The Union of Whining Bitches

I worked in a union once.

13 years ago, I got a job at a manufacturing plant that was unionized. At the time, it was pretty sweet pay for pretty basic work that anyone could have done. Not long after I was hired, the union and the company renegotiated their contract. It went smoothly, as far as I could tell, and we had a new contract without incident. Pretty cool, I thought.

But as time went on, I began to get to know my fellow unions brothers and the company. On both sides, some were good and fair, while others were just resentful, whiney little bitches who think they got screwed on the contract.

Leap ahead 5 years to the next contract negotiation. This time, I knew things about both sides and feared what would come. Instead of my so-called “union brothers” trying to find a way to get what they wanted, all they cared about was screwing the company. One person in particular, who was also, sadly, the shop union representative, had his own vendetta. He wanted to milk as much as he could from the company. He used his clout to make a vocal minority into enough of a majority to vote for a strike.

The strike lasted about six months, and in the end, our shop union representative took off with a pay-out, which was all he wanted, and left the rest of us to hang in the wind.

Before the strike, I owned a house and  was making ends meet. Two months into the strike, my line of credit was maxed out, along with my credit card, and I was working a job that was definitely not making ends meet. The strike effectively screwed up my finances until a couple of years ago when I filed for bankruptcy and lost my house.

At the time, I was living on my own. Imagine people who had families! How badly were they screwed over because one of their bastard “union brothers” wanted to screw the company and get a pay-out for his troubles?

To say my opinion of unions is skewed to the negative is like saying snow is a little cold.

Now I understand the purpose of unions (whether they be called Trade Unions, Labour Unions, etc). Originally, during the Industrial Revolution, they were a way for workers to have rights and protection from the employers who worked them like slaves for little to no pay. Back then, businesses needed to feed the growing machine of industry. They didn’t care about worker’s rights and such. But as a group of like-minded individuals, the workers created the unions to fight for their rights for better working conditions, better pay, and to essentially, gain some respect.

Things have changed greatly since the 19th Century. But there are still some places where unions are needed. Usually it is big industry that over-looks employee’s rights for sustained profits.

There are also industries that can falter and collapse because of the bloated unions. case in point: GM. General Motors would have gone under if it didn’t get a bail-out from the American and Canadian governments…

… totally ignoring the tenet of Capitalism that a company succeeds and fails on its own, without having to suckle on the government teat. But I digress…

… During all of this, reports came out about how much workers at GM, and other car makers, were making. $73 per hour. Which turned out to be erroneous because, for some reason, they included the employees’ benefits in that total. Their hourly wage was more like $30+ per hour. These days, they focus on the starting wages, which are around &14-$15 per hour. They don’t mention the fat cats who are still milking that $30+ pay cheque.

This is a potential crisis in all unionized places. Every time contract negotiations come around, increased pay is usually the top demand, or at least, it is the top demand mentioned in the news. If it’s not an increase in pay, it’s potentially something that will cost the company money. If a company is pushed too far, they’ll just look elsewhere for work and move their shop to a non-union location, like Mexico or somewhere in Asia. Then all those unionized workers just negotiated themselves out of a job.

Like anything at consumes, unions and their members want more. They want higher wages, more vacation time, bonuses, better medical plan where the company pays most of it. They want all these things because they feel entitled to it. They are making better money than other, non-unionized people, they have earned it! Maybe there are some that have. But the majority probably haven’t. When they don’t get what they want, they bitch and complain and cause disruptions within the work force. This can lead to animosity between fellow workers and employers. All of this leads to a negative work place, one that drives some people away.

As part of my Pharmacy Technician placements, I have been working at a hospital, along side union workers. Recently, I was able to sit-in on a meeting where they were talking about organizing vacation time. In previous years, when too many people took time off at the same time, the pharmacy was a chaotic mess. Trying to organizing vacation time was a way to eliminate this mess.

Before their boss could finish her explanation of the idea, there was one person who spoke up against it. The next day, there were more, all complaining and bitching and whining.

The idea wasn’t set in stone, yet they saw it that way. The idea was to help keeping things running smoothly. After all, they DO work in a hospital. What they do is kinda important.

But because they feel entitled to get what they want, anything they see as a slight against them is stupid and bad.

All of this despite the fact it is stated in their contract.

I guess unions have a place in some industries.

Maybe it’s the union mentality that screws it all up. That sense of entitlement that my old shop union representative  felt when he screwed the rest of us. Maybe it’s that entitlement that leads to all the whining and bitching, which leads to unions getting a bad taste in some people’s mouth.

Maybe the heads of those union should remember their original purpose from the Industrial Revolution; to help employees, to protect their rights, and ensure their right to a decent wage, not an excessive one.

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