WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Recently I read a letter to the editor running down labor unions. I have never been a big fan of labor unions in general. Mainly because of some of the radicals that tend to manage them, and some of the members that tend to follow them.
The writer said that private sector unions make up 14 percent of the work force in the country, but itís the public sector that is bankrupting the country.
Really! I mistakenly thought that two lengthy unnecessary wars in the middle east, unfunded tax cuts that favor business and the rich, along with a bloated military budget were some of the reasons our country is in such financial trouble. Of course there are quite a few other reasons too, but to blame it all on public unions is pure baloney.
The writer is right in some respects, benefits for some public employees has gotten very far out of hand. So much so that some cities are facing huge future obligations that cannot be met in todayís economy or later.
For example the city of Duluthís unfunded long term liability for city retiree health care benefits were projected in a 2005 study to be $378 million by 2012 if nothing was done. Wow doing simple math that comes to roughly an obligation of every person in Duluth of about $4,500. Thatís a huge chunk of change for the average person. Since that time the city realized the dire ramifications of this problem in budgeting and made changes in the benefit package to reduce the unfunded debt to about half that amount. That still leaves about $2,500 that each person in the city owes. I think public entities are realizing this problem and in most cases are working to rectify the situation.
However, organized labor is largely responsible for improving safety and better working conditions for all Americans. Labor is largely responsible for creating strong child and womenís labor laws. Labor unions are also responsible for increasing wages for all Americans.
On the other hand I donít know if union members come out a head when they go on strike for unrealistic wages and benefits. Often times when union members go on strike, if it lasts for a significant length of time, they seldom ever recover what they lost by going on strike. When unions strike, spokes people often say oh itís not about the money. Give me a break ó itís always about money ó maybe not additional pay, but better benefits ó duh, benefits cost money too.
Although I shudder to think where the American Wage Earner would be, had it not been for the unions battling for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Unfortunately those working for non-union businesses traditionally make less than their union counterparts.
According to my electrician son, who has been asked to join a union, told me that often times when the trade slows down the union workers are some of the first to be laid-off.
I have mixed emotions about right to work laws, I donít think you should have to join a union to work at a specific place or job. But then if you donít belong to the union you have to consider the union does not have to represent you either.
Obviously unions are not for everyone, but I think overall they do a lot for all workers.
Have a great week and do good!
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