SEIU SHOULD LEAVE NON-PROFIT ALONE
I couldn’t work in a group home. It would break my heart, and it would break my back. It is sad work, and it is hard work, and I’m simply not put together in a way that would let me do it.
I can’t work in a group home.
But I admire those who can.
Like the people who staff the 30-some group homes run by the ARC of Monroe. A non-profit that serves the mentally handicapped, ARC used to stand for Association for Retarded Citizens.
Like most non-profits, especially human-service non-profits, the ARC of Monroe gets a lot of its money from the government. Through contracts, grants and Medicaid, it is essentially an unofficial arm of government.
And its budget has been cut significantly -- $1.6 million this year alone.
Thus far that hasn’t meant any layoffs or reductions in service.
But a wrench is about to be thrown in the works.
The SEIU is about to hold an organizing vote.
The Service Employees International Union.
The nasty ones.
The blood-and-guts, most-liberal-of-them-all, fundamentally socialist SEIU.
It wants a piece of the ARC of Monroe. Specifically, it wants a piece of the paychecks of some 60 percent of the ARC’s employees. Of the 800 workers at the ARC of Monroe, about 500 would be in the union.
That means a fair number of the others would lose their jobs. And the function of the operation would be stressed.
Because unions do three things. They increase inefficiency, antagonism and expense. The unions get more money, and employees usually think they’re better off, but at the end of the day, the employer and the employees are losers together.
Work-to-rule inflexibility, and union requirements that all workplace changes be negotiated, breed terrible inefficiency in an organization. The adaptability necessary to handle day-to-day needs in most workplaces is lost. The difficulty created by unions places a heavy burden of inefficiency on everyone – labor or management.
Then there is antagonism.
When the union comes in, team spirit goes out. Union workers identify with the union, not the company. It is an us-versus-them relationship, and divided loyalties unavoidably lead to dissension and discord. With the employer seen as an adversary, every work rule or decision becomes a point of contention and conflict.
Inefficiency and antagonism, they are part and parcel of the unionized workforce.
And they are wrapped up in higher expense.
There is no way the union is going to take its cut without increasing the cost of a worker and of a workforce. From the standpoint of workers raging against the evils of what they call the 1 percent, that might make sense. They are bleeding the beast. But from the standpoint of keeping an operation going, of continuing to provide services on a shrinking budget, it makes no sense at all.
It ends up being an act of theft.
And in this instance it’s not a theft from the ARC of Monroe, it’s a theft from the people it cares for.
A human-services non-profit is not a sweatshop. This isn’t a coal mine in West Virginia, this is a group home in Pittsford.
This is not some corporate boogey man of the left, this is a community-organizing non-profit, a hands-on vocation of service to people in stunning need.
It is a mission and a calling.
And it hangs by a slender thread of dwindling funding, blown about by recession and the hard priorities of glaring government deficits. Society is trying to take care of mentally handicapped people. The ARC of Monroe and its employees are engaged in this work of the angels, stretching dollars to make ends meet.
And the SEIU wants a piece.
A union that seems to crusade for the little guy seems set to send the little guy back to an institution. Every dollar the SEIU takes out of this non-profit industry will be one less dollar available to give mentally handicapped people normal lives.
And that’s not right.
The ARC employees can vote to join the SEIU. They can vote to bring inefficiency, antagonism and expense into their workplace.
Co-workers will lose jobs, relationships with bosses will be chilled, and fewer residents will be able to be served.
Workers will have to decide if that’s what they got into this field to do.
Hopefully they will tell the union, “No, thanks.”
Hopefully the normal challenges and aspirations of the workplace can be handled in a spirit of teamwork and collaboration, without a meddlesome, profiteering union getting in the way. Hopefully the ARC of Monroe will be not labor versus management, but managers, workers and residents all pushing forward together to do good things.
The tax dollars that make the ARC of Monroe possible, that provide community living for people with mental handicaps, are sacred. They must be safeguarded. There aren’t enough of them to go around. There certainly aren’t enough of them to let the SEIU rob the till.
A vote against the union is a vote for the residents, for the workers, for the non-profit and for the taxpayers who make the whole thing possible
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012