Unions: Good or Bad?

I've long supported unions. I've even belonged to two -- when I was a high school teacher and when I was a university administrative worker. (For the record, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers had some great songs.) But in recent years, I've come to doubt my pro-union convictions. Permit me to share some of my thoughts and then to solicit your thoughts. I suspect that many who read my words are much more informed about and experienced with unions than I am.

Why unions are good
In much of industrial America, workers toiled under very unsafe conditions, earning extremely low pay and enjoying little to no legal protection. Unions were successful in bringing about many improvements for such workers, such as more reasonable working hours. They have generally served workers well by helping them avoid being exploited by employers. Even in these days, unions have a strong impact. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union members in 1999 had median weekly earnings of $672 (that's $34,944 per year) while non-union workers had median weekly earnings of only $516 ($26,832) (source).

Why unions are problematic
Much as I'd rather not accept it, while unions have done a lot of good and have helped workers avoid exploitation, they also seem to have helped workers exploit employers. Perhaps it has been a gradual shift over time, with unions slowly accumulating more and more power. (Perhaps not -- again, I welcome your thoughts.)

Unions can have the power to impede a company's ability to compete and thrive. A firm might be in desperate trouble, yet its unions may be unwilling to bend or compromise in order to help the company survive. Many employers find themselves left very inflexible when they have union contracts to abide by.

Some more problems with unions:

  • Anti-competitiveness. The Socialstudieshelp.com website suggests that, "unions. are victims of their own success. Unions raised their wages substantially above the wages paid to nonunion workers. Therefore, many union-made products have become so expensive that sales were lost to less expensive foreign competitors and nonunion producers."
  • A decline in the value of merit. In many union settings, workers can't advance much or at all on their merits, but must generally progress within the limits defined by union contracts. Employers may have trouble weeding out ineffective employees if they belong to unions. In theory, at least, unionized workers might become so comfortable and protected that they lose the incentive to work hard for their employer. And outstanding employees might lose their get-up-and-go if there's no incentive to excel -- or worse, if they're pressured by the union to not go the extra mile.

Here's a webpage detailing some other union drawbacks.

Is there a problem?
So there's both good and bad associated with unions. I suspect that most businesses, and even many or most investors in said businesses, would prefer that the businesses be union-free. But that's easier said than done.

Is ownership an answer?
One strategy for companies to avoid unions taking hold on their premises might be to ensure that as many of their workers as possible are as satisfied as possible. That's simple and makes sense, but it can become mighty difficult to maintain as a company grows huge. Another option is to convert employees into owners -- via stock ownership or profit-sharing, for example. If workers have a real stake in a firm's bottom line, they may be more sympathetic to management's point of view and more eager to work extra hard to help the firm succeed.

That's not a perfect solution, though. Starbucks (NYSE: SBUX  ) , for example, is known for awarding stock options. Yet some of its workers in the U.S. and Canada have organized into unions, while others would like to.

Consider also Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV  ) , which has long made employees part-owners via profit-sharing and stock options. It hasn't escaped having unions in its midst. Yet, as this Foundation for Enterprise Development case study notes, "A few years ago the pilots' union at Southwest struck an extraordinary deal with the airline to freeze wage increases for 10 years in exchange for an increased proportional allocation of stock options. The flight attendants' union has since also signed a similar agreement that is unprecedented in the industry." And Southwest has continued to thrive in its notoriously tough industry.

American Airlines, whose parent company is AMR (NYSE: AMR  ) , also decided to issue stock options to its employees, making the announcement in April -- and just a week or so ago it reported a long-elusive (though tiny) profit. Are the two items related? Perhaps, at least to some degree. Though it's worth pointing out that stock options aren't necessarily always attractive. If they're for stock of a shaky company in a wobbly industry, they may not be worth much at all. (Bill Mann noted earlier this year why investors might want to walk away from American Airlines.)

The healthcare crisis
If ownership isn't the best answer, perhaps healthcare coverage might be. Along with compensation issues, healthcare is a major factor in the recent strike of grocery workers in California. The unions don't want to lose ground on the healthcare package workers currently receive. The grocery chains are crying that they're being pinched as they fight the threat of Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) -- yet some have been recording increases in sales and earnings lately. Kroger (NYSE: KR  ) , for example, posted a 3% increase in sales and a 16% increase in earnings between fiscal 2001 and 2002.

What's really going on? I suspect that both sides fear a slippery slope: Workers fear that if they give in a bit on healthcare, they'll eventually lose it all. (And with healthcare costs skyrocketing lately, that's a valid concern.) Employers fear that they're already on a slippery slope as they fight the encroaching behemoth that is Wal-Mart.

The Wal-Mart situation
Wal-Mart itself is interesting, when you consider unionization. Thus far, in its not-that-short history, it has escaped having most of its workers belong to unions. But a passionate fight is being waged right now, as workers struggle to establish a union.

This raises interesting questions for us investors: Should we root for the union, as it might lead to more livable wages for employees and might keep more of Wal-Mart's million-plus employees enjoying healthcare benefits? Or should we root for Wal-Mart, figuring that a union will almost certainly put pressure on profits and might threaten the company's ability to sustain its track record of formidable global growth?

I'd like to tell you what I think of the Wal-Mart situation, but I can't. I'm torn. I see both sides of the issue. I wouldn't want to see Wal-Mart unduly restricted by union stipulations. I recognize that although it's enormous, its net profit margins aren't that hefty, at around 4%. That doesn't leave lots of room for adding expenses (though of course there is some room). But at the same time, I wouldn't want employees to be taken advantage of simply because Wal-Mart is big enough to do so. I admire generous companies, ones that treat their workers well. I'd want Wal-Mart to be, as many folks would argue it currently is, fair or even generous to workers. I suppose what I'd like to see is a more perfect solution than a traditional union or successful union-busting.

Questions that remain
So after this brief foray into union considerations, I'm left with more questions than answers. Once more, I invite your thoughts. Please share them on our discussion board for this column -- or pop in to see what others are saying. (We're offering a painless free trial of our boards right now.) I hope to revisit this topic soon, to share some of the most compelling responses of yours that I read. Some food for thought:

  • If unions are no longer so critical, should they disappear, and if so, how? They enjoy many protections by law. By what process might we become a union-free nation?
  • If unions are indeed still vital, how worried should we be that less than 15% of our workforce belongs to unions, and that this figure has been dropping?
  • If a company wants to avoid unionization, what is its best strategy?
  • How might unions and employers/managements better coexist, without one side exploiting the other?
  • How should investors view companies that have unionized workers?

