Labor Unions and California

Labor Unions and the discussion surrounding their existence always seems to stir up controversy.  This fact was reflected relatively accurately in a recent Los Angeles Times Op/Ed piece entitled Have unions ruined our country?.  At first glance, it looks like a silly question, but then again, this is a serious question many people ask themselves, and the answers they come up with run the gambit.

This Times Op/Ed piece was in response to another article by Times contributor Anne Lammot.  Here’s an excerpt from that article:

When I was growing up, everyone I knew was pro-union, just like everyone used public libraries and everyone in California was proud of the public education system and loved the state’s natural beauty. People would fight and rally and protest and donate to help preserve it. […]

I understand why politicians want to see labor as the cause of most of our societal and economic problems. It takes the focus off the banks, the corporations, the military-industrial complex. But public school teachers? I guess they really are sort of greedy and grabby — not to mention rich. Especially those greedy-grabby public school special ed teachers. My younger brother is one of them, and boy, is he raking it in. Talk about take, take, take.

I think many of us share her experience, even if we aren’t old enough to remember those times specifically.  Most of us know at least one public school teacher, and they’re certainly not raking in the dough, so to speak.  Most are just regular people like you and me, making a respectable wage for mountains of work.  Some of the comments on this article were pretty interesting, evening if they didn’t make much sense, combining questionable anecdotal evidence and fear-mongering:

Why people don’t support unions

Hate unions.  The people in them are a bunch of losers.  They need someone else to negotiate for them a cost of living raise?  How pathetic are you if you can’t do that on your own.  And if I work harder then the bum next to me why should we all get the same pay?  Makes no sense to me. The quicker they get rid of these unions the better. And why is it that I am forced to join a union? If they are so great shouldn’t I be happy and willing to join right away? Complete losers.


Why people support unions

I’m from a union family in one of the few unionized mill towns in the south, and Ms. Lamott is absolutely right.

I guess all these ignorant union-bashers would like to go back to six 12-hour days, no vacation, no sick leave, child labor…Idiots, the lot of you.


In my view, it all boils down to questioning whether or not the labor union as a system is effective or necessary.  I think the answer to that question is a resounding yes.  Corporations have historically always taken advantage of workers in order to thicken their profit margins.  This is to be expected.  Corporations are not thinking, feeling, sentient beings.  They are organizations in the business of making money.  It’s as simple as that.  Because of this fact, it is important that we maintain the right to bargain collectively and protect ourselves.

Of course there are a few unions that demand very large amounts of money from their members and don’t offer very much in return.  There are unions that are largely ineffective or have been transformed into arms for private interests.  The existence of these bad apples doesn’t mean that healthy, green, ripe apples aren’t delicious and healthy.

Courtesy of the Missouri News Horizon

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