Monday, April 11, 2005

Christina Aguilera is sexier than unions.

I'm probably not going to be very popular for saying this (when has this ever stopped me?) but I don't care for unions. Let me qualify that statement, I don't care for modern day unions.

Toronto barely missed coming to a grinding halt due to a too-close-to-call TTC strike that was called off at the 11th hour (well…make that 5:30pm). I had a pretty frank discussion with a co-worker at the xbi about my feelings. It went something like this:

Me: If I was the TTC, and the union was telling me about their pension, security and guaranteed pay increase demands, you know what I would say?

xbi co-worker: ?

Me: Fuck OFF!

xbi co-worker looking at me laughing (he is used to my "somewhat" outspoken opinions).

Me: Yeah. When is the last time you had a job that guaranteed you anything? Oh, never? Me neither. You know what I would say to all those hockey players and the Players Association while I was at it?

xbi co-worker: Let me guess.

Me: Fuck OFF! Go play in Europe. When you come crawling back I'll hire you back at 25% of your original contract and see who's laughing then.

xbi co-worker:
You are a bad person.

Me: Maybe, but I also know that unions, for the most part, are outdated and no longer serve the purpose for which they were originally intended. My grandfather was a coalminer in Pennsylvania. When he should have been in school he was in the mines, and he worked his entire life in the mines. And he needed a union, damn straight. Hockey players do not know the meaning of hardship. Also, I hate hockey.


My main point is that I think that unions tend to breed apathy, and the attitude that workers should meet the minimum requirements of their job and then expect a lot in return. In the field I work in, if the company doesn't do well, I don't do well. I don't get guaranteed pay raises, I have to earn them. I don't have a pension; I have to invest my money to make my retirement a reality. I think that often unions force companies into no-win situations and then set their very members up for failure to boot when they strike. Often the very increase they negotiate for their members turns out to be less than the money they lost by not working (way to go!) and leaves the company in an even tougher position than they were in originally because of the lost income from the days closed. I know that only scratches the surface, and yes, there are still fields that need unions (nurses for instance, maybe teachers….though I think they should both be a mandatory service as well as the TTC).

So, I'm glad the TTC didn't go on strike because while I could have found another way to work, there are a lot of folks out there who do not have other options, they would have been screwed. But I'm willing to bet that in 3 years we'll be back in the same boat, holding our breath to see if they are going to get in a pissing match over a 0.25% increase. Nice.

PS: My mom belongs to a union, and she has a PhD in Sociology so I am probably going to hear about this BIG TIME.


  1. There are absolutely instances where unions are appropriate (I did say nurses and teachers (...did you see that?). And yes, it would be nice for all of us to have some job security and a fair wage. But, I still have major issues with the enormous amount of power many unions have and from what I see, a tendency to abuse that power. And believe it or not, I lean pretty heavily to the left. I just think essential services should not be screwed with.

  2. Anonymous9:16 a.m.

    If the value of a union is an invisible barrier to being sued then get a lawyer.

    Union bosses are the “Godfathers” of our business age. They use job security as a pitchfork to your ass and we all willingly jump into the fire.

    Too many employees and labor (as a collective) form unions as a ‘scape goat for their laziness. The push for unionization of Walmart’s in Canada and their lack of success is evidence enough that modern unions are going the way of the landfill (extinct!)…

    Unions need to go and free enterprise needs to rule.

    Call me “Capitalist Pig” and Lock Me Away

    Mr. Lobo

  3. Kat: "Hockey players do not know the meaning of hardship. Also, I hate hockey."

    You ain't never lied, home skillet!!!

  4. i co-sign the hockey part. dumbasses, now hockey's popularity is worse than ever. now we need to get rid of peddie's ass. who convinced the raptors organization that having hockey men control a basketball team was a wise idea?

  5. Anonymous3:32 p.m.

    Professional Sports, Teachers, Nurses, etc. All union. Kinda makes you think doesn't it? All the good jobs seem to have unions. I don't think that's a coincidence. One might even go as far as saying that union=good job.

    It's funny how you never see anyone complaining about CEO's making 500% more than the rest of us, but when a garbage man or a bus driver gets a 4% raise there's always no shortage of outrage!

  6. ^ Your first point is a good one. Some would argue that it arises from the fact that some of these positions require a certain amount of education or other unique skills - as in the case of pro sports - and the resulting labour supply in these fields possess these 'special' qualities. The unions are there to secure the pool of available labour and provide incentives for these workers to stay here, preventing this talent from moving to other places where they potentially have better opportunities (i.e. "Brain Drain" effect).

    In terms of your second point, if a CEO is making 500% more than us, or in the process of negotiating a salary increase, he (or she) is most likely not going to go on strike until he gets his way or a common ground is reached. And say the CEO does choose to 'strike', there's not as big of a trickle-down effect, meaning no involving people external to the situation like 'us.'

