Friday, February 18, 2011

Unions--Why Did it Have to be Unions?

"You hate unions like Indiana Jones hates snakes," Brett laughed at me yesterday. "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?" He was kind of right, but kind of wrong, too. Yes, I hate unions. Yes, Indy hates snakes. But while Indy's loathing comes from fear, mine is motivated more by disdain.

I am virulently anti-union because I was raised in a virulently anti-union household. We were anti-union because we were ardently pro-capitalism. We were pro-capitalism, because we are pro-freedom. And there is no other economic system in the world that promotes freedom quite like capitalism.

My first brush with unions came when I was 19 years old. I had been working as a cashier in a grocery store, paying my own way through college. I liked my job; I liked my co-workers. One day, an all-hands meeting was called, so we made our way upstairs to the meeting room--where we were greeted by a union henchman, there to sign us all up for his little mafia. I sat stone-faced through the meeting, my arms crossed against my chest and my chin set defiantly. We were then dismissed and handed cards on which we were strongly urged to sign up for this bit of socialism.

"No thanks," I said.
The reptile looked at me. "What?"
"No thanks," I repeated.
"Don't you understand we're here to protect you?" he smiled.
"Actually," I smiled back, "I don't need your protection. I'm a good worker. If I'm going to climb the ladder in this establishment, it will be because I earned it, not because you gave it to me. No.thanks."
"Well, what if you are sexually harassed? Say Ralph here," he pointed to the store manager, "wanted to 'meet' with you in the back office? Then what?"
The room was dead silent. I am ashamed to say that I signed the card at that point. I flung it at him and stormed out of the store.

When I got home, my phone was already ringing. My supervisor, Kelly, was on the other end. "What did that man say to you?" she asked.
"He coerced my into signing that stupid card. But I'll tell you what, Kelly. This is a right-to-work state, and I am going to fight it!" I yelled.
"Uh, why don't you come back in and we'll talk before you do anything," Kelly suggested.
Back I went. I walked in, and everyone was waiting in the upper room for this snot-nosed, 19 year old, conservative brat who was causing such an unexpected ruckus. That was me.

There was Kelly, my supervisor, Ralph, the store manager, and the reptile. I stood there with my eyebrows arched, waiting. "Here's your card, Noel," Kelly said. "No one is going to make you join the union."
"Thank you." I smiled in relief. The coming storm had been averted.
The reptile shook his head sadly, absolutely convinced that I was on the losing end of this deal. I just quietly walked away.

My second brush with unions came the following year. I had been promoted to the front office--lo and behold, without any help from the union--and the reptile returned. He smiled and put his briefcase of socialist propaganda on the counter. "Hi," he said cheerfully. I recognized him immediately. I never forget a snake. But it was clear he didn't remember me. "I'm here to see a few people." He rattled off a few names, and mine was among them.
"Well, I'm Noel, and I'm not here to see you. I already had it out with you," I snarled.
"You...had it out with me?" He looked both puzzled and offended.
"Yep. You're here to coerce me into your stupid union. I'm still not interested." I glared. He stared. I hoped he was taking note of the fact that I was climbing the ladder without him. He slithered off to harass his next victims. He never tangled with me again.

Two days ago, my daughter, a college freshman, came home from her history class. Guess what she had been learning about? "You know, Mom, unions did serve a purpose way back when they first started. American workers were being mistreated."
Brett piped up. "They were supposed to alleviate the misery of the American worker. But in reality, they simply transferred the power from management to the union leaders." Excellent point.

Yesterday, in Wisconsin, the teachers were marching. Was there ever a more disgruntled part of our population than teachers? Was there ever a career field more infected with labor union bacteria than teaching? I've never really understood teachers. It's not like they're turning out rocket scientists, but they keep demanding raises and tenure. If the teachers feel so under-appreciated for whatever value they think they're contributing, why don't they pursue a different career and stop sucking off the public nipple?

I know. Crazy-stupid capitalist idea.

And now they're marching--as if the kids will be less educated in their absence. How funny is that?


  1. I didn't mean that I agreed with them, I just meant that it appeared that their intentions were correct. Factories did have inhumane working conditions and did need to be reformed. And the union leaders did bring about some serious reforms. However, I also believe that their day has passed. Working conditions don't need to be reformed anymore because they've already been reformed! The power has indeed shifted from the business owners to the union leaders. Ugh.

  2. Unions remind me of HOA's.

  3. Anonymous: Agreed! We had an HOA in Florida we called the Gestapo. Horrid organizations.

  4. This is interesting. I don't have any experience with unions at all. In fact, the first thing I think of is "North and South"(haha!) --where the workers were dying in their early 20's or younger becuase of unsanitary conditions in the textile mills in England. I think Alex has a good point that early on, they seemed rightly motivated.
    Oh, but I do like our HOA because I don't like looking at broken down cars or overgrown yards full of junk. "Free" neighbrhoods always seem to look run-down. But that is all a personal preference and if I really thought hard about it, I may see it differently.

  5. Noel, I finally figured out how to leave a comment--I have to disable our NetNanny completely for some reason and then it goes through.

  6. Scarlett! Welcome to the conversation. Glad to have you aboard. :)
    As to HOA's I do understand your point. They just push my private property rights button. But no one is making me live in an HOA neighborhood...
    As to unions, they have outlived their usefulness and just work in politics of violence and intimidation. Teachers' union: case in point. Why do they want raises? They're doing a rotten job. SEIU: pushing for card checks, which is just their way of intimidating employees into joining against their wills. NFL Players: apparently they don't make enough millions. I hope the owners lock them out this fall. I'll root for the scabs any day in any uniform over a striking, arrogant union flunky. Unions cripple our economy and the quality of our products. What do you think of when you think of American cars? junk. And you can thank a union for that.