Are Unions Needed?
I don’t think that Unions still have a place in the modern day work environment. In a country like America, there was a period in history when these unions played a very significant role. They sprang into prominence during the years of mass automobile productions in Cities like Detroit. (Zieger & Gall, 2002) During those early days, the Unions fought for things like; improved working conditions; improved pay; paid holidays and vacations; pension plans; overtime conditions and remuneration; job security as well as the now common forty hour working week. All of these requirements are now standard requirements for employees. Whether unionized or non-unionized employees,. These unions played a crucial role in improving employee to employer relations. Their activities led to the development of several Legislations that touch on employees’ welfare. (Zieger & Gall, 2002)
Over the decades, unions began realizing that they wielded immense power and began the habit of abusing them. They realized that they could get and demand whatever it is that they needed by only boycotting work in case these demands were not met. These powers led to contracts being formulated between employers and their employees’ unions. (Zieger & Gall, 2002) These contracts that defined benefits, criteria of employment, as well as pay amounts eventually led to continued regular contractual negotiations. Whenever these unions did not like how the negotiations were being handled, they would threaten the other party with boycott or strike. This made the employers have no other choice, but to give in since the businesses could not survive and make profits without employees. (Zieger & Gall, 2002)
Over the years, these union jobs have become premium rated within the workforce. This is because workers that were unionized earned significantly more than their counterparts that were not unionized but did similar duties. They also had very favorable job security. With such perks and assurances of employment, the employees’ motivation took a hit. Their performance and production reduced significantly while at the same time they witness an increase to their benefits. Although there have been exceptions to this trend, this has practically been the trend due to unionization. (Zieger & Gall, 2002)
These are unions for employees that are paid by the governments a good example of such is the teachers’ union. When such a union’s demands increase, they are more often than not met by the governments concerned. (Zieger & Gall, 2002) We should however ask ourselves, who funds these governments? All the citizens do through the various taxation regimes. This, therefore, means that when they increase their demands, we ultimately foot the bill via our taxes. Extremely powerful unions may have been required previously when the working conditions were poor to say the least. (Zieger & Gall, 2002) However, nowadays, most of the workers’ rights and benefits are enshrined in law or international conventions. These have reduced the work of the unions. However, to remain relevant, these unions may come u with unreasonable demands to ship up emotions and marshal the work force into go-slows, boycotts and even strikes. These events can only be bad for the economy. (Zieger & Gall, 2002)
These are unions for employees in the private sector. A good example is the United Auto Workers. Even though, we may think that these unions do not directly affect us like their public counterparts, their activities do also impact on our lives. Increased wage demands lead to a hike in the cost of production. (Zieger & Gall, 2002) This may make American goods less competitive on the global market when compared to the Chinese produced goods. This makes companies close shop and move to the Chinese market where the wages are relatively lower and have less or nonexistent unions. This leads to loss of employment. (Zieger & Gall, 2002)
Zieger, R. H., & Gall, G. J. (2002). American workers, American unions: The twentieth century. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press.