Fool coverage of unions
If you're interested in other Fool articles that have touched on unions, look no further. Whitney Tilson recently explained how JetBlueAirways (Nasdaq: JBLU  ) is "JetBlue is ALPA's (the militant and powerful Air Line Pilots Association) worst nightmare, and they will do anything to unionize JetBlue." And earlier this year, I questioned whether Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) was exploiting employees and received many responses from readers.

I know that this brief article only covers the tip of the iceberg, but it's a fascinating iceberg, isn't it? Share your perspective with your fellow Fools!

Selena Maranjianis smarter than a speeding bullet and faster than a tall building. For more about her, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in books she has written or co-written:The Motley Fool Money GuideandThe Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.


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  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2009, at 7:00 PM, dkeck wrote:

    What I think?

    I think that unions have become victims of their own success, taking companies such as GM and running them into the ground demanding more money and more benefits. In a lot of ways, I think unions are outdated, and should probably be abandoned for the sake of a growing economy. However, I don't want to look like I'm simply bashing unions so I'll explain myself.

    Minimum wage and social security should probably have brought the end to unions. Why? Minimum wage was supposed to insure that companies paid employees at least enough to live on. Social Security was supposed to lessen the burden on retired Americans who could no longer work. These programs along with government laws that protect workers and ensure safe working conditions should take care of most of the needs of the workers. Also, the government started Medicare and Medicaid, which should have further lessened problems.

    Away from government, most responsible companies that are large enough should provide some health insurance for their workers, not only because it's good for the workers, but also because it attracts better employees to work for the company.

    It seems to me that unions have brought more problems that they have done good in recent years, and I'd also like to point out that unions make up a good share of the major lobbyists in Washington today, and in many ways undermine what needs to be done for the nation.

    Sorry if I seem bitter, and let me know if I'm wrong about any of what I've said.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2009, at 3:47 PM, FurgoodLentz wrote:

    Unions did not run GM into the ground. Could it be that GM sold less cars?

    Start naming companies that failed because of unionization. Put up or shut up.

    Look at Walmart. Do they offer high wages and benefits to attract "better people" . The Walton heirs have more money than they could possibly spend and they did not work one day for it.

    Give me facts and figures not vague ideas that fit your prejudices.

    If you must work for a living you are a laborer. Thank the unions for what you have.

  • Report this Comment On September 27, 2009, at 6:50 PM, Unionnotsogood wrote:

    Unions DID serve an essential role when they first started. However, the Industrial Revolution is over now and there are regulations set on any industry. Unions now create, or rather protect lazy workers.

    Plus, companies don't fail because of unions, they just create worse products/services.

    Let us look at teachers specifically in NYC public schools. Teachers get tenure, even if they, as my kids say, "suck." My children are doing much better at a private school. Their grades are up, their teachers care about their students, and most importantly, THEY ARE LEARNING!. This, some may say, has to do with money allotted to the school. I say it has nothing to do with that. Why?.. Simple:

    During a PTA meeting, my daughter's English teacher had no idea who my girl was? When I asked why she received such low grades, she gave me one essay that she wrote and said she did poorly on it. And I asked what about other assignments. There were no other assignments. Little did I know, they read two books in class and that's it. I am not saying all teachers are like this, but unions protect lazy money grabbing people quite often. Not only that, unions are always lobbying in Washington to get more money to do nothing.

    However, we should not bypass the fact that unions at some point, did protect workers from "evil" companies. However, it seems that now, once in the political scene, they have completely forgotten what their origin job was.

  • Report this Comment On October 25, 2009, at 11:24 AM, KSPILOT607 wrote:

    "Minimum wage and social security should probably have brought the end to unions. Why? Minimum wage was supposed to insure that companies paid employees at least enough to live on. "

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    dkeck..I have a question for you,can you live on minimum wage which is 7.35 an hour now?

    I think not..my union contract bought me my first home and new car..if I were to work for a non-union company I would NEVER achieve this,if unions are allowed to be dismantled...the middle class will come EVEN closer to extinction!

    Here is the question..I would ask of employees..do you want MUCH better wages,do you want health care,do you want good working conditions,do you want sick leave,if you at some time need to stay home with a sick child and not have the threat of being fired,then....VOTE UNION...if you do not want any of this(you would be an idiot if you didn't)...go non-union!

  • Report this Comment On October 29, 2009, at 11:44 PM, justhear2 wrote:

    Dear Mr. Un-informed, aka KSPiLot607

    I never really had an opinion of unions in tell i worked for a major non union truck company which delvd loads to some of the large car makers like GM and Ford motor company. I remenber getting to the dock on time, waiting to load, ( the load was a JIT /just in time?)

    i had to stand at the back of the trl while they loaded.

    i was picking up car motors to be delvrd the next day.

    to my dismay it took 4 hours to load the trk. and there were 4 union workers doing the loading process. # 1 would remove the engine from the assembly line and drive it 5 feet towards my trk. # 2 fork lift would pick it up and take it another 5 feet to the staging desk. where worker#3 would get out of there chair (while reading a Book) walk over to the engine crate and scan the bar code. then go back to their desk and continue reading. Then the forklift would take it to the tailgate of my trk sit it down and worker #4 would check off their paperwork and also i would check off my paper work (that they gave me)

    then the forklift would load it on my trk. Not one of those union works spoke with me in a nice way, (gee maybe because i was not a teamster? or maybe they were all just having a bad day!) From that point on i had a bad taste in my mouth for the union. Now lets fast forward 15 years. I am now a Lead in r shop, we work for a contractor who is a sub-contractor to the main contract. we are non-union and the main contract has all union employees in there shops. (teamsters) Our Boss has seen fit to follow the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) that the union and the main contractor agreed too, with a few differences', the union employees when hired are hired on at 80% of the max pay rate, we start at 100%, we both get the 4% pay increase each year, we both get the sick time and vacation time the same, we get the ($900 dollars a month in are pay for health care, the union takes the $900 to cover there members health care, and the members pay $70 dollars a month. we have company health care which we can use our H/C $ for. the insurance is comparable to that of the union. we have 401k, the company gives us a matching 4% the union is @ 3%. Let talk overtime, each of out employees is on a rotating list for overtime if they sign up and it comes to there turn, the overtime is theirs. the union gives there over time only to those who have seniority. Our advancement is based on job performance. I could go on and on.

