When one realizes that union bosses and the rank-and-file do not have the same interests, especially when the union bosses' have fully-funded pensions where rank-and-file have some awfully-funded pensions, not to mention the awesome pay & bennies and that (so far) the industries going under don't hurt the bosses, the following is not surprising at all (like most of my "Unexpectedly!" posts):
In Illinois, the latest intra-union conflict—and potentially the biggest yet—is in Joliet. Last May, after contract negotiations stalled, nearly 800 IAM-represented employees walked off the job at Caterpillar's hydraulic-parts factory. After a few weeks, more than 100 returned to work, fed up over the lack of progress in the talks and pinched by the union's $150-a-week strike pay, some workers say.
When an agreement was reached in mid-August, the contract provided less than the one before it: The IAM gave in to an hourly pay freeze for veteran employees, an end to pensions, a doubling of health care premiums and a one-time ratification bonus of $3,100 instead of $5,000 under the previously proposed pact. The terms were almost identical to a Cat contract ratified by the UAW a year earlier.
But rather than blame the boss, some workers are directing their anger toward a union that they say is out of touch with current realities and refuses to acknowledge its limited power.
“They are not effective,” says Steven Olson, 54, a former IAM member who crossed the picket line last summer. “With high unemployment and companies willing to relocate, you just don't have the options that you did 30 years ago. The whole world has changed.”
This month, Mr. Olson and another Caterpillar worker filed an unfair labor practices charge against the union local with the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, saying it's illegal to punish them for returning to work. Mark Mix, president of the foundation, says 61 other Caterpillar workers who also crossed the picket line have called the organization looking to lodge similar complaints. “I suspect we will have some more charges here shortly,” he says.
I've been anti-union for a long time (though I am a guild member, more on that distinction another time), mainly because I, as an individual, will invariably get screwed.
If nothing else, I prefer having only one boss. Having to deal with two power heirarchies is just too headache-inducing, as anybody in a matrix-reporting organization very well knows.
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