B. Hixon: Unions versus right to work

Corporations and politicians are aware that when workers collectively bargain, they generate increases in wages and benefits. That becomes a threat to non-union industries that must raise wages and benefits to keep employees from unionizing or leaving to join a union shop.

Corporations are aware that in states with right-to-work programs, wages and benefits fall below national averages, thus generating higher profits. So right-to-work is essentially an attack on organized labor and non-union wage earners.

Another roll of unionism is politics. Labor has a long history of pursuing legislation that benefits all wage earners — higher minimum wage laws, universal health care, health and safety regulations and many others. Success in these efforts are directly related to being able to mobilize support in a political atmosphere.

Unfortunately, under right-to-work laws, funds required for these efforts shrink.

One simple fact is that neither “right-to-work” or “organized labor” systems affect unemployment very much. However, unionism increases wages while right-to-work states have lower median incomes.

Increased wages lead to increased consumer activity, thus improving the economy of the state. Maine has a serious budget problem.

Right-to-work proponents are concerned with profits, not employees' quality of life.

The fight is far from over, regardless of LD 786 and LD 831 going down in flames in Augusta.

Bruce Hixon, Bowdoin, IAMAW Local S6

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



MARK GRAVEL's picture

“Corporations are aware that

“Corporations are aware that in states with right-to-work programs, wages and benefits fall below national averages”

You should also contrast this statement with the fact that right-to-work states are growing jobs faster than non-right-to-work states.

The union has exhausted its usefulness for the time being.

This is going to kill me.

I agree with Mark. (was that an earthquake?)

Unions once had a purpose that was good and beneficial to the people they serve. And in certain segments of the workforce, they are still beneficial and necessary. But when a union's primary focus shifts was fairness to gaining advantage for their workers, the union has outlived its usefulness.

RONALD RIML's picture

Of course a Union's primary focus is advantage for the worker

As is the Corporation's primary focus the advancement of the corporate will and entity.

If you want 'Fairness' - look in the dictionary - if you seek Justice, one must fight for it - hence the Unions.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Sure Ronald, you can fight

Sure Ronald, you can fight all the way to China.

 's picture


The only thing you fight for sir, is the investments, and stock portfolios. Since it is a verified identity does that mean we should take the GPL route and start looking at publicly disclosed stocks, investments, and portfolio ventures to get and gain a better understanding of what you "fight" for? I've seen better misdirection when I worked in loss prevention. That and when they started threatening and intimidating workers with insider trading charges. Managers were telling us to sell stock, buy it back on the cheap, and take it as much as we could. You can comment on what we fight for Mark; but in the end if we start proving stocks, portfolios, investments, and perhaps trades with countries guilty of human rights violations; will anyone have any real respect for that?

ERNEST LABBE's picture

How did unions come to be?

How many of you would work 60 or 70 hours a week for peanuts, without overtime pay?

How would you like to be fired the only reason that you were not of the same country of origin?

How would you have felt about working under these conditions at the age of 14?

How would like to be hit by the boss or called any name the boss felt like using?

Sadly unless you are a native American those are the conditions your fore fathers and mothers had to endure when they arrived here in the late 19th and early 20th century.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

What in the hell does this

What in the hell does this have to do with contemporary working conditions and the usefulness of the union?

The argument is not what have unions done or not done; it is are they still useful in today's economy.

RONALD RIML's picture

A 'Union' is the Patent on a Workers Labor....

Let's say we deprive you of your Patents - my how you'd squawk!!!!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Technically, I don’t own my

Technically, I don’t own my patents. Any invention I create on company time is owned by the company.