    Now lets talk about your comment on Sick Leave! Lets talk about a little thing called, FMLA i am sure you have heard of it? or maybe not! It stands for Family Medical Leave Act. The FMLA is a labor law allowing an employee to take JOB-PROTECTED unpaid leave due to a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job, to care for a sick family member, or to care for a new child (including by birth, adoption or foster care). You may notice the Large lettering that says Job Protected!

    We have had the union try to come in promising more pay and better working conditions, but we follow their CBA and we don't pay the union dues and are not under there subjection! Oh Did i mention that in their CBA they are not aloud to Strike? Yes your heard it correct! so why do i need to join a union and pay dues when i have it better the the poor union folks next door? One may say "You have Job Security with a Union membership!" If the contract ends the job ends! Look at the Union employees that worked for General Motors! Bam! I rest my case, your witness! Have a Great Day!

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2009, at 3:41 PM, TexasLineman wrote:

    Well to speak on unions I have found that most of the time your only paying someone to represent you lawfully. Here is the problem you run into. To many people have their hands tied with union representation and unions can leave at anytime due to employees removing their representation. That causes the employers retaliation to become relevant at the time. You cant expect to ever move up if you recieve help from a union representative because its like spitting at the integrity of your bosses. Another thing is that it is a proven fact that unions only last as long as the company. Another is that unions do not save your jobs only the loop holes that they find do. Here is another way to look at union pride. Listed below are 3 of the major problems Americans are faced with during crucial times in debt. Be open minded.

    $150.00 mnth dues for Union Rep.

    x 12 mnths

    $1800.00 a year then

    x 30 years left to retirement

    = $54000.00

    In this time period you could do these things:

    3 kids Associate Degrees for lifetime

    10,000 x 3 = 30,000 for College

    Prescription deductibles every year for the family

    400.00 x 30 years =12000

    Replacement roof and paneling for my house

    $10,000 for a lasting 30 year period

    ALL THIS EQUALS = $52,000.00

    or just look at this.

    $52000.00 x 150 employees for 30 years till retirement

    =$7,800,00.00

    for what? Saying some words and arguments for having a job! Your life could be worse!

  • Report this Comment On December 09, 2009, at 5:14 AM, fishak99 wrote:

    I worked in the Carpenter's Union for two years and went through their apprenticeship program. Not only were the employers paying for the training we were receiving but so was the State of Alaska and the Department of Labor(YES WIth tax dollars). Well, they figured they still were not bringing in enough money for this over-inflated training center so they decided to rape the retirement of its own members. All new apprentices had to forfeit most or a portion of their defined contribution dollars for 5 years to this place. Over 5 years it came to 22 thousand dollars. With compound interest, given a 25 -30 year career that could mean hundreds of thousands out of ones pocket when you need it . Not the mention the fact why would the union training center need an additional 750k a year from their members for??? What a joke....you basically have a group of idiots who had squandered their own retirements based on low contributions and bad investments and leaving nothing for their apprentices. Thanks Stan Hunt and John Palmatier.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 3:06 AM, abilitytochoose wrote:

    Let's see:

    Texas, and Utah. Two of the countries strongest economies, and huh? interestingly enough they are right to work states.

    So unions claim to work for their members, however they could care less about the others affected by their decisions. Take the WGA strike in 2007-08. Their actions caused widespread panic, and thousands of people lost jobs due to their selfish cry for more wages. It wasn't as if they were curing cancer, or even more realistically it wasn't as if they were truly laborers. Though they did have some credibility with their accusations, that credit was not enough to justify their decision to strike.

    Unionnotsogood, has already spoke about the NYC teachers union, which is arguably the worst of the worst. I mean if it takes two years to fire a teacher who was found to have sexually harassed a student (with strong evidence I may add) then what good is a union if it protects such people. Notice I never said all members were this bad, I am just pointing out that a union would in fact use it's resources to protect such a person.

    Unions have served their purpose, again Unionnotsogood has also stated, the industrial revolution is in fact over, child labor isn't a problem anymore. Working conditions are much safer, and not because of unions, but because of common sense and the law. If unions didn't place so much pressure for even higher wages and better benifits from companies, then maybe some of that money could be used to hire more working Americans.

    No, let's keep the unions and allow them to run the country into the ground. What do Union workers do anyways other than sit in a chair and collect money, sometimes they may pick up the phone or go sit in a chair somewhere else and argue with someone over nothing, but other than that they don't do anything.

    I'm just sayin'.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2010, at 2:11 PM, tldrkhnsm wrote:

    Unions exploit workers? Come on...now you're not even trying. For many, unions are a reasonable cost of doing business. As an investor, my dividend is only part of the story. I want to be aligned with sustainable, responsibly co's that treat it workers equitably. As a former busines owner, I can tell you that the best thing to happen to my company was unionization. Believe, I too, would have thought this contra-indicated. Lo and behold, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and arbitration allowed things to be settled fairly and consistently. My fear was misplaced. The other thing that was a great benefit was profit-sharing. My point is that people should not fear unions. Not every workplace needs them, but for those who do, it benefits everyone. I was entirely open with my books. When the union saw I was in difficult times, they voted to forego wage increases!

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2010, at 3:58 AM, iamboboty wrote:

    This is my take. I am an industrial engineer, trained to take what management and other engineers create and develop to make it feasible for the workforce. I get it. Recently, I fell victim to the recession. I was laid off, and took work as a supervisor for a company that was unionized. This company provides 85% of the world product out of a small town in Mississippi. To give you a hint, we make the chromed part of what Tiger Woods uses, and 85% of what the rest of PGA uses. The United Steel Workers is our Union, and they have bastardised the company. "The Company", as referred to in the CBA, has recently applied for and is emerging from Bankruptcy. This company, which has been operating since 1960 something, is still operating on employee and attendence policies from '1960". Someone earlier mentioned time off, and thats Kraizie. I have to be in there 7 days a week whether or not half the shift shows up. I move some work around and they complain and file grievances to the fact that we as the company need to "bring back more workers. These union folks sit around for 2-3 hours per day on clock making twice what I do ( and I got a degree).

