Zebra Stripes and Union Strikes

Have you ever sat in your cubicle at work thinking, “Gee, I wish I had more vacation days, shorter work hours and a bigger paycheck… I wish I had better medical benefits, a 2008 Bentley Azure with built-in seat warmers and was a redhead?”

Well, the first four can be easily solved by joining a union.

The National Labor Union was the first national union in the United States. It was created in 1866 and included many types of workers who bonded together for a common goal. The concept is simple – it’s hard to fight for things alone, there’s power in numbers.

So when a WikiAnswers contributor posed this question:

Do unionized workers earn more money or benefits than similarly situated workers in non-unionized firms in the same industry?

I immediately thought of zebras and this other WikiAnswers question:

Why do Zebras have stripes?

The answers to both of these questions are one and the same. Zebras, like unionized workers, have taken advantage of group tactics. In business psychology, this phenomenon is known as the ‘Union Wage Effect.’ Those workers who are part of a union have consistently enjoyed more benefits than their non-unionized counterparts- wages and pensions that are 16% higher, increased job security In hard economic times (i.e.- current recession), protection of rights, better health care, overtime pay, organized strikes, more vacation, and more compensated time off.

Sure you have to pay some annual dues and shout repetitive phrases while holding home-made signs, but you will have a lot more people looking out for you. Think about it – if you were in the wild, dealing with group demands is a small price to pay to avoid becoming a lion’s dinner (or lion’s appetizer if your BMI falls in the ‘petite’ category).

Zebras use the same technique, but in zoology this phenomenon is known as the ‘Dilution Effect’. It states that assuming the predator attacks different-sized groups – ‘n’ – with the same probability, an individual has a 1/n chance of getting picked out and killed – therefore, the chances of being killed decline as group size increases.

In other words, if a hyena attacks a group of 20 zebras, a zebra has a 1/20 chance of being eaten. If your boss tries to cut your overtime wages, and you are in a union of 100 people, your boss will have to work 99% harder to convince everyone to do so and his success of having that wage cut is 1/100.

And just as the symbol UFT has become synonymous with united teachers and EU has become synonymous with a united European currency, stripes are synonymous with zebra unity. When a lion looks at a group of zebras – all with the same patterns and the same stripes – moving against the long blades of African grass, it appears as though one massive striped pattern is moving together – and it becomes that much more difficult for the lion to pick out an individual from the crowd.

So next time you are at your cubicle asking yourself how you can make the day more enjoyable, remember the power is in joining your colleagues and standing up together as one voice – that’s how the zebras do it!

Many zebras, but one (hoarse?) voice.

3 thoughts on “Zebra Stripes and Union Strikes”

  1. Of course, in a union, two downsides are that your colleagues cannot be easily fired and that you cannot generally depart from the tasks and methods of accomplishing them that are prescribed in your negotiated work-rules, and each can seriously decrease your enjoyment of your work-enviromnment.
    Then there is the whole industry-wide comparison between unionized workers and other private sector workers. Hyundai employees are more likely to be shown the door on any given day, but GM employees are more likely to seen their corporation dive into job-killing bankruptcy. In a similar effect, Canadian doctors are more secure in employment than American doctors and made a lot more in the first years of government run health-care, but tens of thousands of Canadian MDs, my parents included, took significant pay-cuts and moved south when the government took things over.


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