September 14, 2013

Another View: Labor Day editorial painted a too-rosy picture of unions

An organized workforce may be better paid, but that comes at much too high a price.


The Press Herald published an editorial ("Our View: Middle class is strong when unions are strong" Sept. 2) touting the many benefits of the unionized workforce. Unfortunately, the piece completely ignored the many negatives that accompany unionization. 

States with strong union support have higher rates of unemployment as union rules frequently reduce productivity and drive up operating costs -- thus creating incentives for companies to automate operations and/or relocate work elsewhere, thereby eliminating jobs.

Unionization also adversely affects the hiring of non-union industry professionals, who  will frequently avoid operations that are heavily unionized because of arcane work rules. 

Unions preclude incentives for the motivated worker while making it difficult to terminate the poor performer. In 2010, an autoworkers union insisted that members who were getting high on their lunch break not be fired. This same union had required full pay for workers who do not work while requiring the best and worst workers be paid the same wage. Teachers in the U.S. have very strong unions, and in that market we have declines in quantity and quality while costs continue to rise.

Public-sector and private-sector unions force pension obligations onto employers that are unsustainable and so out of touch with reality that they bankrupt the employer. This was evident in the recent auto industry bankruptcies and in the recent spate of municipal bankruptcies.

And let us not forget that we have had multiple instances where unions have been involved with or controlled by organized crime. As a member of a large national union, my most vivid memory was being taken aside by some of the "union boys" and told not to work too hard as I might make the regulars look bad. Yes, unions can drive up member wages, but they do so with many consequences.

Dennis T. Caron is a resident of Cumberland Center.

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