Disclaimer: For the record, this author is not anti-union. I am anti-violence when used as the tool of ideological individuals to destroy private property, intimidate, threaten, and pressure as negotiating tactics. I do not support individuals who intentionally work slow or damage machinery as a labor-negotiating ploy. I do support accountability, responsibility, and reasoned negotiation by impassioned people to correct faults, improve safety, and raise the bar of excellence. I fully support groups of people combining together to focus effort upon a problem and raise awareness in the public eye. The moment this group of people become violent, raise their voices or fists in anger, and try to force someone else to do what they want or steal money or other resources for personal gain, the group of people have crossed the line and become a force not supported or worthy continued sustenance. Thus, I am not anti-union; it is important to note this clearly in the beginning as many people have mistaken my stand on unions to be anti-union when this is inherently false.
To understand unions in the modern world of labor relations, solid historical perspective is required. With the beginning of the industrial revolution, labor unions began forming. The intent was to improve working conditions, standardize working hours, and reduce accidents. With technology advances in the beginning of the industrial revolution, maiming, blindness, lung conditions, and many other machinery caused problems were horrific. The use of children in labor camps, on-board ships, and in mills was a horrendous injustice, completely wrong, and desperately needed correction.
Some small local or geographically/industrially specific unions had organized prior to the 1880’s. These unions were violent in nature, full of angry people, who felt justified in harming those running the large manufacturing plants where horrific injuries occurred with no chance for the common worker to improve working conditions. While raising awareness, these violent unions also harmed their cause with violence thus defeating their purpose without changing anything.
Unions have been steeped in communism theology and continue this theology to this day. The principles of labor for the worker come directly from the writings of Karl Marx and the ‘Communist Manifesto.’ The first large-scale attempt at unionizing workers to improve conditions on a national scale in America is found in the Knights of Labor. . The Knights of Labor rejected socialism, communism, and radicalism. This attempt fails for a lot of reasons, mainly the lack of unified structure and political pressures. Society was not ready to change in the 1880’s; so labor unions in the US changed tactics, leaders, and aims; many of the Knights of Labor who eschewed American ideals are found in and form the bulwark of the change in unionism tactics..
From this rebirth come the first recognized labor unions formed by Samuel Gompers. Samuel Gompers is the titleholder for longest serving president in the American Federation of Labor (AFL) now known as the AFL-CIO. Samuel Gompers is a radical socialist bent on forcing through an ideological agenda. Between 1880 and 1940, several things occurred: society shifts where child labor is concerned, violence in union strikes and boycotts catches national attention, and Gompers concludes a national organization of labor into small local bodies electing labor friendly politicians into the political landscape. With the election of President Wilson, Gompers becomes a household name outside of union families, and WWI sees a growth in both union membership and union influence in all political forums throughout the US.
Another aspect to the emergence of labor unions and power was found in their cozy relationship with organized crime. Prohibition brought to the US powerful families of criminals dedicated to smuggling alcohol and other illegal products. These families brought organization, power, and violence. The unions brought forced labor dues, manpower, and energy; and the meeting of money and organization fostered a relationship of blood, violence, and scare tactics that continue unabated today. It is important to note that violence, strikes, boycotts, and the friendly relationship between labor unions and organized crime has only increased with time, not decreased. FBI reports continue to document the connection between organized crime, mafia, and labor unions. From Samuel Gompers to Richard Trumka, current president of the AFL-CIO, violently settling grudges, attacking innocent people to force union membership, and threatening business owners and destroying business property to force the adoption of a union or remain union continues.
Gompers set the standard for a two-pronged attack on business: (1) violently striking employees limiting production and breaking equipment and (2) employing the courts to harass, intimidate, and harangue business owners and individual employees. The reason for the attack mattered not and someone else always paid the cost. The attacks worked due to a mixture of empathy and sympathy combined with a desire for power and future election possibilities. This pattern of attacking remains effective for the same reasons. Politicians, hell bent on personal power with a desire to reign as an American king, cozy up to the union plate of money and political favors.