Bruce Hixon's picture


Mark, to a point you are right. When goods were manufactured in America by Americans (post Roosevelt) in the 50's, as production in union shops went up, wages went up as profits rose. Companies competed for union workers. But sadly, this is all behind us now because instead of thinking about our country and what has gone wrong, we simply go shop at Wal-Mart or Penny's,buy Dickies, go to Sears,The Gap, Tommy Hilfiger or LL Beans. It's all of us who bought their foreign junk to save a buck. But friend, we didn't save anything compared to what those companies rake in by using foreign sweatshop labor. Countries like France, Sweden and Germany continued to pay higher wages and retained more industry than the U.S., who smashed unions believing we could then compete with China on costs, but in effect, this effort damaged Americas industrial base. Historically, unions have done quite a bit useful. At the turn of the 20th century, you got to leave work when the BOSS said you could leave. 40 hour work weeks were a gift to American workers primarily by seamstresses such as the ones involved in the Triangle shirtwaist fire in NYC . Google it.....I've got company and will return later. Cya

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Bruce, One major aspect of

One major aspect of your history that you are missing is that after WWII, there were virtually no global completion for the US. The Japanese devastated China, the US devastated Japan, Hitler devastated Europe, ... , etc.

There was simply no alternative except to deal with the unions. The contemporary economy is a different a different place.

Lastly, it is human nature to maximize one's spending power. While American’s talk a big game about buying American products, that is not what happens in real life. The success of Walmart is testimony to my statement.

Bruce Hixon's picture


Then you go shop there, it is a free country after all. Wow, I thought that way down deep, you loved America. Maybe I was wrong.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Think this through Bruce. I

Think this through Bruce. I go to Wal*Mart and buy brand X, or I go to mom and pop and buy brand X for 25% more. Brand X is still manufactured by the same damn company. What is the best economic decision for my family?

 's picture

Why make it personal Bruce?

I don't think your comment questioning Mark's love of country is in any way helpful or on topic. Why not try to keep this conversation amenable and not stoop to name calling?

This is a topic many people feel strongly about one way or the other. Personal attacks need to be sidelined.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Joe, I appreciate your

I appreciate your response. That said, I’m partly to blame since I am poking Bruce’s buttons to see if he will have a meltdown. I did notice a correlation to the amount of personal attacks and number of drinks. Not surprising.

RONALD RIML's picture

Mark Loves Money -

His constant complaining of paying any taxes tells us of his dislike for our country.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Ronald, You are

You are mischaracterizing again. I don’t support NO taxes, I support low taxes, responsible government spending, and minimal national debt.

I guess your mischaracterization makes your comment sound more impotent, or is the word important; ah, either word will do.

 's picture

Ernest's laundry list of union accomplishments ...

... from 75+ years ago is like a written version of that silly mural. It has nothing to do with what's going on today, but they always trot it out, implying that all labor laws will immediately vanish if right-to-work is passed. Horse feathers!

Union officials and their apologists are terrified their personal gravy-train will stop running.

Bruce Hixon's picture

Mike, there

is one panel of that silly mural that exemplifies it's existence. Which panel is it? Besides, if it hadn't been for your Boy in Augusta, it would still be an obscure piece of unknown art. Perhaps the caricature of LePig would fit well in it's place in the labor Dept. or a closet............

MARK GRAVEL's picture

That is certainly a thuggish

That is certainly a thuggish response.

Bruce Hixon's picture


are the only thing keeping you from thinking clearly. You just gotta quit listening to Fox news and Limbag. You are just too easy to manipulate. You will never find a segment of that mural picturing you, because you have never had anything to offer. If you have something concrete to offer do so, or shut up!!!!!!!!!!!! I had a drink or two, but I still mean it!!!!

Quit with the Fox and Limbaugh

Bruce, I'm usually on the same side of the fence as you, but this time I have to agree with Mark and Mike (and it's KILLING me). YES, Unions brought us those wonderful things, and YES we should thank them for making the workweek more bearable. BUT those achievements of nearly a century ago are not a free pass for giving the unions a anything they want. I am not anti-union. I am pro fairness. Unions did a fantastic job of bringing fairness into the workplace. But not they often are looking for advantage, for any excuse to stick it to management.

