The Fifth Column Lance Thompson
August 2, 2007
In the 28 July Idaho Statesman, Joe Estrella reported that a local union was hiring homeless people to walk its picket line.
“The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters Local 635 is paying $12.50 an hour to anyone willing to walk picket lines,” Estrella reports. “Mixed among a few union members and their spouses are homeless people.” The non-union picketers are protesting the use of nonunion labor on a 26-unit condo project in downtown Boise. Evidently, there is so much highly-paid union construction work in the area that union members are too busy to protest the fact that some carpenters are working for less.
When asked about the practice of hiring homeless picketers for the union line, Local 635 representative Rob Robbins explained, “We’ll supplement with anybody who wants to work. I don’t ask their addresses.” Local 635’s grievance with Commercial Constructors, Inc., a Boise area drywall and steel stud framing business owned by Steve Packard, is low wages and health insurance. Robbins said, “I have evidence that his average payroll is $15 an hour and that only 20% of his workers have health insurance.” Local 635 is paying its replacement picketers $12.50 an hour, and there was no mention of health insurance.
When an organization hires temporary replacement workers for less money and fewer benefits than their regular laborers are paid, don’t unions condemn such temporary workers as “scabs?” Aren’t such tactics by the organization known as “unfair labor practices?”
The temporary picketers hired by the union have no job security–the protest could end tomorrow, and they’d all be out of work. They have no right of collective bargaining–there is an endless stream of eager workers ready to step up if others tire of the conditions. Local 635 does not negotiate with the temporary workers–it’s $12.50 an hour, take it or leave it. The temporary picketers seem ripe for organizing, but, oddly, no one from the union has spoken to them about the benefits of forming or joining a union, the power of collective bargaining, or the exploitation they are suffering at the hands of an organization that enjoys a surplus of available labor to fill a small number of highly coveted jobs. Any company that employed such exploitive tactics would be excoriated by union spokesmen and labor activists.
Source: The New Media Journal
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Unions are not about worker conditions. Unions are about power. Power gathered into the hands of a few union bosses. Union Members make up only 12 percent of the workforce, and that number will continue to decline them into obscurity.
Unions once performed a useful service. No longer. The dustbin of history awaits them.