Wednesday, September 14, 2005

do as I say, not as I do

As one that considers individualism to be the rule rather than the exception, I’m not especially fond of labor unions. I dislike everything from ‘collective bargaining’ to the artificially high wages, salaries and benefits that inevitably result. Suffice it to say, I believe that unionization punishes employers, curtails productivity, leads to higher unemployment and more.

When large corporations resist unionization, they are charged with being “anti-worker” or worse. When Wal-Mart rebuffs the unions, they’re called evil. That’s not all; those greedy capitalists actually seek to profit by…gasp…satisfying consumer demand with a lower price-point than their competitors. It gets worse. Wal-Mart refuses to pay more for unskilled labor than it’s worth. In short: they have audacity to be economic realists, in addition to expecting a modicum of personal responsibility from their employees.

In its quest for retail domination, Wal-Mart is meeting stiff resistance from unions in Las Vegas where, in front of a new ‘big box’, loyal union members howl in protest…or do they?

They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.

"It don't make no sense, does it?" says James Greer, the line foreman and the only one who pulls down $8 an hour, as he ambles down the sidewalk, picket sign on shoulder, sweaty hat over sweaty gray hair, spitting sunflower seeds. "We're sacrificing for the people who work in there, and they don't even know it."

No, I guess “it don’t make no sense”. After all, certainly the employees—on whose behalf they picket—must realize how dire their situation is, considering that gainful employment at Wal-Mart only enables an avaricious beast that will invariably erect more stores that require yet more employees. Worse still, profits will be made and the process will be repeated.

"We're just trying to help the women that get discriminated against in Wal-Mart," says Greer. "We're out here suffering a lot for these people." He pauses, moves his sign so that it blocks the scorching sun on his leathery face, and considers the working conditions of his colleagues out here working for the union.

"We had one gal out here in her 40s, and she had a heat stroke. I kept making her sit down, I noticed she was stepping (staggering), and I made her sit in the shade," Greer said. She went home sick after her shift and didn't ever return to work.

Workers of the world unite!

hat tip: Café Hayek