Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fork in the Road for Unions

The Detroit News had a good selection of articles yesterday on the crisis faced by unions in today's America. The current Northwest Airlines strike is highlighting the fact that the ability of unions to flex muscle and take on "big business" is severely weakened. Northwest trained replacement mechanics for 18 months prior to last week's strike. An article from today's DetNews says that the strikers' chances of forcing the airline into an agreement are slim.

Northwest says that 96% of flights were successfully completed on Tuesday, up from 91% on Saturday. The strike caused a momentary disruption, but things are back to normal. Looks like the strike was just a blip on the radar.

An important quote from the article:

In interviews this week, the replacement hires say they don't regret their move, despite being derided as "scabs" and "scum" by the strikers, who yell at them from sidewalks above the tarmac.

The Northwest jobs are a chance for better pay and, for many laid off from other airlines, a chance to return to the industry.

That sums the situation up well. While the union members strike, people who are happy just to have a job are filling in. The poor state of the economy in Michigan makes it unwise to walk off the job.

Particularly interesting about the Detroit News' web site is that a poll of online readers shows that 67% believe that union demands are out of line. Read the comments as well, they are mostly anti-union.

While unions had an important role to play in the past, they have outlived their usefulness and now just stand in the way of economic progress. The legacy air carriers and automakers, weighted down with the union mentality of the 1950s, are the big losers in today's economy. As companies such as Northwest aggressively challenge unions, the unions will become less and less relevant.

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