On Unions

me: so andrew, how do you feel about unions? my existing relationship with them is complicated, and i’d like to hear your thoughts.

Andrew: It’s a really broad question. generally, I think unions are valuable, both of workers and for management.

On the management side, they simplify wage & benefit negotiations. It’s the principle behind a class action lawsuit – you can deal with similarly-situated individuals all at once, through a collective bargaining process, instead of having X number of negotiations for X employees with X different outcomes.

me: makes sense

Andrew: For the workers, they provide a valuable sort of trade association. Unions allow workers a collective voice in those working condition negotiations, amplifying each worker’s ability to have some control over their situation. When management IS odious (and it’s not always, or even often), unions provide the most powerful protection for workers, both legally and psychosocially.

Ideally, I see unions as entities which function best in tandem with management; working conditions should be collaborative as possible. 95% of unions operate in that way.
The recent debates we’ve seen are over a breakdown in that relationship.

If that happens, the job of the union is to come in good faith, negotiate for its members, and deliver a workable result for everyone. The same is true of management.

me: agreed 100%

Andrew: Some unions act in bad faith, and a lot of liberals won’t admit that. Unions are not intrinsically good; unions that do what unions are supposed to are great.
But if you look at, say, the Teamsters historically, unions can become over-bloated entities more concerned with turning a buck than with the needs of their members, or even their good. They become management in and of themselves.

The way I see the debate in Wisconsin is not how most liberals or conservatives do. Government workers aren’t overpaid, and they need to be ready to make concessions. That didn’t happen initially, and combined with a governor who is reflexively anti-union, you get a really dicey situation.

So that when they were ready to negotiate, Scott Walker was even LESS likely to entertain the idea.

Neither side comes out bloodless, in my eyes.

Andrew: So that’s my take. Unions do good things, and should be seen as a valuable tool for EVERYONE. But they can and do break down or do bad things, like any entity.

me: agreed
very well put


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