I was forced to join the Machinist Union in California 40 years ago. For 2 years my work was very confined to ever qualified permissible tools and tasks. Had I stayed with a union job, I would have never achieved the level of success I was able to raised to. I have no need for union. OSHA and workmen compensation insurance penalize employer that does not adhere to these organizations work safety rules. Having worked in the O&G offshore business, I can say that work related injuries are a no no. All the employers I was associated with did not stay in business long if the working conditions were not good. Than we worked 12 hour shift, 28 days and 28 days off. We were given all the safety gears free, and no unions. The profile of a offshore worker is not that of a passive union brainwashed worker. The worker is willing to work hard for a good pay but is not willing to take unnecessary risks. Companies have schools and issue certificates of knowledge that qualify you for certain jobs. Again Union have nothing to do with these requirement. USCG is in charge of the tests exams and curriculum. Unions are an impediment to an economy well balance and fetching good returns for everyone. We all have a place in society, up to the individual to materialize the opportunities he chooses. Government function is to make sure that we all have a share of these opportunities without choosing winners and losers. If not you have socialism.
Unions are a mix. At one point they provided a very valuable counter to a system that allowed workplace abuses. Currently, there is a lot of concern that they go too far in advocating, representing workers who might not deserve the protection of a workers organization, or pushing for so much that the companies are forced to close.
I can sympathize with that. But you won't find the 16-hour day with non-living wages in the US anymore. And that is largely because labor organized and fought to stop those things.
Workplace safety is another area where the unions have contributed positively. While you say all your "employers I was associated with did not stay in business long if the working conditions were not good" ... it is also true that there are the companies like Massey Energy (Upper Big Branch mining disaster) that constantly request lowered safety regulations, and are constantly evading them.
It just came out that Massey kept fake safety records to throw off inspectors ...
There are certainly responsible companies and irresponsible companies. A lot of the requirements and regulations are in response to union requests, after legitimate disasters such as the Upper Big Branch disaster. Your experiences with responsible companies, is very much from that legacy of advocating for workplace safety and advocating for workers rights, that the unions had such a hand in.
I don't know if the day of the union is past or not. In so many things, the costs of labor is trivial in the cost of goods. I think an American made car has about $200 of labor in it (admittedly because we substitute more machines for labor here than is economical in China). It seems an easy argument for unions to ask that there be 10 hours paid at $25 rather than $20. The unions certainly should push for that extra few bucks. But the tales of handicapping the companies with strange union reg's ... those should end. s unions diminish here in the US (membership is declining) it will be interesting to see if workplace issues rise again.
Like in any business there are bad apples, and corruption. I am of the opinion that BP was a corrupted company that caused the offshore spill. What surprised me is that Transocean went along with BP. I worked for SEDCO when the old Clement ex Texas governor owned and run SEDCO. SEDCO was sold to Shlumberger and sold again to Transocean. SEDCO was an US company headquartered in Dallas. Transocean is a Suisse company, no longer with the ethic that the old Clement had. Safety was a big deal then, at all levels. SEDCO did not have unions, and was pioneer in many offshore rigs. Now days, accidents claims are a killer, it cuts in the bottom line and will put you out of business. But corruption exist and has always existed. Mining has a long history of corruption, and unions have not really improved mine safety that much. OSHA has and workman compensation cost has done more than unions.