Guest Column: Say “good bye” to unions

Joseph Reino

I believe unions have held a vital role in the development of workers’ rights in our nation. During the Industrial Revolution, workers were treated as scum by management. Thank God these workers in the beginning of the twentieth century formed unions, went on strike and demanded fair pay and working conditions.

Thanks to the New Deal and Progressive Era, unions were given legitimacy by the judiciary branch and Congress. Laws were passed and upheld in the name of labor. Some of the issues that unions fought for were given prominent status in the U.S. Code. Unions saved the capitalist structure that America had helped develop. Without their negotiating abilities, our system of economics could be very different with much more government control.

For the reasons that I have mentioned herein, I thank unions. I do, however, believe that unions have primarily served their purpose for our society and will soon fall to the wayside completely. I believe that unions grew powerful only in the 1950s and ‘60s for one reason, World War II. After the war, Europe and Asia were destroyed, and while these regions spent the next decade or so rebuilding, America was hard at work providing the world with American-made goods.

Manufacturers needed workers to man their factories in order to produce goods for foreign markets as well as for the growing middle class in America. Because unions were already established, workers used them as bargaining instruments to gain benefits like health insurance, vacation pay and competitive wages. This was great at the time because employers needed workers.

As foreign markets have developed and tariffs have been removed from trade, we have entered into a new era of our economic development. Unions serve a purpose in places where there are no laws in place or where demand for labor is so high that unions are needed to negotiate higher wages in order to attract competent workers.

As America’s manufacturing base continues to be outsourced to Asia, we will continue to see a decline in union membership. Demand for workers is low so benefit packages aren’t required to entice high quality help. The laws are still in place to protect working conditions and minimum pay. Unions have served their purpose to society, and we shouldn’t be upset about their diminished influence. But we should understand that we no longer need them.

Joseph Reino is a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.