Without unions, employers would abuse us
July 7th, 2011
-HUNTINGTON BEACH, Patti Worley:
The July 6 letter, “The union bluster” was interesting. Usually anti-union opinion is that unions should be abolished because they have far too much power and obtain too many benefits for their members. The writer of this letter argues that since the grocery workers union has so little power (it has only been able to raise the average grocery workers wage $2 above minimum wage) unions should be abolished. He also implies that paying skilled workers $2 above minimum wage involves extortion.
Admittedly, unions have all the problems of any organization but, like most organizations, they also serve a purpose. I don’t understand how any employed person can reasonably call for the abolishment of unions unless they would be willing to give up the protections obtained through past union activism. Is there really someone out there who would prefer to go back to the 16-hour work days, 80-hour work weeks and unsafe working conditions that were prevalent until the rise of unions in the late 19th and early 20th century? What employee would really give up minimum-wage guarantees, overtime pay, protection from forced labor and laws that prohibit child labor?
I understand that, at times, the laws concerning workers’ rights and workplace safety conditions can be confusing and unwieldy, but they did not arise out of nowhere. They came about because of employers’ past abuses of power and focus on profit-making that finally caused employees to band together and demand improved working conditions. That movement is what enabled this country to develop the strong, powerful middle class that has proved to be the strength and backbone of modern American society.
I tire of the generalized acceptance of mindless union-bashing from so many people and the media. Is there really anyone naive enough to believe that the corporate world would not quickly revert to 19th century employment practices if current labor protection laws were abandoned and if workers could not join together to ensure that their employers follow those laws?