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Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

One Hundred

Posted Friday, March 25, 2011, at 10:50 AM

(Photo)
The Brown Building
Today, one hundred years ago, a fire changed America. Have you heard about the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire? 146 workers were killed, most were women, and the youngest were only 14 years old.

In the days of the industrial revolution, many workers were really put to the test by their employers. Unions got a big boost from companies that mistreated their workers, and the Triangle fire turned out to be a wake up call for workers safety and rights nationwide.

Please watch this short youtube video on the fire... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf9GVbzf7...

Organized labor is under a lot of pressure now-a-days. A lot of folks seem to believe that unions are the root of all evil now and then, but the sad truth is that without unions, incidents still occur like the Triangle fire.

Within the last 6 months, December 2010, workers are still jumping out of buildings... http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec...

OK, so I know that was not in the good old US of A. It was however in a modern company where production is pushed to the limit just like one hundred years ago. Is there a lesson to be learned?

The next time you want to bash unions, I ask you to also recall "thump, dead, thump dead". A union may have saved you from that destiny and you don't even know it.


Comments
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respectful questions Brian: do you think unions abuse their power; do you think there are enough laws on the books now to protect workers and their rights; do you think unions have had any negative effects on todays industry; do you think unions have driven any jobs overseas? By my questions, I know that you would have some idea of how I feel on these issues.

-- Posted by doodle bug on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 4:04 PM

Good questions DB...

I think I could substitute the word companies for unions for your question pool and request you answer to those as well.

do you think unions abuse their power? - To me, a unions power is it's ability to compromise the production of goods or services through a united effort of the unions members. In virtually every business related venture, both management and unionized, there are documented abuses, so I guess my answer would have to be a qualified yes. However, I don't think you should lump all unions into one pot... it's too convenient (the same is true for the employers).

do you think there are enough laws on the books now to protect workers and their rights? Maybe. When companies stretch the law and people are injured or die (mining, oil, and other industrial accidents), it makes me wonder if there really are enough laws on the books.

do you think unions have had any negative effects on today's industry? Yes. Unions are great at protecting "dead weight" though I think that notion is exaggerated to a large degree. Union benefits are proven to drive costs higher. It should be noted though that unions provide training that companies often don't provide, especially in the construction trades. It's not a given that union labor is more expensive. Coors is a good example.

do you think unions have driven any jobs overseas? Certainly. I would like to say that I believe government policy and laws have done more to drive jobs overseas than any union wage and benefit package.

I don't think unions are perfect, but they have, and seeminly continue to provide a needed service to their members to help overcome the abuses of their employers.

-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 7:08 PM

Brian,

You raise several salient points about unions; however, I notice that in all of your examples, you cite "companies" and "production". Much of the discussion or "bashing" that I have heard lately has been not about all unions, but directed at public employee unions. Do you believe your points are applicable to those unions as well.

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 8:21 PM

Public employee unions pose interesting issues SW, especially if we look at Wisconsin. Why continue collective bargaining for police and fire and exclude all other public employees? If you want to stir up a pot, just treat your employees differently.

As near as I can tell, Wisconsin public employees were willing to take reductions in pay and benefits to keep their ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits... in other words everybody gets the same thing instead of playing favorites with wages down the line. I believe state workers are like you and me and understand that there is a limited budget, but in Wisconsin that wasn't good enough?

Seems to me that binding arbitration could settle wage and benefit issues for public employee unions and be a win/win, unless of course you have some hidden agenda.

People seem to think civil service jobs are the best and some are for sure. However, we've all heard about abuses in the US Post Office. "Going Postal" is a comon phrase now-a-days to imply that the workplace isn't all it's cracked up to be. How about the clerk in the big city DMV dealing with customers that have been in line for a couple hours all day long, week after week after week. Doesn't sound like that much fun to me. Sanitation worker? Well, sewers might be interesting, and working anytime a water main breaks sounds great too. Point is, public employees have issues just like the rest of us.

It's a shame that public employees are at the mercy of elected officials. No matter how hard you work, the boss will always be a politician, and we all know how trustworthy they all are.

-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Fri, Mar 25, 2011, at 10:44 PM

good points Brian. And your answers to my questions have given some other avenues to my thinking. Lest you think I dislike all unions, I do not. And I think they were very much needed; I wonder if they have outlived their usefulness. But you made good points for the continued need for some unions. And yes, I agree that some employers would/have abused their employee pool.

-- Posted by doodle bug on Sat, Mar 26, 2011, at 6:23 AM

Brian,

Like doodle bug, I am not against all unions, I just don't understand the value of public workers unions. You made several comments about teh employees, but I am talking more about union leadership and machine. Private companies could have an inherent benefit in mistreating workers to boost productivity. Where public employees don't really face the same challenges. You mention DMV workers and the stress they face, I agree but how is that any different from the job duties of any customer service worker? There is also the question of union's giving money to the people they will be negotiating with for benefits.

-- Posted by SWNebr Transplant on Sat, Mar 26, 2011, at 10:41 AM

I agree SW that the stresses faced by public employees are seldom different than those of non-unionized workers, and I stated "Point is, public employees have issues just like the rest of us." I didn't mean to imply that they have it worse, just most of their jobs are not much better than anybody else as seems to be the thrust of some arguments.

As far as I know, union leadership is comprised of people elected by the general union membership so the "machine" you allude to seems to be endorsed by the membership. As I said before, there have been abuses by unions. Same for the employers. Who is better or worse off is up to you to decide.

SW stated "There is also the question of union's giving money to the people they will be negotiating with for benefits." Please expand on this statement as I'm not aware of it, unless you are talking about union political contributions.

We can split hairs about unionization, each of us can find valid points to support our point of view, we'd both be right, and it's likely you won't convince me and vice versa. I won't deny for a second that there isn't plenty of controversy going on.

My point was to amplify the fact that these issues are almost always way more complicated than the simple "unions are bad" type of argument that gets tossed around now and then. The media should show all sides of issues fairly, but it seems that is seldom the case... everybody has an agenda. The fact is that we really have to dig to find the truth that is almost always lurking just below the surface.

-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Sat, Mar 26, 2011, at 1:46 PM

Absolutely Brian. I guess the thing I would most object to, is mandatory union dues. If you dont join (and pay dues), you dont work. Then would come the point, why should non-union workers benefit from the gains obtained by union agreements. What a conundrum! And if the news I read/hear is correct, unions are losing members at a rapid rate. The cause for that - I am not sure.

-- Posted by doodle bug on Sat, Mar 26, 2011, at 3:36 PM


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