Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Thoughts on The Union

Well I've been avoiding it, but I have a serious case of writer's block and it's about the only thing I can think to write about. The Union.

First let me say I hold no illusions of being balanced in this one. The reason why I was avoiding it is that I am the result of two generations of union men. My mother, my father, and my grandfather all belonged to unions. I can't stand on a soup box and decry how the union is ruining America when I owe that nice middle-class childhood and that nice college education I had to the union.

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I tried to be fair and balanced when I did that project on the '95 Newspaper strike, but I can't call unionized public workers greedy and selfish when my mother, the saint she is, is a retired union school teacher.

I have heard conflicting reports on public sector and private sector pay and benifits, based on education levels and state vs federal and whatsits and whosits and slim slam shabloo. But lets assume the public sector does make more. The number I keep hearing thrown out is $6000 a year.

Based on the language I keep hearing being tossed around you would think we were talking about the Wall Street bankers. $6000/ 12 months= $500 a month. We are talking a $500 a month difference here.

Now comes the question of benefits and pensions and that's a pickler. I have to go with personal experience on that one. Back in the day when my mom would talk about union contract negotiations almost every time the same thing would happen. The state would be broke, you see and would ask teachers for a pay cut or at least a halt on pay increases, and would promise them better pensions in return for accepting those terms.. Note: I was mistaken the state didn't promise the teachers a better pension, but the local government did promise them that they would pay better them later if they took pay cuts or halts to pay increases.

To me that seems like a fair deal and it seems unfair for people to renege on that now.

I think the problem is mostly one of perception. Back in the old days in an industrial economy it was obvious what the union did. The union created a standard for everyone in terms of pay, conditions, and safety. But what does it do in a post-industrial economy.

Now days folks are going, "Why do we still have a union?" At the end of the day I believe that unions can still be and are a force for good by not only defining pay but the conditions of the work environment ensuring worker safety, productivity, and prosperity.

That said, the caveats in the second paragraph do apply.

P.S. Teachers do not stop work at 3:00. I remember my mom getting home late working with tutoring programs and staff meetings and working late in the night checking papers and writing lesson plans.

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