    I understand where Unions came from. "In the day", American manf had the priviledge of limited markets and cheap plentiful material resources. In todays market resources are limited, and competition is fierce and global. GLOBAL. Tell MR Wang How you dont feel well and cant make it in. HMMM. I have union reps telling me that I need more folks, when the most of em hang out on double time on Sunday's. They dont care, and neither do I.

    I don't get paid enough to be away from my daughter and deal with the BS they create. For all u Pro Union folk, middle finger, and grow up! Take responsibility for what you do. As your manager, I will recongnize you not being lazy, and it will pay off. Garbage man, quit kicking over my can.......

  • Report this Comment On February 06, 2010, at 11:29 AM, XxSMILEYxX wrote:

    Unions stink no good i think they just want your money .if you see something wrong they will say its not .they wont help saving your job they wont train you with out a high school education . they dont even stand up for what they say they beleve in and that a good job and skills . all they want is money i vote get rid of unions it dident do my job any good 25 years $12.75 an hour and thats good they said.my company still moved and i still lost my job so how was it any good.?

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2010, at 8:15 PM, osbro wrote:

    I believe that unions were a good thing at one time. But not any more.

    Unions are the main reason why so many companies have moved to other countries. Large wages that have driven up consumer prices thus forcing the average American to not be able to afford products made by union workers.

    Just one example: Automobiles. If the average union worker world take a 50% pay cut they would still be making more per hour than the average American worker.

    After taking a 50% pay cut then drop the cost of automobiles by 50% and auto sales will soar.

    If more unions come into out country, more jobs will leave our country.

    It is time for America to wake up, stop being so greedy and start using some common sense before we become a third world country.

  • Report this Comment On June 06, 2010, at 2:13 PM, jw0595 wrote:

    My experiences with unions:

    1) A company I worked for was approached by a manufacturing concern that was about to go out of business. It wasn't in our field, but my boss said to take a look at it. So for 3 mos. we analyzed costs, watched the union employees "work", reviewed the contract etc. We came up with an offer to buy the company, but the union would need to take a 25% pay cut, which would be offset by company stock (the guy who owned my company believed in employee ownership). They would also receive raises over 2 yrs. that would just about bring them back to their current salary. The union refused and the company locked the doors the next day. They would rather have no job, than a job that required a certain level of performance.

    2) Same company, we were having issues with our warehouse not shipping enough goods on a daily basis. We sat down and wrote a bonus plan that would have enabled them to make up to 25% of their base pay if they met their goals. The union steward told us that we would have to renegotiate the contract if we wanted to offer a bonus.

    3) A union plant where I grew up went out on strike. They had video of one of the workers pouring acid into drains and throwing tools into running machines. They brought in a famous strikebreaker and he had the plant running at 75% capacity with scab labor in 30 hrs. When the strike was settled, the employee got his job back. If it were my company, I would let it go broke before I would hire someone who did that in my plant.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2011, at 9:29 PM, unionsrbusiness2 wrote:

    I believe some people are missing a couple of crucial points that no one talks about but have been mentioned in some of the reply's here - unions are a business and need to make money for the Union! Why do you think they are currently lobbying Congress so hard to make it easier to get unions into places that they have traditionally been kept out of, like Toyota or Honda?

    Also, if unions really are so great for the people, where have they been for those who are laid off? Are they helping you make a house payment before the bank forecloses? After all, you were a loyal union member who paid your dues for protecting you from the evil management of your company, but where are they now that you are unemployed because the company could no longer afford to keep you? That's right - they are gone. Know why? Because you no longer are paying into the union coffers. They DO NOT CARE about YOU as an individual, they only care about you while there is a paycheck they can draw dues from.

    Wake up!

    Unions are an out-dated item that is destroying America in the Global economy - one that we cannot avoid and business MUST compete with, like it or not.

    If you believe differently, consider how GM, Chrysler, etc...offer employees discounts on vehicles that no one else gets. That's not a perk, its a slap in the face to non-union consumers. And you wonder why Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and other foreign makes are doing so well.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2011, at 10:21 AM, kikibue wrote:

    I have read this article and the comments everyone has had! I find it interesting comments from the union bashing folks. If you have a 40 hour work week, sick leave, vacation time, etc. Thank the Unions. You see none of you would have that if it wasn't for the unions. If you hate unions so much perhaps you should move to India or China, where the work conditions are what they were before unions came to this country. I know your answer will be "NO" I will not leave. You show your true colors...if I benefit then that is okay..but if I don't, well then why should anyone else. You are truly selfish people. Please pack your bags and left this country!

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2011, at 5:41 PM, udawg wrote:

    Why are some of you so anti-union? Do you have a specific desire for a corporation to profit more than any hard working american should?

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2011, at 6:35 PM, unionsrbusiness2 wrote:

    @kikibue...you are correct about Unions and what they gave us today, but that was in the PAST. They did set the standard for what we have now...but then they got greedy. They are not alone, the management did too. BUT, each got SO greedy that they had to take extremes just to meet goals. Business goals are to make money for those who hold the power (shareholders as well as top management) - when the Unions decided that they were ENTITLED to that same profit, not deserve, but entitled - it reached a point where the ONLY available option was to go elsewhere where they no longer needed to worry about expensive labor costs to meet the profits demanded by the owners and shareholders.

    Think of it this way at a level all can relate too - if I employ a neighbor kid to mow my lawn for the summer and he breaks a leg (not on the job) am I responsible for all medical bills and paying him for mowing my lawn even though he can no longer do it? If there is a drought and my grass does not grow so I tell him he can't mow the lawn for a month, do I owe him 90% of what I would have paid him if he had mowed it? I think most people would say this is ridiculous and NO you would not pay the kid for no work performed, yet that is what so many out there seem to think - that they are ENTITLED to MY business profits even though I have already given them a fair wage (double the minimum wage) plus medical benefits (though they must pay for a small portion of it).

