Today I spent time with a distant cousin who is a proud retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. We went down to Tucson and generally had a great time hanging out. While there we met up with one of his friends who also was in the IBEW, and is also retired. He had this to say when I mentioned the lack of support for unions from many otherwise intelligent and liberal people in Arizona.
“I have four pensions. I have a house here [on a golf course near Tucson], and a house at a resort up in Oregon. I’ve never paid a medical bill in my life. I make almost as much money as I made before I retired, and I made good money. Tell me what not being in a union has earned you.”
(the “you” in this case being someone insane, who is lower- or middle-class and against unions)
On the way from his house, my cousin and I had a conversation about unions, and what they’d done for him and others he knew. Not only was this friend of his still getting his medical benefits and pension (which he’d paid into, mind you), but he’d also received some flowers yesterday from the union after they’d gotten word that he was in the hospital. It was quite a conversation for someone like me whose always voiced positive things about unions but seldom as an adult experienced just how positive they can be.
My cousin did point out that some objections he hears from people are about union dues and the like, and I hear that a lot, too. But let me ask you this: if joining a union got you 25% more pay, lifetime medical benefits, a stable pension, vacation time, and other good perks like flowers when you’re ill and a holiday party at the end of every year, and they wanted 10% of your check in return, isn’t that a good deal? You’re earning more and getting far better benefits than you otherwise would. Complaining about that is, as my cousin put it, like being angry about winning the lottery because you have to pay part of your winnings as taxes.
As a final note, let’s bear in mind that Germany, a country which regularly kicks our ass on the world stage when it comes to trade, standard of living, education and the like, is a country with very strong unions.
Unions are good.