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Greg Worden

Entrepreneur and Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Business, Worden Associates

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Are unions in the US still relevant?

Hostess is closing eliminating 18.500 jobs due, in part, to 5,000 bakery union members striking while the Teamsters had already accepted a deal. True, the company had been mismanaged but this appears to be an example of a union cutting off its nose despite its face. The US has some of the best worker-protection laws in the world. Is this an example of good union leadership or is it an example of unions acting as though it was still 1905? Are unions still relevant in the US today?


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    Nov 20 2012: Hello Neighbor! I'm right over the hill in Vt., and when communicating with another person in New England, it feels close and "neighborly", compared to some of the communications here on TED, which are often on the other side of our world. I LOVE that our world is getting more connected through this great forum:>)

    Regarding Hostess:
    I saw a documentary the other day about Hostess, their challenges (mismanagement for one), and the ingredients they put in their product! They had to do a major overhawl, if they wanted to survive. Did the union "cut off it's nose"? Or did the Hostess management "cut off it's nose"? The job loss is certainly unfortunate.

    I'm not sure how relevant unions are any more. While the concept and practice certainly changed some things in our world that needed to be changed, it seems like sometimes, unions are creating more problems then they are solving these days. Perhap their focus is on the "union", and not on the people they are supposed to be representing? Too big maybe?

    The Unuiversity of Vermont staff were faced with voting for union/no union or which union last week. They voted in favor of union representation in Sept., but failed to give a majority vote to either of the two competing unions. Last week, they voted down a plan for union organization 443-189, with approx. 80% voting. It seems that many voted against the union representation because union representatives were harrassing staff members at their homes and work places. In this situation, it appears that the union really undermined themselves!!!
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      Nov 20 2012: What station ran the documentary?

      Can you imagine what the harassment would have been like if card check had been passed?
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        Nov 20 2012: Hi Pat,
        I don't honestly remember what station...perhaps Public tv, which is what I watch most of the time. It may have been a newscast or something like 60 minutes too. The thing I remember most is that they spoke about the ingredients in hostess cakes, twinkies, etc. I'm no purest when it comes to food....I eat healthy, and also like ice cream, cookies, cake, pie, etc.:>) However, to think that so many people in our world are eating all the "stuff" that is in the hostess product is what influenced me the most.
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      Nov 20 2012: Universities are fascinating because tenure is a form of a union unto itself. Tenure is great but it doesn't necessarily lead to great professors or great outcomes for students. I remember several of my undergrad professors who routinely wrote the wrong assignments or equations on the board, couldn't remember the material, or were otherwise too busy to bother helping students. They were protected by tenure and the dean wouldn't hear any complaints. That's a system that needs a rethink too.
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        Nov 20 2012: Hi Greg,
        Tenure seems to be a form of protection against almost anything! Years ago I took some classes, and in one of them, the professor showed up for the first three classes under the influence of alcohal. I reported it to my advisor and to the administration, and they all said....well she's tenured! That seemed to be a reason, or cover-up for anything the professor wanted to do. I found out that in her 27 years of teaching at that institution, there had been reported complaints for the same thing many times. They simply moved her to another class for awhile....out of sight, out of mind, and she continued as a tenured professor. I was in my 40s at the time, and was not willing to accept that.....so with a little gentle pressure, she was asked to retire:>) I agree....it's a system that needs re-vamping!

        At UVM, professors have their own union, and the action recently was for the administrative staff.

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