Seniority Rules: The Last Refuge of the Incompetent and Mediocre

Seniority Rules: The Last Refuge of the Incompetent and Mediocre

Labor union devotion to the concept of seniority as the basis of determining pay, promotions, work assignment and order of layoff is little more than a means of building total allegiance of members to the unions. The problems created by the terms demanded in labor contracts that require seniority to be used in all manner of management decisions guarantees a continuing slide into mediocre performance, inefficiencies, weak productivity and higher than necessary labor compensation costs and benefits.

We see how seniority has played out in Pittsburgh schools and the Port Authority–indeed, in virtually every government operation where unions control the supply of labor. It has also worked its deleterious effects on large private corporations as well. The long list of firms that have moved operations overseas or closed up altogether is proof of the damage union demands including seniority rules have done.

The unions’ insistence on seniority is evidence of their desire to protect mediocre employees, including slackers and trouble makers. It becomes a form of tenure and a guaranteed-for-working life sinecure-as long as the employer stays in business. Union demanded primacy of seniority is proof positive that unions care not a whit for the economic wellbeing of their employers. Their focus is on getting all they can as quickly as they can even though such behavior is not in the long term best interest of more juniors members who will pay the price of union excesses by losing their jobs.

That is why private sector unions now represent only seven percent of the private sector workforce. The markets simply cannot sustain the stifled productivity and high costs fostered by unions. The public sector employers cannot go out of business for the most part and will not as long as taxpayers can be forced to pay for the labor cost excesses. But many will file bankruptcy. This is a new trend that has emerged and promises to grow stronger because of the enormous damage done to the finances of state and local governments by overly generous compensation packages.

Seniority deepens and ingrains in union members an elevated sense of entitlement that engenders bad work place behavior and causes a chasm to develop between the interest of the workers and the employers.