- Faith & Family
Unions were the back bone of the Democratic Party and for that reason several Republican governors have targeted unions. Many claim that unions have made the U.S. less competitive and say that expensive union benefits have killed many corporations. While benefits like pensions and health insurance are expensive, the benefits provided to U.S. workers in unions are still far less than those provided to workers in most of Europe.
Without the union, the police officers were getting decimated in disciplinary actions, where they were refused even the basic right of being allowed to have an attorney to defend them.
This fact seems to discount the idea that health benefits provided to workers is making us less competitive. Japan, Canada, China, Germany and France all provide health care to workers. Some believe that a healthy workforce leads to increased productivity. Pensions are expensive and may bring down the bottom line, but then so do large salaries and bonuses for corporate executives. American Airlines which was running at a profit declared bankruptcy to in effect get out of its obligations to its pilots who were getting excessive retirement bonuses. No one seems to mention that American Airlines CEO and his cadre of vice presidents took home millions in golden parachutes as they departed the company. We pay our CEOs extravagant salaries and this seems to be okay, even when the company they are leading is losing money. The gap between CEO salaries and the average worker salary has widened since the 1950’s but no one mentions limiting the benefits of CEOs.
Union corruption has also led to a decline in union membership. Union presidents become powerful because they can control votes and in the case of large unions, stand to collect millions of dollars. Miami Gardens recently voted in a new police union, which I applaud. Without the union, the police officers were getting decimated in disciplinary actions, where they were refused even the basic right of being allowed to have an attorney to defend them. The City rules allowed a “representative” which meant that you could bring a fellow employee to defend you in a disciplinary hearing against the City’s attorney and senior management. Good luck getting a fair hearing in that situation. Many Black officers feel that there is disparate treatment in discipline and promotions. Now that the City has a union, the officers will have the ability to bring in union stewards and attorneys to defend themselves. The days when management could punish employees with impunity is coming to an end.
In an at-will state State like Florida, the average worker is completely at the mercy of management. Older employees are more expensive and getting rid of them helps the bottom line. A union can help combat this despicable practice. In the next election, it will be unions that will be leading the fight against billionaires and Fortune 500 corporations. They remain a relevant force in this new age.
By Reginald J. Clyne, Esq.
Miami Times columnist