Evil or Stupid?

Apparently, Lew Rockwell doesn’t like unions any more than I do. However, Mr. Rockwell’s feelings seem to be much stronger than mine, prompting him to call them evil. IMHO, he would do well to remember Napoleon’s wise maxim, “Never attribute to malice what could be sufficiently explained by ineptitude.” While some unions have certainly arrogated enough power to prove Lord Acton’s maxim regarding absolute power, I think in most situations unions are populated and run by ordinary, fallible people who fail to act in their own best interest or in the best interest of society in general. I don’t think it was malignant intent that priced the steel industry out of Pittsburgh; I think it was short-sighted, foolish selfishness.

Comments 6

  1. Rob wrote:

    Your point would make more sense if it had been the unions that chased the steel industry out of Pittsburgh.

    The steel industry died because of management short-sightedness.

    USS taught Japan and South Korea how to use modern steelmaking methods — sold them the technology and trained them in its use. Yet because it wasn’t cost-effective in the short term, they never did serious upgrades of the plants here in Pittsburgh. By the time it was no longer cost-effective to run the old plants, the lead time required to build new ones made it impractical to do so. USS, rather than accepting responsibility for their own short-sightedness, blamed the unions for the failure and closed the plants.

    When I was a child in grade school at Sunday dinners,my uncle (who was management at US Steel) would explain US Steel’s coming doom — long before it actually happened. That was around the time they were contemplating moving from the Murial Street building to a tower in downtown Pittsburgh made of Cor-ten steel.

    Nancy, when working at a US Steel subsidiary, did help to upgrade some plants in Gary, and they lasted much longer, although they fell victim to the same basic shortsightedness. Interestingly, Nancy did CAD engineering work on the Dravo Tower in downtown Pittsburgh. Bet you’ve never heard of the Dravo Tower…

    A member of our church worked at a smaller steel plant in the ’70s. At a church retreat in 1973, I remember him asking, at 3 am in the morning while some of the adults and one teen were still awake and chatting, how Christianity should be applied in the workplace. He started Bible studies with the workers and got to know them as individuals. If a person was having trouble with his marriage (back then, steel workers were all male), he was given time off with pay and counseling was made available. During the gas crisis, the company gasoline was made available to employees. When it came time to negotiate the contract, Wayne and the union produced a model contract, one that was regarded in the industry as a perfect example of win-win for management and labor. The company did fantastic.

    The company was bought out. Wayne was given an order by the new management — stop fraternizing with the workers and begin treating them as the enemy of management. Wayne resigned his position — an action that was considered unthinkable in our little sheltered suburban community.

    Not surprisingly, the new management managed to close the plant down after re-opening the contract and negotiating a lose-lose contract.

    Management, not unions, cost the steel valley its industry.

    Posted 11 Apr 2008 at 3:05 pm
  2. Squat wrote:

    Due to a recent change in my profession, I’ve had to join a union. During the past year I’ve learned a lot. Not all unions are the same. I belong to the International Association of Fire Fighters. I am glad that I am represented by the IAFF to make sure that my city treats me right. My union can’t strike. There are cities with locals working for decades without a contract but the fire fighters still show up every day to pull people out of burning buildings.

    Dealing with management is hard enough. It’s worse when management is a municipality. We just got a new four year contract signed and we went through hell to get there. It’s like playing some twisted game. The cost of living around here went up 6.5% over the past year. The city wanted to give us no increase in pay. We asked for 8% but we settled for 4%. So we are getting poorer. Cities are always looking for ways to cut expenses. Sadly, it’s commonly the fire department who feels it the most.

    I’m not saying that unions are the best. Unions are run by people, who are falable and sometimes self serving. I feel that some unions are needed to make sure that management does not compromise safety in order to save money. I couldn’t believe the corners that a municipality would cut around safety just to save a few bucks until I saw it myself.

    Sorry if this turned into a rant. I just couldn’t sit back and watch unions get bashed. Hug a fire fighter. They need it more that you know.
    *steps off soapbox*

    Posted 11 Apr 2008 at 11:17 pm
  3. Rob wrote:


    It could be worse. You could be a member of FAPP instead of IAFF.

    How long have you been with the Fire bureau? I left Pgh. EMS in 1996.

    Posted 12 Apr 2008 at 10:02 am
  4. Squat wrote:

    I just started in Jan of ’07 for the City of Bethlehem. Are you an EMT or a Medic? All new fire personnel from ’04 to present are required (for us) to be an EMT. Most of our EMS are Medics. Part of what took our new contract so long is that the city wants us to run EMS as well but not raise our pay. Managements rights? Who knows?

    Posted 12 Apr 2008 at 8:33 pm
  5. gbm3 wrote:

    Didn’t know if anyone knew, but some federal employees have unions that they can join or decline to join. An example is POPA. http://www.popa.org/ Not much more I can say about that.


    Posted 12 Apr 2008 at 10:16 pm
  6. Rob wrote:

    Squat —

    I got confused — thought you were City of Pittsburgh, not Bethlehem. I have some good friends out there. Thank you for protecting them.

    In Pittsburgh, EMS is the unwanted stepchild third service. The union is the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics (FAPP). One of our mayors actually said we weren’t an essential service. Firefighters are at least 1st Responders and get paid much, much more than paramedics. Every once in a while, EMS tries a two-tiered service where EMTs respond to less serious calls and aid paramedics on the critical ones — and then budgets get tight and the EMTs get dumped again. EMS call volume is 6-9 calls per day per unit, about 1 in 10 ALS.

    Most of the fire fighters I knew in the City of Pittsburgh were good folks. A good friend of mine, Patty Conroy, was one of the three fire fighters killed at the Bricelyn Street fire on Valentine’s Day, 1995.

    And, of course, they were all Union, too.

    Please be careful.

    Posted 14 Apr 2008 at 1:33 am

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