Unionize

   19 March 2009, early morning

I find the way people react to stories about unions humourous. People doing clerical work for the city do what most people would consider simple work anyone could do. And yet they get paid a good amount of money for what they do. Similarly, autoworkers, people driving TTC buses, etc, all get paid very good wages for doing what people consider menial jobs. When there are labour disputes the publics reactions is generally, “suck it up, you already get paid too much.” If you went to university for 4 years only to graduate and make less than someone who has been working in a unionized factory since grade 11 it would probably make you bitter. People lash out at the worker because he’s demanding too much. The real question people need to ask themselves is, “who says how much is too much?” People never react to stories about TTC drivers making X amount of dollars by saying, “That’s amazing, I need to unionize where I work too!” The almost universal reaction is, “Fucking TTC drivers make more than me!” And this reaction is pretty stupid, because clearly that TTC driver is doing something right.

 

Comments

  1. I like to react by saying, “That is amazing I should become a TTC driver!”

  2. There are many ‘overpaid’ jobs that are a necessity, and the only way to attract people to those jobs is through higher pay. However, human nature allows for many union workers to take unfair advantages of their situations, which actually end up hurting the honest workers. So no, they are not always doing something right.

  3. I don’t think the frustration is with the fact that TTC drivers make more than “me” so much as the fact that they make more than say some teachers, child psychologists, and social workers. Finding someone with the skill set required to make a good teacher, child psychologist or social worker is likely more difficult than finding someone likely to make a good TTC driver, garbageman, or janitor. And yet due to unions, we often find individuals in this latter group making more than those in the former. All of this would be fine except for the fact that funding for all of these jobs will be coming from the same source, and I will venture to say that a good teacher, social worker is going to do more for/add more value to our community than a most excellent TTC driver or garbageman.

  4. My frustration is when they strike for more money and affect others who need to go to work to make less money than they do. Also, there are workers who are just damn lazy/rude/jerks who can be that way because they’re protected by a union. It’s the sense of entitlement, which eventually means an extra 25 cents on the bus for me, that makes me angry.

  5. And yet due to unions, we often find individuals in this latter group making more than those in the former.

    I agree, TTC drivers would be paid far less if not for their union. If we scrapped them would you be happy because a TTC driver would then get paid less than a social worker? Who exactly is that a win for? Not the TTC driver. Not the social worker. TTC’s management might be happy though. I think it is better for Toronto that its TTC employees can afford to live middle class lives. Or is a middle class life only allowed for people who become accountants?

    human nature allows for many union workers to take unfair advantages of their situations, which actually end up hurting the honest workers.

    What’s unfair about collective bargaining? Especially in industries like the auto-sector, where an individuals power against management would be miniscule at best. What makes someone an honest worker? That they are willing to get fired because GM needs to increase their share value? That they are willing to work in unsafe conditions? That they are willing to get fired if they get hurt on the job?

    Everyone commenting here works in some professional context. My mom works at Canadian Tire. Sometimes her employer will cut her hours for the week because there are high school kids or new employees they pay a fraction of a dollar less to come in. Sometimes management will keep several people working part time, regardless of how long they have been at the company, so they don’t have to pay proper benefits out. For my mom, that’s not a big deal, I think she mostly works to yell at customers. For some of the other people she works with it is a big deal. And none of them really have any recourse in this situation. And saying, “well sucks to be them, they should have become engineers,” doesn’t really resolve that situation. When she used to work at Zellers, the store was unionized, and there wasn’t any of this nonsense to worry about. And then that store was shut down.

    Yes it sucks that unions also seem to breed a level of entitlement and laziness. Maybe one day someone will figure out how to sort that out. Scrapping unions doesn’t strike me as the answer.

    Factory Worker: You can’t treat the working man this way! One day, we’ll form a union and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve! Then we’ll go too far, and get corrupt and shiftless, and the Japanese will eat us alive!
    Burns’s Grandfather: The Japanese? Those sandal-wearing goldfish-tenders? Bosh! Flimshaw!
    Mr. Burns: [to Smithers, in the present] If only we’d listened to that boy, instead of walling him up in the abandoned coke oven.