Hostess was brought down by a union that would rather see a company go bankrupt and put its workers out of business than make concessions that would enable the company to continue operations (to be FAIR, Hostess was not blameless and would have gone out of business anyway with the way they were going, but at least they would have given those workers a job for a few months more).

I was a contractor at a major unionized manufacturer a few years ago. It was a four month contract that would have been completed in two or three if we had not been forced to work with the local electricians union. We were refreshing the computers, that is, replacing desktops. We were not allowed to touch the computers until the Local members had removed the old computers and placed the new ones on the desk and plugged them in. We were completely governed by their schedule and their pace. We could not criticise their work or they would slow down. If we dared touch the computer before they had done their part, they would slow down work. One night, we found that a group of workers were unable to do their jobs because of a problem with the software on the new computers. The unions guys had already gone home, which meant the workers would have had to end their day early and not be able to start work the next morning until we could get the unions guys back in to swap the old computer back in. So the boss made an executive decision: We took the old machines off the truck, set them down beside the new ones, and moved all the connections over to the old ones so people could get back to work. It was three days before we could get any significant amount of work done. It was like working with sullen tenth graders. It struck me as a culture that encouraged obstruction and laziness.

And that is what I mean by looking for advantage over fairness, and it is a large part of what has made manufacturing in the US too expensive for manufactureres to keep it in the US. (Another major contributor to this are the Mega-retailers like Walmart, which force their suppliers to cut cut cut cut costs, forcing them overseas in order to meet the prices that the retailers are demanding.)

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Good real-world example

Good real-world example Wayne. I've seen similar behavior, which makes it very hard to get the job done.

Bruce Hixon's picture


I do appreciate your response. I almost missed it. Not everything is perfect in the world, but I really do appreciate the input from someone who has experience with the matter. I was a union rep when we had a contract labor agreement with Cianbro at Bath Iron Works. They were a nonunion outfit and I was a Union representative. I worked with them to eliminate trade infractions. I began each day where they came to BIW at the parking area they all gathered at to be bussed into the yard to let them know where problems were and how we could eliminate them. Cianbro is very willing to hire BIW employees when they are laid off because of their skill level, and my interest was in keeping by brothers employed wherever they would be treated fairly. I worked with their business agent every morning as many of the workers were coming from the UA local 716. I understand the frustration you endured and the frustration it caused. That is precisely why I worked with organizations such as yours. At times I was not favorably looked upon by my Union, but their work was accomplished and ours was protected. I would have worked with your organization as well. All workers are in this together. In project labor agreements I will protect the work of my union, and work with you to accomplish yours. We aren't enemies, we are American workers. Under my watch, we will work out the problems and get the job done. Nothing is perfect Wayne, but I'd like to think we'd work out the best scenario to get the job done. You have been very candid. I appreciate that and appreciate you sharing it. Bruce

Sadly, Bruce, you would be

Sadly, Bruce, you would be the exception, not the rule. No such courtesey was extended to us. It was "our way or you'll just have to wait till we're damn ready. And we'll lodge a complaint with the Steward." One of them was a former shop steward so he knew the tricks.

Bruce Hixon's picture


You are full of what makes the grass grow green.

MARK GRAVEL's picture


God knows you have been fertilizing, so it must be sunshine.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The Pirate had the "pleasure"

The Pirate had the "pleasure" of dealing with the IAMAW in the late 60's while living in PA. Quite an experience.

Bruce Hixon's picture

Having an IQ over 12

I won't ask LOL

Bruce Hixon's picture


in as much a someone hit one of those buttons, would you care to elaborate?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Not sure I can do so without

Not sure I can do so without violating some code of ethics, so I'll simply choose to err on the side of caution.

 's picture

You conveniently left out the typical scenario.

When collective bargaining generates increases in wages and benefits, the company providing them must raise prices to cover the increased cost. Most companies are not rolling in massive profits, unlike the picture painted by union propaganda. This causes them to be less competitive versus companies who have not been victimized by unions.

