It’s now Labour Day, folks, and I’m hoping that all of you are outside enjoying the last gasps of summer durring this happy organized labour holiday.
What’s that? Not all is happy in union land? However could that be?
Aren’t all the union represented girls and boys out there gainfully employed and making fair wages for fair work and reaping all of the hard fought for benefits that their job brings them?
How could that be?
Oh… yes… silly me. I forgot the zillion plant closures across North America in the past year or so because their operators could not afford to pay the exorbitant pay packages for every union employee on their payroll.
I overlooked the thousands of jobs that evaporated when unions went on strike at the slightest talk of lowered wages to combat the economic downturn.
I misplaced the knowledge that those same striking workers negotiated themselves completely out of a job due to an obvious preference to barely pay for their homes and bills with unemployment insurance (sorry – EMPLOYMENT insurance in Canada) cheques that arrive in the mail – assuming they even qualify for said cheques.
Now, before you get me wrong, let me say that I’m not anti-union.
In principle, worker’s unions are fantastic things that look out for the employees that would get completely marginalized by mega corporations that are only interested in lining their own pockets without any concern for putting some cash in their worker’s wallets.
One union I’m fond of is United Food and Commercial Workers who are trying to get some fair compensation for employees of my favorite store, Walmart.
Yes, I understand that Walmart keeps it’s prices low because their overall costs are low – achieved mostly by paying employees next to nothing for serious shifts.
However, I’m also in the knowledge that Walmart makes 1.2 million dollars an hour, 28.8 million dollars a day, 10.3 billion dollars a year.
Given that kind of profit, couldn’t the company spend a little bit more on benefits for their average employees? The ones that ignore you for the most part in all the store departments?
Perhaps not a wage hike, but a beefed up benefits package with dental, optometry, and prescription coverage?
That sounds fair, right?
It’s not going to drive Walmart out of business, and that’s the key thing here: unions should always be in balance to the health of their employer.
Unions should not be so focused on demanding exact dollar figures when negotiating a contract. It’s not a good way to do business because their employer is subject to market forces which may or may not always guarantee that the money bargained for is always in the company’s coffers.
No. Union contracts should be based on percentages tied to their employer’s quarterly profit statements – statements that can be independently verified by a party not tied to the company or the union.
That sort of arrangement would form a healthy symbiosis between the company and the union – instead of the union becoming a parasite that sucks the profit right out of the company.
It would also force the employee to make better products since their salaries would be geared to the success of their employer instead of it being a guaranteed given that encourages complacency – which is exactly what happened to the auto industry.
Everyone knew they were getting paid – so the quality of the product wasn’t really a concern for them. The union workers remained blissfully ignorant when Suzie Citizen and Peter Public shouted “Your cars suck!”
As sales went down hill, union employees were confident that they were still hooked up to the gravy train.
Except… that gravy train explosively derailed, and the carnage was massive. Thousands of jobs killed, dozens of factories shuttered.
So tell me, what does the average union worker have to celebrate on this lovely Labour Day?
Kids going back to school, that’s what.
Now the unemployed can collect their cheques in peace.