Labor’s Last Stand?

A new accounting rule will either sink private-sector unions or trigger the next major bailout.

If you measured the strength of an organization by the size of its political donations, private-sector labor unions would be some of the most robust organizations in American society. The nation’s two most influential private unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), spent $88 million between them trying to get Democrats elected in 2010. Seven of the top 20 most generous political action committees in the last election cycle were private-sector unions, with virtually all of that money going to support Democrats, according to Opensecrets.org. Over all, nine of the top 21 biggest political donors in the last two decades have come from organized labor’s nonpublic wing.

Yet unions in the private sector have been careening toward extinction. As recently as the 1950s, they comprised almost a third of the American workforce. Now they make up just 7 percent. So what is Big Labor getting for its political support?

So far, Barack Obama, arguably the most union-friendly president since John F. Kennedy, has rolled back transparency requirements for union financial disclosure forms and recess-appointed the former AFL-CIO and SEIU lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board after the Senate rejected him in a bipartisan vote. During the long, bloody struggle to enact ObamaCare, labor prevailed upon the Democratic Congress to exempt union-provided health care plans from a “Cadillac tax” on high-end insurance policies. After public opinion rebelled against the special-interest carve-out, Congress delayed any Cadillac tax until 2018, giving unions eight more years to negotiate a favorable deal.

Still, unions didn’t spend hundreds of millions in the last three election cycles helping Democrats win the White House and both legislative chambers (however fleetingly) just so they could avoid tax hikes and transparency requirements. The most headline-grabbing item on Big Labor’s wish list has been “card check”—a voting rule change allowing businesses to be unionized if most workers sign authorization forms. This change would effectively eliminate secret ballots in union elections, thereby exposing anti-union workers to outside pressure. So far card check has failed, and with the GOP’s landslide victory in November its only real prospect was that a lame-duck Democratic Congress would manage to push it through.

But a less discussed potential payoff is looming. A scheduled change in an accounting rule threatens to expose union pension plans as significantly more expensive than they previously appeared, thereby jeopardizing the financial health of unionized companies. Some Democrats think they have a solution: a bailout costing at least $160 billion. Only a lame-duck Congress stands in the way of what might be the final implosion of private-sector unionism in the United States.

Last Man Standing

Unbeknownst to most people, there are about 1,500 multiemployer pension plans in the United States covering about 10 million unionized workers. In these plans, different companies—usually but not always in the same sector—come together to form a single pension plan that covers all the employees at each business. While in the rest of the economy most nonunion employees now have a 401(k) or other plan that emphasizes portability and does not guarantee specified results, multiemployer plans were designed so that union members could switch jobs while still reaping the benefits of a more traditional defined-benefit pension.

The catch is that each company participating in a multiemployer (or “last man standing”) plan assumes the liability for all the other employees’ pensions. If five companies are in a plan and four go bankrupt, the fifth company is responsible for meeting the pension obligations for the four failed enterprises.

For the last three decades, businesses in multiemployer plans have only had to report their annual pension fund contributions. They have not been required to report their withdrawal liabilities—that is, the amount a company would have to pay to cover its pension obligations to the other participants and exit the plan. These unreported liabilities dwarf annual pension expenditures. But the accounting fiction didn’t mean the companies themselves had any illusions about their liabilities and associated risk. In 2007, for example, the shipping giant UPS coughed up $6.1 billion to withdraw from the Teamsters Central States Fund, even though analysts had previously estimated that the company’s multiemployer liabilities amounted to just $4 billion.

On September 1, 2010, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) tried to narrow the reality gap by issuing a draft of a new regulation requiring companies to more accurately report liabilities from multiemployer pension plans. (The FASB is a private entity that sets guidelines for all businesses, but the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has the statutory authority to set rules for publicly traded companies, officially recognizes the organization’s rules as “authoritative.”) “Investors and other financial statement users have expressed concern that current financial statements do not provide enough information about the commitments and potential risk related to multiemployer pension arrangements,” the board noted in a press release announcing the rule. It added that a “recent study of over 100 multiemployer plans, including the largest plans in the country (as measured by assets), indicated that in 2008 those plans were collectively underfunded by over $160 billion (approximately 44 percent of their collective plan liabilities).”

In other words, multiemployer pension plans have only 56 percent of the money they have promised to pay out when employees retire. And even that figure might be too optimistic, considering that multiemployer liabilities have often been underestimated in the past. The Kroger grocery chain shocked analysts last year when it disclosed that its pension plan was underfunded by $550 million and its liabilities were $1.2 billion.

At press time, the FASB expects to implement the rule in the second quarter of 2011. But even if the new standard wasn’t there to formalize the disclosure of pension liabilities, the genie is already out of the bottle, because the financial industry now knows about the problem. Indeed, it took a flurry of Wall Street reports during the last several years—from Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Goldman Sachs, among others—to finally force the FASB to do something. It is impossible for investors to accurately value a company without knowing their pension liabilities.

Blind Panic

So how are the unions reacting to the new rule?