And all to often this causes, and has caused, the victimized companies to move off-shore or go out of business altogether. Union members, don't forget this wonderful benefit: unemployment.

That's why union influence in the private sector has dwindled over the years to the point where today it's almost vanished.

That's why today unions concentrate their thuggery on the public sector and on the few remaining private companies that have to respond to government extortion.

RONALD RIML's picture

Corporate Profits Soar as Worker Income Limps


Published: March 3, 2013

With the Dow Jones industrial average flirting with a record high, the split between American workers and the companies that employ them is widening and could worsen in the next few months as federal budget cuts take hold.

With millions still out of work, companies face little pressure to raise salaries, while productivity gains allow them to increase sales without adding workers.

Read on....

Bruce Hixon's picture


Are you gullible or just numb?

Bruce Hixon's picture

and you, "Conveniently" mislabel your scenario as "Typical".

Mike, you appear to have little to no knowledge of American labor History although I must commend you on your ability to parrot what you hear from those aligned with your views. You skew the facts to fit your needs. You didn't fact check what I posted, and your patently corporate talking points indicate a total lack of interest in American workers, but thank you for reading my post.


Mike kinda hit the nail on the head. Could you imagine what LLBean's boots and totes would cost of they were made by a unionized workforce? Have you noticed that the only US made shoes at New Balance are the ones that cost over $100/pair? It is not a lack of interest in the workers.

I can understand that, as a member of the IAMAW you have to defend your union and fellow members, but you have to also admit that that, too, is forcing you to skew facts for your own needs.

Bruce Hixon's picture


They would have to sell for about the same costs. You need to understand that a vast majority of LL Bean apparel is made off-shore in unsafe factories in Pakistan and in Bangladesh where wages are about $.21 cents and hour or $40.00 a month in sweatshop conditions. You but a tee shirt from Beans made in Bangladesh for $28.00 that cost $1.75 to make. You don't like it so you return it. You get another $1.75 Tee shirt for free, and they re-sell your old one for $14.00 in the factory store. Wow, whatta deal. But to address your initial question, both Bean boots and the totes are made right here in Maine friend, interesting, because for the most part, that's all they make in Maine. You couldn't have picked two worse products to make your point friend, but I do understand. As for the New Balance Shoes, that's all I'll wear because It keeps American workers employed. Interesting concept isn't it. Oh, by the way, the Nike Air Jordan's were made in Malaysia by school kids for about $4.00 per pair and sold here for what? $140.00 maybe. Somebody made out on that my friend. Perhaps we should stop shopping at WalMart and buy American. Maybe that will help our own workers, and allow our children to make a living wage. My need is for American workers to earn a living wage friend. Thanks for posting.

Remember when Wal*Mart's

Remember when Wal*Mart's advertising was all about Made in the USA? Man I miss Sam Walton.

Actually depending on the condition of the T-shirt it may end up in the E-Store for a buck.

I am fully aware of what the (non-union) workers are making in Brunswick as I am very close to someone there. They make more than just the boots and totes there, and more is spated to come in soon. Bean knows how to keep their workers happy without them having to join a union. They are treated fairly and paid well. Which is my exact point. You don't have to join a union to be treated well. You only need to join a good, responsible company. I'm guessing the fact they are not unionized is the reason for your disdain.

New Balance make up the majority of the shoes in my closet, but I can't afford the US made ones, even at the tent sale.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Can you say Hostess?

Can you say Hostess?

