Today's news that the UAW union in Michigan has a 33 million dollar country club and golf course makes me nauseous when I think of the 17 billion dollars that President Bush just threw at them.
It also makes me wonder what my ten years of union dues went to when I was in the Teamsters. And what the likelihood of my pension still being around by the time I want to retire.
The concept of a union is good-employees banding together to increase their power with the company. But the Catch-22 is that the more powerful the union becomes, the more susceptible it is to greed and corruption. The very notion of the United Auto Workers, the epitome of blue collar in America, running an elite country club is the proof of that Catch-22.
But more importantly, I think that the need for unions has all but disappeared. 100 years ago, if a town was dominated by one or two large factories, the owners of those companies had enormous power. They could cut wages or benefits with impunity, knowing that people had no choice but to keep working. Moving to a new town or state without some money on hand was unthinkable. Today, with the internet, you can find a job anywhere in the country, find an apartment to live in, and directions on how drive there from here. A company that tries to screw its employees will be the subject of discussion on the network news, such as the Republic Windows and Door Company in Chicago. Note that the story in the link comes from San Francisco, half a country away from Chicago.
So what is the purpose of a union today? As a worker, I have the right to accept a job or not. If I don't like the work or the pay or the benefits, I can take my skills somewhere else. I have the federal Labor Department and the Minnesota Department of Labor to advise and represent me if the company I work for treats me in violation of the law. The purpose of today's union appears to be to amass enough money to build a 33 million dollar golf course. To amass enough power to persuade Congress to give you 17 billion dollars.
Great work if you can get it.