  6. People forget or don’t know that unions are businesses.
    While their profile is that of “champion of the worker”, their primary goal is to keep the union going. Sometimes that means justifying their existence by making issues out of non-issues brought to them by petty and disgruntled employees.
    Unless you’ve worked in an unionized environment, I don’t think that you can fully grasp the level of bureaucracy a union will bring to your workplace.

    Stacy is right that the good employees suffer at the hands of the bad ones in a union shop.

    You know, money isn’t everything when it comes to going to work someplace every morning. The environment makes it either pleasant or stressful.

    I was a union champion until I started working with unions and seeing how it’s done.
    Fairness has nothing to do with unions.

  7. I may work in a ‘professional context’ now, but I previously spent 7 years working in a unionized environment, my mother 35+ years in a car parts manufacturer, my father-in-law 35+ years at GM, my brother a few terms as a union steward, etc. I’ve seen my fair share of the negative environments a union can create, and I will be the first to admit that I was overpaid for my job. While I agree that having a system in place that ensures safety, care and respectful treatment for your employees, I also don’t think the current ‘business model’ of a union is working. It’s really sad to see how many good workers are denied paid medical treatments for true ailments because so many others before them have taken advantage of the system. There are a lot of healthy people getting paid for ‘disability’. It’s very upsetting, and that’s only the tip of the ice berg. I personally don’t have an answer/solution, but I do think there needs to be a serious change in the structure of our unions.

    Don’t even get me started on GM. Their problems are rooted far deeper than the union…

  8. TTC drivers would be paid far less if not for their union. If we scrapped them would you be happy because a TTC driver would then get paid less than a social worker?

    Yes, for the same reason I would be happier if lab techs made more than janitors. I feel the degree of difficulty of your job and the benefits it provides to society should be reflected in your pay at least to some extent. I’d preferred if the social worker just got paid more, but the powers that be have decided on how much a social worker should make and apparently TTC drivers feel they deserve more than that and have no qualms with holding a city hostage for it.

    What makes someone an honest worker? … That they are willing to work in unsafe conditions? That they are willing to get fired if they get hurt on the job?
    You don’t need a union to be protected from these conditions. Employment laws, workplace safety laws do exist.

  9. You don’t need a union to be protected from these conditions. Employment laws, workplace safety laws do exist.

    Except those laws didn’t materialize out of thin air.

    And to be clear, I’m not some fan of self-entitled jerk ass TTC employees. To echo what Stacy said above, I think that powerful unions do breed lazy ass employees. And there is definitely far more leeway for abuse because peoples jobs are much more secure. I just don’t think the solution is to scrap unions. For every shitty employee taking advantage of their union protected job, how many good employees get proper benefits, etc?

    And how am I the only bleeding heart that reads my blog? I must be doing something wrong.

  10. Nah, I’m with you, brother. Despite the lazo-shittiness of many of my union’s members, and the anger I feel at certain ramifications of the concept of seniority, etc., etc., I’ve heard stories of how my workplace used to operate pre-union, and they are woeful tales of nepotism, verbal abuse, favouritism and sociopathology. I think you’re spot on with how people react to unions with exactly the wrong train of thought.

    People should also be asking how much the managers get paid for what they do.

  11. For every shitty employee taking advantage of their union protected job, how many good employees get proper benefits, etc?

    I’m not going to dispute that unions have had positive effects on workplace culture, legislation and increasing awareness in general of workers rights.

    When you talk about people’s reactions to union disputes though, I think the rancor is more in direct response to what is at least perceived as excessive demands coupled with their indifference at inconveniencing the general public (e.g. TTC strike, CUPE @ York). I’m not saying its fair, it is what it is (people get more pissed when they’re inconvenienced). With all the unions there are in Canada, how many do you ever hear people complaining about besides CUPE and maybe CAW?

    I’m not anti-union. But I am anti-certain specific unions I have had very unpleasant experiences dealing with.

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