Steve Hochstadt: The Value of Collective Bargaining

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Steve Hochstadt of Jacksonville is a professor of history at Illinois College.]

I have never paid union dues. I have been a white collar worker most of my life, in jobs where there are no unions. But I have benefited greatly from unions.

One of my first jobs was delivering mail for a summer. That was too short a time to join the mail carriers’ union, but I was paid the good wage that they had won through collective bargaining. In college, I worked summers digging ditches and making truck deliveries. The small businesses I worked for did not have unionized workers, but I still benefited from unions. Decades of activism by organized workers had won the 40-hour week, the minimum wage, protection in case of accidents, health insurance and many other benefits. No matter where I worked, the history of collective bargaining by unionized workers made a big difference in my pay, hours and conditions.

Unions are not and never have been assemblies of angels. Many unions, notably the Teamsters, have a long history of corruption, especially by organized crime. Some union officials have lined their pockets, made backroom deals with bosses and rigged elections. In this way, unions are like businesses and governments: Occasionally they are dishonest and rip off their members, customers or voters....

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Arnold Shcherban - 3/9/2011

<Teachers are retiring in Green Bay to lock in their good retirement packages on the backs of the taxpayers.>
It's a paramount of insolence to blame teachers to retire with just DECENT retirement benefits after decades of doing one of the most difficult and stressful jobs in the USA - educating public school students.
I can bet Mr. Wilson have never uttered a word of protest at millions of retirement packages of money fund managers and CEOs added to already dozens or hundreds of millions of dollars made over their careers on speculation and shady financial practices, risking the money of their
investors (the same taxpayers he, allegedly, have interests of, so deeply in his heart.) or those who have driven their companies into bankruptcy and... fired hundreds of their workers in order to preserve their and their buddies excessively HUGE compensation packages untouched...
Talking about "collusion" of financial donors with politicians whose fund the election campaigns of the latter, how about big and small corporations and other businesses who
donate immeasurably more money (and now, by the recent decision of the US SC, are allowed to donate as much as they want to) for electoral needs of their proteges?
The entire political process in this country has been corrupted and terribly biased for a century or so, and, perhaps, since its very initiation; unions just follow the tradition, only contributing to the mess to comparatively small extent.

I challenge anyone to prove, in figures and statistics, that public unions is the main cause of states' budget deficit. If someone does, I'll pay him one thousand dollars, but if unable to do so, he pays me just five hundred.
Any takers?

John a Wilson - 3/6/2011

"Billionaires fund Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. By beating down unions, big employers can gain even more power in the workplace. Even though Wisconsin workers have agreed to large pay cuts, Walker and Republican governors in Ohio and New Jersey are demanding an end to their right to collective bargaining."

So what if billionaires gave donations to Walker. Soros gives money to the democrats. A lot of money and Peter Lewis and Bing.

And we are talking about public sector unions where the collusion at the bargaining table has been well documented. Teachers are retiring in Green Bay to lock in their good retirement packages on the backs of the taxpayers. How is that a concession in pay or benefits?