    Capitalism and growth rely on competition and the ability to cheaply produce a good or service. Yes, some people are poor, some get rich...ALL of us have EQUAL opportunity to go out and make money, and don't give me any crap about racism...we have a black President, and he stated out poor.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2011, at 6:53 PM, topsecret10 wrote:

    As a 28 year union member I can tell you first hand that the Unions time has come and gone.... The AFL-CIO Is now pro-Illegal Immigration,and they openly want amnesty for law breakers so that they can organize this "infinite pool of extremely talented workers" ? Into their labor ranks. To hell with the older American Citizen members like myself that help make them Into a national power. They are destroying themselves from within. Richard Trumpka actually praised the demonstrations In Egypt ! and compared It to the struggle of unions here In the United States. Sorry to say that my pension (that I contributed to for over 25 years) Is In danger of disappearring because of the greed that consumes the far left liberal hacks that are running the asylum.... TS

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2011, at 10:37 PM, topsecret10 wrote:

    bttt

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2011, at 6:33 PM, unionsrbusiness2 wrote:

    I have known many people who belonged to a union...I have never heard them say anything positive about their union.

    I have known former UAW members who just want a job, not see it go away because the "old timers" don't want to give up their high pay and pensions. There is a GM plant on the east side of Indianapolis Indiana that is closing because the workers refused to accept pay cuts and some benefit concessions that the company could no longer afford...before anyone says something stupid about how much money GM makes, remember they took OUR TAX money for a bailout to pay those people. The plant is closing, but by golly they made their point that the big company won't take advantage of them!

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 12:24 AM, grammyj7 wrote:

    Who pays for the unions from the various staates that are making so much noise in Wisconsin now? Seems to me that Wisconsin is capable of taking care of its own ! Who assigns the out of state unions as to which state they must perform in that day or week?

    Union members are required to contribute money for presidential elections but are not allowed to decide who they will support - Democrat or Republican? Does not sound like a 'democratic process' to me! Now that president feels he 'owes' the unions advantages!

    I would invite answers.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2011, at 5:56 PM, russonpackard wrote:

    Your answer is, by law if in a union you do not have to pay for political campaigns. The union is perhaps one of the last true democracies around. By laws require a quorum to make changes. The governor of Wisconsin has an order to arrest all the democrats who refuse to allow him this quorum.

  • Report this Comment On March 31, 2011, at 8:27 AM, middleground19 wrote:

    Reading these posts makes it clear that no one else is reading these posts. People who are in unions are going to keep fighting to keep them, because they do not want to give up the comfortable lifestyles they have become accustomed to. Let's not think about all the people who are negatively affected by union presence - those who must pay more for products because they were made by unions, those who cannot get credit because they do not have union paychecks, those who cannot get a decent job because the companies pay such high wages to their union workers that they cannot hire anyone else.

    Let me share a few examples of why I am against unions. When I was in high school, I wanted to become a doctor. I was an excellent student, and graduated with a full-ride scholarship. Sadly, I failed to make it because I did not have enough math background, and and just could not get it. My high school math teacher had been tenured, and they could not fire her. But, they kept allowing her to squash our dreams by letting her "babysit" us. She told us on Day 1 each year, "You are all too dumb to get it. I don't have time for you. Busy work." She should have been fired, but they couldn't do it. Now, my son is in high school. He wants to be a physicist, and should be able to. But, alas, his science teacher is tenured, and no longer cares how many futures he steals away. All he cares about is keeping the unions in place. So, our kids get shafted because we want a fancy car or a bigger house? How fat do we have to be in America to be happy? Is greed more important than educating those who will run this country when we are old?

  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2011, at 5:11 AM, bigjoe111 wrote:

    I too have read through all of these posts and I still don’t understand. I understand middleground what you are saying but I don’t understand how one (yes very bad) teacher kept you from your dreams. Every job every position everywhere has crappy people in both Union and non-union jobs, but when I was in high school we had semesters. I had two different math teachers each year. I am sorry but I don’t understand how you had the same teacher year after year that told you that you were dumb and squashed your dreams. I too have had bad teachers but I had great teachers as well. I do agree that education is far more important then greed but then why is it that education is always the first thing cut in state budgets. That is not the doing of the teachers union.

    And too the man unionsrbusiness, your comparison to a boy cutting your lawn and then breaking his leg later doesn’t make sense. Of course you should not have to pay for it. Unless you own a lawn care company and hired the boy as a full time employee. If you are making a profit off of others work you should always respect that.

    Also I have an older brother who works at a GM plant in Auburn Hills Michigan. He only still has his job because of the government bail out otherwise his plant would have been closed as well. GM hit hard times but it was not the unions that drove them to bankruptcy

    During all of the news lately I have heard from every union member ( at least the ones they interviewed on TV) say that they understood the situation and where willing to make concessions.

    I agree that unions are bot perfect but all of this recent debate seems to boil down to a simple idea cut the power to the unions and kill the Democratic Party.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2011, at 10:36 PM, janettyco wrote:

