Beer - unionIn this economy, many Americans feel grateful to have jobs in the first place. Our high unemployment rate makes recent video of some of Chrysler's unionized workers drinking and smoking pot to make it through their workdays all the more galling.

The individuals caught on camera were allegedly getting loaded before work and on their lunch breaks. Their actions could get these employees fired; in a similar recent situation, the offending workers did get the boot.

However, the openness with which the workers flouted the rules -- they were caught in the parking lots of their United Auto Workers union hall in Trenton, N.J. -- suggests that they weren't too worried about losing their jobs. If unions allow slacker employees to feel shielded from the consequences of their misbehavior, have they become bad for companies, and for the overall economy?

Getting Drunk with Power

Historically, unions fulfilled a legitimate need. In more dog-eat-dog days, somebody needed to stand up for workers against the far more powerful forces of capital. Unions forced corporate managers to stop ignoring workers' financial and physical health and safety in their pursuit of profit.

Unions remain excellent watchdogs today. They catalog and criticize the vast discrepancies between many top executives' multimillion-dollar paychecks and pitiable performance.

But at the same time, unions like the UAW have become extremely politically powerful in their own right. Occasionally, that power works against the rest of us.

Setting the Stage for Mediocre Businesses

Not long ago, the American auto sector -- with the exception of Ford (F) -- received government bailouts. This suffering industry couldn't compete adequately on its own.

Although high-paid management teams were certainly part of the problem, so were union demands that defied the industry's economic realities. Our financially strapped government ponied up public money to throw these companies a lifeline in 2009, and even though the UAW admittedly made major concessions as part of the deal, doing so was the only option left, given the market-based alternative: failure.

It's simply not fair that some individuals (like the aforementioned substance-abusing video stars) who feel immune from firing are making life more difficult for their harder-working peers. In this particular case, the employees' disregard for the rules doesn't just affect their fellow employees. Automobiles are heavy machinery, and I'm pretty sure none of us wants to buy a car put together by somebody who got liquored up at lunchtime.

Happy hour and rush hour do not go together.

Weed Out the Slackers

Unions need to adjust their stance on worker rights to acknowledge cold, hard economic realities. Employees who flout any reasonable idea of "merit" don't deserve protections or high paychecks. Sometimes, they don't even deserve their jobs.

Powerful unions like the UAW need to put aside their traditional reasoning and realize that America needs better incentives for merit, rather than rewards just for showing up, sober or not. Weeding out the slackers creates an incentive for workers to do better, not worse.

Unless the global competitive landscape involves drinking contests and bong hits, it's high time that unions stopped protecting the slacking class alongside the working class.
Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford.


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mrmoonlite5

UNIONS ADD TO AMERICA PEOPLE WHO ARE UNION MEMBERS ALWAYS DO THERE WORK BEFORE THE SCAB OUT HAPPENED AT A SCHOOL DIST. I worked FOR each and every school was IN excelent condition I red in the paper where the school that i was at is now about to get Closed WHY? FREEKING SCABS ! AND MENTALY ill UPPER STAFF that DOWN graded THE QUALITY of WORK! and OF there BUILDINGS! (NEVER EVER SAY BAD THINGS ABOUT UNIONS ) you THINK BEFORE YOU STATE SOMETHING that you did

March 27 2012 at 11:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LEE Resolution

non union tradesmen/women are at a distinct advantage when competing for jobs with union tradesmen. they don't have the weight of a powerful bureaucracy behind them that controls where they go to work and under what circumstances. there's no panel to report to, no intimidation if a lucrative non union job comes up.

It's a shame because there are a lot of union folks out there who are fine, professionals, but they're locked in.

July 18 2011 at 7:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
RFG

Union was a good thought 40 years ago, when the companies was taken advantage of employees for ther own benefits, now Union is taking advantage of companies for there own benefits regardless what they do to the company, economy or workers, we need to realize that the golden years for this country are finished and we are not number #1 in this global economy. So we need to go back to BASICS, produce a good product, workers to be proud for what they do, and the most important consume American Products.

July 18 2011 at 12:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
darkmark

fdr and his opinion on government unions is mentioned below by tdjwill01 starts with:

"The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention"" then goes on with the conservative's favorite extract.
but we all know that , to paraphrase twain, a half truth travels around the world before the whole truth gets its pants on.

July 18 2011 at 12:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to darkmark's comment
bggdg

mark, thanks for clearing that up. When I first read the portion of the quote posted by tjd it made me imagine how much more anti-union FDR had been in comparison to a current politician like Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker. But now that I see the entire quote it's obvious that the views of Roosevelt and Walker are nearly identical. In fact, if you walked down the street and without divulging the source of Roosevelt's entire quote, polled the first 100 people you came across as to what politician they would guess the the quote is attributable, I'd bet Walker would be the landslide winner.

July 18 2011 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
darkmark

a really pathetic corporate attack on unions. not only do the corporations have the workers on their knees they want them with their mouths open and cheeks spread. the corporates got nafta and gatt passed. they have the wto and they own most of congress and the senate. the so called left wing president can't wait to give them what ever they want. after ronnie reagon with his GE economics degree hit the white house there has been nothing but one attack after the other on unions and those attacks have worked. the unions have practically no power now. check the latest attack by the republican governors. its so blatant they don't even try to cover it up. personally its time to back to the streets but there are better things to carry than signs.

July 18 2011 at 11:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to darkmark's comment
leetjbgsucjob

Get off my site you economically inferior windbag you are nothing but cosmic dust bile. The Almighty TJDWILL / LEE RESOLUTION / BGGDG has spoken.

July 18 2011 at 11:58 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bobamstutz

It seems that most people think that the unions protect members from the big bad corporations. If you checkout the government reports you will find that most work for the cities, counties, state, and federal governments. If unions are needed in this sector maybe its the big bad government or just greedy unions or both.

July 18 2011 at 11:33 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
mefalk55

You all are dead wrong......... The real story is that we Americans support the Human tradigy of slavery and degredation of the People of China, and others. We fought for better working conditions, fair pay, fair work week. Ever hear of "the company store"? Should we all be that lucky?

July 18 2011 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LEE Resolution

facts have always threatened and intimidated the ignorant and the uninformed. That (fact) will never change or cease to amaze.

The 'fact' is that the uninformed and ignorant (union hangers on and sycophants), are the easiest to seduce into the mob mentality and violence.

July 18 2011 at 11:18 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
gerahi9

Bottom line, the contractors association must feel the the union workforce is worth the negotiations and money, if not we wouldn't deal with them. I'm out !

July 18 2011 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
josephn126

Unions have priced the cost of many manufactured products to China and other off shore productions points. Unions need to focus on job safety issues not how much money they can squeeze out of a company. Look at what happened to the airlines---massive union contracts that put each airline in Chapter 11. Lower wages can return manufacturing jobs to America, reduce unemployment and add to the number of those paying in to Social Security.

July 18 2011 at 11:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to josephn126's comment
leetjbgsucjob

SILENCE! you economically inferior cosmic windbag you know nothing.

July 18 2011 at 11:22 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
fallguys400

Lower wages are you kidding me? with gasoline and groceries going up everyday along with heating oil and natural gas. Not to mention car insurance the telephone bill etc. etc..What are you vietnamese or chinese to come up with that brilliant plan. Lower wages GEEEEZ!!! you are to smucking fart

July 18 2011 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply