What Happens When You Don’t Have A Union

Recently, as you can see in this news article, Circuit City decided to fire thousands of trained, competent employees and replace them with lower-paid people off the streets. Why? Because they legally can.

Here is an example of why workers need unions. These Circuit City workers had no union contract to protect them. At the whim of corporate bosses, they could be fired for no reason and replaced by lower-paid workers to do the same job. This is not the same as laying people off to reduce the work force, as the auto manufacturers have done. This is simply cheapening the work force. This could not be done under a union contract. These workers, like virtually all American workers without a collective bargaining agreement (excluding only those few highly paid ones with individual employment contracts) are “employees at will.”

What this means is that they can be legally fired for any reason or no reason. The only exception to this doctrine is when the firing is for a reason that is specifically made illegal, such as race, gender, age, handicap, etc. But if these Circuit City workers were replaced just to save money or, for that matter, if the CEO had a dream that led him to this decision, this is all perfectly legal in the U.S. So, the moral of the story: if you have a union contract, treasure it. You should also note that fewer than 8% of American private sector workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements. This figure has steadily eroded from about 35% in the 1950’s.

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