I get more than a little confused sometimes when I listen to people upset with our economy, and where they're placing the blame. I do understand political zealots who will always take a party position on events, facts notwithstanding. But for other folks I have to wonder just where they get their information.
In the case of the United States economy, specifically the loss of manufacturing jobs, and even more specifically the same subject relative to New York state, I'm wondering why unions are getting the blame and politicians and those who own those manufacturing plants are getting a free pass? Yes, it's true, the CEOs and Boards of Directors in a book case scenario have only one obligation and that is to company profits. But that's life in a vacuum. In reality, in our country at least, there was always some sort of human quality involved, much of the time enforced by government regulations, and other times forced by union labor and negotiations. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
I do understand that unions aren't and never were perfect. But to totally disallow the many benefits for all workers, even non-union workers, in laws they helped to pass about safety and the environment, wages and benefits, is to deny reality. When I listen to many people, they seem to be totally unaware that even non-union workers benefited from laws concerning overtime pay and a 40-hour work week. It would appear that many union haters think those laws are either unfair or were granted by the owners of companies just because they were nice people.
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of labor history should know how untrue that is. Many people who worked in management jobs in offices seem to think any benefits they received were due to the kindness of their bosses, when in fact much of what they received were from laws passed due to union lobbying and influence.
Yes, it's true, some union leaders were corrupt, and some unions controlled by gangsters. I will say without fear of contradiction that the most corrupt union leader anyone could name did less harm and misappropriated less money than the worst manipulators of Wall Street and investment firms. Ivan Boesky ruined many people, bankrupted others, made millions of dollars in illegal trades on Wall Street. Why isn't there an outcry to eliminate people like him? Why is he treated as an aberration, and Jimmy Hoffa treated as the norm in their respective occupations? And why does Jimmy Hoffa's name take precedence over say Walter Reuther or John L. Lewis?
When Toyota moved production of many of their cars to this country, they adhered to many union rules and paid about the same wages and benefits. The one union habit they did avoid were union work rules, and I have to admit, many of those were overboard, overwrought and ridiculous, and anyone who's ever labored could name more than a few instances of just how silly and nonproductive those rules could be. But Toyota moved here because of tariffs and tax laws, not wages. It's the same when companies pull out of New York.
New York has some of the highest workman's compensation rates in the country, we're in at least the top five for taxes, our electric rates are almost double much of the country, and zoning and other relevant laws are much more restrictive. Yet when a company moves to say Kentucky, certain elements blame union wages?
I know party zealotry forbids any Republican or Conservative to accept unions, and requires them to demonize them as supporters of the hated Democrats. But I'm still somewhat amazed when the loss of unions and their influence is directly correlated with a loss of jobs, pay and benefits to almost all blue collar workers, yet blue-collar workers blame the unions for their plight, not the people who passed laws weakening unions and making it easier for large companies to move jobs overseas for ever increasing profits. I don't get that at all.
I have maintained for years that the largest single reason the Democrats lost much of their middle class, blue collar (union) support was due to gun control issues. Most people I know that are in favor of absolutely no restrictions on any guns are staunch Democrat haters, going well beyond just supporting Republicans. Therefore, since unions and labor are usually associated with Democrats, unions also become part of the hated enemy.
Public employee unions are a different animal than private-sector unions, but you wouldn't know it by listening to the haters. The exact same lies and untruths apply equally to those people, no matter what the facts say. I recently saw Public Employee unions mixed into a discussion about the union at Carriage House. Excuse me? And the article in the OBSERVER clearly showed a $10 million enticement for Carriage House to move there, but the union gets the blame? I'd love to see the actual difference in wages between that Kentucky plant and here, and compare any savings to all of then other issues involved.
Public-employee unions get the blame for the Triborough Amendment and the Taylor law, and those laws are cited as large targets to rid New York of union power. Large parts of those agreements are for worker protection and have little to do with pay and benefits. This may surprise you, but they also forbid strikes by those employees, and large penalties if they do. I have to say, looking at some of the remarks by former management types in the paper while they are discussing unions, that protection is needed.
As for blaming those laws on ever increasing public employee pay and benefits, why are you blaming unions? Everyone complains about rising costs. The income of the middle class has been basically frozen for a decade. Prices have not remained the same; therefore middle class people are losing purchasing power. But neither the Taylor Law not the Triborough Amendment requires raises. So, if your politicians had refused raises say a decade ago, the pay and benefits would be much lower than now, wouldn't they?
So why are you blaming the unions? Public employee unions have some clout, but they cannot force wage increases, strike to get them or prevent layoffs. Looking at the average complaint about public employee unions, you're aiming your remarks at the wrong people. Why? Because all of the complainers are Republicans and all Republicans have to hate unions; it's part of the dogma and mantra of BEING a Republican.
So, have a nice day, and please at least have a few real facts at your disposal instead of cut and paste nonsense when arguing.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org