The IRS granted employers the ‘Right to Control.’ Labor unions stepped in and demanded the ‘Right to Control,’ and the employee was left in the lurch with no rights, no liberty, and no way out. A simple process exists when employees desire union membership, while complicated in legal maneuvering; the process is fairly straightforward and simple. When labor union members wish to end their union membership, the process is through a court system of union-biased laws and union inflicted violence. Federal Law becomes convoluted and myopic regarding union labor laws. For example, “Closed Shops” might be against the law, but the practice remains strong. In a “Closed Shop,” every job must be a union job and membership is prerequisite to employment. If a union member should discontinue his membership in the union, the union member loses his job, “Closed Shop.” Officially, this is a practice that has been stopped, but state and federal law is union-biased, so the practice simply shifts to under the table. “Open Shops” come in two varieties, “Agency” and “Free Rider.” These shops are anything but “Open.”
“Agency Shops” are businesses where a majority of the employees have elected for union membership and even non-union members are forced to pay union dues. These non-union dues payers have no voice in the union, no rights in the union, but have forced union representation, supposedly, if trouble arises. In theory this works; in action many non-union forced dues payers are second-class citizens in these “Open Shops,” and the union could care less provided the money continues to roll in from forced dues. “Free Rider Shops,” are exactly the same thing, only, the labor union cannot force non-union members to pay dues for union coverage. The union coercion of the decision makers and of other employees to entice them into a union in “Free Rider Shops” is well documented. Tire slashing, late-night threatening phone calls, intimidation, and threats of physical harm are also well-documented problems in “Free Rider Shops.”
The problem inevitably is money. According to the union, if the employee wants union protection, the employee will pay for it. The average union labor dues is around $400 annually, this is before the forced payment of healthcare cost, retirement, etc. This number does not include the cost of operation the employer must pay to support the union. Training costs are not included in the operating cost nor reflected in the dues cost. All these variables are not fixed and add to the overall cost of unions. Adding in the intimidation factor, loss due to theft and breakage, loss due to strikes, etc., the difficulties unions cause and the overall cost to society to support unions is well past the unsustainable point. More on the general overall costs of unions can be found here.
The fees involved in discontinuing membership in a union are hidden deep in the miasmic swamp of mouse print, but since the union member is technically given this information, the fees are legal. The process usually requires the employee to hire a lawyer who specializes in contracts. The union, who will employ contract and litigation lawyers, does not cover their own legal fees and passes them on to the union member in an effort to keep the dues money coming in. Many people with similar horror stories, who relate the process of discontinuing membership in a union, can be located through an easy Google Search. Discontinuing a union membership can become more difficult than a space shuttle launch, and the costs are always borne by the individual wanting to leave the labor union.
This remains America, the land of the longest living constitution in recorded history, yet the freedom ending labor unions are allowed to thrive due to the power of money in politics, the power of organized crime, and the thrust and parry of politicians and judges too concerned with continuing power perks to right the wrong.
Fear keeps unions living, fear of being a victim and fear of becoming a victim. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear to risk, all these and more drive the union machine. Yet, the birth of freedom in a worker’s heart makes courage overpower fear. The ability to work in partnership with a company breeds new freedoms, powers, and strength. Fear is destroyed courage, confidence, and freedom.
The problems with unions can be eradicated by freeing the worker, by placing the ‘Right to Control’ back into the hands of the individual worker. The saying went abroad that Michigan would become a ‘Right to Work State’ only when the fires of the sun cooled. Yet, the impossible has occurred and Michigan is now a ‘Right to Work State.’ The impossible does occur. Free the worker. Shift the employment paradigm. Let this process to truly ‘Free the Worker’ begin by removing the chains of forced ‘employee’ by allowing these workers to be contractors, consultants, and controllers of their own individual destinies.
© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury
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