Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rebooting Unions

Is it time to rethink our union? At this time union cannot support each other on strikes. In a lot of union companies with many different unions within them with most of these different unions expiring at different time, which means they cannot support each other in a strike because they would be breaching their contract and opening themselves up to being sued. In some cases they are held responsible for lost profits, court costs and other possible damages. The other thing is most unions with apprenticeship trainings are so good that a union worker can leave the union and become a foreman or start their own nonunion business. Some have even stolen tools to start their businesses. This is prevalent in all construction trades and it usually happens when we, unions, cannot keep our workers employed and when we can’t is when they, the nonunion, take over our training and use it against us. It's pretty pathetic when the U.S. ranks 21st out of 21 countries for union membership and coverage. Austria is number one with 99 percent, Belgium at 96 percent, Sweden at 91 percent, Finland at 90 percent, France at 90 percent, Spain at 84.5 percent, Netherlands at 82.5 percent, Denmark at 80 percent, Italy at 80 percent, Norway at 74 percent, Greece at 65 percent, Portugal at 65 percent, Germany at 62.8 percent, Switzerland at 48 percent, Ireland at 44 percent, Australia at 40 percent, UK at 34.6 percent, Canada at 31.5 percent, New Zealand at 17 percent, Japan at 16.1 percent, and the United States at 13.3 percent. Do you notice anything about these countries and percentages? The countries with the highest percentage did not suffer like those with the lowest union membership percentages during the most recent economic melt down. The countries that blamed unions for their recession and implemented austerity measures were the ones with the lowest union membership. Even if a small percentage is successful they will be our competitors for years and with each recession the problem gets worse. Where I live all the construction trades used to be union, but the unions let their guard down and before long the nonunion companies took over. Of course, we then treat our ex-members as enemies and have little chance of getting them back into the union fold. Maybe we should encourage our members to be owner members, even shops with one to three workers, which would have a chance to grow into larger businesses or even have one hundred to two hundred small shops. We would have to change some rules and maybe it is time to do so. Smart owners will win over dumb owners. Smart, educated owners will pay workers to out think and out work nonunion owners and their workers. The other problem is housing, which is at this time at an all-time low, which could mean this is a good time to reboot. Remember, in all adversity there is a window of opportunity; and at this time while housing is in disarray we should be looking at the weaknesses of the anti-union companies. We could offer a package of all trades at a single wage with healthcare and pension and a percentage of all union trades’ wages. The trades could still stay the same in name and training. It could be one contract with one expiration date; and one union association covering all trades on housing. We could look to our northern brothers and sisters who have or used to do well in the Canadian housing market. This is the time for outside the tired old thinking and maybe we are not too late to save the labor movement. We will need all wage slaves working for all union or at least not yet union companies, but if we can show the low wage Walmart and fast food-type workers that we support them they then could be our supporters, which gives us the troops to bring all up to a living standard. We could save our economy, democracy, and even a revised version of the capitalist system where everyone benefits instead of a few. Remember, $15-$16 an hour would help all workers, even the higher-paid union workers for there would be more jobs for everyone. Would it work? Who the hell knows, but it sure isn’t working now, is it?