The Price of Unions

Why “Made in the USA” Deserves a Second Look

by: Alexander House Thomas

Imagine yourself living in the early 20th century. You are working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. You get paid ridiculously low wages, work in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, and work for a huge part of the day, ranging from ten to twelve hours. You get offered a chance to join a union, an organization that would fight for the common worker, and would negotiate for certain benefits on behalf of you and other union members. They would take a stand against the unfair bosses that you worked under, and show them that profits are not necessarily everything to a company. Sounds great, right?

Now imagine getting a job at an automobile manufacturing plant during the present day. You work five days a week for eight hours a day. You’re paid really well, and the conditions you work in are very nice. But someone comes up to you one day after work. They say that they are from a union, and believe that you are not getting treated fair enough. They say that they would stand for better wages, especially considering the CEOs who make millions of dollars a year. They also argue that it is crucial that you become a member: otherwise you would be letting big business silence the voice of the working man. Sounds great, right?   Actually, no.

While unions once upon a time had their place in history, they now seem obsolete because they have already met their original task of letting the working man be heard. In the present era, their motives have changed from merely being heard to the accumulation of power. In addition, they have infected our politicians and evolved into a political power. In April of 2009, the former President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said that “we are witnessing the first new American economic plan led by the government, not necessarily led by the private sector.” How would they be able to do this? By donating to the Democratic Party, who are undoubtedly the biggest supporters of unions between the two major parties. In the 2008 Presidential Election, the SEIU spent almost sixty-one million dollars to theelection efforts of Barack Obama. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, spoke at this year’s Democratic National Convention, saying, “The Democratic platform makes crystal clear that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party will fight to protect and strengthen this fundamental human right [of collective bargaining].”

Unions argue for better wages for their workers, which is causing companies to spend more on their employees rather than improving their business. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but the average hourly earnings for private industries is just under twenty dollars. On top of that, those with union membership collect weekly earnings of around $940 according to the United Sates Department of Labor. Compared to non-union employees, who make around $730, it’s no wonder why some companies, like General Motors, have been shipping plants overseas or have been giving jobs to illegal aliens who will work for less money. It’s no wonder that this cost saving measure resulted in an almost one hundred percent increase of GM cars that are imported from Mexico, Korea, Japan and China. Now, it would make sense if unions helped with the crackdown of illegal aliens entering the American workforce in order to save their own jobs, right? Well, in actuality, they have not only been against immigration reform, but have laid out measures to be supportive of undocumented workers. The AFL-CIO came out in support of President Obama’s efforts to suspend enforcement of immigration law against more than a million illegal-alien youths and his administration’s lawsuit to overturn Arizona’s Illegal Immigration law of 2010.

On top of that, the bosses for these unions make a ridiculous amount of money compared to who they are supposed to represent. While the average union makes around forty-nine thousand dollars a year according to the Department of Labor, the yearly wage for union bosses range from one hundred seventy-three thousand dollars a year for Bob King, the head of the United Auto Workers, to under six hundred twenty thousand dollars for Terence O’Sullivan, the president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. That is an increase of between three to twelve times as much money than the people they represent. Now, while chief executive officers for private companies make millions of dollars, they usually are not put into that position by a vote of their respected employees. This is similar to how national public officials get paid more than the average citizen. Shouldn’t the people who elect you into these positions get more respect and better treatment than you?

To all union members out there, I have one thing to say: You no longer live in the 20th century anymore. Proper legislation is in effect to ensure that the corporations you work for are held responsible if you are mistreated. After the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911, which killed almost a hundred fifty young girls, states passed new legislation in order to force employers to abide to certain safety measures and precautions. During the New Deal, President Roosevelt passed the National Relations Act to ensure union elections are done properly. President Truman passed the Taft-Hartley Act to help ensure that you were allowed to bargain with your employers fairly. Why do you keep demanding more from the corporations? You are currently witnessing the consequences of your own doing with the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, as corporations are forced to make these moves to keep their company afloat. When you look at CEOs and complain about how greedy they are, why do you ignore how much your own bosses make compared to you? Do you prefer the life of having a job that pays you fairly, or would you rather risk possible unemployment in order to get a better paycheck than what most Americans receive?