Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unions - Wrap Up

I have spent the last 9 weeks talking about unions - what unions are, advantages and disadvantages of unions and examples of how unions effect businesses and the economy. Unions claim they benefit workers by negotiating higher wages and benefits, better work conditions and protecting workers from unfair hiring, firing and promotion policies and practices. What the unions don't tell you is how they negatively effect employees, business and even taxpayers. The higher wages and benefits are given to everyone. It doesn't matter how good each person performs his job duties or how much effort he puts into his job. Individual accomplishments do not mean anything. In addition, individual workers cannot negotiate for their own benefit. The union negotiates for the group as a whole without regard for the needs of any individual.

Unions play a large role in politics in the United States. They have become large and powerful groups who use their power to influence laws and procedures to their benefit. One way unions have done this is through prevailing wage laws. I spent several weeks discussing Ohio prevailing wage law and issues associated with these laws. Union wages and benefits may be good for the employees of unionized companies; however, these wages make it more difficult for union companies to compete with non-union merit shops when bidding on public construction jobs. To "even the playing field" unions fought for prevailing wage laws which require all companies working on public construction work to pay union wages on that job. The problem with that is that union wages are much higher than market wages. What that means to taxpayers is that we are paying more than we should be on all public construction projects. Money we shouldn't be spending.

Recently, in the City of Dayton, we could see unions at work again. The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority took bids for the construction of its new transit center in downtown Dayton. This new plaza replaced all bus stops in a two block radius with the intention of eliminating bus congestion and reducing issues with unruly crowds at the old hub at 3rd and Main Street. This $9.6 million dollar project was an important one for RTA and downtown Dayton and was scheduled to be completed April 13, 2009. The project was not completed until the middle of August 2009.

The construction firm which won the bid was a union contractor. Even though the project was seriously behind schedule, union workers resisted working overtime hours or working on weekends to catch up. Of course there were numerous issues that contributed to the delays; however, in the construction business it is to be expected that unexpected things will come up during the project. Wouldn't we expect a company to take any steps possible to catch up and try to meet the contractual completion date? Well, union employees don't have to do that. Unions protect the employees from being forced to do anything that isn't in their contract. Even if we assume the management at that construction company wanted to work overtime to catch up - which is what they said - their hands were tied because their employees are represented by a union. They don't have complete control to run their company in a way necessary to meet their contractual deadlines. I am going to guess that if a non-union company had won that contract things would have been very different.

The bottom line is that I'm sure unions do have some benefits; however, the negative aspects of unions and how they effect businesses and the economy, far outweigh any benefits.


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