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The Art of Democracy

Egypt, Libya?  Nope.  I’m sticking to good ole Indiana politics.

I love it that I can say, “I think the Democrats are ridiculous to be walking out of an active session in both WI and IN.”  I also love to say, “I think it’s great that the Democrats (and past Republicans) CAN walk out of open sessions to make a point.”

Before I go on I must share that I have had experience working WITH Unions.  I must say it was suffocating.  As an engineer, my experience with Unions showed me:

1)      I had to have my hand held in order to go out on the shop floor.  I could not go out and look at inventory on my own.  I was told that I had to have a Union member help me or “I would be taking away his/her job.”  What about my job?  I can’t tell you the sum total hours I wasted having to “wait” on something that I could have grabbed and taken a look at in seconds.

2)      Working tax related inventory counting was the closest I got to Union work.  My experience showed me that people don’t work hard (forgive me if you work hard).  I heard over and over about the adage, “Don’t work hard or they will expect it of you all the time!”  Think about that….pure laziness.  I did work on the floor a while when we were cross training engineers with line workers so we could better communicate.  I think I spent more time being taught how to swing a gold club than getting questions answered.

3)      The benefits afforded to Union members were country “clubish” in my opinion, they worked slow as molasses and no one called them out on it.  That’s not what I call beneficial.  That’s what I call highway robbery and manipulation.

There was a historical NEED for Unions back in the days of child labor and deplorable working conditions.  People had no power.  Well, now people DO have power and in my direct experience the Unions of today are simply used to get comfy working conditions, overblown job security and benefits that are overly extravagant.  If this corruption was fixed, and Unions were much simplified, then yes, go for it.  As an engineer, I had no lifetime benefits and I knew I would have to work hard in order to continue in my career.  There were no guarantees and that produced a much better work ethic.  A job is earned and kept, NOT guaranteed.  Life is not fair, period.

As for the “Right to Work” bill in Indiana, what it’s all about?  It’s more about being free to work independently in Indiana, than in Wisconsin’s struggle which is apparently more aimed at Collective Bargaining.  For me the real questions are as follows:

1)      How much are Union dues, really?

Doing a little research on the web, you will find any number of Unions.  Typically, they charge dues based on monthly wages.  This fee seems fair enough.  The dues seem to range anywhere from close to 4% to around 1.5% of income.  Logically, the dues usually decrease as a percentage of your income as your income rises.  So for a $5000 a month wage, you could pay $75 or so.  Other Unions require a payment of 3x your hourly salary once a month.  [$20/hr = $60 a month].  Upon research, you will find a wide range of calculation methods.    Union dues are also apparently tax deductable.

2)      How are Union dues used?

Now comes the tricky part.  How do we figure this out?  Let’s look at the actions unions promote.  I see a lot of politics.  Unions are known to support political candidates etc.  How do they choose who to support?  Democratically?  – Sometimes.  Do some union members get paid to be in Union associated positions?  – Sure.

Here’s a brief list of how dues are sometimes used:  Paying the salaries and/or benefits of full-time or part-time union leaders and/or staff; union governance; legal representation; legislative lobbying; political campaigns; pension, health, welfare, and safety funds; and/or the union strike fund.

Much of this seems reasonable on a lot of levels, however, what if you were diametrically opposed to the political agenda of your union?  I’ve read many comments from union members across the country that indicate “dues are automatically deducted after 30 days on the job”.  Copy and paste that into Google if you want a reference.  There is no choice in many states and in many unions.  Some unions give you the choice to be in or out.

These are the questions I had, and I hope you may have learned something from reading them.  I didn’t go too deeply into it since I’m not a Union member and it doesn’t affect me too much overall.   For me, I would personally be very disturbed if I had to pay dues to a group that supported a pro-abortion candidate.  Again, that’s my preference and I feel very strongly about it.

In summary, I’m not a huge fan of Unions.  I’m told many Unions are ethically run and are truly beneficial within reason.  But, back to the politics, IF the “Right to Work” bill would give me the option to still work, but not have to unwittingly support an agenda I am against, then I would support it.  IF there are other aspects to the “Right to Work” bills out there that damage Unions, then I don’t think that’s a good path to take.  If losing some dues is the problem that is getting everyone in a huff, then the Unions need to figure out how to deal with it.  Voluntary leadership may be necessary…it works in many other settings VERY well.

I understand all the negative statistics out there like lower wages, healthcare issues, job safety, etc.  In the end, I don’t understand why a large group of workers couldn’t have the same impact as an officially bankrolled union.  Do people really need paid to stand up for job safety?  Help me understand that one.  Do people really need a guaranteed job?  No one in my family has that.

For me, I don’t have to pay my government representatives directly (outside of my taxes) in order to let them know how I feel.  If they ignore me, then that’s their problem.  It’s their job to NOT ignore me.  I can only imagine that big companies should work the same way…I know many do not, however.  So, it comes down to the fundamental question, “Can a workforce that is not unionized have a similar impact on the workplace if they choose to voluntarily approach their employer?”  Let me know your thoughts.

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