A unionized McDonald’s?
You arrive at McDonald’s at 1:15 p.m. You deliberately came after lunch rush hour to avoid long lines. But there is still a considerable wait, and the lines seem to be much longer ever since McDonald’s unionized in early 2014.
One of the two open registers is manned by an impudent teen who is horsing around with his buddy and only half paying attention to the customer trying to order. This is the same kid who you’ve seen snicker when a hefty customer ordered a large meal and get annoyed whenever he has to process a complex order. You have even seen an elderly woman catch him deliberately short-changing her. But, for some reason, he still works here.
In addition to the long line to order, there is also a fairly long line of customers waiting for their food. A few employees are assembling sandwiches as quickly as they can. But there is plenty of room for others to pitch in, and yet two teens are idling by the McCafé equipment because their job is to make shakes, frappes, and smoothies, and not hamburgers.
After you finally get your food, you head over to the condiments station only to learn that the ketchup dispenser needs to be refilled. You notify the closest employee, but he quickly informs you that he is “on break.” He does not bother to relay your concern to any of his co-workers.
Heading back to the counter to ask for ketchup packets, you wonder whatever happened to service with a smile.
Farfetched? The undeniable fact is that we see these kinds of problems in unionized industries all of the time. Hostess, whose product distribution was organized by the Teamsters, was infamously plagued by strict union work rules that required bread and cake products to be delivered by separate trucks, even if they were going to the same location. And separate employees were needed to unload the trucks; the drivers were forbidden to do so.
Furthermore, a former supervisor of UAW employees at GM describes how the union working arrangements made it frustratingly difficult to get workers to exert additional effort:
I supervised a loading dock and 21 UAW workers who worked approximately five hours per day for eight hours’ pay. They could easily load one-third more rail cars and still maintain their union-negotiated break times, but when I tried to make them increase production ever so slightly they sabotaged my ability to make even the current production levels by hiding stock, calling in sick, feigning equipment problems …
Further still, union lawsuits make it difficult to fire even the most difficult of employees, even in seemingly open-and-shut cases where autoworkers are caught drinking and doing drugs on the job.
The list goes on and on.
I have written before on how labor laws force businesses to negotiate with unions, as well as how this coercive legal environment can allow a union to impose an unreasonable burden on a company. This is important to keep in mind, especially since there are prominent figures such as Robert Reich who want to see a unionized McDonald’s, and there are organized street protesters demanding as much.