    My comment is in regard to public unions and union's excessive/abusive "negotiated" contracts that clearly any "objective" taxpayer government representative, would have never agreed to. I am part of a public union. I work in mental health. I've had both private and now my public position, same job each place. What I have noticed is several things. First, at my public job, the education requirements have been lessened, so many people are doing the job, bringing a lower quality of service to the patients we serve. These people are thrilled to get these positions, and can't find jobs in the private sector paying as well, therefore they don't want to leave- and stay. What happens is we have a lot of over paid babysitters, who believe "because Unions have fought for workers rights for 50 years...", that they have a RIGHT to be paid at a higher rate, than what they are worth, now that they are in the job. Customer service (ie. taxpayers), is not what it should be. Many of these workers are rude and unprofessional to the patients (compared to my private sector hospital). The remaining "professional" workers, are now jaded. They are sick of watching these "unqualifed" workers or even qualified workers who are develop bad attitudes and do the job poorly, be rewarded with the same things that everyone else has. They are also tired of having to deal with the same people abusing the system-- "calling in sick" frequently, or always on the Friday before their scheduled weekend off. Also, there are several coworkers who have become quite large (fat), and cannot perform the job in a manner required without considerable risk of getting hurt (dealing with aggressive patients). They have bad knees, and slow reactive times-- and quite frankly put the rest of us at risk because they can't do maneuvers like those who aren't seriously over weight. We've had people show up to work intoxicated, and had to be sent home. One person was doing their own personal laundry in the county facility. Currently, we have two people on workers comp- one "slipped" on a garbage bag and somehow hurt themself enough to be out of work 2 months now (no one witnessed this)- being paid of course courtesy of the taxpayer. We have people who actually will take overtime, to spite people under them from getting it (seriously!). I've been told to not work so hard, "because they will expect it from everyone". The funny thing is, our union isn't as bad as the teachers unions or the Madison Bus Driver (WI) unions (where the highest paid city worker was a bus driver who made $159,000 in a year with overtime!) (Google it, there's a State Journal article on it!). Now, in Union Grove, the Unions are threatening local businesses that if they don't put a supportive poster in their window, they will boycott and picket those businesses. I wonder to myself, do these Union Workers, under their principles, boycott shopping Walmart? Do they strictly shop mom and pop shops? Only buy union made products? Buy only local dairy (more expensive)? Or course not. If this were about "principle", they'd be supporting the people, who pay their taxes, and hence their paychecks. But, of course, it's only about what benefits union workers. They can benefit from the Open Market, and cheap labor of Walmart and McDonalds, but they're willing to threaten the livelihood of local businesses if they want to remain neutral over the issue? I think they are a bunch of hyprocrites. I can tell you with all certainty my coworkers go for the cheap at Walmart and McDonalds. They don't care about those "poor check out people, or poor dock workers who make less than what they consider a fair wage is". To heck with them, they'll support Walmart's business model with their money if it gets them further ahead by saving them money. I also wanted to mention that the public job I pays now, IS better paying than the private sector job. The Health Care benefits are top notch and have been fully covered up until now...provided this bill in Wisconsin passes. I think Public Workers need to realize it's not the taxpayers job to fulfill a lifestyle they think they are entitled to, without the education especially, and if the private sector is being paid less for the same exact/similar work. IF these unions want to stand in solidarity with the unions abusing the public (Really, a bus driver making $59,000 annually base pay!), then they all need to be eliminated. The Civil Service Law is what protects public workers. In fact, it was JIMMY CARTER who eliminated federal workers union rights...and you don't see those workers crying- they are satisfied with them. In fact, Obama hasn't lifted a finger to return these "rights" to federal workers, AND gave federal workers a PAY FREEZE for two years! Funny to think he gives lip service to Unions (send him your checks!). All I have to say is if you can not support the higher cost of living buying union made/local products, then I don't think Walmart, McDonalds, GM workers, John Deere workers- should HAVE to pay for collective bargining rights that allow taxpayers to be abused. Why should THEY pay the "higher" rate? It goes both both ways. I think Union benefits should be paid through a fund collected by citizens that want to contribute to their "plight". Otherwise, the Civil Service Law should be sufficiently funded by the public. Also, bad workers should be fireable. Good teachers and awesome teachers should have the right to express and upward promotion, and bonuses, and bad teachers should be put on probation, and then eliminated if they don't improve. The Taxpayer is the customer!

  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2011, at 2:26 PM, economicsbuff wrote:

    I know a lot of people that are members of or support Unions. None of them have been to college, and all of them make a decent living and benefit from being a member. When I bring up dicussion with them about Union's very few of them are not aware of the balance of power between workers and businesses. It's acually very simple. Power corrupts! It's also corrupts so called "Hard workers". Unions are leverage for workers under them to benefit. Labor conditions are largly regulated by the government. So my point is that there is no longer a need for the majority of unions because we are no longer an industrious nation. America outsourced their jobs to other countries because then they don't have to worry about lazy americans without a degree, asking for more than what they deserve. Union's lately, have been keeping the power out of balance. Unions don't give you a right to work. Company's and their success give you a right to work. Unions take away workers right's by sending the business into a downward spiral to bankruptsy. Democrats tend to side with Unions! Afterall they both beleive in the distribution of wealth to all people requardless of how hard they work. A.K.A communism/socialism. Stay informed and keep your self educated.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2011, at 10:17 PM, naws77 wrote:

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, The rich are the ones who pay to lobby for their wants. I don't agree with what the unions have done to themselves, but what happens if we(middle class) don't have someone to push back. The problem really is so much bigger than unions. Did they play a part in their demise, certainly. But what about rich business owning politicians? The runaway shop? Competition that borders on slavery? No american can compete against slaves. Capitalists have no limit. Who sets the limits if there is no "other side" to be the balance? Facts or opinions there is one thing we all would have to agree on , the union is getting weaker and the middle class is disappearing. But you know what, my non union job is ok, And the people I work around are nice to me. Screw the rest of yu because competition wont get tougher. My boss wont get richer because i know he really cares about me. And oh ya I'm sure this lifestyle will be here for my grand children,like our deficit(which by the way is in control by those rich business owning politicians),

  • Report this Comment On June 04, 2011, at 2:18 PM, Risky88 wrote:

    First of all there are many many many lazy people that are not unionized and you still do not see the employer firing them for it. So don't say we can't fire the bad teachers becuase they're union, they wouldnt fire them anyways. Its the employer thats the problem, maybe they shouldnt of hired them in the first place. sure you pay 1000 bucks a year for a union but you make 5000 more than if you didnt multiply 4000 by 30 years. Math will easily tell me the better bargain. Employers run all over their employees and scare them especially when they do something wrong. You compare non union with union workers wages. But your not refering to education levels at all. a teacher with a masters does not make nearly as must a person with a masters in the private sector match wit for wit not general and general

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2011, at 5:47 PM, scharleygirl wrote:

    I live in one of the right to work states (right to be fired or not hired for no reason). I watched my husband work for 27 years (half in the school system and half for a state government position) all under state retirement that required 30 for full retirement. On the anniversary of his 27th year, his boss came into his office and said that to reduce the departments budget, he was letting my husband go and replacing him with a new college graduate for 65% percent of his salary. Yeah, right to work is fantastic (sarcastic). This same state that has a new governor proudly announcing this state will never have union participation is currently supporting one of the highest unemployment rates in this country. You cannot convince me unions take away jobs, but unethical behavior of employers sure do.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2011, at 1:28 PM, rwhiteohio wrote:

    When Unions like the current public union battles we are seeing in Ohio reach out to the public for support they typically say things like protect our teachers or firefighters, what you don’t hear is how far the unions reach into our pockets in general. In their agreement not only are the teachers and firefighters unionized they also control the workforce used to provide services to the schools and even build the schools. With lines in the agreement specifically restricting these services to be provided by union labor.

