Monday, May 19, 2008

Lazy Union Workers 'a Cancer': Are Union Bosses Finally Getting It?

"We represent the sick, lame and lazy."

It was said matter of factly by one of the older chief union stewards sitting around the bar one late afternoon after one of our monthly union meetings. That was nearly 20 years ago, but it was something I (like many others) had come to realize as a union rep.

The people who actually needed the union were those that were always in trouble at work--the workers who couldn't make it to work on time, didn't care that their quality sucked, or who generally couldn't do what the company expected of them. Ultimately, it is the syndrome that cost far too many good union members their jobs, as companies have elected to move away from these mutant union members.

Basically, as a union, if you take dues from a hundred people, the union will spend the dues representing the bottom ten percent. The other ninety percent are paying dues for nothing, was something I later realized.

Like I said, that was nearly 20 years ago, and I've long since left the union movement.

Since then, after spending years "on the other side," I've come to know why many companies despise unions and it goes back to that bar many years ago....It's because unions all-too-often represent the 'sick, lame, & lazy.' [Actually, since the passage of the ADA, it's more politically correct to just say 'the lazy'.]

Now, however, it seems that at least one union boss is beginning to send the message that unions are finally starting to get it: That employers' perception of unions is so negative because of the 'lazy union worker.'

Mark Ayers, the president of the AFL-CIO's Building & Construction Trades Department (BCTD), is finally sending a wake-up call to his union bretheren:

"There is no place in our unions for nonperformers," Ayers told business managers of the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons during a recent speech recently.

Calling non-performing union members a cancer that has “dragged us down for many years and damaged our reputation as highly trained and productive craft professionals,” during a Feb. 27 OPC-MIA meeting, Ayers said, “they are the members that scream the loudest about union rights on the job, in your hiring halls and in your union meetings, while at the same time they chip away at our proud foundation.”

In short, he said, “they are simply bad for business, and therefore, they must go!”

He reminded the business managers that in the current business environment anyone can find out anything about an organization with a few clicks of a mouse.

“We must understand that we are constantly being judged by what we do and how we conduct ourselves every single day we are on the job,” he said. “Over the last thirty years or so, we didn’t lose the lion’s share of the market because the competition was so good,” he said. ‘We lost it because our attitudes, our productivity, and our work ethic got worse and we took our jobs and our work for granted.”

Perhaps if all union bosses came to the same conclusion that Ayers has, unions wouldn't be as despised as they are and wouldn't need to spend a billion dollars to buy an election in order to strip workers of their right to vote on unionization (vis a vis the hallucinogenically-named Employee Free Choice Act).

But, then again, it seems that most union bosses are more interested in preserving their place in history as destroyers of companies, than go against the status quo by looking at their own defective product.

Note: The AFL-CIO's Building & Construction Trades Department encompasses the following unions:
  • International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers

  • International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

  • International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers

  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters

  • International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers

  • International Union of Elevator Constructors

  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT)

  • Laborers’ International Union of North America

  • Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association of the United States and Canada

  • Sheet Metal Workers' International Association

  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada

  • United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers


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Anonymous said...

I could no agree more with this article. I manage a facility in transportation, and have an all union workforce. I spend 90 percent of my time dealing with the bottom 10 percent. The same 10 percent the union constantly fights for, because they can't do their job. They work harder at not working than just doing the darn job. If they would let this bottom 10 percent go, and let us replace them with people who want to work, all our lives would be easier! But no, they protect the lame and lazy, day in and day out.

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Anonymous said...

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