Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Let's talk about the UAW....

But let's first get this out of the way. I've got but a few peeves in life, and one of them is when folks pass judgments or form opinions based on things they hear, or just from the "herding" effect. Remember the guy I blogged about who was voting for Bush just because he was Republican? And he was Republican just 'cause? And had never really thought about it? 'Cause you know, his parents were Republican, then is brother was Republican, and then his wife was too?


Please, if you take just one thing away from my blog, please take this:

"Think. It's patriotic."

Have any views and opinions you want. I don't care if I agree or not. I promise to embrace every viewpoint that comes around. Respect will always be abundant here. Provided those viewpoints and beliefs and opinions are formed through gaining education and understanding on an issue.

And now, the UAW. Love it, hate it, think it's outdated, think it's the best thing since velcro, whatever you think. Fine. But for Christ's sake, please learn about whether the suspicions you have are real before you decide it should be abolished.

I do not have membership in a union. I work in the private sector as an employee. However, I've served as a laison to several union plants over the years. And just as importantly, I have an education on the matter. A formal one. I studied labor relations and loved every last minute of it. So I have educated opinions based on what I've seen with my own two eyes inside union plants for years, as well as studying passionately the events of history through the present.

And let me share something with you, dear Internet. Never have I seen an issue so clouded and labeled and misunderstood as the UAW. Notice I didn't say "unions?" I said specifically "UAW?" Because when is the last time you heard folks cracking jokes about teachers taking too many coffee breaks? (The way we hear the jokes cracked about auto workers...) When is the last time you've heard slams about medical workers who "get their jobs back" if they are caught with a drug or alcohol problem? (The way we hear the same slam about auto workers.) When is the last time that you've heard a complaint that the fire fighters are too lazy and end up compromising their work and costing insurance companies more money on claims? (The same way we hear auto workers are a lazy bunch and are at fault for the prices of cars.)

And why do people immediately think of the automotive industry when someone says "union?"

The fact of the matter is that every major professional industry uses the principal of solidarity. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, law enforcement, painters, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, you name it; they belong to a union. Strength and power is found in numbers.

I'm going to take the time to address the myths that I've heard. I'll stick to only the abundant ones.

Common myth #1: The UAW is full of weak, lazy workers.

I will guarantee that the majority of people why have made this claim have not worked in a union environment. The UAW workers are the toughest workers I've known. And they care about what they are doing. It's the union folks who are tearing up when a first new model rolls of the line, or a last model rolls off a line. These are people who put their hearts into what they do fifty times more urgently than most white collar engineers I know. You want to talk about laziness and coffee breaks? The engineering center at GM has a coffee station every few feet. And it's always packed to the gills. I've known white collar engineers to come to work, read the paper, sit on the can for a half hour, get a coffee, and then go to a meeting at 10, after having been at work since 6:30 or 7. Those examples alone waste three to three and a half hours each day minimum. How can a UAW worker do that while working on a moving line that gives them each a new product to touch every few seconds? Do people seriously think they stop the line for the union workers to go sit in the can for a half hour or read the paper for awhile?

Common myth #2: The UAW exists to protect weak, lazy workers.

How so? Do people out there honestly think that corporations do not attempt to dismiss workers just because they are UAW members? And further, that they do not succeed in dismissing those workers? Being a union member is not equivalent to having a "get out of jail free" card. Yes, if a union member is disciplined or fired, he/she has a right to file a grievance with the union, and if the union sees fit, it will try to rectify the situation. But here's what you may not know... First, the union member has to do things exactly right for even a hope at that representation. One day late to the union steward, and no dice. Further, the union steward can (and will, often) deny helping. The union ONLY gets involved in situations where the employee was treated unfairly, treated differently than what has become past practice, or has special circumstances warranting another chance.

Now when I think about that, I think it's only decent. And I wish all companies allowed some room for dicussion and reflection in these matters. But they don't. The rest of us in the private sector can be fired on the spot after devoting thirty years to a company, simply because someone doesn't like our socks. Who thinks that's a crappy reality? I sure do.


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