Thursday, February 10, 2005

Wal-Mart is Evil!” is a popular meme in media circles these days, so it’s no surprise that news of the closure of what was to be the company’s first unionized store has been widely disseminated. Labor histrionics aside, the truth is that the store was losing money to begin with, and the wage and overtime demands of the newly ratified union local would have pushed the store further into the red.

I’m not a fan of unions. That’s not to say they don’t have a place in a healthy, diversified economy; they do, albeit a limited one. However, having grown up in a big pro-union town I’ve seen first-hand the lunacy that pervades leadership at the local level, which often pits petty self-interest against the greater good of the community. Think unions are “for the people”? That’s bunk. More often than not, unions aren’t for the people, they’re for their people.

Case in point: Mother’s been sending me emails of snippets in the local media about a rash of plant closures in New Brunswick’s beleaguered pulp and paper industry. In the City of Miramichi, two plants have been sidelined. One is a paper plant that’s been shutdown indefinitely due to a prolonged labor strike. The other, a pulp plant that supplies the aforementioned paper plant, was also forced to close indefinitely because there is no longer a market for what they produce. As long as the pulp plant’s sole customer, the town’s paper plant, is out of commission, the pulp plant will be closed.

Of course, the logical course of action for the pulp plant’s union was to pressure the paper plant’s union to return to the bargaining table for the sake of everyone’s well being. But no, they chose not to do so. Instead, they sat back and watched the paper plant’s labor situation deteriorate. When the time came for the pulp plant to cease operations, the plant’s union local, in their infinite wisdom, demanded that the government step in and force the pulp plant to stay open! Naturally, the government demurred.

The net result of this comedy of errors? Two high-tech plants sidelined, hundreds of well-paid laborers out of work for the foreseeable future, and the Miramichi economy taking a major hit.

Keep this story in mind the next time you hear a pinko friend or relative pine for the good ol’ days when unions reigned supreme.

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