Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Power of Unions

There are many people out there in the right wing of the world that have been hammering at the meme that unions aren't needed anymore and that they are obsolete. They claim that so many people are making good money without belonging to a union. They also argue that OSHA ensures job safety, etc. etc. etc. However, we keep seeing stories where they are continuously proven wrong.

Retired Delphi management personnel are finding out the hard way the importance of unions:

But his career was cut short after GM spun off parts-maker Delphi Corp., which closed the plant in November 2008. Now, Richards and thousands of other Delphi salaried retirees could see their monthly pension checks cut between 30% and 70% as the government-run Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has taken over the company's retirement fund.

As a result, the average Delphi salaried retiree - many of whom were forced into early retirement by Delphi's bankruptcy - stands to lose $300,000 in pension payments over his or her lifetime.

"I am not sure how I am going to survive, going forward, because of this," said Richards, who as mayor was known for being a fiscal conservative.

It's especially upsetting given that the pensions of Delphi's hourly wage retirees, represented by the United Auto Workers, will not be reduced.

That's because when General Motors spun off Delphi in 1999, it agreed to "top up" the hourly employees' pensions if their plan ever fell short of what the employees would have earned had they remained at GM.

It's crappy that these people that worked most of their adult lives for one company doesn't get that loyalty returned to them. Unfortunately, they gave up the benefits of being a union member when they chose to take the promotion. At the time, it probably made a world of sense, and I don't blame them for making that choice. It is just too bad that they are paying for it now when they should be able to enjoy life a little more.

The people in Oklahoma also learned the hard lesson when the unions were able to swing a last minute deal, albeit a very crappy one, with Mercenary Marine last year. That deal kept the plant from moving to Oklahoma.

Even the conservatives who like to bash unions at every chance actually unionize themselves, even though they would never admit it. But if you stop and think about it, are these TEA Party events really any different than a union? Or groups like WMC? They are a group of people or groups of people forming a larger group for a common cause, just like workers form a union to fight for their rights.

In these bad economic times, and with so many politicians and businesses playing "Gimme" with our livelihoods, it makes perfectly good sense to still have unions and to strengthen them before we all become victims of the money-grubbers.


  1. To be sure, management had a role in the demise of the Big 3, but how can it be denied that the unions also played a role? No doubt the pension funds were not funded fully because in large part because workers were protected from being fully productive, being paid more for doing less than they would have, driving up prices of the products while driving down the profitablility needed to fund the pensions?

    And how can it be denied that union workers are prospering now more than they would because the TAXPAYERS are funding the companies they work for? (At least at GM and Chrysler)

    And ther is a big difference between Tea Parties and unions, in that no thugs broke our skulls or our legs to get us to sign up, and we want to protest the abuse of political power, not bend it in our direction. We come NOT to have government take what is yours and give it to us, but to protect OUR RIGHTS to keep what we have earned.

    Any commentary on our economic demise should also point to the role of the Federal REserve in the booms and busts, and the use of political power to enhance the wealth of the Too Big to Fail, who are also largely responsible for the present state of our economy, but these are topics for another day.

    Ken V

  2. Thank you, Ken, for your comment.

    However, it should be noted that it is the TEA party attendees that have physically attacked union members. I was there, I saw it. I have it on video posted on this blog.

    The paranoia about government is a little overreaching, don't you think? Do you have police protection? Mental health services? Fire fighters? Snow plowing and other road maintenance?

    This is done through government, paid for with our tax dollars. It is called being part of a society. What the TEA parties are is a modern version of the Lord of the Flies.