Depending on where you sit, the word union is either a galvanizing force or just another corrupt part of the corporate system. I came across an interesting article on what role unions should have (if any) in the workplace – and it's one whose anti-union line I certainly don't agree with.
First, I have to believe that the union is designed to benefit the employees. When I read reader comments on other web sites with regards to unions, you'd think that they are heretics or communists seeking to kill kittens. In certain industries, it seems impossible to me for employees to stand up to management in order to get advancements, such as benefits, better pay or conditions. The auto industry is a prime example.
The author of this article proposes optional union membership. Very well. What happens then when the union negotiates contracts that benefits union members. Are the non-union guys who opted out seriously thinking that they'll get a piece of the pie too by "demanding" the same contract?
The union isn't perfect, but it seems to be the most viable way of moving things forward or improving the lives of workers. Maybe that isn't always the end result, but it's better than trying to go it alone.