Why Did This Union Oppose Higher Pay for Its Members?

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from The Heritage Foundation,

Few workers would turn down a raise. Union members, however, can have raises turned down on their behalf.

Employees of a Pennsylvania grocery store learned this the hard way.

Managers at the Giant Eagle grocery in Edinboro, Pa., wanted to reward hard work. So they boosted the wages of two dozen high-performing employees above their union rates. But United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 was not pleased. The union argued the pay increases violated their contract, took Giant Eagle to court and forced it to rescind the raises.

Why did Local 23 oppose higher pay for its members? Because it upended their seniority system, allowing junior employees to make more those with more seniority. Local 23 wanted uniform pay scales—even if that meant cutting some of their members’ wages.

Workers today want—and expect—recognition for their contributions and abilities, but uniform-pay scales forbid that. Such contracts could work in the assembly line economy of the 1930s, where workers performed essentially interchangeable jobs. Not in today’s knowledge economy. Why would a software designer or a search-marketing consultant want one?

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