With the recent bruhaha going on over BC Ferries here with the Union fighting for whatever it is they’re fighting for (I haven’t actually heard – all the media tells me is that the Union “claims it’s about more than wages”) I wanted to add my own little tangent.
One of the discussions that came up was the attempted unionization of McDonald’s. I spent a little over three years at my McJob when I was in high school, and I must say that I was treated really well there. Perhaps my boss, the franchisee, was an exception, but I kind of doubt it. McDonald’s was so highly regulated and automated that I don’t think even he had a whole lot of control over how employees are treated. It’s actually run almost like a union shop already – without the part about protecting idiots simply because of senority.
The scheduling system is automated to both comply with labour laws, and maximize efficiency based on staff availability and customer volume.
There is a set disciplinary system in place, complete with set numbers of warnings and times written up for an offense that don’t fluctuate. The only things someone could be fired for immediately were serious offenses like stealing. Duh. I bet if McD’s were unionized they would no longer be able to do that without a fight from the Union (silly as it seems).
This system also includes a regular review process in which employees who are performing their job with any degree of competency at all receive regular incremental wage raises twice a year. If unions were present, there would be no incentive to perform the job well to receive your earned compensation – because you would get your raise for just showing up each day (and stealing if you want to).
There is also a grievance process. Staff are encouraged to use postage paid forms to submit their complaints directly to their regional head office. These complaints are then typed, voided of details identifying the complainant, and returned to the franchisee, who is also evaluated based upon his/her handling of the complaint.
The other point I feel it’s important to address is that people go into jobs knowing full well what to expect. If you’re applying at McDonald’s, you know that you will be either making or serving fast food in a highly automated environment. You will receive training, but not a lot of skill or interpretation is required to perform the job, and your compensation reflects that. You also know that the restaurant (at least the drive-thru) is open 24 hours now, and you may well be expected to work shifts between 4 and 8 hours any time during business hours.
The same goes for Starbucks, Translink, BC Ferries, Telus etc. You know you will be making coffee, or driving a bus, or ringing up cafeteria food, or photocopying.
I know there are a shortage of jobs out there right now, and it’s not easy to say “if you don’t like your job, get another one or go to school to improve your skills” – because that’s not always an option. The better answer is to say “I’m sorry you don’t like your job, but do whatever is in your power to either find something else, or find value in your work as long as you have to be there.”
I do think Unions are dinosaurs, and don’t have a place in the 20th century workplace. I don’t think that the labour system is fair to workers in general either. If Unions want to redeem themselves, why not fight for all workers (like they did when they originally formed) and try to reform the labour code? Childcare, Equal Pay for Equal Time, better compensation for overtime, better (or any) benefits packages subsidized by companies and the government for all workers – the list goes on – where are these issues in Union negotiations?
These arguments don’t come up, because if the system reformed, the pseudo-need that Unions create for themselves would fade, and they would disappear. And people like Jimmy Hoffa would no longer be pseudo celebrities and live off the dues from the “working man.”
Can’t I be Anti-Union and Pro-Labour Reform? Where’s the Union for that?