Mike Colon

From the Desk of Mike Colon, Blue Collar Black Book Founder

To Union or Not to Union

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Unions! You don't have to love them or hate them but people do. Constantly. I don't think I have ever met a fence rider when it comes to talking Unions. It seems like such a no brainer to me but if you can commit to doing some exploring down a seemingly dark and bottomless pit of information, without the necessary safety gear, after 5pm without extra pay, then click on that flashlight and lets get in there deep because I want to get to the bottom of this issue.


Before we go further I will confess. My dad was a union plumber before he started his own plumbing company. To this day he still pays his dues. He also pays me to work for him and I have never been a union plumber but then again he trained me. Although as a police officer I was a union member. That being said lets get into the issues.

First off Politicians need to stay the hell out of this issue. IT'S GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. Although it does affect a lot of the businesses and corporations that put money in their pockets...I mean for re-election of course.

Being a union member or not is not always a personal choice

So unions are a service, we can all agree. Every service has a cost. Their members give money to full fill a variety of duties including representation, contract disputes, improve working conditions, improving compensation and keeping tradesmen employed. All very valuable services. I am sure I left many out but hey, I'm just spit balling over here.

The flip side is the modern day union has lost it's street cred. We are not talking about the days when unions had juggernauts like Hoffa and some very tough and scary friends that would go to great lengths to ensure unions kept their business contracts. These days unions seem to be getting pushed around by big and small business. For members, going back to the hall to be put on “the list” could be a kiss of death. Make no mistake, like any organization, reputation, politics, friendships and alliances come into play and if you cross the wrong person or you aren't having dinner with the right person you may be on the list for a very long time. The lists are so long I know guys who have been out of work for a year, scared to take a short job, knowing they will be going right back to the bottom of the list. Word on the streets is now some unions turn a blind eye to guys doing side work for a couple quarters on the dollar of their normal wages and pennies on the dollar of what their union shops charge customers for their services. This is the kiss of death for the integrity of the union.

I don't think anybody in the trades really begrudges union guys for making top dollar. Their pay and benefits are supposed to be the gold standard. In the long run if you make say 10 % more than a non union guy per year and you spend a total of 1 out of every 10 years on the list at the hall then you are breaking even. It's very similar to the drug dealer argument, you make great money until you go to prison and that's when the pendulum swings the other way.

So lets talk about being non union. You work a lot. Usually for less pay than union guys, depending on your situation. You have no protection. You are completely unorganized. There is no one fighting for you pay or rights. You are essentially an independent contractor without any of the benefits and sex appeal. The one thing you have going for you is, if you screw up and get fired, you can get a job tomorrow, god willing, and start building your reputation again.

So now lets escort Captain Obvious out and let Reason have the floor.

It doesn't matter whether you are Union or Non Union you are in the same damn boat. The only us is “Us” in the trades and “Them” who need our services. See it became a cliché after 9-11 “United We Stand” they said. There is so much truth and power in that brief and seemingly simple statement that people overlooked it's wisdom and purpose because it was posted on a Kabillion shirts and stickers, cars and commercials. I don't care if you are union, non union or an “illegal alien” we are all in the same boat. We are all cut from the same mold. We all endure the same struggles every day. We all want the same thing, to feed our families, pay our bills, and provide a better future for our children. If we don't ALL stick together then “Divided We Fall”

If we let our unions, our employers, the media, politicians or whoever drive that wedge of difference through us we will never be united and we will always be weak. Our future will not shine bright until we look past those insignificant details.

It seems to me that unions and I am talking about union leaders don't realize or perhaps overlook the fact that until we overcome the wage disparity between union, non union and illegal immigrants none of us will be compensated what we should be. Business men have always and will always be opportunistic. If they can get around paying you more they will. Sorry union, sorry non union, if we don't band together with our least expensive competitor, the illegal alien, we will inevitably be dragged down into their boat.

It is my greatest hope that the users of bluecollarblackbook.com will look past their differences, all differences, and use the infrastructure, we have built into the site, to freely communicate the information that will bring wages and compensation into balance. Then the next step will be to read, interpret, understand and apply the data we collect and display for each trade in each area.

See the essence of team building is helping your weakest links become strong. It's why people from such diverse and sometimes opposing backgrounds find success in the military with their counterparts. When it's life or death there is really no choice but to work together. That's the way you have to look at it. BECAUSE the financial death of the tradesmen will not be from a loud bang followed by a brief moment before the lights turn out, it will be a very repetitive annoying and blunt sound of divisive rhetoric followed by a very long, painful, torturous and drawn out death.

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