Unions Target Amazon to Increase Dwindling Members; Why I Hate Unions

Mish

Vote counting is underway in Alabama at an Amazon facility in Bessemer.

Spotlight on Bessemer, Alabama

Nationally, Amazon has 950,000 employees and is the US' second largest employer after Walmart. Analysts expect Amazon to eventually take the top spot. 

If workers vote yes, Bessemer employees would be the only unionized Amazon workers in a nation where memberships have dwindled.

There are 5,805 Amazon workers in Bessemer. If they were all to unionize, they would be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which had 18,000 members in the state as of 2020; the new workers would represent an increase of about 32%. Alabama is a right-to-work state, so workers wouldn’t be required to join the union.

Amazon Full- and Part-Time Jobs

Amazon Full- and Part-Time Jobs

Public Unions

My main gripe against unions is with public service employees.

Corrupt union leaders get in bed with corrupt politicians then hold the public, whom they are supposed to serve, hostage.

Faced with no garbage pickup, closed schools, no fire departments, and no polices, city officials inevitably cave in to preposterous demands. 

Insolvent Illinois is a prime example of what eventually happens.

Private Unions

If private unions demand too much, and get it, bankruptcy results. GM is a good example. 

My experiences an employee in unions shops where I grew up also left a huge distaste.

For example, I got called in on a summer job I wanted and the next day the union went on strike. I had that job precisely one day.

My main gripe against private unions is they promote based on seniority, not skills. Hours, schedules, etc., are also based on seniority. 

The more skilled one is the less use a union is. 

I was the best at several tasks at a grocery store I worked. That meant I worked busy Saturday afternoons, not Saturday evenings. What high school kid wants to work Saturday evenings? 

The union came in, and guess what? The result was not good for the store, or me, but someone who could neither bag well nor operate a cash register at all. 

Right-to-Work

I am a strong advocate of right-to-work. A huge failure of Trump's 4 years is failure to pass national right-to-work legislation.

He wasted years pissing with Obamacare and more years with the Wall.  

Janus vs. AFSCME

On June 27, 2018 I reported Supreme Court Delivers Huge Blow to Unions!

In Janus vs. AFSCME, the Supreme Court correctly dealt a huge blow to forced membership in unions.

By a 5-to-4 vote, with the more conservative justices in the majority, the court ruled that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining.

The ruling was welcome. But it did not go far enough. There should not be public unions in the first place. Even FDR, a big union champion and bastion of the Left understood that.

Public Unions Ought to Be Illegal 

I salute Ronald Reagan for firing all the PATCO workers when they attempted to shut down air traffic.

Public unions protect bad cops, bad teachers, even pedophiles. 

For discussion, please see Public Unions Have No Business Existing: Even FDR Admitted That

Mish

Comments (54)
Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

I can understand being against public unions. They are not good for the overall population and economy. But in the private sector there are cartels. Are you against corporate cartels too ? Why should there be collusion within industries but no unions ? Amazon violates all kinds of federal antitrust laws on the books but because there is no enforcement, they become bigger and stronger. Many of these large companies are the same. Too much corporate power results in private unions.

PecuniaNonOlet
PecuniaNonOlet

PecuniaNonOlet
PecuniaNonOlet

If unions bankrupted GM, why is GM not bankrupt now? Aren't all the auto manufacturers unionized? Shouldn't they all go bankrupt? What about airlines, shouldn't they be bankrupt too?

I am neither pro/con union but the bankruptcy argument seems a bit flat. Sure it was probably one component of any bankruptcy but a company goes bankrupt for many reasons the primary one is that they aren't selling enough or they ran out of financing options.

Sechel
Sechel

I think the importance of unions isnt so much about pay as work environment rules. I know that's now what people think about but they ought. to, Examples are meat processing plants that speed up the production line that promote injuries, or Amazon bringing people into work and not engaging in testing protocols or properly mitigating the risk .If you don't want unions then you have to be in favor of government regulation? Unions are a better option and more local. Germany is a good example of how unions can work and partner with management to ensure success.

Sechel
Sechel

I agree. The story about G.M. is more complex. Did unions destroy the company or was it management, lullled into compacncy by a lack of competition building products nobody wanted that had poor reliability. The Japanese and German auto companies had unions. Why didn't they fail?

BobSmith
BobSmith

If you believe skill is the primary reason people get promoted in the private sector you are living in la la land.

