Personal Experiences With Labor Unions Here In The U.S. Both Good And Bad

 

 

A couple of days ago I read an article from another Blogger concerning his experiences with Labor Unions, it was his article that gave me the idea to write this article to you today. The Author’s name is Dan Antion and you can find his article on his site at http://nofacilities.wordpress.com/

 

I was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia back in the mid 1950’s, this was an area where there simply were no Union jobs. All of the jobs in the area all paid what ever the Federal National minimum wage happened to be at the time. None of the factories, silk mills or saw mills paid anything to their employees that was not mandated by law. Besides the people being paid the minimum wage there were no benefits at all for the employees, no health insurance, not dental or vision insurance, no paid holidays, no vacations or vacation pay, no overtime pay when you had work on a holiday, unless in doing so put you over the 40 work week. Another big thing was there was no job security at all, you could have been at a job for 20 years and the foreman or “Boss Man” as most were called could come into work one morning in a bad mood and fire you for any reason, or no reason at all and there was nothing at all that you could do about it. Needless to say my Mom and Dad whom were both factory workers were in favor of Unions but it was something that they had to keep quiet because you would definitely get fired if the Bosses ever even thought you were talking pro-union even if you were not at work when they heard that you were condoning the concept of a Union. The reasons are pretty simple, if the Company was forced to have a Union then the bosses would have to have a real reason to fire you or to suspend you. The company would be forced to pay much higher wages and be required to pay for benefits like vacation pay, health insurance, paid sick leave. To me I believe that there are two main financial reasons for a company to treat their employees this way. One is pure greed from the ownership stand point. If you own a company what you don’t pay out in wages and benefits you get to put into your own pocket. Two, competition, you as an owner had to be able to keep the wholesale prices of your product in line with what other companies whom made the same products as you were charging. When you paid more out for your costs than your competition then the customers would buy from your competition and not you, thus putting you out of business. Back then competition was mostly all domestic, now days everything is international. This is some of the reasons why so many factories have closed here in the States and moved overseas, competition and cheaper production costs.

 

Now to the crux of this article to you today. I was a long haul truck driver from 1981-2013, I drove all over the lower 48 states and all of the Provinces of Canada. Most of my driving was here in the U.S. so I am only going to speak of my Union/non-Union experiences here in the States. I my self do believe that the concept of Unions is a very good thing for the working class poor people but as a truck driver I really did not like having to go to Union customers. Companies simply want to get employees to get as much product out the door as possible for the least amount of cost. Unions want to make companies pay the employees as much as possible and they want the employees to have to do as little as possible for that higher pay. Also Unions want to have as many members as possible so their theory is if the employees of a company do less and less than the company will have to hire more Union employees to get the finished product out the door. This in turn creates more revenue for the Union via the employees Union Dues. The problem between the companies and the Unions are just like the problems we all see in American politics between the Republicans and the Democrats, they are total polar opposites.  The only way to make things work whether it is in politics or with companies and Unions is if both sides of the issues will decide to ‘meet in the middle’.

 

Examples of why a driver does not like to go to Union companies: There was a large Paper Mill in Lamar Louisiana that I went to several times, once you backed in the dock to get loaded you walked about 200 feet back into the Mill to the Shipping Office to sign and pickup the paper work for your load. By the time you walked to the Office then back to your trailer, it was loaded. These are big rolls of paper that are loaded with a clamp machine (adapted forklift). This Mill is non-Union and you could always hear the tires squealing on the forklifts as they were loading the trailers and your trailer was only in a dock for a total of about 15 minutes and you were ready to leave. One time I picked up a load from this Mill and the load was an (in-house) move, meaning that it was going to their own warehouse in Indianapolis Indiana. The difference here was that the warehouse in Indianapolis was a Union Shop. I got to the Receiver about a half hour early and was given a door assignment to back into which I did. This warehouse had about 40 dock doors and I was the only trailer in any dock. I waited for two hours and they still had not entered the trailer for the first time so I went back to the Receiving Office to ask when they might start, about another hour and a half passed before they pulled the first roll out. From that point it took them two hours to unload the trailer, my total time in their dock to get unloaded was 5 1/2 hours. Remember, at their non-Union Mill they loaded this load in 10-15 minutes.

