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Unions announce campaign to organize Universal Orlando workforce

August 16, 2006, 9:11 AM · A group of labor unions announced this week that it is trying to organize the workforce at Universal Orlando Resort. Florida Today reports.

Representatives of the International Association of Machinists, the United Steelworkers Union, the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades and the Transportation and Communications Union have been talking with Universal employees over the summer, starting with employees who have relatives and friends working at union-organized Walt Disney World.

Editor's commentary: Since management provides a unified front in offering wage and benefits to employees, why shouldn't employees present an equally unified front in trying to get the best deal for themselves? Workers have little shot at sharing proportionally in a company's success if management can make a "take it or leave it" offer, never having to negotiate with employees who have real power to shut down operations if the company's offer is not adequate.

Maybe it's human nature to want to dictate, instead of negotiate. But unions built America's middle class, and union labor made America the world's largest superpower. Dictating's easier, and more profitable, in the short term, but over the long-term, management and workers better serve themselves by forging a real, mutual, equitable relationship where *both* sides give when they need to to help the other side succeed.

Replies (24)

August 16, 2006 at 11:03 AM · Unions provide a degree of safety and stability. You know you won't be fired unless you violate a clear rule negotaited by your union. You have a chance of promotion if you stick around long enough.

The flip side is that if you are really good and work really hard, the ability to demand and receive better than average wage and treatment.

Joining a union you're swapping personal power for group security.

In my opinion, there is no right or wrong, just 2 choices. Do you prefer the stability of a union or the free-for-all of a non-union?

As more and more companies cut health benefits, cut retirement pensions, give sub-inflation raises, out-source, etc, I think we'll begin to see the return of unions.

August 16, 2006 at 1:07 PM · Once again, these comments provide proof that you can't teach economics to adults. Unions are terrible for business. Whenever you unionize, your union will eventually demand more than the business can bear, and the prices will go up.

If Wal-Mart unionized, the prices on the shelves would go up, and the benefit of low-cost goods would be lost. If that benefit is lost, the number of shoppers goes down, producing less revenue for the business, and, in turn, making it harder for the business to provide the benefits which they have been forced into promising to the unions.

Still, this is a free country, and people have a right to unionize. However, if Universal is smart, they will fire every one of their Union-Minded employees. People seek power, and int he hands of employees, businesses suffer. When businesses suffer, employment suffers. So, in essense, power in the hands of employees is detrimental to them.

Look at GM for all the evidence you need of the failed union system. Or the major league baseball strike. Or any number of other failures in business.

Unionism is communism.

August 16, 2006 at 1:29 PM · Actually, I understand economics quite well, and unions also.

Unionism is communism. In that we agree. You trade personal freedom for group safety

Unions are suffering in the manufacturing industry right now because things can be made overseas more cheaply, then shipped in.

Non-unionized airlines are kicking the tail of unionized ones, because they can operate more cheaply. This puts a natural limit on what unions can demand of the airlines. Demand too much and the company goes under.

Where unions are still doing well is in the construction and services industries. Things that can't be outsourced. Newer, younger companies that can hire non-union employees can beat unionized shops on price, but get to big and suddenly your workers are unionizing.

As for theme park workers, can't be outsourced.

And, if Universal fired all the union minded individuals, they'd be facing huge fines and likely someone would go to jail since their are federal laws specifically granting workers the right to unionize without fear of being fired for it.

Wal-Mart has gotten away with it so far by just closing down any store that looks like it might unionize. I think that is only going to work for so long. Do that too many times and there will be a provable pattern.

Do unions hurt business... sure. Do they help employees? Depends if you want freedom with fear or security in a group.

Which is more important, business or employees? Yes.

They are both important. The pendulam swings back and forth. Business gets too much power, people unionize. Unions get too much power, non-union business start up and eat away at the union companies business. Union companies go under, newer non-union companies get too much power, people unionize again.

August 16, 2006 at 2:49 PM · In the first place, I was talking about the comments of the author, not your comments.

Secondly, businesses have to be favored over employees. Without business, there are no jobs. That idea doesn't work both ways, because people HAVE to work. The company which produces the most revenues will always provide the best incentives to workers, to increase their productivity and, subsequently, their profits.

