Are Unions Outdated?

There has been recent talk of unions being involved with the TSA, of all people.  Apparently, the TSA workers are getting ready to unionize over “the stress of the job.”  Here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/business/16screeners.html

I am not a TSA worker, nor am I a union worker–though I HAVE been union in my career in the past.

My specialty is aviation.  I am an aircraft mechanic who is rated to work on any aircraft, and I also have a Private Pilot’s License.  All of my ratings come straight from the FAA itself.

I understand the TSA workers’ wish to unionize because they think it will bring higher wages and give them more of an opinion over their working conditions, but they are dead wrong.  I know they are just average-Joe workers, but unionizing will not solve their problems.

It might do some good for them in the short-term, but if their wages rise because of collective-bargaining issues imposed by the unions, so will passengers’ fares.  (You don’t think airlines will just ‘absorb’ the costs of that, do you?)  Gas is at over four bucks a gallon now, and airlines are nickel-and-diming their passengers already for every cent they can get.  (I don’t care if the airlines are all operating in the red; every time I read that they made over $100 billion dollars last year on bag fees alone, it makes my blood boil.  Those fees were supposed to be “temporary.”) Sure, people do need to get from place to place, but I’ll miss my brother’s wedding if I have to deal with a $500 plane ticket just to get home for a weekend.  I’d rather send him a $400 wedding gift instead, and still save myself a hundred bucks.

But this isn’t just an aviation problem–in fact, the U.S. has been dealing with the bloated, puss-filled aftereffects of unions for years now, in many, many areas of business.  How is it that only about 9 to 11% of America’s workforce is unionized, yet we are falling behind in business and productivity, and the math, science and reading skills of our children?

I’ll tell you how.  The largest problem is our education system–in my opinion, one of the largest housing establishments for union employees, because it takes between a year and a half and three years to fire a teacher who is obviously doing poorly.  Frankly, I think that great teachers ought to make what doctors make (full disclosure:  I think that of my own profession as well–after all, doctors can kill people with accidents; I can kill families), but there is no reason that those who do poorly in the profession should reap the benefits of it.

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I heard constant stories of corruption within the public service/public works contracts given out by Mayor Daley and the rest of the Illinois government.  The tollways are a huge source of contention among commuters because all but two or three major highways are tolled (every three hundred feet, it seems), and the tollways were supposed to have come own by a “certain date.”  They are only still open because Chicago’s “officials” voted to keep them open “pending construction.”  Well, guess what–every highway in Chicago has been under construction for the last twenty years.  This has not been an accident.

The free market will defeat unions all day, every day.  Obviously, unions fought for the “man” back in the day, and they were useful back then for it.  But now, they are clogging up the system.  If a company ran things the way some of these unions require things to be run, they would be put under in no time.

Back to the original point:  If TSA workers want to find more-efficient and less-stressful ways to do their jobs, great!  We, the traveling public, want that, too.  But if they want to bog themselves down in beaurocracy, regulations, and garbage, unionizing will be the way to go.  And their patrons (whom they likely love to hate) will no longer deal with their already-invasive actions because eventually, a far better idea will come along to circumvent the TSA, and they will be left in the dust.

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