Why can’t a Labor Union have unlimited (or ridiculously unreasonable) demands?



Some large corporations and government divisions have labor unions and I never really understood how those work…

They can stop a whole corporation or public infrastructure unless their demands are met, but then, why can’t they have unreasonable requests?

In: Economics

The main idea is that the people in that union would then go “Wait, we’re on strike because you’re asking for solid gold toilets? Screw that. I’ll go back to work already.” if the demands were unreasonable. Likewise, if the demands are unreasonable, the corporation will get public support. “We want to have teachers back at work, but they want private helicopters to take them to and from classes.”

Likewise, unions end up negotiating with their employers, and negotiations with unreasonable demands aren’t going to work. The union WANTS a quick resolution that lets everyone get back to work, but asking for a 2 hour work day isn’t going to result in those negotiations ending well.

Well first, who gets to define what an “unreasonable request” is? To a corporation, any request is unreasonable if it costs them even a penny; that’s why we have unions in the first place. Unions exist to protect workers for being exploited, not the other way around. Making ridiculous or unreasonable demands is *against* their own interests. Every day a worker is on strike is a day they’re not making money. If a union went on strike to get gold toilets in the bathrooms, no company is going to honor that because it’s absurd, and the strike will drag on forever, meaning those workers are not getting paid. They don’t want to not get paid, they want to work, they just want to work for fair wages, fair benefits, and fair treatment. Making ridiculous demands gets them further away from that, not closer. Furthermore, unions have to vote to go on strike. Do you imagine a majority of any union would agree to strike over something totally unreasonable?

Workers on strike aren’t being paid. The union may keep a reserve of cash to help workers out, but the payments are usually not very much, and they don’t have an unlimited amount. So if they can’t easily come to an agreement, it comes down to who breaks first – the company that’s not making any money or the employees who aren’t getting paid.

And at least in the US, companies can generally hire replacements for striking workers. So if they think they’re never going to come to an agreement, they can replace everyone.

Like everyone is saying, the workers know that making absurd demands won’t get them anywhere. If their jobs involve serving the public some way like teachers or government workers, it would even turn public opinion against them.

Also, labour negotiations involve a lot of lawyers, professional negotiators and executives. They don’t want to waste their time on impossible requests from the other side either. Nobody makes any money until they make a deal so it’s in everyone’s best interest to figure it out.

Depends on the laws of the country. Where I live critical jobs can not go on full strike. There must always be enough cops, doctors and nurses, firefighters, public transportation, etc… working.

Also. If you are on strike, you don’t get paid, your union might compensate you.

Also my country did try this. The paper mill workers did major strikes. Which ended up with lots of mills going out of business, or moving their production abroad. Who cities which were built around these factories just started to die.

Same thing with local shipyard. It was almost a joke. There was a joke about it “every friday with nice weather there was a strike”. Which ended up with shipyard doing really poorly, and it’s now owned by Germans.

Basically it isn’t for the benefit of the workers to do outrageous demands. It can turn on you.

When a workforce goes on strike, the company can either give the union what they want, or ignore them and hire scabs, or a combination of the two. The problem with hiring scabs is that often those workers are untrained and perhaps less skilled, or they are more expensive—the scabs take advantage of the company’s predicament and demand more money. Hiring scabs usually decreases productivity and profits to an extent. The company does a bunch of calculations and tries to figure out the course of action. In short, will giving in to the demands of the union cost more or less than hiring scabs for an extended period of time. If the company calculates that it would be cheaper to permanently hire a new workforce because the union demands are too high, that’s what they will do. The union realize this and don’t want to fuck themselves permanently out of a job, so they offer demands that are not worse than hiring scabs.