There should be no laws regarding employeement as it relates to this issue. If employees want to unionize, they ought to, but, likewise, if a a company wants to fire an employee for unionizing, they ought to be able to. Unions are bad for business, period. A company should not be forced to adopt policies which will ultimately hurt it.

Theme park jobs, for the most part, aren't trade jobs. They are work-for-hire positions, and will be filled easily. Unionize, and you run the risk of having the company reject your terms, and hiring replacment workers. Which is exactly what they ought to do. And, unless customer satisfaction suffers (which I can't really judge since I've never been to Universal), the scabs will stay on, and the union wil have screwed itself.

What is good for business is good for employees. You don't like it? Work somewhere else.

August 16, 2006 at 4:14 PM · I am in a unionized firm. It does offer group protection from managers who only look at the bottom line. However, in Florida, the only thing a Union is really good for is protecting your job and getting regular raises. They are nothing great, but we get a 3% raise every year, and have also had work studies done to compare our pay rates to the pay rates of similar organizations. Working for a county that was last year voted one of the top growing in the nation, and not getting paid like it only works for so long.
There should be a happy medium between businesses and employess, but there never can be. Businesses only profit when they can shrink their bottom line, and if you have to do soemthing like pay employees wages that they can actually live on.
But the real reason why Unionizing UO will not work out so well is because Florida is a right to work state. Simply put, Unions have no legal footing to fight. They can file grievances, but if an employer chooses to still fire that employee, they really dont need a reason. This is pretty much done to benefit the tourism industry, you dont have to pay high wages if you dont want to, and you can let people go if you choose for any reason you choose. See how that could benefit a big theme park?
August 16, 2006 at 4:51 PM · In the late '80s, I had a warehouse job and was in a union. It was pathetic. We paid burdensome dues - and the union did nothing at all except keep the slackers and goof-offs from being fired. I remember that one guy in the warehouse pulled a female workers' pants down one day (yes, both pairs of pants) in public on the warehouse floor. The company wanted to fire him...but the union saved his job. Thank God we had a union.......

robert olson

August 16, 2006 at 6:31 PM · See...that's what I mean.

In a perfect world, everyone would get along and there'd be a happy medium where everyone looked out for one another. But, in reality, people really look out for themeselves, and union, noble though there intentions may have been when they started, end up hurting, not helping.

The market takes care of shady businesses (for the most part), and shady business practices. If you don't offer a fair wage, or a competitive pension or whatever it is, then workers will go somewhere where those things are offered. There is a balance which is created in the market, and all I'm saying is that unions have a tendency to artificially tip the scales of that balance, to typically poor results.

August 16, 2006 at 7:09 PM · Unions have lead to the demise of the auto industry and are a reason while companies outsource.
Unions had there purpose along time ago, but now manly exist to screw business and setup a system where union bigwigs live high off the hog while the workers get scraps.
August 16, 2006 at 10:54 PM · There is a matter that stands beyond this - the common labor/work market is getting readily screwed over at every turn, union or no union. The middle class is being screwed on income and benefits every day. Is it ethical and fair for corporations to treat the human work factor of their business thusly? Of course not. Somewhere, something, soon, is going to give. Or, we stand a mass labor revolt.

And, then those who are on top, will find their backs against a wall.

Union or not.

If the effort to unionize in an attempt to get the message across is seen as viable in this situation, then, perhaps, it is the first step towards some form of resolution.

I don't know.

What I do know is that corporate royalty will continue to grow richer and the vast majority of Americans will continue to grow poorer. And, that is wrong.

Personal views, of course.

August 17, 2006 at 5:37 AM · The reality of the situation is that corporate bosses ought to be the ones who get rich, and not the workers. They're the bosses. They're the ones who sit at the top. If you want to get rich, I suggest yo start a business.

Why should they bend over backwards and cut their profit margins to provide you with benefits? You want health care? Sounds like a personal problem. It's available to you, go buy it. If you can't afford it, find another job, go without, or join the army.

