Labor unions still have a purpose
by Franklin Clark, Reporter -- fclark@cadizrecord.com
Nov 21, 2012 | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I certainly won’t defend everything labor unions do these days, and there are certainly excesses. That said, I think they still serve a purpose, as workers deserve a piece of the economic pie.

Two recent stories have brought unions to the forefront of discussion: the fate of Hostess, and the recent Wal-Mart strikes.

The Wal-Mart workers that are planning to strike on Black Friday aren’t unionized, but the strike, which is set to take place at 1,000 Wal-Mart locations, is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Those planning to strike say one of their main grievances is the fact that Wal-Mart stores are going to open at 8 p.m. on Thursday for the Black Friday sales.

As far as labor grievances go, there are far worse things that employees have had to, and continue to have to, endure. For example, working Christmas, or not getting sick days, or other things of that nature. I don’t typically participate in Black Friday, and I suspect I won’t this year.

But at the same time, Wal-Mart has complained to the National Labor Relations Board that the UFSWU is intimidating people. I’m somewhat skeptical of the ability of modern-day unions to intimidate effectively.

Labor unions in general don’t have the power or number of people that they used to. And even in their heyday, only about 33 percent of the workforce were unionized. Now it’s less than 10 percent.

Given Wal-Mart’s stance on unions, I don’t forsee a good end for the workers with regard to these strikes.

Even if you have been living under a rock, you know about the Hostess situation. On Nov. 16, it filed a motion in bankruptcy court to close, leaving more than 18,000 people out of work.

However, on Monday the bankruptcy judge said they couldn’t liquidate and that they had to enter into mediation again with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union, which represents roughly 30 percent of the workers, and a shutdown could still be avoided. But prior to Monday, the unions, who had gone on strike, were given all of the blame for the death of the Twinkie.

The workers had already agreed to lay-offs and pay-cuts, and they went on strike when they were asked for more paycuts earlier this month. Meanwhile, executives accepted raises while the company was filing for bankruptcy. However, the salaries of the top four executives were cut to $1 to improve relations with the unions, although they would have been restored by January. As with most things, it isn’t a black and white issue.

But if a company is doing as poorly as Hostess apparently has been, then no one should be accepting a pay increase. If there needs to be sacrifice, it needs to be shared, and the executives, quite frankly, can sacrifice more for the good of the company than the workers, either as a group or individually.

Franklin Clark is a reporter for the Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at fclark@cadizrecord.com.
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