Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Knights of Labor

I have come to despise labor unions. Unions in America are no longer organized labor but rather organized corporations. Unions short sightedness towards labor and long term political hacks have changed my opinion of what a union strated out as and what it has become. Sure labor unions are responsible for establishing a 40 hour work week. Sure they are responsible for reducing sweatshops and the institutionalization of child labor laws but what have they done lately? We are having a crisis in our country and instead of working together with employers; Unions run million dollar recall election campaigns when they don't get their way. Rather than admit they have taken things too far and having ruined American manufacturing; Unions carry on a campaign against those that having the requirement to hire more labor. Unions are responsible for the bailout of the auto industry. Unions are responsible for the outsourcing of our manufacturing jobs. Unions are rsponsible for the ever growing and unsustainable compensation packages. I must wonder if Terence Powderly had a better long term Union solution than did Smauel Gompers.

We all hear that corporations have a social responsibility. We all hear Obama decry the disparity between the rich and the poor. We all hear about the social contract corporations should adhere to when employing resources. Yet Unions followed the Gompers method of extractingevery concession a union could from management. Violence was part of the strategy. Strikes were instituted to extract even more. In Gompers methodology everything came down to the here and now; the future be damned. By playing up the sympathy card and exploiting the individual laborers to garner empathy, many concessions were forced without any foresight into the unforseen consequences. We are suffering through those unforseen consequences today. Our jobs are traveling out of country. Our labor rates don't allow us to compete effectively. Detroit is a dying and decaying city with little hope in sight. The Gompes strategy was all about today, using tactics to extract political wins for labor that would have a negative impact far into the future. Whenever we here about the goodness of unions, the supporters have to go back 75 years or longer to pick out what good a union has done. They have done nothing lately ecept to continue squeezing blood from the employers. It is the Gompers philosophy that made adversaries of management and labor.

Powderly on the other hand didn't believe it was an adversarial relationship between management and labor. Powderly in fact was inclusive of management in his Knights of Labor Union. Powderly had a vision of shared commonalities between management and labor. The Powderly vision of inclusiveness between stakeholders was before his time. We want Companies to have a sense of social responsibility. We want our companies to beliee in the unwritten social contract. Yet Powderly lost his union because the results were longer term and didn't immediately satisfy labor. Now here we set in a country where a corporation (Boeing)can no longer decide where there build plants and products. We have millionaires and billionaires (read Basketball) pitted against one another over a couple of percentage points in profit sharing. We have an auto industry bailout that really didn't bailout the corporations but rahter protected the Unions. Isn't this why Powderly felt there were shared interests between management and labor? Wouldn't it be better for unions to spend their money on training their workforce rather spending frivilously on recall elections? The concept proposed by Powderly was before its time. In the end the Knights of Labor fell apart because of not being able to enforce dues. The KOL fell apart because Gompers beleived short term gains were better than long term goals. Unions do not have solutions to America's problem, they are a part of the problems we face. Tell something Unions have done for labor over the past half century. Tell me why Unions would rather spend laborers hard earned union dues on getting job killing politicans elected. What is good for today's unions is not good for America. If we really want socially responsible companies that adhere to social contracts, Unions have to stay out of politics and get involved more with management. Management and labor must work together to develop tomorrow's solutions. As long as Gompers philosophy of management and laborers being adversaries America is doomed to failure with a declining industrial base.

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