I don’t get strikes

This comment could be polarizing: I no longer understand why people strike.

I do understand it from a historical perspective:  Long ago big companies didn’t care about people who went down mine shafts or that hours spent on your feet in a tight space can cause health problems… So the people all got together and formed unions.  Together, they changed how big companies thought and worked and along the way science caught up to prove these people right.  Now there are rules and regulations and safety briefings.  There are holidays, sick pay, and in some countries it is practically impossible to get fired.

Problem is, over time unions went from being about fairness and equality to being their own fiefdom to themselves.  A completely separate and sometimes delusional world that staunchly says it is supporting its people when sometimes it is just fighting the inevitable: change.

When I worked in politics I went with my candidate to a telephone union meeting.  I’d actually never been to a union meeting, as none of my work ever encountered a union directly until this point.  The leader stood up and with loud and angry voice rained fire on the mobile telephone world.  “People,” he said “Are switching off their home phones and going cellular!”  He then spent the next five minutes yelling about how the telephone union rights were being beaten upon because the mobile phone companies had figured out how to make it cheaper for individuals to just have a cell phone plan.  He didn’t offer any way in which the telephone people could win their customers back, he just railed and railed on how those mobile companies didn’t appreciate the working force and were trying to drive them under.  I sat there, marveling and a little guilt ridden.  You see, I had only days before done what the man at the podium was screaming about – switched off my home phone and gone mobile.

In the years that came after I found unions sort of pinching at me in odd ways.  Whether it is the cabin crew strike from BA threatening my holiday, or finding out a training method can’t be used in a company because it has a hierarchy which conflicts with union hierarchy.  To me, it appears unions don’t think about customers, don’t think about overall business impact.  They carry on saying they are fighting for their people when in fact they really come off selfish.

If BA’s cabin crew came forward with a plan to save BA the millions it is losing a year due to the fact that people aren’t traveling like they used to, that would be something to applaud.  If they realized some concessions had to be made, and that they wouldn’t get everything they wanted, that would be applauded.  If they had stood out and championed science to help find ways through the volcanic ash cloud, or if they had joined forces with other travel groups – trains, cars, buses, boats – as people were stranded when the ash cloud first happened, that would’ve been incredible.

But no, instead they stand screaming over and over, “It’s not fair!”

My favorite quote about life not being fair is from The Princess Bride.  “Life is pain” screamed Wesley, “Anyone who tells you anything different is trying to sell you something.”  To me, unions are a history piece.  When women were cramped in sweat shops making dresses and people were out in fields for days on end, they were needed.  Now, for a union to move into the future they must become more diverse or the people the unions are supposed to serve – their customers – will go elsewhere.

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