    When you drive down the road and see the 4 road workers 3 standing 1 digging, that’s your union at work.

    Example: (undergorund wireing repare in a pipe casing) Workers needed. 1 laborer – Dig 1- pipe fitter – Open Casing. 1 – Electrician – Fix Wire. 1 Union Stewart – Make sure no one does sombody elses job.

    Laborer Digs hole – Pipe fitter stands and waits (cannot help according to union bylaws) Electritian stands and waits (cannot help according to bylaws) Stewart makes sure no one helps (enforcing bylaws) Pipe exposed pipe fitter climbes into hole Electricitian & Labor watches, Stewart enforces. Pipe open fitter climbes out and electriction climbes in to do his work, waits for laborer to deliver the wire he needs as he cannot carry it from the delivery truck that was waiting wile the labor was digging (union bylaw enforced by stewart) Electriction finishes climbs out enter the pipe fitter again patched hole climbs out laborer fills hole Job Complete.

    Job Time – 8 hrs

    Laborer - $26.25 $5.60 1 $2.80 $0.25 1 $34.90 = 279.20

    Pipe Fitter - $33.45 $8.84 $6.60 $0.85 $0.00 $4.30 $0.00 $54.04 = 432.32

    Electrician - $32.85 $4.75 $0.99 $0.25 $0.00 $6.57 $0.00 $45.41 = 363.28

    Watch Person - $18.55 11 $5.60 11 $2.80 11 $0.25 11 $27.20 = 217.60

    Total = 1292.00

    The tax payer provided 1292.00 for an 8 hr job. The laborer wasn’t needed the pipe fitter & electrician could have dug the hole while they were standing there and the Stewart is just a watchdog for the union that is mandatory on job sites and in shops and must be paid for by the employer.

    The first number listed is the hourly rate the rest is paid into the union. If any of these men quit before there out they get a portion of their pension as dictated by their vested agreement. The 4th number is just paid directly per hour into the union for (training). Like any other business the unions have out priced themselves, this is shown in their hold of the private sector. The US has a unionization rate of only 7% in the private sector, and 29% in the public sector. Public Sector means paid by our tax dollars. As typical our government lags far behind what our private sector has realized it needs to do to survive without a constant influx of tax dollars. Now with all that said ask your local union organizer what their strike pay is? That can go from $100.00 to $150.00 a week depending on their vestment and amount of strike time. So if on strike on behalf of the union he will go from 279.00 a day to 125.00 per week. That’s 2.50 an hour what minimum wage again? The electrician pays 2/12 times that for training he may never receive. Go Union’s

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 4:49 PM, MarxistHypocrisy wrote:

    "Unions exploit workers? Come on...now you're not even trying."

    Never worked for a Union, huh?

  • Report this Comment On October 21, 2011, at 5:24 PM, 74nova wrote:

    Unions are who brought you the 40 hour work week and weekend. Get rid of the Unions and everyone will be working for $10 a hour and will work 7 days a week. The big companies and government are in bed together so they can get by the "laws" Unions keep those big companies in check

  • Report this Comment On October 21, 2011, at 5:30 PM, 74nova wrote:

    And just because a compant signed a union conctact doesnt mean they will go bankrupt. Look at the top 25 or so construction contractors in the united states. About 80 or so percent are unionized and they show huge profit gains

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2011, at 5:22 PM, chmaddox06 wrote:

    dont you understand the electricion is that an electricion he went through training to be that not to dig a ditch. if the electricion is tired from digging a ditch and messes up the wiring it will cost you 3 times as much to fix it. i'm a welder thats what i went o school for.i am not goin to remove hazardous insulaton, i have no idea how to remove safely.so i can weld up a hole in side of a boiler. your not going to tell the ceo of a telephone company(who has a degree in business)go run that telephone line through the ditch he just dug. people have specialized training for a reason to do a job the way its supposed to be done.the next time your house catches fire tell the cop to put it out with his gun or tell the plumber you need a new lite hung. if you have no idea about what you are talking about dont say anything

  • Report this Comment On November 25, 2011, at 10:35 PM, ResultsMinded wrote:

    In a nutshell, unions have become safe havens for lazy workers. Over the past 40 years, unions have succeeded in lowering the standard for American productivity in virtually every industry beholden to union rule. When bringing up the topic of "competition" as it pertains to bringing goods to market globally, unions have so greatly crippled the America's ability to compete that it's a joke to even consider the issue. In the name of the 8 hour work day and weekends off, unions have stifled progress and stunted America's advancement in so many areas of commerce that it's unlikely we'll ever recover.

  • Report this Comment On January 05, 2012, at 1:56 PM, DuaneToole wrote:

    A FEW unions have given the rest a bad name. Did you know that studies show that union shops are 10 to 12 percent more productive than non-union shops?

    Did you know that other studies show that a company's solvency has virtually NOTHING to do with whether the shop is unionized? (Being a union shop is statistically insignificant to solvency.)

    The more you know...

