A few years ago, I visited Walt Disney World with my kids at Christmas. A highlight of the Very Merry Mickey Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom is a Christmas themed parade complete with Santa Claus himself guiding a sleigh down Main Street. A good friend of my sister is a Disney Cast Member and on this particular occasion, she joined us for the parade.
As we watched each group of Disney characters, dancers, and performers pass buy, she’d whisper in my ear.
“These guys are from the Fill-in-the Blank Union. They aren’t allowed to dance on asphalt.”
A couple of minutes later, a float would pass and she’d whisper again.
“This group is part of the Fill-in-the-Blank Union and they can only dance on a float but they can’t be wearing a costume with a mask.”
Another group would go by and she’d give me another update.
“This is the Fill-in-the-Blank Union. They can dance on asphalt and they can wear a costume but only for a certain amount of time.”
After awhile of this, I just had to laugh. As an attorney, I’m always impressed by all the ways lawyers can find to make a buck. Who knew the choreographer at Walt Disney World probably needs an attorney to put together a parade? With all these various union contracts to work through, it’s a wonder they can move the show from the castle all the way down the street without falling afoul of some crazy union rule.
Sadly, this is what unions have become.
In the early days, unions served a useful purpose in helping obtain fair pay and decent working conditions for their members. This made sense after events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 where over one hundred young immigrant women died after being trapped in their burning factory. And to this day, I can’t help but think twice about eating a hot dog after reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in high school. Clearly, in the early days of industrialization in this country, a workers primary means of gaining a voice at work was through a union.
Recently, unions seem to serve a completely different purpose. Unions seem mainly concerned with keeping all their members employed, no matter what their job performance, while guaranteeing them pensions and perks that make their employers uncompetitive. They’ve also done a wonderful job of making Democrat political consultants quite wealthy.
At the same time, they’ve caused many businesses to move from pro-union to right-to-work states in order to stay competitive. In a few cases, they’ve overplayed their hand and killed the goose that laid the golden egg. This is most notable in the case of Hostess and explains why the only way to buy a Twinkie these days is by winning a bid on Ebay.
The movement towards right-to-work laws in states like Michigan and Indiana should serve as a wake up call to unions. Rather than see it as an opportunity to take up arms (as one Michigan legislator threatened), union leaders should see this as an opportunity to change with the times or ultimately to go the way of one of the first products of early union labor–the Model T.