Decision Canada 2006

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Unions, not evil

Fellow blogger, Blazer, made some comments that called unions greedy, and un-necessary. I agree that unions can and have been greedy, but they are certainly not unnecessary. Without unions, there would be no middle class and our economy and class structure would look like Canada in 1900.

As I said before, unions can and certainly have been greedy in the past, but I would like to point out that it’s not like businesses and employers aren’t greedy either. Look at Nike, Adidas, and many other clothing manufacturers. There are no unions or minimum wage laws in countries like India so they employ workers in sweat shops and they don’t even make a dollar a day for 12 hours of work. Enron lied to their costumers, and Halliburton is certainly greedy way beyond the point of any union. If the teachers had no union, what could the government do to them – almost anything they want. If loggers and other workers in primary industries had no union, their employers wouldn’t need to bother wasting money on thorough training, and safety. They could pay them whatever they wanted and could give them any working conditions they please. There is a reason that unions exist, when there were no unions the kind of conditions I described above were reality, and Canadians fought hard to get themselves protected. Unions may be greedy on occasion but they certainly are not unnecessary.

Now generally if a union is greedy, what happens. Some rich people don’t make as much money as they used to. Less taxes from the now slightly poorer millionaires, but more from many wealthier middle class workers. If a business or a crown corporation gets greedy what happens? The rich people or the government that owns the company gets a lot of money, great. The workers, however, can’t meet standard of living, they need to downsize, and they can’t be as active in the economy because they don’t have the financial means to. They may have families to provide for and can’t manage it now. And of course, there will be way less tax money coming from them, and overall, less customers for business throughout the economy because the middle class is financially hurt and becoming poor. Personally, I prefer a well off upper middle class and some not as rich millionaires, to a poor middle class and some really rich millionaires.

I don’t know where the Conservatives stand on this issue, but since they believe in less provincial support, that would probably lead to more conservative provinces and fewer union rights. If I am wrong, I’m sure Greg P will let me know.


  • Jeez, this is getting frightening, two issues we almost agree on! Unions are not evil per say, although over the years they seem to have become a bit misguided.

    Your arguments about the "low" wages in foreign countries are not very well supported - the cost of living in these countries is far lower then our cost of living. Somebody making a dollar a day there might have the same spending power as somebody here with $100,000.

    "...Less taxes from the now slightly poorer millionaires, but more from many wealthier middle class workers..." Almost.

    Let's say that a "millionare" (becuase, all companies are owned by millionares, and not by middle-class individuals who have a small investment portfolio, or pension plans which are trying to give their pensionees more bang for their buck, so to speak) is talked into giving $100,000 in annual income to the employees. That "millionare" would pay taxes on that $100,000 at a much higher rate then any of the individual employees (provided they remain within the middle tax bracket; I think that is a safe assumption, that the majority of union workers are in the lower and middle income tax bracket). Therefore, of that $100,000; the government gets more revenue if the workers are paid less.

    If you want to look at the results of unions being greedy - look no further then the American airline industry - airlines are falling out of the sky faster then Sea Kings on a stormy day(yes, cheap shot). Granted, part of the problem is high fuel prices, however the next largest cost is salaries. When an airline is loosing a million dollars a day - there is a problem, and the solution isn't as simple as the owner(s) earning a bit less money. If this situation keeps up, more and more airlines will be out of business - and being out of work is a bit worse then having a lower (but stable) salary.

    As far as the Conservative stance, with no platform on this issue having been released and me not having my policy book handy, I can't help you out. As far as the conservative stance - while many of us do believe in giving less money to the provinces, we also believe in lowering federal income and consumption tax levels - thus giving the provinces room to raise their taxes, and collect the money they require in order to do their job.

    As far as union rights - while I would personally much rather negotiate my own contract then have to go off a collective agreement (I don't need 14 days of uncertified sick leave a year, I would be happy with 5, and maybe an extra 5 days of annual leave), so long as a group of employees decide to band together to negotiate their wages and working conditions, I support the right of those individuals to do so, and to fight (when required) to receive that which they are contractually due.

    By Blogger Greg P, at 6:28 PM  

  • And, I forgot to say why I think they are misguided. Unions have gone beyond helping workers negotiate with their employer. They have become a huge political force, giving as much money as legally possible to candidates who promise them money in return (via more jobs in their riding, corporate subsidies = jobs = union dues). I think we all saw the headline of Paul Martin wearing a CAW jacket - I paid for that jacket. When I pay my $60 or so a month, I want that to go to providing my fellow co-workers and myself a good and well-enforced contract, not to stroking Martin's... er, ego, nor to go towards issue-based election advertising. Since doing the job I do requires union membership - don't force me to subsidize people working directly against what I believe in.

    By Blogger Greg P, at 6:44 PM  

  • You forget Jake, that to give less money to your workers will mean that they will leave in search for a better job at a different competing company or maybe even a big career change. Also, to leave people out of work here will lead to a loss of jobs and less people that are able to buy your product. That will lead to a lower standard of living and possibly an economic recession (if you company pulls enough sway). Business owners know when to draw the line. Maybe if Andrew could help me out with the West Jet model?
    Unions have progressed and I am in favour of cutting back on a little less power for the unions. Sure the unions have shaped Canadian history in the past but that was then and this is now. Unions are not needed as much these days.

    By Blogger blazer, at 8:35 PM  

  • Not all companies are managed as well as West Jet. If there were no limits it wouldn't matter where you went. You wouldn't get good working conditions. It's human nature to gain as much as you can within the rules. If unions did not exsit, our economy would look like a 1900 style one like mentioned earlier.

    By Blogger Whatever, at 8:37 PM  

  • How many times do I have to tell you that unions have shaped Canadian history but now they have too much power. I'm not saying unions should never have existed. The idea of capitalism is that people who work hard move up in the ranks. My big brother who works in Telus is a good example. First he was a unionized telephone operator or something. Now he's going to be an accountant for the Telus and he's gone to Toronto to get training and experience. Again, if you work hard, you get rewarded.

    By Blogger blazer, at 8:40 PM  

  • Sorry about all of the bad grammar and sentence structure in most of my comments, i've been typing pretty fast without stopping to read the comments throughly.

    By Blogger blazer, at 8:55 PM  

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