America is about enterprise, on EVERYONE'S behalf. It's not Bill Gates' responsibility to make sure John Tindall in accounting doesn't die from the flu. Microsoft doesn't have the flu. Bill Gates doesn't have the flu. That ONE GUY has the flu, and that is his own problem.

That being said, most places of business offer healthcare and what not because it's a carrot on a stick. THE MARKET TAKES CARE OF ITSELF. If people want something, they usually get it. What I cannot understand for the life of me is why people expect to be taken care of by someone else. It doesn't make sense. If you don't feel you're getting the benefits you deserve from your job, go get another job. How can you consider it your employer's responsibility to make sure you don't have to pay to go to the doctor?

You know, most people's housing cost is higher than their healthcare cost. It's almost prohibitive. But you wouldn't think to ask your boss to pay your mortgage, would you? What about food? Should you get a meal allowance from work as well?

Where does it end?

Like I said, unionism is selective communism, and communism is a FAILURE on all levels.

August 17, 2006 at 8:16 AM · Wow, Scott, I don't think I have ever gotten this mad from reading comments off of this board before. I can't even focus my thoughts thats how upset I just got from reading you last comment. I firmly know now that you are a republican, and no I don't use party lines as an insult. I come from a family where the majority are in the plumbers and pipefitters union and teachers unions. I have personally seen how unions work, been to meetings and such. I am not in a union, but I have seen them produce many positive things. Of course just like everything else in life there are some down sides to it. As far as your comments on health care, call me a bleeding heart, but I feel we should all should be afforded good health care regardless of social status. I count my blessings everyday that I am fortunate enough to work for a company that provides me with health care. My salary would not allow me the luxuary otherwise.
August 17, 2006 at 12:56 PM · I have to ask Scott, what do you do for a living. You have an awful conservative approach to just about everything I've seen you discuss. My guess is that you're not a shovel pusher, or a manual laborer, or even someone who works in the retail industry. In my opinion, its people with views like yours that are to blame for a the current cycle that the economy has taken. People with your line of thought of basically "If you want to get rich, then just go get rich" are the reason that oil companies are posting record sales quarter after quarter while consumers pay more and more at the pump. And I'm sure you'll come back with the "supply and demand" and again in my opinion that theory was put in place by the rich to stay rich.
This discussion goes far beyond what Unions have/have not done. It shows about classes. The new racism. This country is becoming the working class against the wealthy. Sure its easy for the wealthy class to say "its your fault you're having troubles, you should have went to college, you should have a better paying job. You want your employer to pay your mortgage too?"
I dont want government involved in anything more than they are, but the market will not just "correct itself". You said yourself, if wal-mart has a threat of Unionization it closes the store. One of the biggest chains in the country...of which I dont see us getting rid of Wal-marts anytime soon as they have pretty much cornered the market on shopping for people on strict budgets.
There needs to be some middle ground that companies can reach with their employees. Without them, they would not have the huge numbers that they do.
August 17, 2006 at 3:16 PM · I actually used to run a chainsaw for a living. And I was a concrete labourer. And I worked in landscaping. And I used to be an electrician's assistant. My Dad was in the NAVY, and when he left my mother, she worked for a temp agency. My grandfahter was in the NAVY and came from a coal-mining background. I'm not rich, and never have been. I have healthcare, which I pay for MYSELF. I've gone without healthcare before, as well, and no, I can't sympathize with someone who insists on someone else taking care of them like they are a child.

The market does take care of itself. You talk about our current economic situation? You mean the current economy that has provided statistical full employment? Or maybe the one which has cut taxes for all tax payers in the country, while increasing tax revenues? Or how about the part where our current economy has put the stock market over 11,000? Don't believe me? Turn off CNN for half and hour and read Ben Stine, or FORBES magazine or the Wall Street Journal and see how the economy is really doing. Fantastic. Gas prices go up because oil speculators raise the price to help their stockholders make money. Most Exxon-Mobil stock is in pensions plans which are paid out to Unions and as part of benefit packages to employees across America. Check it out, I invite you. Gas companies don't set oil prices, oil companies do. Shell Gas, for example, makes 7 cents on a gallon of gasoline. They've always made about 7 cents on a gallon of gasoline. Compare that to Coca-Cola, which makes 22 cents on a gallon of coke, or, worse, 200% profit on a gallon of Dasani water. Why not go complain about them? Gas profits go up because demand and purchase goes up. They sell more gas they make more money. SUVs gulp gas...those drivers buy more gas, profits go up. China starts buying oil from our providers where they didn't before. Profits go up. Oil prices go up, not gas prices...want to stop that? Let gas go up to 8 dollars, or stop buying gas. The price will come down, because the oil companies won't be able to make any money because they won't be able to sell any oil. It's simple economics.

