As some of us will remember, almost a year ago, the United Auto Workers was dealt a stinging blow when a majority of the employees at a Volkswagen plant near Chattanooga, Tennessee voted against establishing a union. The loss came after plant management welcomed the union into the plant for the purpose of promoting membership in the United Auto Workers Union. Needless to say, the pro-union far left was devastated and blamed the Republican politicians who didn’t support the unionization of the plant.
According to an article in dailysignal.com on January 23, union membership rate falls to a 100 year low. The Daily Signal goes on to indicate that union membership has been on a steady decline over the past three decades, although it grew slightly in 2008.
The liberals/Democrats were beside themselves when the workers voted down unionization. Of course, they blamed the Republicans and George W. Bush. They also trashed the southern state of Tennessee, calling the good people of Tennessee lots of unflattering names.
Now why wouldn’t anyone want to join a union? Usually union-scale wages are higher, you get better benefits, and when the union contract is up, you might get a couple of days off should the members go on strike. You get to “cut up” a bit and say bad things about your superiors without fear of losing you job.
At one time, unions were a good thing. People were working sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, and making a dollar a day. There were no child labor laws and worker safety wasn’t a factor. If a worker got hurt on the job and was unable to work again, he was let go and lost any earning capacity. If a worker was killed on the job, no benefits were paid to his family and the family lost a wage earner.
Unions came in and changed all of that making mobility between classes possible. When unions were first established, a large majority of workers were illiterate and not capable of communicating with management. Besides, management had no obligations workers and would just fire a worker if he or she complained.
I really believe that a major factor in the decline of union membership is the rise in public education. Up until I’d guess, the mid-seventies, there were workers who were not able to read, write, and do simple math. In other words, they never went to school and were illiterate. These folks were pretty much destined to be manual laborers. Any kind of upward mobility was very, very limited for these individuals. As a result, these individuals did really need someone to represent them and make sure they were being paid adequately for the work they were doing, and were receiving other benefits that would allow them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With the forty hour work week, the folks had free time on their hands to enjoy. The money they were making and the benefits they were receive compliments of the union, allowed them to purchase automobiles, telephones, televisions, radios, etc. They were also able to take vacations.
Now, children must enroll in school or be home-schooled until the age of sixteen. As folks are required to have more education, upward mobility between social classes and the workplace is more common. If a person gets an education and works hard, chances are that person will succeed in life.
I’ve never been employed in a place where there was union presence, but I do know that the presence of a union in the modern day workplace, more often than not, drives a wedge between management and non-management employees. Plus, there are so many tacky rules to follow.
My mother spent almost all of her career working for the Cullman Electric Co-operative. The Co-op purchased electricity from the TVA and sold it to its members. For the Cullman Electric Co-operative, its members were those who resided in rural Cullman County, Alabama. The Co-op was a small to medium company in a smaller town.
Whenever there was inclement weather in the area and power outages were occurring, the manager, the late Claude E. Wood, always worked the radio because he wanted to do it and be a part of getting the power back on to the members. With Mr. Wood, working the radio, this would free up a few extra linemen to facilitate the efforts.
Shortly before Mama retired, the union came in and made their pitch to the employees who voted to go union. Mama, being management, was against the union coming in and felt that it would ruin a really good place to work. After the union took over, Mr. Wood was not allowed to work the radio anymore. Others who didn’t regularly work as linemen, but would do so when the weather was bad, were also prohibited from working on the lines. Only linemen could work on the lines to restore power.
The higher educated worker coming into the workplace and having aspirations of climbing the corporate ladder, wants to work and work hard. Also, he or she wants to be friendly with managers and let the managers know they’re willing to do what it takes to get ahead. They don’t want to deal with that wedge and they don’t want to be squelched by a bunch of union rules. Also, with folks more educated now than they were in the middle of the twentieth century, they are better able to communicate with their superiors and if they have a problem, would prefer to talk to their manager directly than have to go through a grievance committee. Also, it is likely that most, if not all of the managers, once worked on the plant floor and could better identify with the employee.
In the case of the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, the workers were aware of the differences in the non-union plants and the union plants. The non-union plants were always clean as a whistle and there was a family-like atmosphere. Employees cared for one another. Union plants were almost always filthy and there was friction between workers and management. Two good examples were the Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama and the Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama.
It’s ironic to me that the teachers’ unions push getting an education, but lean very left. They think that solutions to their problems would be resolved by just pouring money on the problem and getting that money from the rich. They resent the rich and even resent middle class folks who are working hard and becoming successful. So, let’s see…you should get an education in the public schools, but when you do and you work hard and become successful and start voting Republican, we’re going to turn on you and come after your money.