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Immoral to be a member of a union?

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studentofobjectivism
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I work for Stop and Shop as a cashier. I get paid $7.05 an hour (minus taxes and union dues). I belong to the UFCW - United Food & Commercial Workers International Union. I just got their quarterly journal that denounces any business (this time it's Wal-Mart) and any man trying to make a profit - the profit motive is evil.

I think it may be immoral to belong to a union because I choose to work at Stop and Shop, and thus choose (indirectly) to belong to the union that initiates the use of force against Stop and Shop.

Ultimately the question is: Is it immoral for me to belong to a union?

Note: Changed 'amoral' to immoral' and added clarity.

Edited by studentofobjectivism
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I work for Stop and Shop as a cashier. I get paid $7.05 an hour (minus taxes and union dues). I belong to the UFCW - United Food & Commercial Workers International Union. I just got their quarterly journal that denounces any business (this time it's Wal-Mart) and any man trying to make a profit - the profit motive is evil.

I think it may be amoral because I choose to work at Stop and Shop, and thus choose (indirectly) to belong to the union that initiates the use of force against Stop and Shop.

Ultimately the question is: Is it amoral for me to belong to a union?

Do you mean amoral or immoral?

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Being offered a job under certain conditions is an initiation of force?

Good question, but what are the applicable laws in this situation, I wonder? Did the union win "union shop" status with this particular company through peaceful bargaining -- or did the union rely on state and federal laws that prevent the company from reacting, for example, by firing employees who were union members, at the beginning of their unionizing effort?

So, yes, offering someone a job under certain conditions caused by oppressive laws could be a form of initiation of force -- though perhaps by the union and its legislative supporters, rather than by the business in this case.

Of course, many businesses are also guilty of initiating force by demanding that legislators give them privileges in one form or another -- such as expecting a city government to supply roads for an industrial park or new housing subdivision. A local example, that failed, was a situation in my own, downtown neighborhood. Rite-Aid, a pharmacy and drugstore chain, planned to open a new store in a new district of the city (a former warehouse district now rapidly converting to upscale housing and shops, thanks to a 10 year moratorium on taxes in the area). A local, "neighborhood" pharmacy tried to block Rite-Aid from opening its store. How? By going to the local permit commission and encouraging the commissioners to reject Rite-Aid's "permit" to do business at that spot. Fortunately the locals' call for initiation of force failed, but meanwhile Rite-Aid spent money defending itself within the "permit" process.

Only an investigation of the particular situation could untangle the complex of mutual coercions that makes up today's economy. Initiations of force ripple through the economy. In a society of cannibals, being vegetarian isn't always an option.

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I used to work at Byerly's Grocery store, and apparently, before I got promoted, things got pretty bad with the union. The Bagger's Union (believe it or not) made every worker work at least 15 hours per week! So (and this is what happened to my friend) in some cases people who wanted to take vacations couldn't, because they weren't able to come in to work!

In general, however, unions can be good. Nowadays, most unions are simply bueracracies that don't help workers at all. But to speak of unions as they should be; they operate as a system of leverage with the employer, allowing the worker's grievances to be heard. This, by no means, should infringe on the employers ability to fire every last one of them, if he so wishes, but it is simply a vehicle.

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This is a question I have wondered about - especially considering the industry I work in and some of the work I would like to do in the future may require me to join a union (such as air traffic control, airline pilot, etc.) in order to procure employment, no matter what company I work for because of the FAA regulations enforced by US law and other state and federal laws.

In the case of unskilled labor, where you are free to go elsewhere and do the same kind of work, I think it is interesting to note that you have other options besides Stop and Shop (like Wal Mart for one) that are non-union. Of course, I don't know what the employment situation is where you are located, but if it is actually a severe problem then you could potentially move. When other options are available that will achieve the same goal I guess it's not really an issue of morality as much as it is of taking the whole context of the job and whether or not your morals are being compromised into consideration. If the union job pays you 3 times as much as the non-union job, your employer gets along well with the union, and the union uses non-coercive methods of negotiation then I don't see anything wrong with it.

Unions, in and of themselves, are not what it evil -- it's when they initiate force to get what they want that they become immoral. Without that elements they are a group of individuals organizing in order to negotiate with an employer. My family business deals with unions often in developing their pension plans and I have seen many instances of extremely amicable relationships between managers and union leaders (usually in skilled manufacturing as I have seen) where the managers view the union leaders as a useful tool for keeping tabs of the pulse of the employee culture and understanding how to motivate their workers. Often the committees for 401(k) and other benefit plans at major companies will have representative split between union and non-union workers... and they don't have much difficulty agreeing. This is the exception though... we don't do work with coercive unions.