I don't have anything against people unionizing to protect themselves...and I don't have anything against businesses busting unions to protect themselves. Are you at all firmiliar with the history of Andrew Carnagie? How about skyscrapers? If Carangie hadn't busted the steel unions, the cost of steel would have been so prohibitive that the great cities of America would never have been built.

This is THEMEPARKINSIDER.COM. Let's look at Walt Disney. Born to a poor family in Chicago, moves to Marceline, MO, where the farm fails and the situation gets no better. No college, no trust fund, no hand-out: end result - this website, every major theme park on earth, and a billion dollar business, which, as it turns out, provides jobs (and, in some cases, benefits) to thousands and thousands of people.

This is America, and it wasn't founded on crying and holding you hand out. In America, everyone is free to do with themselves whatever they make of themselves the best person they can. And in order to do provide that have to have freedom in all aspects of life, both social AND economic. But freedom must also go TWO WAYS, and that means that with freedom must come independence, and independence MEANS independence. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Maybe you'll get rich...maybe you won't. But you look around this country, and you'll see a reality: there is NO poverty. Poor people in this country have cell phones and televisions. When's the last time you heard of someone STARVING to death in America, who wasn't a homeless drug-addict?

We started at nothing in America, 230 years ago, and in 230 years, we became the NUMBER ONE ECONOMY ON THE EARTH. There is less poverty here than ANY OTHER MAJOR COUNTRY ON EARTH. There is less fatal illness here than ANYWHERE ELSE ON EARTH. America provides the food and medicine and international aid, and we're able to do that because of our FREE ECONOMIC system. We have all the money, whereas just 230 years ago, we had none. Do you think that's a coincidence?

You're nuts.

Unions, in action, do nothing but choke out businesses...businesses that provide jobs, and money, to workers. Unions are bad for the economy, and in that, bad for workers.

Open your eyes man. There is NOTHING wrong with our economy. There will always be poor people, and there will always be rich people, and there's NOTHING that ANY SYSTEM YOU CAN DEVELOP will do to stop that.

You want to be rich? Go get rich? What's stopping you?

August 17, 2006 at 3:49 PM · As this discussion is breaking along 'party lines' and people are being accused of being 'conservative' (the horror!!), allow me to say that some people appear to want an America that consists ONLY of a middle class. To do that, they want to steal from the rich and give to the poor. That stuff sounds good in fairy tales...but in real life it's criminal, unethical, and takes away any incentive to pursue the 'American dream'. America is becoming a nation where rich people are viewed as being 'evil'. What good is getting rich if everyone wants to take all your money YOU EARNED away from you??!!

About Walmart: nobody forces employees to work for Walmart. Walmart employees don't have to stay at Walmart. They must be doing something right if they have no shortage of employees. Let's face it: if a business stomps on it's employees, the employees will walk, won't they?? I wish I had a Walmart near me, but every time they try to open a store, a group of 10-20 people from the community start a 'paranoia campaign' to stop the 'great evil' from infecting their neighborhood. So 10-20 people dictate the ability of thousands of people to purchase goods at low prices. Sounds like a democracy where the majority rules, doesn't it??...

Scott asks "You want to be rich? Go get rich? What's stopping you?"

