Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Officer Alex pontificates on union pros and cons
There are more than 800,000 police officers in the United States. By most standards that is a fairly large employee workforce, but the number is well diluted by the fact that those officers work for nearly 18,000 different law enforcement agencies across America.
That said, those officers are subject not just to disease and dismemberment and perforation and stress as one might expect to hear, but also the same thing every other employee in America is exposed to: Bosses that make your work life comparable to smoking a hard turd in high-heat. And what happens when workers get pissed off in large numbers, no matter what their profession? They generally get together and do something about it.
Naturally I’m talking about unions, but in Tennessee that is a word that means very little for police officers in particular since Tennessee does not have collective-bargaining laws. Here, we have associations and fraternal organizations that serve in the place of a more traditional union in other states (some as close as Kentucky), and while that means we are not afforded the protection of contracts in the way most private employees enjoy, it never upset me too much because we never had and never would utilize the number-one tool in the toolbox of unions: The ability to strike. That is not to say these associations do not have any advantages, mind you, because in lieu of the big stick known as going on strike, Tennessee law enforcement associations use their voices. And as it turns out? People listen.
The first group I joined was called the Southern States Police Benevolent Association with about 34,000 members from Arkansas to Florida. After a business dispute with them (specifically on how they handled business), I switched to what is currently the largest organization in America, the Fraternal Order of Police with its current roster of 325,000 officers nationwide. (While these are huge, just one of the NYPD’s associations has more than 50,000 members, the well-known New York City Patrolman’s Benevolent Association.)
Without going into detail, I have been fairly active in these type of organizations based on the strong conviction that policemen should not only expect fair and equitable treatment from their employers, but also on the fact that they see things their employers historically preferred not be made public for political reasons (actual crime rates versus crime rates published with cooked-books as to not scare away future tax-paying customers, etc.) The unions provide a voice for these officers who would otherwise have little to no protection in regards to their present and future careers, just like any other employee in any other profession.
And at last, the reason I’ve said all this? To show that I am personally a believer in union representation, and it’s with that credibility that I express joy in the local Volkswagen plant employees voting down representation from the United Auto Workers.
It turns out the majority of the employees decided they didn’t want representation through an organization whose reputation in recent decades was sandwiched somewhere between the Enron Corporation and Paula Deen, and in a state where they had no real power. Done deal, right?
Alas, no. The employees voted them down, and it was quickly determined by pundits and thin-skinned pro-UAW types that they must have been “scared into” voting it down by state and US senators warning them of UAW follies. Did they vote it down because they didn’t want to hand $900,000 a year in wages to a dying organization equated with failure and corruption so that at the end of the day, they would essentially be doing all the negotiating for themselves? That it was a shit-deal? No, that couldn’t be it. They were voted down because State Senator Bo Watson and Republican politicians carry that much water in the blue-collar soul. That makes more sense to pundits.
If I don’t like Barack Obama’s insistence on raising the debt ceiling rather than controlling spending, it doesn’t mean I’m a racist. It means I just disagreed with something. And if I don’t like the UAW, it doesn’t make me anti-union; it just means I don’t like the UAW specifically. I get to decide these opinions for myself, so when someone waving the flag of fairness ironically doesn’t even allow me to have my own opinion, it just flies all over me.
I think it just pisses me off that yet again, even after a clear democratically administered and supervised defeat, you can’t possibly have an opinion for the reasons you yourself articulate.
Let people draw their own conclusions. Revisionist history is actually a reason we need unions—and the right to choose which unions we, in fact, want representing us.
Congratulations, VW employees. Keep your chin up. No matter what people tell you you’re really keeping your chin up for, in their opinions.