(Cross-posted at Vim and Vinegar)
I was born in Michigan. I have family members who have worked at various points in the past with various different Unions. While I would not call myself a "Union Man," I do believe that I have a sympathetic ear to Unions.
I remember reading about the AFL-CIO, Samuel Gompers, and all sorts of information regarding the creation of Unions in school, and I always took it as a given that the presence of Unions was a good thing. I have believed, and still believe that there is an inherent benefit to the strength of our country that is provided by a strong Union infrastructure.
I am writing this in Ulysses-style, so I doubt I will make a terribly coherent, compelling argument in support of my position, but I'll shoot for it nonetheless.
in the 1800s, we saw the age of Robber Barons and tycoons. We saw a whole lot of money and opportunity go towards the richest of the rich while the poor, the immigrants, the women, and the children would toil for 12-18 hours a day for subsistence rations. It was a vicious cycle wherein the rich got richer while the poor could barely stay afloat.
With the advent of collective bargaining, Unions created a situation where individuals could negotiate for improved conditions - standard workweeks, more pay, benefits, job security, etc. The result was an era of unprecedented growth for America. Productivity soared. More people had more money, the rich were still fabulously rich, people were able to start doing things such as take vacations, buy luxury items, which further drove our economy, creating more wealth. We became the industrial power that was the standard for the world in the 20th century. It strikes me as no coincidence that the areas that saw the strongest growth in the 20th Century were the ones that had the strongest Union presence.
Now, while I believe that a strong Union is necessary, I believe that a Union can be too overbearing. I think that there have been times in the past few decades where Unions have made demands more to justify the continued presence of the Union than to protect against an actual or potential harm. Such overreaches can weaken the benefit Unions provide by providing an argument against the existence of said Unions. So, to a certain degree, I believe that Unions need to be a strong, silent presence, except when truly needed (a difficult task, I'm sure).
We're in a position now where I think the benefits of Unions can be made apparent once again. We have seen an increase in income gap between the richest Americans and the middle class (whose salaries have grown in relation to inflation in 30 or so years); we're seeing record numbers of families below the poverty line, we're seeing politicians and pundits arguing in favor of stripping/scaling back benefits for the majority of Americans (see Social Security) while arguing strongly in support of continuing tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans.
Corporate America has the bullhorn. They control the message, and they shout it loudly and often. I am pro-Union, because I believe that the working American needs a collective voice for the long-term benefit of our country and our way of life.