A few points to note in no random order:
1. A union does not make demands. Do you people understand the word negotiation? Very rarely in the scheme of union CBA's are specific issues pushed to the point of even coming close to being a demand. Most often when this rare occasion occurs it's in regards to flagrant safety issues. Cutting staffing, brown-out, etc. I wouldn't consider Blulakr's Auto Repair's posted hourly rates to be demands, would you? When you sell your house is your price a demand? Certainly not now.
2. While the NY Times article points out that private businesses must remain profitable or everyone will be unemployed, the same driving force keeps managers inline. In the public sector a manager, boss, chief, whatever is generally a very protected position. Without the performance incentive, the manager can abuse their power for years, playing favorites through the ole boy's network, nepotism, bullishness, etc. People in power often get greedy, it's part of human nature that unfortunately exists. Enter the Union that maintains the checks and balances. The upper level management too often is too busy or can't be bothered with dealing with employee issues, so if it doesn't get them in trouble they steer clear.
3. Please name a few of the large corporations whose employees stand out front and proclaim to be "Proud non-Union Employees"? I'm sure there are some, but there are few here in the US. Why? only recently are large businesses understanding that a happy workforce is a more productive workforce. Productivity leads to efficiency and efficiency leads to profitability. For decades the general capitalist corporation has looked at cutting costs as the way to be more profitable, leading to a leaner workforce that is less likely to be "proud employees" and very susceptible to market changes. Small businesses have used this forever, knowing the way to keep employees from going elsewhere was to keep them happy. happy employees also don't badmouth their employers which is a big issue in smaller sized local businesses.
4. Right or wrong, some wages are based on what other fields make. For example, years ago our city couldn't get anyone to work at the landfill/recycling station (dump). They literally had to pay the guy who checks windshield stickers at the dump more than a starting FF/Paramedic! Next the city manager and councilors look at pay throughout and can't imagine how their clerks, office help, firefighters, medics, and cops are paid less than a guy that literally sits in a booth all day and waves at people who have dump stickers on their cars. No fighting for raises, they were practically giving them away. You wonder why you pay more for food in restaurants or at the grocery store? The market changes, fuel increases, and the help demands a raise (Minimum Wage hike). Now would you be happy if the stock boy at the local market made more than you with a degree and thousands of training hours?
5. A lot of the angry rhetoric here stems from Union health benefits and pensions. In many/most cases the pension systems would be fine if the politicians hadn't raided the money and not put it back in a timely manner. No money to invest, no interest or profits gained. No profits gained, the money doesn't keep pace with the cost of living. On the healthcare side, is anyone not paying more every year? This is a nationwide issue that is way beyond even all the public employees in the country. Healthcare costs are exorbitant. Pulling benefits or making employees pay more only continues to enable the issue. We need a solution now, albeit likely not Obamacare.