Once again, “James H” has given me a sharp poke in the cerebrum. (He’s awfully good at that. And quite annoying about it. And he called it “food for thought,” which would have made a pretty good title.) He sent me a link to this story, and invited me to opine on it.
Short version: Workers at a Mott’s Apple Juice plant in upstate New York are on strike, fighting a proposed wage cut.
No big surprise, right? It’s a tough time. Companies are facing shortfalls, and they need to cut spending wherever they can. In rough circumstances, everyone’s gotta make sacrifices. Better to lose a little pay than jobs.
The only catch here is, things ain’t so rough for Mott’s. The company’s making record profits, and the plant is quite financially successful.
The reason they want to cut workers’ pay? Pretty much because they can. As it stands now, Mott’s pays somewhat above the average for their industry in that area. They’re trying to bring their pay rates more in line with the standard.
And that’s their right.
As it’s the workers’ right to say “hell, no!” and go on strike.
What Mott’s is doing is incredibly stupid. They’ve got a profitable plant, and they’re trying to wring more profit out of it at the expense of the people who are, in a large way, generating that profit.
I don’t talk much about my “day job,” but I identify with the workers here. I work for a Very Big company, but I’m one of the revenue-generating employees. And every day, it seems, some of the parasites (that’s my term for the middle to upper management idiots) come up with new, stupid policies and guidelines and procedures and rules that get in the way of my being able to generate revenue. (Some day, when I get fed up with the place, I’ll post here a link to the unofficial message board where we employees engage in sedition. I’m rather active there, and me and my colleagues can be quite… creative.)
The Mott’s management seems to think that their employees are overpaid, and want to correct that. I sincerely hope they’ve looked very carefully at the situation, because I’d wager that there is a direct relationship between the above-average pay the workers receive and the above-average performance of the factory in question.
My employer is an even bigger company than the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the owners of Mott’s, and I think I can extrapolate from my own experiences and knowledge to get inside the corporate mindset.
They’re probably thinking that with the economy the way it is, they can afford to cut back on pay a little. They’re thinking that the workers will look at it reasonably, realize that they will still have jobs, and suck it up. Eventually.
There are two flaws with that theory.
The first is that the move will anger the workers, and angry people often do stupid things. Stupid things against their self-interest. Including saying “screw this” and quitting a job that is still well-paying in a time when finding a new job is a dicey option. This would hurt both the worker and the employer, but as I said, angry people do stupid things.
The other flaw is that they have forgotten that “loyalty” is a two-way street. If an employer wants to have loyal employees, they need to show loyalty to them. They need to prove they’re worthy of the loyalty they need.
I don’t know how this strike will end specifically, but I’m quite comfortable on answering how it will end generally: badly, for all parties concerned. And the idiots who proposed this pay cut for no other reason than “we think we can get away with it” needs to be pelted with apple cores.
But James’ story brought back another story I’d meant to write about at the time — one that shows the current reality of unions. Not like the Mott’s case, which harkens back to the days when unions occasionally did right by their workers, but one that’s far more typical of unions today (and why, when I hear rumblings about attempts to unionize my own company, I see red).
It seems that this worker was trying to unionize his fellow workers. He notified his employer that he was trying to do so, and in response he was fired.
The employer in question? The United Federation of Teachers.
The UFT case is far more typical of today’s unions than the Mott’s case. It is nothing but rank hypocrisy. Had any other company fired someone for trying to organize a union, that company would be the target of so many protests it’d make their heads spin. But when it’s a union that is doing the discriminating, that’s different.
Today’s unions are no strangers to hypocrisy. They’ve even resorted to “outsourcing” their picket lines — instead of union members walking the line themselves, they hire temporary workers to carry the signs. And, in some cases, the temps work under far worse conditions, for less pay, than the striking workers are protesting.
If unions today wanted to be true to their original principles, they’d be looking for more cases like the Mott’s case — and stop pulling the kind of bullshit they’ve been pulling for years (such as sinking millions and millions of their members’ money into trying to buy the Democratic Party, and setting up cushy resorts for themselves, and whatnot).
But I don’t hold out much hope for that to happen. The Mott’s case isn’t a sign of the unions’ revival of their original principles, it’s the deviation. It’s a throwback. It’s the aberration. It’s the exception.
It’s the last gasp of the original purpose and need for unions.
And that’s a damned shame.
Update: Link added. Doh!