Mixed Feelings About Labor Union Protests in Wisconsin

I was raised in a Union family. My father was a member of the Local Plumber’s Union for his entire career. It served him well. It protected him and our family. When he was out of work he had somewhere to go for help. The union would help him complete unemployment forms and help him find work as soon as possible. And, because he worked on construction sites, the union helped ensure those places were safe. Growing up, I was pro union. I even marched in the Labor Day Parade in Pittsburgh a few times with my dad and his union.

But I have never been in a union. There is no union for people in my field, so I don’t have first hand experience. However, my husband was in a union when he worked in government. He had to pay dues whether he wanted to or not. And he knew exactly what he was going to make for the rest of his career there. Because in the union, everything is fair. It’s based on your years, not your work. I understand why they want to make sure that workers are making the same, that one person isn’t favored over the other. But you know what it did to my husband? Made him feel like it didn’t matter how well he performed, he was going nowhere. There would never be any performance-based rewards. It didn’t matter if he was the best worker or the worst worker, as long as he did the minimum well enough, he would have a job. And, honesty, that wasn’t enough for him.

Today my school district is currently feuding with the teacher’s union. They went on strike this fall and are most likely going to go on strike again. This, my friends, has left a very bad taste in my mouth. Everything I’ve read shows that the teachers won’t accept any reports. Not from the school board, not from the state, not from an independent arbitrator. OK, I get that the school board is on the other side of the table, but the state and an arbitrator? When everyone, EVERYONE, is telling you that Option A is reasonable, but you’re holding out for Option B no MATTER WHAT, that’s wrong. And the people hurt most by this is the students, which is infuriating.

Yesterday, while I was laying in bed with a 101.4 fever, I was scrolling through the news on my phone and read about the union debacle in Wisconsin. A bill is being passed that basically disallows collective bargaining through unions (with some provisions). While I don’t agree that this is right, I can see where they are coming from. Because people are tired of unions running everyone over with their demands. Look at our transit in Pittsburgh. One of the reasons they can’t meet a budget is because the union has made so many demands, and gotten them over the years, that the transit can no longer meet them. Do you know who suffers? Everyone else. I rode the bus for 11 years and the prices just went up and up. The bus drivers, on the other hand, got ruder and ruder, with few exceptions.

Which is why I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. Do I agree that unions should be outlawed? No. But I do think unions need to take a good hard look at reality. They are supposed to protect their workers, but some of the demands that are made on employers are only hurting themselves in the long run, as well as every other union out there. You can’t squeeze blood from a stone.

Read about the Wisconsin Union Protest on CNN: State Democrats absent for vote as Wisconsin budget protests swell

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