I like labor unions though I have never been a member of one. But the ideals they represent are appealing.
Really, there’s not too much to dislike about them. A bunch of people with a skill or shared profession come together to advocate for one another’s best interests. Where’s the harm in standing together?
Opponents and detractors often argue (at least the ones in my family) that union wages drive up the prices of consumer goods and those spikes hurt consumers. Their observations aren’t without merit. But they gloss over the reality that those same union wages allow people to make the purchases that are partly responsible for keeping the economy steady.
Of course economic stability is not exclusive to the purchasing power of members of a union local. There are millions who are not union dues-paying people who spend their money and also keep the economic engine humming.
But if not for the efforts of the labor movement, issues like a minimum or a liveable wage — for those with and without a union card — would not be a reality. And without that reality a middle class would not exist, forcing the economic engine of prosperity to a grinding halt.
In the public sector, unions are blamed for high taxes. One popular refrain is if it were not for the overinflated pensions of the executive assistant, the librarians or police then the public could hang on to more of their money. There may be a sliver of truth in that reasoning. But to paraphrase President Obama’s out-of-context-quote: They didn’t build that.
Labor unions did not build pension debt alone. Their salaries and retirement plans came after spending hours with elected officials and municipal executives engaged in an all-American capitalist pastime — negotiation.
It’s the give and take of bargaining that led some cities to have out-of-control debt because leaders, for whatever reason, agreed to certain salary conditions. You can’t blame the sky for being dark if the sun doesn’t shine.
I don’t deny that some labor unions can be heavy-handed and unreasonable at times. I’ve had friends in unions frustrated by rules that required them to perform a task one way when another way might have been more efficient.
But the inadequacies and faults of those groups do not mean they are without purpose. In looking out for employees’ best interests, unions provide a needed counterbalance to employers’ best interests, which is a profitable bottom line that is sometimes achieved at any cost.
Besides, without the labor movement and unions how else would we mark the end of summer this holiday weekend?