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Fun with unions December 12, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in asshatery, Basics, disaster, horror, sadness, sickness, Society.

One particularly boring aspect of my life I have not bothered you with, dearest reader, is my time living in Idaho. I spent most of a year in a rather depressing little town called Pocatello. I know, when you hear Idaho, you might think of mountains and pine trees and white supremacists and potatos, but in my experience, only 1 of the 4 was really extant, and that was the potatos. They were pretty good, but, c’mon, they’re potatos, and its not like one tastes radically better than another. The part of I-dee-ho I lived in was actually high desert, there were some mountains around but they were devoid of much natural beauty.

I worked at a particularly god-foresaken chemical processing plant called FMC-Pocatello. It was an old, very dangerous, incredibly poorly maintained facility that produced elemental phosphorous, one of the nastiest, most toxic, most dangerous substances known to man. The plant was in incredibly poor condition – when elemental phosphorous is exposed to air, it spontaneously combusts. So, they tried to keep the phos, as it was called, under water. But the plant was so old and so badly maintained that the pipes leaked all the time, and phos fires were a constant occurrrence. By constant, I mean, perhaps 40 or 50 times a DAY. It was nothing to go back to your office after being in the production area and have your boots catch on fire, because you had walked through phos-contaminated water, and when the water dried, the phos would ignite. Really pleasant place, I still have a scar on my arm from a minor phos fire, as well as a ruined shirt. FMC had been fighting the EPA for decades over the cleanup of the really horrific toxic waste at the plant (and I say this as someone who is generally very hostile to the environmental movement, but this place was a disaster, utterly out of control. They literally buried 30 rail cars full of phossy water in the ground – they are still there, leaking into the ground water). The expense of the cleanup was greater than the value of the plant, so FMC closed it down. It’s gone now, nothing left but some concrete pads. There is a big battle still ongoing about the site remediation.

But, strangely enough, the worst aspect of working at FMC was not the dangerous conditions, the rivers of 3000 degree molten slag you walked over on a narrow, corroded expanded metal grate, the fact that sulfur dioxide offgassing would cause sulfuric acid to form in your respiratory system, creating a rather unpleasant effect – no, the worst part was working with the union staff of the plant. I had never been exposed to unions before. After this relatively brief experience, I fully understand the concept of “union thug.”

It’s not that they were lazy. They were, of course. They had work rules you couldn’t believe, but which are standard fare for unions. It would literally take a 5 man crew to change a light bulb. They would never work beyond their narrow hours, accomplishing perhaps 5 hours of “work” during an 8 hour shift. No, the main problem wasn’t laziness, it was brazen incompetence. It was amazing that at a plant with hundreds of operational staff, most jobs had to be outsourced to contractors because the unionized staff couldn’t, wouldn’t do many jobs. There were a few individuals who actually were OK and had some motivation, but they frequently had that motivation checked by their union compatriots, who would “remind” them in an intimidating way that they were making their “union brothers” look bad. I once had the entire crew of welders refuse to do a job for some ridiculous reason, so some guy who was totally unqualified on welding had to make a repair to one of those leaking pipes I mentioned. He actually did about as good a job as the “qualified welders” would have done.

About that welding. After I left Idaho, we moved back to Dallas and I got a job at an ultra-pure water purification equipment manufacturer in McKinney. We designed and built custom industrial scale water purification systems. They had two non-union welders there, fully ASME certified, who were the best danged welders I ever saw. They put the “fully qualified” union guys up in Idaho to complete, utter shame. But there was a time when for various reasons the two normal welders weren’t there. The company was scrambling around trying to find not only some welders but also some pipe fitters, and for some reason I can’t recall brought in some union guys (yes, there are unions in Texas). These guys were actually competent (probably due to competition from non-union labor?), but productivity went way down because they followed union rules and union rules said only so much work could be done in a day.

Another for instance. If you ever go to Kansas, you might wonder why there are no brick houses. All the houses have wood siding. That’s because Kansas is a union state, and the union bricklayers have a rule that they will only lay 800 bricks in a day. Now, any 3-4 man Mexican bricklaying crew working in the Metroplex, who may or may not be illegal, will lay 4-5 times that many bricks in a day, and finish an average house in 2-3 days. I’ve watched them do it many times. So, brick homes are too expensive to build in Kansas, for the most part. So, they don;’t have any. The same is true in most other union states.

Additional stories are legion. After Sandy, electrical repair crews from the South were refused permission to help repair the transmission lines because they weren’t union. Result, people were without power for weeks. The plural of anecdote is “data.”

The reason I mention all this, of course, is because of the recent events which have transpired in Michigan, where the legislature just passed laws making Michigan – the very cradle of thuggish, entitled unionism in this country – into a right to work state. The unions have responded with their customary tact, grace, and enlightened concern. They savagely attacked several people, collapsed tents with people inside, and threatened gun violence.

In this video, Steven Crowder gets attacked by a thug named Tony Camargo:

This one shows the tent being torn down:

I suppose such reactions are natural. If you’ve been on the union gravy train for years, making way more money than a job should normally pay and doing far less work in the bargain, you’d probably be angry, upset, and ready to lash out, too, if that gravy train were threatened. But unions are, in my experience, like the entitlement system. They are morally enervating. They encourage bad behavior, low productivity, and questionable quality. They cause labor costs to skyrocket, meaning fewer people have jobs, and their main purpose today seems to keep union leadership rich and to support the demonrat party. Because we are very far from the days when unions might have served a purpose to put a check on rapacious, robber baron capitalism. That function hasn’t been needed in decades. And we have seen many great companies destroyed due to both managerial incompetence and union greed.

I’m not being very charitable, I know. But the arguments against right to work are so very weak, and so very tied to self-serving ends, that I find them not just wrong, but morally repugnant. My personal experience with unions has been so uniformly negative that I have a difficult time showing much charity for them. And we can see from recent events in Wisconsin and now Michigan that unions have become so morally corrupt that even the very worst actions are possible from them. I think it is long past time for every state to become a right to work state, and the unions have to compete on a level playing field.

A final note: I’m not saying your union father/grandfather/brother/mother/aunt fits the above descriptions. I’m just giving my own experience.

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