 

One time I picked up a load of car fenders that were on either 5 or 6 racks that took the loader literally no more than about 5 minutes to load. This load was going to a General Motors Assembly Plant in Michigan. General Motors is very strict about incoming freight and they only give you a half hour window in which to be arriving, if you are late the company that you drove for gets a big fine so you don’t dare be late. My appointment was for 5 AM. I checked in at 4:30 and was told to pull in front of door #5 and to stay there until someone comes out and tells you to back into the dock. All of the dock doors had trucks lined up waiting just like I was. A couple of times during the day I went in to check with the Receiving Supervisor to see when they might get started as my dispatch had me a reload to get picked up and that customer was wanting to know when I might show up. Turns out that all of the Receiving Department employees were sitting in the break room doing things like reading newspapers and books, playing card games and watching TV. When the Supervisor asked them to please go out and unload these trailers they cursed him quite badly and told him to go F-off. The Supervisor one time even got a hold of the Union Representative who showed up on his little three-wheeled power cart and he asked the employees to please go unload the trailers, he got cursed just as the Receiving Supervisor had before him. Turns out that at about 6 PM I finally got to back into my dock door and they did get me unloaded in about 10 minutes. That was the one and only load that my company ever hauled into or out of a U.A.W. (United Auto Workers) location. Is it any wonder why the Company built factories in Mexico to get away from the Union here in the States?

 

Twice I had to pick up a load of flooring tile at a manufacturer in north-east Illinois. Both times I had gotten appointments for about 10 AM. The Shipper had a good-sized parking lot for the trucks to wait in until they were called to back into a dock door. Both times the company I worked for ended up canceling the load and the reason was simple economics. This was a Union Shipper, after waiting for a couple of hours past my appointment time I went inside to see what was going on as no trucks had moved from the docks yet. Just like at the GM Factory the shipping department employees were all just siting around in their break room. I was told that the Union had gotten a deal where the employees only had to load 4 trailers per shift, figuring 2 hours per trailer x 4=8 hour shift. Reality was that when the day started at 7 AM the employees would hustle to get their 4 trailers loaded. But, it actually only took them about 30 minutes to load a trailer so, 4 x 30 minutes =2 hours. Then the employees would just go to the break room each day until their 8 hour shift was finished then they would check out and go home. The reality was that they had a whole lot full of trucks waiting to get loaded that they didn’t give a damn about.

 

Folks, here is my take on this issue. We all know that all companies are in a global economy, if your company makes a product, lets say widgets, you are not only competing with other Widget Companies in your State or even just in your home Country. If I have a company here in Kentucky, Union or not, and I make Widgets at a cost to me of 48 cents each and another company in lets say China and or Indonesia comes into the market selling Widgets for a total cost of 35 cents each having a production cost of 20 cents per Widget then I have a tough choice to make. Either I get my production cost down to no more than 20 cents per unit so that I can stay competitive, or I close my factory before I go bankrupt. The other option is to close up my factory here in Kentucky and to open up a factory in a place like China or Indonesia where I can be competitive. Either way, I must close up my factory here in Kentucky.

 

My Mom instilled in me a major ‘work ethic’, the concept that when you are at work, you bust your behind, you work. It has long been my belief that if you are an employee and you are lucky enough to have a Union job then you should always work as hard as you can and to always put out the best possible product for you employer. If you are  employed in a Union Business I have always believed that you need to produce at a higher level because you are being paid at a higher level than your non-Union neighbor. Getting contracts where you can work for two hours and sit on your butt in the break room for the next six hours is how companies either go bankrupt, or move away to a non-Union location, like China. Either way, you now have no job at all.