What good is getting rich if you're just going to get taxed to death? Anything to make one big happy middle class, right? Why should the people that don't succeed have to work at all, when we can have 'wealth re-distribution"? Wake up, people.

robert olson

August 17, 2006 at 5:09 PM · I used to work for Disneyland in th late 80s, early 90s and at least in California, you MUST belong to the union in order to work at Disneyland. If given the choice 90% of the employees (at that time) would have opted out.
There were weeks were I would get a paycheck with a zero balance due to union dues and my part time status.
They NEVER helped anyone they just guaranteed that NO MATTER what you did, you would still get a guaranteed raise EVERY year.
Unions MAY be worthwhile in a "dangerous" workplace (e.g. mining, heavy manufacturing, etc), but certainly NO ONE in retail or food service needs a union.
August 17, 2006 at 5:05 PM · Any Libertarians or old school small government republicans here? If so then you'll know where I stand on Unions and the tyranny of the so called workers majority.

Unions are a weapon to steal that which you did not earn, are worth or take take a risk for. Shareholders take the financial risk, and so rightfully take the majority of the profit. Don't like it? Well, I hear there is still a workers paradise a little north of Seoul.

And By the way..Unions did NOT create the middle class. The middle class have always been and will always be those risk takers and hard workers who own the corner store, the small bakery, become the bank manager or the manager at Wal-mart...they are NOT AFL-CIO members, nor are they UAW drones.

Seems to be a little Roosevelt/Socialist revisionist history at play around here.

August 17, 2006 at 5:21 PM · Just adding some more of my memories from my union days:

Once a month the bigwigs from NY, dressed to kill (think Mafioso), would come visit my former workplace and make all kinds of promises, and reassure us of the value of being in the union. None of those promises would come true. What ended up happening was that they kept the non-worker employed. That was all. It didn't matter how hard you worked. The incentive to work hard was gone. They'd stop in once a month, give a 'Thanks for paying your dues" speech, then back into the limo. Maybe a union is beneficial somewhere, but not where I worked. Never again for me.

robert olson

August 17, 2006 at 5:48 PM · RObert Olson is correct!

Unions reward mediocrity and stiffle innovation or the industrious. This dumbing down happens in any socialist scheme, where the those who try to rise above their station are dragged down to the lowest common denominator for the good of the whole. Soon the whole becomes stagnant and gridlocked with people who feel entitled to a paycheck, instead of privilaged to earn one.

The facts are the facts..your labor is only worth so much.

Lets say a ride operator makes $7/hr industry wide...what makes you think your worth more? And what makes you, an employee, think your desires are more important than the investors financial requirments? If you organize a union and by threat of FORCE demand the investor pay more, he is likely to take his investment where he can get the required return..if enough investors do this you are soon left with a union, and no job to support it.

Want to get rich? Work hard, educate yourself, and stop thinking your worth more than someone is willing to pay or that you are entitled to some one elses wealth.

August 17, 2006 at 6:15 PM · Thank God there are other people in the world who understand economics.

Sometimes I think I'm the only one.

Here's a good analogy for why communism (read: unions) don't work:

Life is a race. The American way of life says the fastest guy, the guy who trains the hardest, the guy who gives it his all...he wins the race. He reaps the benefits. The more you train, the harder you try, the better you ensure your finishing spot will be. Communism seeks to produce a different result...where noone wins the race. Everyone finishes the same. Everyone is "equal". But guess what? You can't make the slow guy run faster. He's two hundred pounds over weight. He'd rather watch G4TV and eat cheetos than work out his quads. He's as fast as he's going to get. So now, to make everyone finsih the same, you have a dilemma. The end result: you end up having to slow the fast guy down. So whereas before, some people excelled, and others didn't, based totally on their own desire, hard work, and dedication, now no one excells, at all.

Unions are a racket. For example:

There's a massive building being built right now that is completely "eco-friendly". It is built with all these advanced cooling systems, etc. Now, the toilets in this building don't have water in them. They flush without it. Don't ask how, I'm not a toilet engineer. Anyway, the union plumbers in the town were so PISSED that they didn't get the contract to work on the building, that they SUED the contractor who was building it for not giving them the job. The settlement? The entire building was fitted and equipped with water pipes and a sewage system which it will NEVER USE. How much cost do you think that added to the project? How STUPID is that?

Like I said, if they want to unionize at Universal, let them. But if the Universal company wants to have a union-free work place...let them. It HAS to work both ways.

Don't like it? Build your own theme park. It's the American way.

