The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
) -- It appears that the "civil unrest" (interesting term) in Wisconsin won't end soon and is spreading to other states. Good. The tab has finally come due and most of us have reached for our wallet ... and some of us apparently left it in the car. Time to go get it.
Based on some reader comments from my column last week, I want to clear something up: I have more experience with unions than just about anyone in this country, especially you.
During my 42 years on this earth I have been a member -- correction -- paid dues to no less than five unions. If you've got me beat, I'd love to hear about it.
My first union was the International Brotherhood of Something or other. I don't remember the name, I was 16. I worked in high school at Butler Aviation at the Atlantic City airport, as a "ramper." I fueled and towed private and commercial aircraft, loaded and unloaded bags, carried golf bags and small pets to and from limos, emptied aircraft lavatories (not something you want to do wrong or after a flight from Vegas) and did other duties related to aviation and aircraft.
My first paycheck was an eye-opening experience. The first thing I learned about was taxes. It didn't make me happy to see my hard earned money taken out by the government, but according to my father that was not debatable (apparently). Neither was the next hit to my dwindling paycheck: union dues.
I immediately went to my supervisor, check stub in hand, to let them know someone took money out of my paycheck they shouldn't have and without my permission.
Welcome to Union 101.
"In order to work here you have to be a union member. Union members must pay dues to be a member." Cricket cricket. I'll save the conversation that occurred after my silence since it was repeated nearly word for word a couple years later in a casino.
Fast forward to college. I came home from Florida during the summers and breaks and was a valet at Resorts and the Taj Mahal casinos in Atlantic City. This time I was forced to be a member of Local 54. I remember the name distinctly.
One night after a title fight I was hustling to make money as fast as I could (read: don't valet your car ... ever...) and crashed a brand new Mercedes. It's OK, the Rolls cushioned the impact.
I let my supervisor know, and he (appropriately) told me I was fired.
I told him I was in the union and he could kiss my ass (appropriately).
That's when I learned another great thing about unions: I discovered I was on "probation" for 90 days (hmm ... three months = the summer) and could be fired for anything. That was news to me.
I called Local 54 the next day demanding my dues back from the past four years, or the 12 summer months I had been forced to pay union dues. Turns out that I was on probation each summer, along with a whole bunch of other idiots trying to pay for college.
The guy on the other end (insert Tony Soprano voice, in between bites of a cheese steak) said, "Ey ... whys don't yous come on down to the union hall and pick up what you dink we owe ya."
Cricket .. cricket
"That's what I'd thought."
Two other unions: the Fed Ex Pilots Association (FPA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). At least SAG gave me a cool card that I could pull out at dinner parties.
My last union was the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union representing the pilots of
, and not American Eagle, the airline's regional affiliate.
Our new-hire class was told by the union rep the first week of training that we had "guaranteed job protection" as a pilot for AMR. We had an "airtight contract," and if anything bad ever happened (what could go wrong late 2001?!), we'd simply "flow back" to American Eagle, where we'd become captains. Awesome.
AMR furloughed thousands of pilots and only a handful got to 'flow back' to Eagle, thanks to an arbiter and the union representing American Eagle pilots. As a matter of fact, their pilots are able to flow through from Eagle to AMR ahead of other furloughed pilots.
Some people may have great experiences with unions, and they may help some people with their careers, but I think I've had enough of a scientific sample to say otherwise for me.
My name is Matthew Buckley and I've been a member of five unions in my life. Not one of them did anything for me except take dues from my paycheck. Oh, and support causes with my money that I didn't support. But that's a separate topic.
: The only reason I worked at Butler Aviation and reluctantly paid my union dues was because I got to watch F-106 Delta Darts from the N.J. Air National Guard taxi by and launch to intercept Soviet bombers flying down the coast testing our response time. I told myself that if I worked hard (and paid my dues ... so to speak), I'd do that some day.
And gladly paid my dues to the nation.
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.