Saturday, March 1, 2008

Deb Takes on the Union -- again, and again and again, unfortunately

Unfortunately, my husband's workplace has unionized. I say unfortunately, because in this case, there was no need for a union. The administration had made some really stupid decisions, and people reacted in a panic and voted (barely) to organize. So, now, my husband, because of collective bargaining, is forced to be a part of a union he doesn't agree with. It's times like these where I just have say, "Isn't America a great land of freedom?"

So, he is a part of a union that is NOT advocating on his behalf, and probably never will. He will end up with less vacation, less of a pay increase if he gets promoted, and less sick days. If there are lay-offs he'll be one of the first to go -- because of his lack of seniority and the union. In addition to that, they get to take their union fees (so we can pay the salaries of their professional union members) out of his paycheck.


Well, as if that wasn't bad enough, the union bullied its way to procuring a list of all of the library's employees -- a list with phone numbers and address etc. With a blatant disregard for the privacy of our families, some idiot judge agreed they had the right, so the library was forced to turn over the information.

Does any of this seem like it should even be legal? It's astounding to me that any one organization can function so outside of the parameters of freedom, and trounce on our privacy and get away with it.

That doesn't even start to portray the problem. Apparently all the unions combine information and then ASSUME that the spouse and family of the person on the list will want to support the union as well. As I told the woman in charge of my husband's union, that is sexism like I haven't heard in a long time -- to assume that just because my husband is a member, I'm of the same political position! You'd think that any thinking woman would be ashamed to be a member of an organization such as a union, but then again you'd think that any thinking woman would understand the concept of personal responsibility and not jump to the conclusion that collective bargaining is actually going to protect her job. But, I digress...

So, since this list was released, we have been getting an average of 2 calls a day from various unions, all supposing that I'm ready to jump on the bandwagon and donate my time and money to them. This was bad enough as it was, because if I say "no" then they just start asking why and an argument ensues and several minutes of my day are gone. But now, in light of the primaries, they are upping their calls to 3, sometimes 4 a day, and when I tell them not to call back, they totally disregard it and call back, sometimes with in an hour of the first phone call.

In addition to that, they have sent representatives to my door, asking for me (me, mind you, not my husband) by name to find out who I am planning on voting for, and to tell me who I should vote for since I'm "in the union." Interestingly enough, they always show up the evenings that he works late. So, they send some strange man to my home, when they know that my husband is at work, and he wants to talk to me about who I'm planning on voting for. How is this not harassment?

So, I'm about as fed up with the union as I can be, and its not even my union.

Anyone know a good lawyer?


sandra mae said...

that is so interesting! what do THEY say is the benefit of joining the union? I mean- whose idea was it? you are teaching me lots!- I love it.

jonnymil said...

Sorry you've had such a bad time. It seems though, that you make a few assumptions which don't make a lot of sense. First, you assume that telling one person from one call center to be removed from his or her list means that your name gets to be removed from all lists within a short period of time. I think that's an awful lot to expect. Second, you concede that the administration made some stupid decisions, but that the option of organizing for better hours wages and conditions is somehow an inappropriate response. I'll tell you, (what you, as an educated woman should probably already know) that during the same time period that union membership has been decreasing nationwide, CEO salries have gone to 535% of average workers; real wages of non-union employees have actually decreased and on a percentage basis, more people in unions have obtained or retained health care. Those darn terrible unions, ruining things for CEOs or administrations who make stupid decisions. Tsk, tsk. Third, your blog reads that the union "is NOT advocating" on behal of your husband. What is his grievance? If this statement is true, you have the right--or, rather, your husband does--to file a complaint or an unfair labor practice. Assuming that unions don't advocate on behalf of their members or even members of the bargaining unit mistakenly shows what you believe about unions, but absolutely is not true. So, it seems you are doing with your blogpost what you wish to castigate some unnamed union for allegedly doing.

Hey, it's your post. You can do whatever you like with it. But I am glad someone is standing up for working people in America, because as a working people in America we sure are taking a beating these days.

From where does your animosity towards collective bargaining and other union activities come? Your comments reveal that it happened prior to your husband's employers being organized. I've never understood how people can be so upset at the provable assertion that collective bargaining DOES in fact protect jobs whie promoting better wages, hours and conditions. It seems that disagreeing with you would incur your wrath in such a way that you would render other opinions useless and mute. So much for your love of freedom. Good luck finding a lawyer. Where do you think judges come from?

John J. Miller

Deb said...

Dear John,

I'm not asking one call person at one call center to stop calling me and expecting all calls to stop. I'm asking one call center (Service and Food Workers Union, I have caller id) to stop calling, and they didn't. In fact, they called 2 times within an hour or so.

I'm also expecting people in the unions to behave like adults and not pass MY name and information (which they had no legal right to) onto other unions. That's called civility. In some circles it's called respect.

Secondly, the stupid decisions made by the administration did not effect wages or benefits. They eliminated jobs and did so based on the need of the jobs rather than seniority. The union wants the decisions made based on seniority according to every flier they have sent to our home when they were organizing, but have been conveniently leaving out for the past year.

The fact of the matter is that it is a non-profit organization with a funding problem. Somebody is going to lose their job. The union will protect based on seniority, therefore my husband's job will not be protected.

In addition to that, the first proposed contract they put forward had less sick time, less vacation and less pay for promotions than the contract my husband had been working under.

That is hardly advocacy for our family.

Also, if you want to post statistics on my blog, I would ask that you would back those up with sources. I have read similar statistics other places, and every time the person has an excuse for not having sources for their statistics.