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I think Ayn Rand mentioned in her essay on accepting government scholarships that, due to the tangle of economy and government that we have currently, you're absolutely moral to accept imperfect situations such as these, as long as you advocate their eventual abolition and never stoop to lobbying for these conditions.

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Unless there was no other choice (i.e. I end up with my wife and pets on the street starving) I would not choose to work anywhere that takes so much as a penny of the product of my mind from my check against my will :) . Fortunately Arkansas, where I live, is a "right to work" state. This means unions can form but cannot demand employers not hire non union workers (unless a certain ex-president illegaly orders the firing of non union construction workers to hire union workers off my tax dollars to build a presidential library that looks like a two story, tripple wide trailer). As a future teacher I would not choose to join a teaching union, such as the NEA, because of their politics and thugish tactics. If any of my hard earned money went to a cause I knew to be evil I would find another job. Or two jobs.

Now to your problem. Studentofobjectivism, since the morality of a forced membership is more or less answered (there is no choice and no moral guilt when their is no choice in the matter) the question you could ask yourself is what do you value more. The money you make now with a percentage taken to support people you dissagree with, or possibly making less money at a new place that does not? If it helps, ask what you will have to do without if you make less money, and what such a change in your current working enviornemt would do to your life in total.

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When I was in high school I was in a similar situation. The grocery store I worked for required all employees to join the UFCW. Back then, I was just a kid and just reluctantly accepted it. But if I could go back I would have never given money to that pack of thieves.

Like all union members, I had to pay dues. But since I was a minor, I was not entitled to any union benefits. Why pay dues if there are no benefits? For no better reason than the fact that the union worked out a deal to force all employees to do so. And since most of the employees of that store were high school students, the union was not obligated to represent them in any way, but still happily collected their dues.

Furthermore, unions like the UFCW use their revenue to support socialist and other left-wing laws. These are the reasons why I will never contribute to such organizations. I don't want my money supporting political ideas that I do not agree with.

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I was a member of the OCAW Off Shore Atomic Atomic And Chemical Worker Union strictly becuse the job I wanted to take you HAD to join was OCAW OR ELSE. In theory, Texas is an employment at will state. So the pimply faced kids that work as sackers part time and for only six monts total as sackes at Kroger stores are all "voluntarily" unionized. Not that a single one of the kids that work as sackers will work 30+ years as sackers and will take a penny of their money of they "volontary" union dues as retirement retirement benefits but oh well. It's almost a cost of doing business in a corrupt society.

Think of doing buisness in Russia. You are going to be expected to pay off XY&Z to sneez much less do business, so it's almost expected. It's totaly bullshit yes I agree an d I have nothing but animiosity and anger but I've been there and done that.

Try working offshore. I live in Houston and worked on sonar sounding ships doing petro logs for indie oil soundoing logs. Talk about having to blow someone for your wages andnot having the courtesy of a reach around. There is a reason I went back to college. Really.

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[...]  Fortunately Arkansas, where I live, is a "right to work" state.  This means unions can form but cannot demand employers not hire non union workers [...]

Are so-called "Right-to-Work" laws moral? According to news reports I have read over the years, such laws prohibit unions from forming "closed shops," that is, situations in which all employees of a certain type must be union members -- even if the company agrees to do so.

Such laws, I think, are just as immoral as laws that force businesses to work with unions rather than firing would-be union members trying to "organize" a company. Initiation of force is initiation of force.

I realize that Right-to-Work laws are supposed to "balance" pro-business statism with anti-business (pro-union) statism. The proper solution, however, is abolition of all statist laws, not "balance."

Does your knowledge of the law in Arkansas contradict what I "learned" from news reports?

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This site (link) has a map showing the "Right to Work" states. Clicking on a state brings up the law in that state.

While "Right-to-Work" laws are not moral, they're the typical "check and balance" type of law that result in mixed economies. rather than allowing freedom, each "side" is given a certain "protective" laws. In the context where employers are forced to recognize unions and deal with them, such laws are a good counter-balance. They should not be scrapped without also scrapping the "pro-Union" laws.

An interesting tid-bit from the site was that in most states one cannot be forced to join the union, only to pay the union dues!

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An interesting tid-bit from the site was that in most states one cannot be forced to join the union, only to pay the union dues!

I can't remember the case law but there were a couple big cases but one very big reason is on basis of religion. Sikh's (I believe) can't belong to organizations that allow non-Sikh's to be members of. So therefore joining the union would be equivalent of forcing them to perform a religious abomination. They pay the dues and receive the benefits and representation of the union but are not considered "members" per se. There are also some Christian sects which have the same requirement. So the forced unionization laws allow the alternative.