August 18, 2006 at 6:29 AM · Scott, You are WAY out of line. As a former Wal-Mart employee (support manager that made minimum wage as a member of management with no benefits to speak of) I can say that as profitable as Wal Maret is, they most definately could afford to allow their employees to unionize. I currently work in the hotel industry at a unionized hotel. The wages that we get are not outragiously high, but are competative withe the other non- union shops in the area. Lets remember that the reason why unions came about in this country in the first palce was because business was mistreating its workers (some to the point of breaking the law). Are there bad unions? Absolutely. Is unemployment down right now? Sure, when you have a lot of people working two jobs just to make ends meet. Unions are not formed to bankrupt the companies of the workers they serve, that would be cutting off the revenue sorce that they need to survive. But there is nothing wrong with negotiating in order to share in the profits of a company whose success depends on the labor of its workers. Buy the way, if the domestic automakers made reliable cars that were worth buying, they woul d not be in trouble. Don't blame that on the unions.
August 18, 2006 at 6:41 AM · Hey Patrick, allways remember, you get what you pay for. Don't complain about rude, slow, unprofessional ride operators when they are being paid the lowest possible salary. Ride operators often work long hours in the hot sun and have to put up with snobbish, rude guests with a superiority complex for the PRIVLEGE of minimum wage. What makes them think they are worth more? How about the fact that they have the lives of thousands of people in their hands daily. Its more than just pushing a button.
August 18, 2006 at 11:08 AM · Just to add to the mix. I worked for Grumman Aerospace before it was taken over. At least once a year a union organizer would come by and get laughed out of the building. The workers were treated fairly and paid a fair wage for a days work. The union did not offer them anything. Unions served a purpose, at one time. They now have become what they were created to fight against.
It is up to the employees of universal if they want a union or not. I've been fired from jobs because I was non-union and just did my job. In one day I did a weeks worth of work of a union employee. I was impressed.
August 18, 2006 at 12:13 PM · Scott said: "It is built with all these advanced cooling systems, etc. Now, the toilets in this building don't have water in them. They flush without it."

That's the one in Philadelphia, right? If it's the one I'm thinking of, I read about it and still can't believe how it went down.

robert olson

August 18, 2006 at 4:07 PM · Well, if you insist that unions work, they must, despite all the blaring evidence to the contrary.

What you're talking about with Wal-Mart is wealth redistribution, and it doens't work, period. Just read a book.

It's obvious from this discussion that what I said in the beginning is true: you can't teach adults economics. But, I can't resist the urge to try just one more time...

Wal-Mart has it's employees budgeted in as a part of there over all budget. If you raise wages, pay out benefits, etc, you inflate that budget. There is no amount of pay cut in the world that any CEO or official at Wal-Mart could take that would off-set the massive increased cost of providing higher wages (which are actually rather competitive, my friend works at Wal-Mart and started at 10.40 and hour, not bad for a shelf-stocker who'd make 6 bucks at the local grocery) and health benefits to all of Wal-Mart's thousands of hourly employees, and so they'd have to build that cost into their budget...and they'd raise product shelf price. As helath-care costs went up, and the federal government continued to cause even greater inflation by artificially adjusting the minimum wage, that, of course, would steadily help eliminate Wal-Mart's only advantage over stores like Target, and thereby hinder Wal-Mart's ability to succeed, and provide jobs for employees and services for the community.

But yeah, you should make more money, even though it means driving a profitable, job-generating, product and service providing business into the ground. At least you's be making an extra 60 bucks a week. Wait...but then so would everybody else, and then prices on products would go up to match the increased average wage, thereby negating the effects of the entire scheme, save for the irreperable tdamage you'd ave done to the thousands of people employed by Wal-Mart.

But go for it.

And oh yeah, you complain about having to work two jobs to make ends meet? Oh, say it ain't so! Somebody call the UN! Not TWO WHOLE JOBS! Get over it. You aren't guarenteed success in America, or any other country for that matter. You are only guarenteed a fair opportunity. Work two jobs or cut your spending.

People used to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week to make "ends meet" and those people produced THIS country, so apparently, it's not impossible.

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