Mastrian's abrasive column reveals truths about unions
Shawn J. Mastrian '91 created quite a stir with his column ["Unions rub this working man the wrong way," Feb. 5]. However, it seems the original point of his article has been overlooked due to the inflammatory and abrasive nature of its delivery.
Two printed responses scolded him for his uncouth manner and then went into long stories about the history of labor unions and all the good they have done for American workers. I feel it necessary to present the opposing view once again; this time in a different style.
Anyone who has taken a standard United States history class knows the horror stories about working conditions in turn-of-the-century sweatshops and mines. We all know that the introduction of labor unions resulted in revolutionary improvements in working conditions.
David W. Hogg '92 ["Attack on unions inspired by hate," Feb. 8] and Deborah A. Levinson '91 ["Union attack lacked logic," Feb. 12] cite such ameliorations as shorter working hours, increased wages, worker's compensation and protection against unlawful termination. Who can deny that working men and women benefited greatly from unions?
Now consider the present day. All of the aforementioned regulations fall under the jurisdiction of federal and state law. All working Americans have rights and privileges as defined by the government.
These arguments no longer hold water as justification for the presence of unions. But don't unions provide other services for their members? Let's take a look.
Let us assume that minimum wage, as defined by the government, is not enough to allow
the typical American to support himself.
With this assumption, we can say the labor unions benefit their members by controlling the supply of workers, and hence, forcing employers to pay reasonable wages. Let us take the current MIT issue as an example:
As presented in a Tech article ["Local union protests at MIT," Feb. 15], members of a local painters' union are upset
with MIT for allowing a non-union painting company to be contracted.
According to the union spokesman, "The local's only concern is that all workers be able to enjoy a union standard of living." He then goes on that the employees of the non-union company are "uninterested in unions."
It sounds like the non-union painters are happy with their current standard of living. After all, they have had the opportunity to join the union and have chosen to turn it down.
Monopolies are groups that drive prices up by limiting the supply of a good or service. Monopolies are illegal. However, labor unions strive to monopolize the market of workers in an effort to forcibly increase wages. Is this not the same thing? The local painter's union is upset because another company undercut it and got the job.
If we were simply talking about the price of an object, Americans would pass it off as just another instance of the free-market system at work.
But we are talking about people, so the union says MIT isn't paying so-called fair wages. That might be a reasonable complaint except for one thing: The non-union employees believe they are receiving "fair wages."
The New York state telephone workers regularly go on strike. The reasons vary but money is usually the main issue. I know a woman who works as an operator for this company. She is not a member of the union, and as she has a family to support, she cannot afford to strike every year.
So, she crosses the picket line. This woman drives her husband's car to work during strikes so the strikers won't recognize it and paint graffiti on it or slash the tires. One time, union members drove 30 miles to her house to picket carrying signs with slogans like, "The scab who lives here must die."
Mastrian labels unions as "gangs of thugs." I find it hard to refute this point in the face of stories such as these. Levinson, on the other hand, claims that groups such as these "are neither representative of unions as a whole, nor do they remain true to the spirit in which unions were originally formed."
However, I have yet to hear of a union which did not resort to strongarm tactics to get what it wanted. If you don't want to play by the union's rules, it will do its damnedest to get you out of the picture.
Unions were originally formed to enforce regulations that are now enforced by the government. They were originally formed to serve and protect their members. Instead, what they do today is overinflate the going rate on the services their members provide and then turn around and soak their members for outrageous dues.
They make it difficult, if not impossible, for people seeking temporary employment to work in union-controlled jobs. They terrorize those who refuse to join them.
Mastrian mentioned that unions have outlived their purpose. I agree most wholeheartedly. The conditions they sought to improve have been ameliorated by government codes. Union demands are at the expense of oth
er hard-working Americans who don't want to take part in their games.
Courtney Moriarta '91->