Why we still need unions

A lot of Donald Trump supporters seem to cite his business acumen as a/the reason they will vote for him. This echoes the oft-argued perspective that the government should be run like a business. I guess to some that sounds good, comfortable and safe. Success should equal success.

But that is absolutely wrong — we don’t want our government run like a business. Especially a Trump business.

First, government is not supposed to make a profit. If the government is making money, it is doing it wrong. Businesses are built to acquire and build wealth. Governments should make wealth available to all.

That’s not to say that it can’t make investments that yield positive returns, or that it should not operate within a budget.

If you think the United States should operate as a business, remember the last time you were upset by a company shipping jobs overseas, dodging taxes and laying off workers while paying executives huge salaries, bonuses and retirements.

What about a company claiming that it has to cut wages to become competitive in international markets?

That’s what the newly-sold GE Appliances is arguing to its 4,000 union-member employees this month. Appliance Park, which earned about $658 million last year (up over 60 percent from $400 million in 2014) for GE, is now being told: “We need to negotiate a contract that we can afford,” by the chief negotiator for GE Appliances, now owned by the China-based Haier Group. Why? Because the appliance-only company is no longer part of the manufacturing conglomerate of General Electric, Haier asserts. Yet Haier reported revenues of $32.9 billion and profits of $2.4 billion in 2014.

This is why we need unions — so new owners have to respect their new employees.

On Labor Day, Monday, we celebrate the history of labor in America. If you want jobs to come back to this country and the U.S. to grow its way to a balanced budget, then you want this country to operate more like a government that works for the people, not people who work for U.S.A. Inc. This means more equality in the tax code — where the wealthiest pay a share of taxes that reflects the success this country has afforded them. The top 1 percent may pay almost half of the income tax collected in this country, but over the last half century its members have realized a disproportionate amount of the profit.

We also want a country that provides a better return on the investment made by the taxpayers — including education and  infrastructure.

A country working for the people means protecting workers, their interests and their families. That means fighting back against right-to-work legislation, which generally bars employers and/or unions from requiring workers to pay union dues. Sounds great, right? “Right to work” must mean pro-worker’s rights.

No, it means employees don’t have to pay for services provided them by their representatives, the unions. It is one of the more deceitful political phrases ever concocted by the right.

The Republican effort to push this legislation is meant to undermine the abilities of unions to advocate, because unions are effective. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, last year the median weekly earnings of nonunion workers ($776) was only 79 percent of what union workers ($980) made. Over the course of a month, that’s an $800 difference, and $10,000 over 52 weeks. That on top of better benefits, like the average access to healthcare of union members is 94 percent against 67 percent for nonunion workers, and union employers pay for an average of 83 percent of healthcare premiums vs. only 66 percent for nonunion workers.

If paying the dues doesn’t sound reasonable to you as a prospective employee, then don’t work there. Much like living somewhere with a Homeowners Association fee, nobody is forcing you to live there. But if you do, and you receive the benefits and services that come with it, then you should pay your dues.

President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural-address is best known for his “Ask not.” But today, when our economy favors money-making-money over hard-work-making-money, I’m reminded of a more-pertinent message he delivered: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

I can only imagine what Trump would say.