How Union Busting Begins And Why It’s NOT A Good Thing

What happened in Wisconsin should get everyone’s attention. Check it out.

Regardless of what most people may think of unions, they are in place to protect workers who otherwise would have no voice, have no recourse. Unions have spoken for hotel workers, for nurses, for teachers, for police, for construction workers all of whom are apt to lose when politicians cozy up to corporate donors.
Yet, the organizing power of workers could not be stopped UNLESS they have government complicity to silence them.
The history of unions has been bloody. In its beginnings, unions were brutally suppressed by employers. Hell, even ten years ago when I was convinced that the only way to protect patients at General Hospital from the dangerous deskside decisions made by suits who didn’t know how to use a bedpan was to organize healthcare workers, threats were business as usual.
Companies operate the same today as they always have. Try and organize and they’ll make you pay. In my case, the company sold General Hospital to the Sisters of Orange (owners of St. Joseph’s) and also passed along a list of names. When St. Joseph’s took over operations, they made it clear who was going to have to “reapply” for their jobs.
Guess who was one of them.
I’ve seen first hand the way corporations deal with any attempts at rocking the boat. Workers who have no say in what happens, cannot bargain for better conditions. (In my case, we were protesting our working conditions in which Provident Medical Group cut costs by increasing “per patient hours” forcing nurses and CNAs to be responsible for the care of 15 to 20 patients. Patient safety was a concern since the established per patient ration had been 1 nurse and 1 CNA to 8 patients up until then. In ICU, the ratio is 1 to 1.) I don’t know what St. Josephs has as their per patient ratio.
Collective bargaining has often been demonized, portraying union workers as “greedy”, demanding more pension, more benefits and more wages during a time when most people are just trying to get by.
Let me break it down.
When you hear (as we did in California) that State workers were making “Over $100,000” as their retirement, that is a tricky number there. There’s a saying. “Figures lie and liars figure.” We’ve seen this time and again where those who need to bludgeon voters with numbers lie about those numbers.
Pensioners for California may indeed SEEM to earn $100,000. But those are not their take home pay. That $100 grand includes their medical benefits, their union insurance, and several other benefits they never seen in their checking account. Most union wages, if you saw them raw without the deductions, would seem excessive. It would be like if someone who wasn’t working union had their fed, state and other stuff automatically withheld added to their wages. Their take home would look more impressive too. Union workers often have dues, pension restoration (for those times like now where they lose their ass in the stock market), pension (to pay for the retired workers) and health care costs. That incredible number is less impressive when you start seeing the chunks of change removed for the cost of doing business.
Union workers have the money taken out instead of them writing checks to an insurance company or other costs. What they take home is often equal to or less than most retirement packages from other corporations.
Anyway, what Wisconsin Republicans have done (through their political fist) is robbed state workers of their ability to negotiate, their ability to argue for better conditions.
The state of Wisconsin has gagged them.
In California, Ahnold did some similar dictatorial moves supported by California’s court system. He forced state workers to take “furlough” days essentially cutting their hours and cutting their take home pay. California is one of the worst employers I’ve ever seen. Their pay stubs? Don’t breakdown a workers pay by hours, by overtime, by deduction. It takes a math genius to figure out how the hell they get paid.
Unions aren’t a bunch of cigar smoking greedy bastards who want to destroy companies with exorbitant wages. They’re an organized group of workers who pay a shitload of money so that politicians and corporations don’t treat them like garbage.
Think about this.
No organization means if you walk in tomorrow and your boss doesn’t like your shoes, he can fire you. At a certain major bank in Humboldt County, a manager was let go because she expressed that “she was unhappy”. To sue an employer for wrong termination takes two things most people don’t have much of: time and money.
No organization means an employer can deny a worker medical benefits because he’s gay. No organization means a corporation can promote another unqualified person over you. It means no recourse, no way to address injustice, no voice.
And in Wisconsin, that’s the way their treating their employees.
It’s a sad day.



Filed under Being Philisophical, Whatever category

7 responses to “How Union Busting Begins And Why It’s NOT A Good Thing

  1. Thank you! I’ve been mulling over a column on this for awhile. I get so angry at how state workers are portrayed as sucking money from the state at exorbitant rates. I’m sure there are some bad apples but you only have to look at teacher pay to realize how utterly ridiculous the accusation is. In fact, most state worker jobs that I’ve looked into make less than their counterparts in the private sector.

    • Jen

      I know your husband works for Cal Trans and MAN I can’t believe how crappy the state treats those guys. And the pay stubs are ridiculous. How the heck can a guy figure out if he’s being robbed with THAT mess!
      *shakes head*
      It’s a shame the unions have such a bad rep. Of course, they’ve earned some of the bad rep, but that’s another post.

  2. I’ve thought about writing something like this myself. I’ve got a union forming story to tell and it was quite harrowing to live it. And now that we’re an “at will” state I worry if I say the wrong thing at work I’ll be gone.

    • Jen

      I was appalled at that bank story. Apparently, she had expressed frustration in the way the bank operated. That was enough cause to fire her. NOT cool. But they didn’t dispute her unemployment either. Telling, eh?

  3. I’ve read your blog for quite a while (creeper) and this post has kind of pulled me out of my hole.

    I’m a Canadian and I’m not sure exactly how the laws differ between Canada and the U.S. but two years ago my husband and I had a really bad experience with the union. Since then I’ve had a really negative opinion of them. However it’s interesting to see how their role can be different (positive/negative) in neighboring countries.

    My story is too long to post here but I may decide to write a blog post about it.

    P.S. I love your “Just sayin'” posts. I get giddy when a new one goes up lol

    • Jen

      Thank you so much, Kylie.
      I do hope you blog about it. My initial opinion of unions was they were corrupt, greedy and large bureaucracy that cause companies to work in India and Thailand.
      Corruption in unions exist and I think they need a makeover. Too many people don’t understand them or trust them. And I’m sure your experience is one of many that continue to give unions a bad rep.
      It’s too bad.

  4. Right on, Jen. Great post!

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