In addition to the stupidity of a union forming where there wasn't a need for one, I grew up in the "steel valley" of the mid west, where the biggest house on the street was owned by none other than the local head of the USW. How much bigger was his salary than the other steel workers? I bet it was more than 536%. His house was bigger than the other homes (owned by doctors and buisness owners) and most of his time was spent managing his professional boxer and working in his yard. I played with his daughter often, and he hardly ever went to work. In fact, I thought he didn't even have a job!

In addition to that, I got to witness the use of violence when strikers did great things like flip business owner's cars and actually attack people. Perhaps they were so irrational because of the rampant use of pot.

You bet I want to castigate some unnamed union, because I'm being nice enough not to name it. You bet it's offensive when people show up at my door telling me to vote for a particular candidate just because I'm "in the union."

There are times when Unions are useful, but it is absolute folly to assume that it is always necessary and helpful and it is absolutely ridiculous to believe that just because someone is in one union, then that person is connected to all the others. That's like saying that someone in a gay rights group automatically wants to be affiliated with NAMBLA.

After learning more about the legal reasons for the library having to give out my husband's contact information, I understand where that law comes from. However, that only leaves a worse flavor in my mouth when I realize that his union (and the others) have abused that law by sharing that information for political manipulation. I am all for a law that enables organization. I am totally against said organization using that law to try to get me to vote the way they want me to vote.

There's a reason union membership is decreasing in America, and a lot of that has to do with how the unions are run.

Deb said...

Another point for John,

If the unions always work so well, then how do you explain the times when unions have caused companies to go under and then NO ONE has a job?

I have a friend whose company organized, specifically one portion of the company. That portion demanded higher wages, despite the fact the company was nearing bankruptcy, and was eventually closed. Their work was hired out to other companies, and everyone who worked there lost their job. It was that or the entire company would've gone under... thankfully, some people still have jobs since some of the work was simply contracted out.

Organizing is simply not always the answer. However, if your stuck on thinking "collectively" rather than with your own independent thoughts, then you're always going to miss the boat.

jonnymil said...

Your request for stats seems fair.
This one will show you that workers in unions make more:

For a comparison on CEO to worker salaries, here's one website. (A google search will get you plenty more.):

When you want to argue that negotiated sick time, vacation time, and promotion pay decrease, surely you are prepared to blame management as much as any union. If those items of interest to you and your family really decreased as a result of a contract, both parties had to make it so. It seems the administration was intent to punish workers for organizing in a reasonable effort to protect their jobs. And it can not but sound like you support the punishment when you blame the workers who voted to organize--stupidly, you suggest.

While you seem to be open to the possibility that organizing a union might be a good idea in some circumstances, those circumstances also seem to be defined as "when ever it doesn't affect you or your family," in which case, such activity would be "stupid." I would be curious as to what circumstances would have to be like for you to concede that workers standing up for their rights in a collective fashion was worthwhile. And with my winnings in your bet about some boxing trainer, I'd lay odds that you'd vote against the union even under those circumstances yourself.

One last comment on statistics. I apologize for stating the number "535%." I was using numbers I've been using since citing similar reports almost five years ago. The reports from the website I listed above were published (fittingly) last Labor Day. (Do you celebrate such a horrendous holiday?) Their information states CEO pay was "364 times" the average worker pay--not per cent. That would actually be 36400%, wouldn't it?

There's a reason it has been called a Labor Movement. Working people with reasonable wages, hours and conditions make for a vibrant economy and a better world. With the economy and the world in such uneasy and uncomfortable states, elected leaders who work to improve those things are worthy of seeking and receiving Union endorsements. For much different reasons then your own, I too wish there was less of an effort by labor unions to get people elected who have some idea about issues that working people care about; I do, however understand why they do it. This all started with a bad experience you had, and again, I'll end with where I began, I'm sorry your experience has been so bad for you. Please do consider that it isn't nearly as egregious to a lot of other people, and weigh the possibility that a change for the better is possible. That is certainly what I work for in my Union.

Deb said...


The contract proposal was put forth by the Union, not the administration, and from my understanding was based more on what other similar institutions with the union had, rather than what was currently the contract. This is not a situation of corporate greed, as the people running the institution are certainly NOT making 364 times the average worker's pay. In in some cases management is making only several thousand a year more and the top paid officials are probably making around and/or less than $100,000. In fact, the people at this library were on a better pay scale, had better benefits, great vacation time, and when the job cuts started happening they were placing people in different positions within the library.

Yes, it's stupid for people with good jobs and good benefits and an administration trying to keep them employed to organize a union. Now, the institution has the exact same budget, and we have a greater chance of his position being eliminated (lack of seniority) AND we get to pay union dues. I fail to see how this is working for us.

And, no, I never said that the only time it makes sense for a union to organize is when it doesn't affect my family. I think the only time it makes sense to organize is when there are actually RIGHTS being violated. Frankly, if you don't like where you are working, then you should get another job. If you don't have the skills to get another job then it's your responsibility to get the skills necessary to get another job. I fail to see why lack of initiative on someone else's part should become other people's responsibilities. I have my own people to be responsible for, and I see no reason why, unless actual rights are violated, I should have to be responsible for any other person's job problems.

Your comment of "And with my winnings in your bet about some boxing trainer, I'd lay odds that you'd vote against the union even under those circumstances yourself." Made absolutely no sense. If you're trying to imply that the head of the USW wasn't pulling in tons of money, then I don't know how he could afford to own an 8 bedroom house, on a private road and lake, with a 4 car garage, unless he was making about 536% more than the people he was supposedly working on behalf of.

I would also say that while I do think corporate greed is a problem, I don't think a company needs to ask what the compensation rate for the heads of the corporation are compared to the workers. Are they paying the workers a livable wage? And, how would you define a livable wage? Are the workers willing to work for that rate? If not, then why not get a different job? If no one's willing to work for it, then certainly the company is going to have to pay more? In addition to that, it's a totally different game when you're talking about a non-profit organization.