Bruce Hixon's picture

Yes, Mark I can

I even went so far as to have a face to face with Lawrence Lockman ( r) Amherst who sponsored LD's 786 and 831 during a hearing before the joint committee on Labor, commerce, research and economic development committee in Augusta. I really hope you didn't fall for the deception on that issue. How many Hostess workers did you talk to about the issue? Do you have any facts, or just what you read in the paper? I spent two days and one night on the picket line in Biddeford talking with members. Some of which were husband and wife both working in the plant for nearly 20 years. I also attended a presentation at the Southern Maine Labor Council at USM on the issue by hostess representatives. Mark, what you think about the Hostess Debacle is incorrect. If you are interested in learning more, go to You tube and type in: "Inside the Hostess Bakery" there's a lot more than rumor there. Regardless, during Rep. Lockman's testimony, he patently lied about the events at Hostess to sell his legislation. He and I discussed that fact after the hearing. He was all smiles and I was not. He recommended that his legislation be sent to the third floor with a unanimous "ought to pass" report. I testified against them, and many testified for them. Both bills died on the floor.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So the collusion is that

So the collusion is that unions bring do negatively affect the value of a company.

I say welcome to the real world where people fund their own pensions. Moreover, there is contract law, why not sue if the claims in the video are true?

Like it or not, the company owns the right to behave good or bad.

Poorly run companies go out of business – that is capitalism.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Disagree all you want. It

Disagree all you want. It does not and will not change reality.

Bruce Hixon's picture

I'm glad you watched the video

on your points..... the negative impact on Hostess was historically forced by corporate executives that 1. Had no idea how to run the company as all original executives had been replaced trying to save the company. and 2. raided not only the profits, but also stole the pension fund that the employees funded while knowing the business was going to tank. The pension I and my fellow workers have is also funded by the workers, but we have our pension fund managed by someone other than the company. The Hostess workers also agreed to allow the company to run the pension fund to save the outlay to an independent organization which would have cost the company and the union more. 3. The union did attempt to sue but it was disallowed do to legal issues. Remember that the company was swallowed up by an equity firm like Bain Capital, and the suit was already in bankruptcy court. I think the video had a segment on that but I'll review it. It was either explained there or at USM. 4. I agree that the company may behave well or badly, but there are also constitutional issues that favor corporations over unions. I can explain that if you want. But back to the previous point, yes companies can behave badly, and they can go out of business, but miscasting the blame onto a union who did everything they could to save the company paints the workers as the guilty party and is commonly done because people will believe it. Thanks again for watching it.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

1. If the company were

1. If the company were profitable in the first place, who would sell it to a hedge fund?
2. I’m sure the employees did not have full visibility into the company finances. It is always the arm chair quarterbacks who think they know how to run a company better, yet they don’t have full visibility. Again, a health and profitable company would not be chopped and sold off because it would be worth more whole.
3. To let the company manage the pension fund was a foolish move – diversification, diversification, and diversification.
4. “but there are also constitutional issues” Ostensibly and as it should be. The party putting their capital a risk rightfully

One of the unions asked for

One of the unions asked for and got the financial records for the company. They saw them, agreed there was a problem and that a change was needed, and made an agreement with the company. The Confectionary workers did not asked, and refused to beleive the company was in financial trouble, said they did not believe it (even when the other union's leaders told them the problem was real), and decided to force the company to shut down.

Bruce Hixon's picture


give me the link.

I can't. 'cause, see, I

I can't. 'cause, see, I don't depend on one source for my information. When it blew up last year and friends started posting cute memes about it (both sides of the issue) on FB, my BS detector I started doing the research so I could explain to both liberal and conservatives why theire cute Hostess memes were wrong (which they were, like 99% of the sociopolitical memes on FB are). So I found many sources and drew my own conclusions.

Bruce Hixon's picture


It is quite apparent that you have no "sources" what so ever as evidenced in your post. I think you installed your B.S. detector backwards.

It's quite evident that you

It's quite evident that you do not easily accept opposing views, as evidenced by your many posts. This does not make you unique, as I see the same behavior in Gravel and Pirate and a few others.
See, I actually do what we were supposedly taught in school. I read, I research, and I come to a conclusion based on what I read. I look at the broad spectrum, and I reject the reports from partisan sources such as ThinkProgress and TalkingPointsMemo. I don't simply repeat what the echo chamber reports without question. So here's my source: www.google.com

Bruce Hixon's picture


It appears you watched only selected portions of the video. You need to watch it again friend!! Jeez guy, pay attention

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Simple, the owners run the

Simple, the owners run the roost for better for worse.