    When the TTC workers go on strike, it brings the whole city to a halt and affects commuters in and around a major city. Regardless if you support a 4% increase or not, these negotiations should ideally take place outside the realm of affecting people like 'us' (unions abusing power?). When this doesn't happen, it sort of forces the other side's hand because of all the public outrage.

    That's where all the anger and ill words come from... as well as the idea of making TTC an essential service.

    I so agree with you, Kat.

    *Sorry for the mouthful*

  7. Anonymous6:45 p.m.

    A great blog - I've also had this conversation recently.

    I'm a senior manager at an organization that is heavily unionized, but we're in the media. I also lean to the left.

    I cannot tell you how the union has destroyed my organization. Workers have become completely apathetic, insubordinate, and demanding. The entire purpose of the union (protecting their interest to make sure that management doesn't take advantage of them) has been lost! The union refuses to let management fire shitty workers.

    It's a nightmare for someone like me, who wants to make decisions that are in the best interest of my Company, and in the best interest of my employees. I don't mind having a structured salary scale in place. Nor do I mind following union protocol when it comes to employee performance management. What I can't STAND, is that I have people working for me, over the age of 65 (who don't have to retire), and who either do nothing, or engage in DISRUPTIVE behaviour. And they hide behind their union.

    Unions came to be for a reason - to protect employee against unfair work practises. Now, they've become political beasts. They don't support management in decisions that are strategically sound for the company (and end up screwing themselves over in the process, because they believe that there's a money tree growing somewhere for the workers, when really there isn't!).

    Also - let's just be clear that there's unecessary unionization. Vixen made a bunch of generalizations about unionized jobs...but there are many others - like camera operators on TV, or news anchors, or freelance writers - ALL of who are unionized. Unecessarily.

    Rant over.

  8. Wow - a lot of passionate thoughts and insights here and my mom the professor hasn't even posted yet to put us in our places. :-P

    So to clarify my stance, I don't give a shit about a 4% pay increase for anyone, people should get increases when merited and to keep up with the cost of living. But across the board increases to everyone? What if someone deserves a bigger increase? What if somoene deserves to be handed their hat? Sometimes CEOs of companies are grossly overpaid, but they tend to make a lot of money when they have an extraordinary level of responsibility and when they fall, they fall hard so I don't begrudge them that (and yes, we do hear people complaining...all the time...Hydro execs anyone?).

    I stand by what I said about unions abusing their power and bringing organizations to their knees, which in the long run helps nobody, unionized or not.

  9. Anonymous10:50 p.m.

    Rather than lay down the law, let me raise one issue of logic, and then offer some general observations.

    Let's see....abuses of power?Hmm, it seems to me that this is common in corporate circles as well. Some recent scandals should teach us all that a CEO can bring a company to its knees quicker than you can spell ENRON. So, shall we get rid of corporations?

    Are unions no longer needed? I would argue that the very risk of unionization keeps many employers honest, providing decent wages and benefits to match the "standard" set by unions.

    Only a fool would argue that there are no lazy unionized workers, or that it is easy to fire a worker in a unionized environment. However, my bet is that for every lazy unionized worker you can show me I can produce an unethical supervisor who is only kept in check by a collective agreement. Most of the union officials I have worked with have been highly ethical people who see the role of unions as providing balance.

    I'm not a labour historian, just a coal miner's daugher who grew up knowing how people like Carnegie made the money to build all those libraries.


  10. Wow - great thoughts all. Interestingly, I just wrote a class assignment on whether or not Unions are still necessary in today's world. It was for a Labour Relations class and I am a Commerce student. All I can say, is this is a debate that will continue because there is no clear answer.

    Research (from both the corporate and labour sides) has proven that unions actually increase efficiency and production potential of a company's workforce and that the arguments for the lazy worker are the anomalies - and not the norm - in the many systems.

    As well, the continued consolidation of corporate interests tends to support a need for a continued increase in union power to maintain their original design as a counter-weight to the business entity.

    I always find the debate over certain industries okay for unions and others not as interesting. I think rather, the challenge is adapting the union concept (ie: good job attributes) to the service industry environment we know live in. The fact that unions have not evolved as quickly as enterprise in this direction does not make them obsolete - just slow.

    We live in a world where very few people earn what they deserve - in fact, we have allowed capitalist/consumerist interest to alter our worth perceptions. Nobody's labour is only worth what employer can "get away with" paying. We are all worth more than that.

    Okay - enough - but great debate. And yes, I obviously lean to the left - I suspect they will be renouncing my MBA admission at any moment.

  11. Thank you both for your very educated and informative views. See, you learn something knew everyday.