The fact that being union-free is, in many cases, better than being unionized has been a concept the many people have not understood. However, a U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmation of the fact that it does not pay to be in a union in the 21st Century just adds more evidence to the argument.
On April 1st, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a union contract’s arbitration provision limits employees’ suits of discrimination (view decision here). In this case, three security guards represented by the autocratic Service Employees International Union (SEIU) sued their employer under the ADEA when they lost their positions as watchmen in 2003 when the building’s owner started using licensed security guards provided by another (unionized) company.
It should also be noted that, according to the case, the use of the unionized subcontractor was consented to by the union (apparently even though it would cause injury to the plaintiff’s in this case).
According to the Court:
Contending that these reassignments to a loss in income, other damages, and were otherwise less desireable than their former positions, respodents [the unionized workers] asked the Union to file grievances alleging, among other things that petitioners [the employer] had violated the CBAs ban on workplace discrimination by reassigning respondents on the basis of their age in violation of Age Discrimination in Employment Act….
The Union requested arbitration under the CBA, but after the initial hearing, withdrew the agediscrimination claims on the ground that its consent to the new security contract precluded it from objecting to respondents’ reassignments as discriminatory. [Emphasis added.]
This ruling affirms what many already know: That when workers put their livlihoods into a union’s hands, it does limit their rights.
Indeed, as Justice David Souter acknowledged in his dissent: In most cases, “the union controls access to and presentation of employees’ claims in arbitration.”
We’ll have more on why unions, with their 19th century business model, are no longer effective in a 21st economy in future posts.