  • Report this Comment On January 05, 2012, at 10:29 PM, RayDeOJ wrote:

    OK, I was reading through all of these comments tonight to gain some insight into unions. I host a radio show in Kokomo, IN, and have union guests on Tuesday, Jan 10, who want to "set things strait" with me. In Indiana, our legislators skip town every time right to work is mentioned and I believe this is wrong. I don't make many friends in this union town when I say something less than flattering about unions, but as I see it...for every person who's standard of living is apparently lifted by union membership, others pay the price. I don't see this as "right to work", but right or wrong. What's wrong with personal responsibility? Doing the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do...NOT putting yourself first at every opportunity? Having pride in yourself...with your job...your country? We're capitalists...like it or not, and every person in every country that's not us wants to be one of us. U.S. This system has, is, and will work as long as people put their personal greed aside and work for their pay. I also believe there's WAY to much protectionism in corporate America, and that EVERYONE should behave properly no matter which side of the argument they land on, or how much they earn. I have no built-in job security...just what I bring to work everyday. If you can convince my employer that you can do my job better than I can...or for less money...go for it. Good luck. If you succeed, I'll try to improve for the next time, but I will never hide behind a union skirt.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2012, at 9:37 PM, UnionChief wrote:

    I am currently the Chief Union Steward in my company. I can tell u for a certainty that my union protects ALL employees from management’s desire to exploit our labor. YES some workers are lazy. NO we do not have to protect that. There are standards of rate set by the employer if an employee does not meet that standard they are subject to discipline. It is the job of the Union to make sure the standard is fair and that the company provides all that is necessary to accomplish the job safely AND efficiently.

    Most people do not know what their company would like to do because unions will not allow it. Before I became a union steward and later chief union steward I would NEVER have believed the things my company would like to do, “to be more resourceful and efficient.” Companies love to tale stories about how they appreciate their employees and would not diminish their work standards with or without a union.

    The company I work for will tell the same lies, excuse me, stories. For example throughout our plant the roof leaks. Many times our workers will be leaked on during the rainy days. We complained in earnest MANY times. This loving company claimed they would act promptly. The so called, “outdated union”, had to file Safety grievances before the company would act. STILL they have NOT eliminated all the problem areas. I am also a safety rep for our company. One employ came to me claiming the roof was leaking on him. I was NOT surprised as u can imagine. I went to look at his area and the floor was covered with water. He showed me the back of his shirt and it was soaked from rain that I watched falling from the ceiling. When I addressed the issue with his supervisor the response was, “move his table over.” A safety grievance was filed and the problem has been corrected. So for you who say unions are bad and “out dated” what do u think would have happened had we not been there. NOTHING.

    YES some unions are bad. They DO protect laziness and undeserving workers. It is the responsibility of TRUE unions to make certain there is proper balance. If u are in a union, before u gripe, make a difference. Or do what all free riders do. NOTHING.

  • Report this Comment On April 25, 2012, at 2:21 PM, Schadie001 wrote:

    I will start this by saying I have never served in a union, but I did serve my country for over 20 years, worked long hours, deployed for months at a time away from my family, and worked for what many would consider pennies. But you know what, I'm not bitter, I served my country and we got things done. I now work for a company who has unionized jobs and like myself nonunion jobs. I will tell you that in this company there are things that border on rediculous. Case in point, I was given a new chair for my office, it arrived in a box and was delivered to me. I am not allowed to assemble this chair because their is a person (in the union) whose job it is to assemble chairs. I opened the box and noticed that the chair had a whole three parts to it, and I could easily assemble it in minutes, but face a union complaint being filed against me if I touch it. The same goes for countless other tasks that I could easily perform but because there is a person in the union who owns that job I am not allowed. I can't even empty my own trash...

    Unions, I will agree had there place and time, but I truely believe this time has past. I fully understand that if you are in a union you will probably disagree 100% and who could blame you. No one wants to admit that they are getting more than they probably should be, or worse have to give that up. But I can tell you a lot of the arguments for unions I enjoy right now and am not part of a union. Good wages, vacation, I don't fear being fired for having to stay at home with a sick kid, etc...

    I read a few comments on both sides concerning GM and I think GM is a perfect example of how unions have completely run a company into the ground and now we the tax payers are rewarding them. One comment said Gm's problem was that they didn't sell enough cars not because they are unionized. I would say it is one in the same. Sure they didn't sell enough cars but that is because who can afford to buy a new car these days. It is rediculous that a car costs 30-40 thousand dollars these days. Why does a car cost this much, well there are several reasons, one being that they are paying absurd costs for labor. You can't pay the amount they are in labor and not raise prices. But it's a two edge sword, because when you pay labor and are forced to then raise prices pretty soon no one can afford to buy your cars so you go bankrupt because you are still paying labor but now not selling cars. The same could be said for the airline industry where labor accounts for over 40% of an airlines costs, thus they have to raise fares, no one can afford to fly and airline goes under. It's not rocket science.

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2012, at 7:30 PM, tacowizard wrote:

    Keep in mind folks there are many types of unions out there. Not all operate the same.

    I am an IBEW Local 26 member and I am proud of it. Yes I have had times without work and so do many non union folk in all areas of work. I joined the union and take job calls to signatory members (contractors). When the job is done and if I am not needed for another project I go back to the hall. I knew this when I joined the union. As for amount of work available well we all know that the economy sucks out there right now but does seem to be getting better.

    I make a decent wage for this area not too low and not really high. With my income based on a full years work and my wife's added in we are at about the average income level for the DC metro area.

    I pay working dues and quarterly dues. These along with other contractor contributions towards pensions, annuity and health & welfare. I should live ok in retirement. My union has seen fit to see that our benefits are well funded and should remain so for many years to come. We all know social security may not be there when we retire and I am thankful my union has as well.

    Enough about my union. Now why unions are a good thing to still have.

    1. If Unions are removed from the picture along with Davis Bacon Act (Federal law that requires the prevailing wage to be paid on federal funded projects. Prevailing wages typically are the union wages in your area). Do we really think a contractor/company will pay you or anyone a decent wage if there isn't something out there that keeps things in check. No they won't. You will get minimum wage. Like it or not unions keep non union wages high as well. Loose the unions and the remaining non union companies in what ever industry you are in will offer you minimum wage.

    Unions also brought about safety on the job site.

    Many years ago construction jobs had projections of how many workers would die on the project and that was because they were not required to keep a safe work place.

    Again I say that if a contractor/company doesn't have any requirement to do so then they will go ass cheap as possible to increase the bottom line.

    UNION PROUD Now and forever.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2012, at 5:47 AM, EDLO2007 wrote:

    let me start by saying this if it was not for the union workers would not have a voice today and not on;y that but there would be less jobs and less pay so thank God for the union and remember if it was not for them you would not have a house to live in nor a car to drive because $7.50 an hour can't do that.

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