Bruce Hixon's picture


you agree with me. Thanks Mark, I even gave you a kudo for that, and those a rare for me.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

You know what the say about a

You know what the say about a broken clock; it is right twice a day.

Bruce Hixon's picture

Well then......................

You seem to be of the opinion that they know what's right......You want to support your family based on their best interests?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

They may or may not know what

They may or may not know what is right. That said, they own the keys to the plant.

The same goes for you in your personal life. You may or may know what it right, but you own the keys to your house. How would you like your neighbor running your personal business?

In most cases, the workers don’t own the business. A really simple concept.

The workers DO NOT OWN Hostess.

Bruce Hixon's picture


didn't listen too well did you. Go back and review.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Are unions the

Are unions the reason the starter motor that came on my 1999 Kohler engine was labeled made in Mexico and the 2011 replacement that came in a Kohler labeled box was labeled made in China? I didnt realize Mexicans were unionized.

Bruce Hixon's picture

Mr. Labbe

It's a pleasure to have someone immune to the corporate strategy speaking up. Thanks

 's picture

Most likely unions are the reason ...

... that Kohler moved from the US to Mexico in the first place. China can make the stuff cheaper, so ... Vaya con Dios, amigo.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Welcome to the world labor

Welcome to the world labor market.

Bruce Hixon's picture


I've had a couple of drinks now, so .......... America has problems, so you either support our workers or you support workers from Dhaka Bangladesh. If it's your kids........who will you support?

Bruce Hixon's picture


I've gotta tell you all that I have never seen e never seen such a group of people willing to subject their children to slave labor
as I have from Maine in my life. What's the matter with you guys? You want you kids to compete with slave labor from across the pond? What the hell is the matter with you? It's like arguing with first graders. You don't even care for your own kids. SAD!!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

If you aspire to make shoes

If you aspire to make shoes or garments, then you must compete with other countries. The takeaway here is get an education and don’t subject yourself to those jobs.

Those jobs are gone, so best adjust. Perhaps you have not realized that yet while others have. What I find sad, is that you and many others are stuck in the past.

Or chuck the union and go

Or chuck the union and go work for Bean in Brunswick (or Lewiston). Or Jones and Vining in Lewiston. Or Auburn Manufacturing in Mechanic Falls (actually, don't know if they are union or not). Or any of a number of thriving manufacturing facilities that are still in the area and don't depend on unionized labor.

Bruce Hixon's picture

You soak on it

Nighty night guys, I'm glad I ain't your kid!!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

That makes both of us glad.

That makes both of us glad.

Bruce Hixon's picture


wow, the button tallies seem to support my positions. I think there is intelligent life out there...:) Maybe we should let the buttons continue LOL Thanks to all realists

Bruce Hixon's picture

If I didn't give a Sh**

I would have been in bed hours ago
My wife is going to kill me, but she knows my support of American Workers.is primary to me. I've spent 37 years of my life fighting for American workers. That doesn't seem to be appropriate in L/A and a few towns out of state as they seem to be immune to fact. I've tried to share facts as I know them. My interest is in the family futures of your children and mine. Yes, I have grandchildren. With some exceptions, it has become all too evident to me that after all these years, I can't fix stupid. I appreciate the support of those who understand. Here it is 0:500 in the morning, just as I was before I got crushed in an industrial accident, I'll be damned if I have a clue why I'm awake while you are asleep, trying to plan the protection of your children. This thread has no more interest to me. You fix it!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Bruce, It is only in your

It is only in your mind’s eye that you are protecting my children. Hey, if it gives your purpose in life, who am I to criticize.
I wonder how a majority of private sector workers make it through the day without union thuggery, oops, union protection.

It is a new world Bruce whether we like it or not.


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...