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Are so-called "Right-to-Work" laws moral? According to news reports I have read over the years, such laws prohibit unions from forming "closed shops," that is, situations in which all employees of a certain type must be union members -- even if the company agrees to do so

No, they aren't moral. It still violates our right to free association. At least the way "right to work" in Texas is, there are effectively closed shops. When I worked for Kroger as a sacker, I had to join a union but when I worked for Randall's I didn't. When I worked offshore after high school, I could have in theory not joined the OCAW to work.

Or depending on which company or which plant inside what company I was at I could have said no to joining the union. But there would have been 0 chance to me being employed. Generally, all hiring came straight through the union labor hall or through the referral system.

If you work offshore or on a boat, you had to go to a hall and literally stand around with your union card and wait for a captain to walk in at times if you were hard up. Luckily I always had regular jobs lined up but they were always done with kick backs to the union firmly in place. As I mentioned in my previously non-spell checked post, it was great incentive to go to college.

Now, most people that you see inside of chemical plants locally are actually contractors and not employees of the chemical company itself. That way, they don't have to be unionized. That is about the only way in a "right to work" state that so called open shops can actually stay open. Oh, and any time you hear a news story about a plant explosion, it was always be their fault. You can almost always lay good money on the eventual blame being put on "non-union contractor error". It's like the union and companies have a built in scapegoat. It's like working in an office and always having a temp around to lay the blame on.

Though having the choice of working in a right to work and not, I'd choose the 1st. Lesser of evils I must say.

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Furthermore, unions like the UFCW use their revenue to support socialist and other left-wing laws.  These are the reasons why I will never contribute to such organizations.  I don't want my money supporting political ideas that I do not agree with.

+1

I get their magazine every quarter and it disgusts me. Every article is laced with anti-Walmart sentiment.

I belong to UFCW Local 328 (Sounds like some sort of communist terrorist group :thumbsup: ) and they do not allow private contracts between employee and employer. I usually have no bagger bagging groceries when I cashier so I have to bag the items myself. I think I am worth way more then the $7.05 (gross) per hour since I have to perform two jobs, but because no private contracts are allowed I can't vouch for a raise (although I will be getting one in October - the raises are scheduled on a yearly basis).

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+1

I get their magazine every quarter and it disgusts me. Every article is laced with anti-Walmart sentiment.

I belong to UFCW Local 328 (Sounds like some sort of communist terrorist group  :huh: ) and they do not allow private contracts between employee and employer. I usually have no bagger bagging groceries when I cashier so I have to bag the items myself. I think I am worth way more then the $7.05 (gross) per hour since I have to perform two jobs, but because no private contracts are allowed I can't vouch for a raise (although I will be getting one in October - the raises are scheduled on a yearly basis).

In theory you can do something about it. I can't remember the law, but there is one. You are allowed to demand the portion of your union dues that go towards political uses, polling, politicing, lobbying, etc be used in other ways. Kind of your contributions to the United Way but slightly less evil and thuggish. (I digress) But needless to say, it's not well known and you'd not be well liked. In theory, you could ask you steward, you do know who your steward is right? (wink) about it but I bet you'd find out two things a)the name of said law b)what the absolute worst shift your employer offers is.

For what it's worth, when I was union, I was earning right at 2.35 if I remember correctly. And that was bagging groceries and carrying them out to cars in these chilly Texas summers. :thumbsup:

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  • 3 weeks later...

A friend of mine, an Objectivist, used to be shop steward. His argument was that he took the position for selfish reasons. Being steward would make him privy to certain things that a regular union member would not know about, he thought he'd have more clout in the eyes of bosses, etc. Would it be wrong to join for those reasons?

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I can't remember the case law but there were a couple big cases but one very big reason is on basis of religion. Sikh's (I believe) can't belong to organizations that allow non-Sikh's to be members of.

I have a significant extended family composed of Sikh's and have never heard of that. I've only seen the exact opposite, frequently.

My province has the rules that force people to pay union dues if they don't want to be in the union. Thus, those who would not have joined the union in normal situations tend to join anyway.

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I have a significant extended family composed of Sikh's and have never heard of that. I've only seen the exact opposite, frequently.

My province has the rules that force people to pay union dues if they don't want to be in the union. Thus, those who would not have joined the union in normal situations tend to join anyway.

Thanks for the correction. :( As I said I wasn't sure of which religious sect required that they not belong to organizations that disallowed from joining organizations that allowed non-members of their religion to join.

I can see your province doing such a thing. People being forced to pay the dues to the union but get the same benefits so joining is just a matter or a piece of paper in your wallet.

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