Union standards set for all workers

Re: Value of labour unions slowly wanes, Guest Comment, June 18.

To the Editor,

Re: Value of labour unions slowly wanes, Guest Comment, June 18.

How tiring it gets reading articles written by people with so little experience on the subject for which they purport to know something about.

The article is clearly intended to provoke nasty reactions from readers. It even asks them to sharpen their pencils and begs them to be nastier than responses to her last nutty right wing rant.

So here goes a response, but I will try not to be as nasty as the writer would like.

It is commonly known that unions have set the pay and benefit standards we have in this country and the minimum employment standard laws we have are also because of unions.

In the case of employers that pay more than the required minimum wage and offer benefits as well, my question is, do you think the employer does this because they want to earn less for themselves?

The answer is no.  They pay more because there is a standard set in their industry – a standard set by a union.

They do this so they are able to attract skilled workers to their workplace and industry and for other reasons, such as trying to avoid one of the reasons workers join unions (more money).

To be clear though, employers do not fear unions because they have to bargain wages and benefits with them. They fear unions because they don’t want to give up any of their rights.

The right unions have that they fear the most is the ability to establish seniority rights, the right to grieve unjust actions, the right to work free of harassment and from favouritism, the right to enforce safety rules and the right to work without fear of reprisal for speaking one’s mind.

Does anyone, even the writer of the article, believe that if there were no unions, everyone’s working standards would not deteriorate? Of course they would deteriorate, which is why unions are needed to ensure workers’ rights continue to be protected.

Would anyone suggest that since the number of young people who smoke cigarettes has dropped dramatically in last 50 years, we should now remove the age limit to purchase cigarettes?

Certainly by now everyone understands that smoking is bad, so all these rules are no longer necessary?  Wrong, they are needed more now than ever.

Much like the writer’s closing comments, I’m not saying all right-wing commentators are useless, greedy, self-serving people who think employers are the only ones who deserve a better working life.

I am sure there are some who, like the rest of us, know that workers have a legal right to join a union, just like they know that non-union workers benefit from the standards set by unions.

Without unions setting the standards, I think most know what the result would be.

Brian Butler

United Steelworkers, Local 1-1937