Saturday, February 19, 2011
HAVE UNIONS BECOME OBSOLETE?
On 6August2009 I posted "SIMPLE SOLUTION: Disestablish Unions as Necessary." In particular, I discussed the end of unions in Hawaii. To quote:
At one time, for both the nation and the State of Hawaii, unions were absolutely essential for getting us to where we are today. But the times they have changed, yet no one dares to officially underscore the debatable contention that unions are today obsolete, particularly in Hawaii. This still toothy dinosaur is so rooted to past conventions that it seems to have totally lost sight of what should be its current mission for the misguided sake of historical precedence.
This issue has suddenly become a hot issue nationwide, as Republicans, urged on by Tea Party types, appear to be trying to eliminate unions in response to budgetary shortfalls. Wisconsin (Governor Scott Walker on left) is sort of like Tunisia, for the Republicans will almost surely prevail, and a bunch of other states, like Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Florida and Nevada, will wind down the same path.
Hawaii? Nah. While Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat and former strong supporter, seems to be acting like a self-decided one term governor, for he is confronting public unions with zeal, there will only be some weakening of labor.
The following shows that unions are nationally losing public support, and, to my surprise, only a little more than 10% of American workers belong to unions:
In Europe, only 6% of workers in Spain belong to unions, going up to 53% in Italy and higher in Scandinavia, but worldwide, memberships are decreasing. Here is an interesting comparison:
Private Sector Public Sector
United States 7% 29%
Australia 14% 42%
United Kingdom 15% 57%
Canada 16% 71%
Although in the U.S. industrial unions got particularly hammered by the recent recession, as in the auto industry, where significant concessions were made to preserve jobs, the targeted group, these days, has to do with government unions. At one time, say 50 years ago, an individual in government made much less than his counterpart in industry. Unions swooped in to reverse this situation, and they, indeed, were very successful, for in 2009, the average employee in the private sector made (salary and benefits) $61051/year, while this figure was $69,913 in local government, with the big difference being in benefits: $10,589 to $16,857. Clearly, then, government workers at all levels will see lowering salaries and benefits in the years to come. New workers will not enjoy similar retirement and health benefits.
But, are unions obsolete? I say yes, but mostly because they have not adjusted to the changed economic and political conditions. There remain important roles for them to play, such as protecting workers from injustices. They will survive if they become part of the solution.
Tropical Cyclone Dianne is now at 80 MPH, but will weaken and dissipate far west of Australia. However Tropical Cyclone Atu just formed, is now at 65 MPH, will gain hurricane force strength as it moves south and threaten a few small islands south of Vanuatu and east of New Caledonia.