Sechel
Sechel

i agree about public unions. i don't agree with private unions. whe we didn't have private unions women were locked in a garmetn factory building to die in a fire.

Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. Firefighters arrived at the scene, but their ladders weren’t tall enough to reach the upper floors of the 10-story building. Trapped inside because the owners had locked the fire escape exit doors, workers jumped to their deaths. In a half an hour, the fire was over, and 146 of the 500 workers—mostly young women—were dead.

lamlawindy
lamlawindy

To be fair, Mish, there's great variety among unions in the private sector nowadays, and -- IMHO -- RTW laws have caused some unions to change and prove their worth instead of just relying on closed- or agency-shop rules. The IBEW, from what I've seen, places a heavy emphasis on skills training & markets its membership as being a cut above other electrical workers.

Unfortunately, though, I do think that public sector unions are still stuck in the age of protecting seniority.

KyleW
KyleW

I agree. They also have the wrong attitude toward employers. They want to extort money out of employers. If a contractor did that to you, you'd use a different contractor.

Scooot
Scooot

Without unions big corporations would have too much power over workers pay and conditions and the workers would suffer greatly. Competition for business forces all employers to be as mean as the next. Similarly, unions can also have too much power which puts too much pressure on a companies bottom line etc. Both need to be kept in check to some degree by government regulations. One example of when leaving capitalism to its own devices would have unpleasant consequences.

Sechel
Sechel

The problem is we're not living in Adam Smith's time where you have hundreds of similar businesses and if conditions were poor at one employer workers could just leave. We largely have an economy of oligolopies. where 2-3 large companies dominate each industry. In an ideal world we wouldn't need unions but the worker /employer relationship is asymetric. As I said earlier, pay is the least of it, work place rules and safety are key benefits.

Mr. Purple
Mr. Purple

Freedom of association is a core human right, co-equal with expression, movement and self-defense. Whatever the ills of private unions, they must be tolerated.

njbr
njbr

A young, new hire--bitter forever because long-time workers felt a strike was necessary.

Just try calling up Jeff Bezos and discussing your pay, benefits and working conditions.

Seems to me, places like China have done away with those pesky unions.

Mish
Mish

Editor

I am on the road will be spotty monitoring traffic

Counter
Counter

GM unions actually tried to help the company. Unions are nothing like they used to be. The big problem was the bumblers in management.

Jojo
Jojo

As the graph shows up top, private sector unions are currently about 6-7% of all private workers. WHY should these few workers receive better benefits, job security and pay than everyone else, simply because they happen to be in a union?

As non-union person, why should I show any respect for a union picket line when the result of their strike will almost always result in me paying more money for whatever product/service their company offers?

Either everyone should be in a union or no one should be!

davebarnes2
davebarnes2

Sloppy writing, Mish.
The conflation of public and private sector unions is uncalled for.
There is a huge difference between them and the environments they operate in.

LostNOregon
LostNOregon

Amazon is a member of the Responsible Business Alliance, and have thus committed to allowing their employees to unionize. See Section 7 of the RBA Code of Conduct below:

  1. Freedom of Association

In conformance with local law, participants shall respect the right of all workers to form and join trade unions of their own choosing, to bargain collectively , and to engage in peaceful assembly as well as respect the right of workers to refrain from such activities. Workers and/or their representatives shall be able to openly communicate and share ideas and concerns with management regarding working conditions and management practices without fear of discrimination, reprisal, intimidation , or harassment.

ReadyKilowatt
ReadyKilowatt

I've been a union member, a supervisor in a shop were a union was voted in, and a supervisor in that same shop that decertified the union. I have a few observations:

  1. Unions could be a great force for good. Look at Germany and their strong unions. I'm sure anyone could come up with examples of how they're just as corrupt and/or horrible as the US unions, but from an ocean and half a continent away they look pretty effective to me. However in the US the AFL/CIO monopoly on unions means they don't really have time for small shops and are run like a business. Years ago they figured out that it is more "profitable" to get more members in the union than it is to get a good contract for the people already in the union.
  2. Who the union sends in to do the contract is critical, and will tell you right away how serious they are. If you're in a small shop you aren't going to get the team that handles the New York Public Schools. If you're lucky you will get someone with some experience, but just as likely to get a first-timer who has no idea what it is like to work outside of the union.
  3. It's still a business, and the customers need to be satisfied. Screwing around with work rules isn't going to change that.
  4. Customers don't care if you're a union shop or not. They're going to shop for quality and price.
  5. Membership drives are started by individuals who, by all appearances, look like they took the job just to start a union. They usually don't last very long after a losing election.
  6. if "polling" data looks like a close election, the union will pull out. They want a landslide.
  7. Everyone knows how you voted. Lists will be kept.
cklaus
cklaus

Name me some oligarchs who attended public schools in districts that were "right to work" Why do charter operators target low income areas in big cities? How does staff turnover help students in schools where teachers are year to year on separate contracts?

