Increasing worker’s rights is a principle that unions embrace. Workers who feel there is equal treatment and fair compensation, are generally more productive. With all the generous benefits unions provide for their employees, who is incurring the hefty costs? When the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) went on strike in September 2012, teachers asserted a larger pay increase. Among other grievances, the CTU was negotiating for a 17 percent increase over four years. When negotiations failed with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, the teacher’s union decided the only course of action was to strike. That strike caused Chicago’s public schools to close down, leaving 350,000 kids out of school and many parents wondering how soon a compromise would be reached. Mayor Emmanuel was constantly portrayed as the greedy antagonist in this story. Illinois, facing a budget crisis, did not have the resources to support the wage increases that the CTU was demanding. Inevitably, taxpayers would incur the costs, not the mayor or the public schools. Public sector unions like the CTU are destroying the economy with their oversized pensions, non-coop health plans, collective bargaining advantages, and political agendas. Unions have the hard-working employee’s rights at heart. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is the largest federation of unions in the United States. AFL-CIO makes up 56 national and international unions and as of 2011, has approximately 12 million members. AFL-CIO’s views on the function of a union are pretty straightforward.
“Unions are about a simple proposition: By joining together, working women and men gain strength in numbers so they can have a voice at work about what they care about. They negotiate a contract with their employer for things like a fair and safe workplace, better wages, a secure retirement and family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave and scheduling hours (Trumka)”.
AFL-CIO and other unions will many times attribute the establishment of an 8-hour workday and 5-day workweek to unions. What AFL-CIO doesn’t like to mention is how unions contributed to the downfall of US industrial cities.
Stephen J. K. Walters, author of Unions and the Decline of U.S. Cities, provides compelling insight into how the economy in Detroit collapsed due to union greed. He claims that United Auto Worker (UAW) directly impacted the big automobile companies relocation out of Detroit due to high labor costs in the 1940’s and 50’s. These high labor costs are because of the increased wages the UAW secured by striking. Since UAW members represented the majority of automobile labor workers, companies such as Chrysler, GM, and Ford were forced to meet union demands, or relocate. Relocation, or flight of capital, was the option that these companies chose (126-8). The automobile industries spent between $700 million - $3.4 billion on new facilities outside Detroit in rural areas “as a means of reducing wages and inhibiting union militancy in manufacturing cities like Detroit” (129).
Public Sector v. Private Sector
In What Public-Sector Unions Have Wrought, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby points out that public sector unions have grown tremendously in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), in 2009 public sector unions surpassed private sector union members, 7.9 million - 7.4 million. Unions represent 7.2 percent of the private sector labor force. The public sector unions, on the other hand, represent 37.4 percent of the labor force (Jacoby, 36). The public sector refers to any job in which goods or services are produced either by or for the government or its citizens. This can be federal or state governments and often include local municipalities. On the other hand, the private sector refers to any person, people or enterprise that operate mainly for a profit and is not directly controlled by the government. Both rely on revenues,...
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