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Philadelphia Inquirer’s State of the Unions: 3 Views, a question and answer by Jane M. Von Bergen
Labor Day was created as a day of rest for workers and to recognize them for their efforts and contributions to the company, economy, and country as a whole. something pushed, and spurned on by the labor unions in America, the meaning of the holiday is less recognized, perhaps in congruence with the dwindling power and prominence of labor unions in the country, as well. now, it’s mostly seen as the official last day of summer, last time to have a barbecue, jump in the pool, or wear white. there are many reasons why labor unions have lost recognition and membership in recent years – globalization, corruption, move into service sector industry, and business-friendly government.
with the economy being the biggest issue of this election: labor, unions, and corporations are much talked about entities. this article by Jane M. Von Bergen interviews 3 prominent leaders working within or outside of the labor movement. Lindsay Patterson is the traditional union member, who worked up the ranks to be president of the United Steelworkers Local 404-38, and is now working to elect Barack Obama. Joseph Brock is a former Teamsters member who became frustrated with the management and bureaucracy of the union, and now heads his own management consulting company that sometime instructs businesses on how to deal with the unions: keeping them out, or improving relations b/w them. and last, Kenneth MacDougall of Int’l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that is focused on job training and demonstrating to employers that union workers are better skilled and worth the extra costs.
all 3 recognize the purpose of unions, and their diminishing power in the American economy and society, it is their approaches of keeping the status quo, getting rid of the negative, or claiming the union has created its own self-demise that makes for an interesting discussion of where the movement is headed and whether or not unions do have a chance of continuing and thriving that becomes the ultimate question. while joseph brock’s management consulting company appears to be doing union busting work, he is explicit in detailing that his task in block the union is not so as to let the employer continue to take advantage of its workers, but more to work outside of a union framework of membership dues and elections, and simply get the employer to treat its workers better, without the middle man and bureaucracy of a union. his consulting firm is affiliated with the Labor Relations Institute, an organization that appears somewhat confused, or straddled b/w the corporate and union world – improving the union workplace, while also fighting to block the passing of the Employee Free Choice Act.
while hiring an outside consulting firm made get rid of the union bureaucracy, there are still services to be paid and what’s not to say the employer will simply take the costs out of the workers’ paychecks? union members do cost more, but their skills are often vital to many important American industries like construction and pharmaceuticals. and unions still do have a strong lobbying presence on the Hill. to simply improve upon and modernize the union to be competitive in this global economy, or to do away with the institution, as a whole, and replace it with a smaller, less bureaucratic ‘system’ – which is the better solution and future of the american labor movement, especially its unions, remains very uncertain. as for now, i hope everyone had an enjoyable labor day.