It's a much more reliable method of improving things than, say, giving massive tax cuts to corporations and wealthy people and hoping that this magically improves the lives of poor people through some unspecified mechanism (usually given the implication-laden title of "trickle down").
But unions have also used their heft to prevent innovation by mechanization, to help workers do their jobs poorly (thus "dealer prep") and to protect workers who are actually lousy at their jobs.
I read this article today and I found it idiotic.
GM is laying off 2600 workers at its truck and SUV plant and Buzz Hargrove, the super powerful union leader, has declared that he won't let it happen.
Mr. Hargrove insisted the U.S. market could not possibly have declined so sharply in such a short period of time that GM would have to break that agreement.
Is he insane? The market for SUVs and trucks could not have declined? Has he seen the price of gasoline? Of course North Americans are finally getting smarter and realizing that the giant vehicles they drive are expensive and irresponsible.
What is the argument here? That no one saw this coming? What you should have been doing, Mr. Union Leader, is negotiating for the past several years, on behalf of your brothers, to have those factories slowly converted over to efficient passenger cars in advance of this very, very obvious impending crisis.
It's that kind of behaviour that frustrates me. There is a place for the Union concept. Democracy simply can not react quickly enough to protect large numbers of workers from large scale abuse - especially with the penchant corporations have shown for trust violations. A Union or Federation can step in and threaten to halt production in order to extract fairness from the corporation rather than having all of the workers uproot their lives to change jobs.
But this is not it. This is not what the Union should be doing - attempting to stave off the unavoidable tide of change. I'm not too worried though, about the plight of these particular workers. I hear there are autoworking jobs elsewhere:
The dramatic shift in U.S. demand benefits Asian-based auto makers, which have dominated the passenger-car side of the business since the 1990s, when Detroit focused the bulk of its product development and investment on SUVs.