October 07, 2008

Union First, Country Second - My visit with a union leader

Labor Union’s Institutional Narcissism - My visit with a big city union local president
By Daryl L. Hunter

In August (2008) by chance, I met the president of a large labor union of a major city who was on vacation where I live. After finding out he was the president of a union I steered the conversation to politics and the upcoming election, the conversation was alarming yet enlightening.

I will not mention the union, the city, nor the union presidents name because I did not tell him I was a blogger and he would not have been forthcoming had I told him. He was a nice man and I wouldn’t want to get him into hot water for a casual conversation. It would be my assumption that to become president of a union local you have to be smart and analytical, using that as a baseline I questioned:

Me: Considering these times of jobs moving overseas aren’t you concerned every new wage and benefit demand might be the straw that breaks the camels back forcing your industry to ship production overseas.

Union President: Yes but it is my job to get all I can for my members.

Me: We are in a world economy and the demands unions in America are making on U.S. corporations make them uncompetitive. Does that concern you?

Union President: Yes but it is still my job to get all I can for my members.

Me: Democrats don’t want to drill for oil yet industry is reliant upon it, doesn’t this worry you since union jobs depend upon industry being healthy.

Union President: Yes, this is troubling.

Me: I realize that Democrats are friendlier to the unions than Republicans but Republican tax policies are better for commerce and industry, if industry is crippled, unemployment is sure to follow, so isn’t it risky for unions to back Barack Obama considering his proposed punitive taxes on industry in this shaky economy?

Union President: Obama says many things but I hope that he can’t achieve them.

Me; So, as union president you put union first and the America’s economy second.

Union President: Yes.

This conversation although alarming reinforced something I have suspected for a long time; labor union’s institutional narcissism puts union self-interest ahead of country. A lifelong friend of mine is in a law enforcement union, and he votes union before country also. The same blue collar union members who proudly will send their sons into battle to protect our freedoms will go into a voting booth and vote their self-interest over that of their country’s and this confounded conundrum confuses me.

I was in the Alaska Teamsters during the construction of the Alaska Pipeline, and I had never seen so much money wasted in my life. When I was a cross-country trucker, I always knew when I was in a union warehouse because fifteen-minute card game at break time always lasted forty-five minutes. When the longshoremen went on strike in 2002, I thought it was terribly unpatriotic and hurtful to America during a time of our national economic crisis right after 911, but it was very important to the longshormen to preserve archaic shipping methods that saved jobs at the cost of efficiency.

I hope that for the sake of the country that rank and file union members can take a look around them, take a look at the economy and dig deep for the real reasons for our economic meltdown and vote for the candidate that will preserve Industry by keeping industry profitable at home.

I am a 200+ pound expendable mass of protoplasm that realizes that I don’t want to bankrupt the treasury of this land of exceptionalism for some pompous presumption that I am important in the scheme of things. I believe in the ownership society and reject the Nanny State Democrats are trying to foist upon our treasury. Our founding fathers created a near perfect model of government, but it isn’t beyond our ability to bankrupt it because we want stuff!

It is dangerous to vote for change especially when influential union leaders are advocating for institutional narcissism while they hope the candidate they are promoting, Barack Obama, can't deliver on his promises.

Addendum 9/2012
It would be interesting to have an honest talk with this Union President today.  Obama has enacted much of what this man feared yet hoped wouldn't happen. Four years later the economy is still in the tank and this has hurt his union members.

A good economy is the best thing for the workers of the United States of America not the overreaching arm of todays unions. Unions were once an important asset for workers but today working conditions aren't like they were back when unions were needed for workers rights.

Today unions overreach sends manufactures to places where they aren't considered the enemy of the worker. My grandfather was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the same as the union president above, and sometimes for fun I will phone up the IBEW and try to get my grandfather posthumously removed from the union rolls, I know they can't do it but it is fun to explain why I want him removed. My grandfather would be appalled at what unions have become. 


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