Apple investigates new claims of China factory staff mistreatment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’)

 

Apple investigates new claims of China factory staff mistreatment

Conditions for 70,000 workers at Pegatron plants allegedly worse than those reported in the Foxconn scandal
Apple
 Apple is investigating new claims of worker mistreatment in China. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Apple has been accused of benefiting from the exploitation of more than 70,000 Chinese factory workers in conditions described as even worse than those at Foxconn, the supplier hit by employee suicides and accusations of excessive working hours.

The iPhone and iPad maker is accused of breaching its promise to improve working conditions after the Foxconn revelations by using another supplier alleged to have broken 86 labour laws, including forcing pregnant women to work 11 hours a day, six days a week, standing up.

The US-based human rights watchdog China Labour Watch (CLW) also accused the company in question, Pegatron, of employing underage staff and discriminating against applicants shorter than 4ft 11in, older than 35 or from certain ethic minorities. The fresh claims of worker mistreatment are particularly embarrassing for Apple after it switched some iPhone and iPad manufacturing from Foxconn to Pegatron after intense negative publicity surrounding Foxconn.

Li Qiang, executive director of CLW, said: “Our investigations have shown labour conditions at Pegatron factories are even worse than at Foxconn factories. Apple has not lived up to its own standards. Apple is worsening conditions for workers, not improving them.”

Apple on Monday promised to investigate the claims and ensure “corrective actions” are taken. The company said it would force Pegatron to compensate for lost wages. “We are dedicated to protecting every worker in our supply chain,” a spokesman said. The Californian company said it had carried out 15 comprehensive audits at Pegatron factories since 2007, but admitted that many of the CLW claims were “new to us”. Apple confirmed CLW’s claim that some employment agencies were withholding worker ID cards and demanded Pegatron “put a stop” to it.

Jason Cheng, chief executive of Pegatron, said he would immediately investigate the allegations, many of which the company denied. “We strive to make each day at Pegatron better than the last for our employees. They are the heart of our business,” he said. “That’s why we take these allegations very seriously.”

CLW sent undercover investigators posing as employees into three Pegatron factories and conducted more than 200 interviews with staff. Its 60-page reportclaimed the majority of Pegatron’s factory staff worked 66- to 69-hour weeks, above the Chinese legal limit of 49 hours and Apple’s limit of 60 hours a week. Apple said its latest Pegatron survey found employees making its products worked 46-hours a week on average.

“In these factories, pregnant women were made to work the same long hours as other workers, putting in 11-hour days for six days per week,” the CLW report said. Chinese law restricts employers from asking pregnant women to work more than eight hours a day.

CLW also claimed Pegatron employs workers under 18 – breaching both Chinese law and Apple’s strict employment code. “Underage workers often enter the factories as student ‘interns’ required to work at factories by vocational schools,” the report said. Pegatron denied that it employed underage staff.

Pegatron, which recently won the contract to make Apple’s forthcoming cheaper iPhone, allegedly displays posters listing “hiring standards” that discriminates against minority groups. The list bans applicants who are less than 4ft 11in, over 35, pregnant, or from the Hui, Tibetan or Uighur ethnic groups. CLW also claimed that male applicants were forced to take off their shirts to prove they did not have tattoos.

It said the average hourly wage of Pegatron workers making Apple products is no more than $1.50 (£0.98) an hour, which it claims is not enough to live on and effectively forces staff to work overtime to earn a living wage.

The undercover investigators also claim Pegatron managers threaten and abuse staff. Managers are alleged to have said: “If you don’t obey, I will expose you to the blazing sun until 12 o’clock.”

The allegations come a year after Apple chief executive Tim Cook visited Foxconn’s Chinese factories and promised regular inspections of working conditions at its biggest suppliers.

“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the Fair Labor Association [FLA] to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” he said. “The inspections now under way are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope, and we appreciate the FLA agreeing to take the unusual step of identifying the factories in their reports.”