Unions – what no one talks about

When people talk about unions in this country (at least people who aren’t in them), they typically say, that while unions had their time and place, they are not really needed anymore. They mention that unions can get out of hand (presumably through corruption). If people think of unions in a positive light, it generally is in terms of the higher wages and better benefits that union membership can secure. On that subject as well, people tend to balance that against the union dues that they have to pay (i.e. is it worth it)?

In the U.S. unlike in western Europe, unions were often restricted to negotiating only about wages and work conditions instead of about control and movement unionism (i.e. labor parties). Businesses struck a bargain with early unions that control was not an area that was negotiable.  One aspect of that is the idea that I have only seen in professional sports unions that the athletes are entitled to a percentage of the industries profits. This is central to the idea of control. It intrudes on a businesses ability to keeps its profits secret and do with it what it wants (assuming the business is not public).

American capitalism is based on the idea that where the profits go is only up to the owner regardless of the fact that most all (99%) of the value generated by a business is produced by the workers (read: not owners).  What a change it would be if workers thought about a right to the percentage of the profits as something that they are entitled to! Professional athletes generally get somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of the profits generated by their respective leagues. Just being able to know what the profits are for a business would be an eye-opener for most employees. It might even lead to the radical idea that those workers also are entitled to some control over the place where they spend most of the waking hours.

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