I am a strong believer in Unions, and if I were younger I would be a member, but with retirement only a matter of months away it's not worth the NZD 250 pa. sub. My reasons are simply historical, reinforced by what happened during the years of restructuring brought on by Rogernomics, which I have referred to before.
Up until 1991 we had compulsory unionism here. You could opt out only as a conscientious objector, and that option carried with it all the opprobrium that its military counterpart did.
The result was that as has been noted by other posters, the unions got fat and lazy, and became vehicles for all manner of dodges, sometimes not connected with the membership. I was mostly concerned with clerical workers in those days, and hence the Clerical Workers' Union. In roughly 30 years, I saw a union rep 3 times, and on one of those he was distributing seditious literature about a rugby tour by South Africans. The secretary of the northern division of that union was one of our more rabid Maori separatists. In this country, clerical workers are almost exclusively white, and female at that; in other words, the very people he wanted to drive into the sea. Eventually the members rebelled and he was voted out of office. Without an income stream he has faded away.
In 1991 the Employment Contracts Act was rammed through Parliament. It made union membership voluntary, and members left in droves. So did their benefits, and we still haven't got them all back.
However, the unions didn't fade away. They took stock, cleaned up their act, and started acting in the interests of their members. The result is a vigorous union movement with steadily increasing membership.
During Rogernomics, some employers had a field day. Unemployment was about 15% of the workforce, so there was a huge pool of unemployed and a very enfeebled union movement. One person I came across wanted someone to run a rest home for $8 per hour. Others wanted a qualified accountant for $10 per hour. Penal rates for overtime & weekend work are pretty well non-existant. Even now, when things have settled down, people like immigrants with limited English still get a rough deal.
So I'm sorry, Statesiders, but unions are essential. The problem lies in keeping them honest. For this purpose, voluntary membership is probably the best answer, though that raises the problem of freeloading, where benefits negotiated by unions are passed on to non-members. We're still working on that one.
We have no money; we must use our brains. -Ernest Rutherford.