term e.G. coworker Spacescifi ;) )

Edited by jost
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Yeah, there are pros and cons to unions. Most of the pros are to the workers and most of the cons are to the employer, but not always. Most of it has been covered here.

On the downside, it can be hard to get rid of the deadweight. Which can disgruntle the coworkers of a lazy employee.

I think that these days the public sector unions keep trying to swing for the fences, leading to labor unrest. I feel they do this to try to justify their continued existence, when sometimes the union leadership/administration is getting too bloated. Getting a raise for the membership means the union gets more revenue, as long as no jobs are cut (around here, union dues tend to be one hours' pay per two-week pay period). On the flip side, in the private sector, sometimes businesses are forced to close under the crushing weight of a strike-earned union contract, to the benfit of nobody. Some pension deals became waaaay to expensive.

Sorry, I'm kind of rambling. I'm trying not to type for hours; just bringing up the crucial points

There's a joke my boss told me...

A pickup truck drives down the street. Every so often it stops, and two men get out. One digs a hole, they wait a minute, and then the other guy fills it in. What's going on?

Spoiler

They are union tree-planters. The guy who plants the trees called in sick.

An exaggeration, but far to often a company can't simply put a union worker where the company needs them, because "that's not they're job." Doing so would take away someone else's job, etc. And yeah, my wife is in a union where that really is a thing. Someone makes a mess? She can't clean it up; she was actually told not to. She has to get a janitor to do it. 

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6 hours ago, StrandedonEarth said:

I think that these days the public sector unions keep trying to swing for the fences, leading to labor unrest. I feel they do this to try to justify their continued existence, when sometimes the union leadership/administration is getting too bloated. Getting a raise for the membership means the union gets more revenue, as long as no jobs are cut (around here, union dues tend to be one hours' pay per two-week pay period). On the flip side, in the private sector, sometimes businesses are forced to close under the crushing weight of a strike-earned union contract, to the benfit of nobody. Some pension deals became waaaay to expensive

Well but they  also get more members If the members are actually satisfied with their performance. And "trying to swing their fences to justify their existence " is actually the main reason they exist at all: If a union stops doing anything about working conditions why should people even bother to join them?
 

Quote

An exaggeration, but far to often a company can't simply put a union worker where the company needs them, because "that's not they're job." Doing so would take away someone else's job, etc. And yeah, my wife is in a union where that really is a thing. Someone makes a mess? She can't clean it up; she was actually told not to. She has to get a janitor to do it. 

That example with the waste  might be ridiculous but in principle the union is right: A company will use any measure to get more profit. One of the most efficient ways is to lay of workers. So it's actually in the best interest of the workers that their tasks are not done by others. 

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