1 Reply

RonJ
RonJ

Name me some oligarchs who attended public schools in districts that were "right to work"

Oligarchs probably attended private schools. Governor Newsom's children go to private school, while he works against common Californians having that same privilege.

Webej
Webej

Similar experience to Mish. Happy with a summer job, then a strike with no pay.
On the radio some guy (later premier in BC) was going on about what a shame it was that there was fruit rotting on the trees while there were people on welfare. We drove out to the country, the four of us toiled a day in the sun, picked at least 1½ times the strawberries that the others did (perhaps illegals, most of their pay went to room & board, rooming in converted 3½ feet high chicken coops). The money was enough to pay for our gas and a milk shake, that was it.
Also threatened with a broken leg my first day in a mine, we were working too hard and making others look bad.

But unions in Europe work differently. They have nothing to say about sending people to jobs, or promotions, or any of that. There is no closed shop, so people always have a choice of unions (or none), and the collective labor contracts apply to entire industries, not just to selected shops. The fight to the death between management and labor is unknown here, and personnel (not the union) are represented at the board level in organizations.

The American dynamic came about largely because unions were illegal for a long time, so there is something illegitimate and thuggish about them, often holding companies or the public hostage. On the other hand, management often has poor and purely exploitative relationships with their own work force.

If people are allowed to pool their capital (as in corporations), they should also have the right to pool their labor. There are a lot more aspects to this thing than simply being for or against.

whirlaway
whirlaway

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.
Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” —Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961

whirlaway
whirlaway

Right to Work is straight out of Orwell's 1984 - war is peace, night is day, up is down etc.

Realist
Realist

“Why I Hate Unions”.

I don’t know Mish. It seems to me that there is too much hate in the US already. Now you are just piling on.

Besides, it sounds petty. Like having your girlfriend break up with you in high school and then spending the rest of your life saying “Why I hate women”.

It might sound better if you said “Why I hate corruption.”

Because isn’t that what you really mean?

Saying that you hate “unions”, which exist to support “working folks” just sounds mean and vindictive; like you don’t want working folks to have any leverage against their employers and simply take what they offer.

I get the same sense when you talk about how automation will eliminate millions of jobs in trucking, factories etc. You almost sound giddy about workers losing their livelihoods. Yet, I don’t think that is your intention. You are simply looking at reality.

Sechel
Sechel

Vote to unionize the plant in Alabama wasn't even close. No union. $15 an hour just goes a lot further. Alabama isn't the most pro-union state and the union was at a disdadvantage due to the pandemic , unable to hold rallies. Workers simply heard from Amazon

EMW*G70
EMW*G70

This crap never gets old. As a 15 year member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the son of 35 year member (retired Union Shop Steward, Sec. Treasury PACE local) It also makes me wanna puke every time some company “yes man” bitches about how Unions are this and how terrible they are for the World.
Guess what, Union Brothers and Sisters built this Country and continue to keep y’all alive on a daily basis. Over the past year during the lockdown of citizens, due to an unseen but ever present threat; there were ordinary everyday people providing essential services to those that couldn’t themselves. Whether it was first responders or sanitation workers or delivery workers, grocery/convenience store or fast food workers. All of these Americans, a lot of them Union, didn’t choose to work through the unknown of the pandemic. They just chose to go to work. all your so-called “facts” on Union corruption and political coercion are misleading and severely misinformed. It’s funny the same people who criticize Unions have themselves never been a member and have absolutely zero clue as to how one operates. Only knowing that they heard a report of corruption, etc. Because there is zero scandal or corruption in Big Business....? I’m surprised Unions haven’t been branded racist or xenophobic or any other title du jour. I mean Amazon might have to pay 5000 or so workers a livable wage and proper health benefits all while having worker’s rights protection. That’s definitely not fair to the Monopoly.
I’d rather you just say Thank You.


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