“The blind panic is un-frickin’-believable,” says Brett McMahon, a spokesman for Associated Builders and Contractors (an organization that advocates for “open shop” workplaces) and vice president of Miller & Long Concrete Construction. The comments from unions posted on the FASB website read like cries of desperation buried in polite legalese. A member of an Iron Workers union in Maryland wrote that the “additional requirements and costs associated will have the effect of having sponsoring organizations leave the multiemployer plans, which has a far reaching social economic impact.” Translation: Unions are screwed, and they know it.

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  • Suki||

    The only way House Democrats can do this is if the new House Tea Party Republicans roll over and let them.

  • Rather||

    Gm Suki!

  • Realist||

    Oh, that will never happen. Republicans sucking Demodick.....never!

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    The only way House Democrats can do this is if the new House Tea Party Republicans roll over and let them.

    So in other words, expect it to happen, probably thru some executive order or something.

  • Pessimistarian||

    That's the spirit!

  • Republisexscanlarian||

    STFU "roll over and let them"...we want to hear te rest..

  • Spoiler Alert||

    Anybody here read the whole thing? The penultimate paragraph:

    The bad news for unions is that they had Democrats in power in the White House and both chambers of Congress for two years and failed to get any pension-related legislation enacted. As of January, Republicans will control the House. Adding insult to injury, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who was sponsoring Casey’s bill in the House, was defeated soundly in November.

    Heh heh.

  • JJ||

    The tears are going to be delicious!

  • AlmightyJB||

    Don't hold your breath

  • Rather||

    Don't mind my ramblings, I found extra crack in the rug under my couch.

  • fuck off heller||

    Crack is whack-btw, when you were jerking off last night, do you yell MOMMY or MOMMIES?

  • ||

    Hey dumb bitch, why don't you find out who really made that comment instead of obsessing over me? Don't force me to call the cops on you, schizo.

    And I see you're still trying to flatter me by copying my insults. Imitation is not the same thing as spoofing.

  • rather||

    fuck off heller-you started the shit; be a big boy and live with it!
    Pussie, go bitch yourself!

  • Helle||

    Cops? I spoofed this girl around the web for a year and now she's being mean to me! I want my mommies! Shoot her dog!

  • Rather||

    I dare you bitch

  • AlmightyJB||

    get a room

  • ||

    Huh? I'm calling the cops because I deeply care about you and those around you, not because you insulted me. You're diseased mind presents a clear danger to yourself and others. Why can't you just accept my help?

  • fuck off ||

    helle. Stick your 2inch "help" in Epi

  • Rather||

    Really Rectal, the lack of originality her is just, well, actually I expected as much. Come on, can't you find something else to say besides fuck off? I know thinking is hard for you and all, but I believe in you!

  • Rather ||

    ok coward. Meet me on my turf-come to my blog ass

  • Number 2||

    This is the private sector equivalent of the public sector pension crisis. And as in the public sector, it is the product of the legislative Bon-bons that elected officials tossed to the unions over the years in exchange for political support. Union pension funds have legal privileges that unions do not even have. Contract defenses that apply to every other form of legal agreements do not apply to pension fund agreements; even certain forms of fraud do not provide employers with a defense to pension agreements.

    I have represented a number of small contractors who entered into what they were told by the union were single project agreements -- only to have the pension fund show up years later, cite technical contract, unclear contract language, and inform the contractor that he has become a permanent member of the pension fund and owes hundreds of thousands in back contributions, plus interest, penalties and attorneys fees.

    In some cases the union has actually supported the employer and the pension fund has backed off. But struggling pension funds use this a way of grabbing needed cash. Defenses such as misrepresentation do not apply, and union promises that the contract was limited to a single project are not enforceable against the fund. Worse yet, most pension plans require that disputes over back contributions go to arbitration before an arbitrator selected solely by the pension fund. Guess what result they reach?

    All this is the result of special legislation the unions have won for themselves over the years. Like so many other examples of union political influence outstripping their economic power. Taxpayers and consumers will be paying the cost of these laws for a long time.

  • Holy # man!||

    You're the subject of my new blog
    #2 http://rctlfy.wordpress.com/20.....dquarters/

  • JOhnny MAckson||

    Ass.

    LOL

    Jess
    www.privacy-4-u.com

  • Holy # man!||

    Did I just get dissed by a machine? Sending you a gift, a sweet little worm and he's no trouble. I've already name him: Conficker!

  • Bucky||

    Damn!
    But, you PROMISED!

  • Rather||

    You're my new sexual fantasy. I love playing with my #2s!

    /coprophilia

    Read my blog.

  • Helle's mommies||

    Helle, leave the girls alone. We've been pumping our tits and we'll fedex your bottles.

  • Rather||

    No, no, no. You're doing it all wrong. I'm obsessed with the sexual organs of men, not women. Try again, except replace tits with small dick and mommies with daddies.

  • Rather||

    ^this spoof is so idiotic-I feel sorry for you

  • Rather||

    You still aren't quite getting it. You need at least one mention of small dicks and your blog, otherwise no one will believe its really you.

  • fuck off ||

    helle

  • Rather||

    Come on, you aren't even trying to sound like her. I don't even believe you're Rectal.

  • ||

    "Unions are screwed, and they know it."

    Good.

  • LOL||

    That's right, keep up the hate against average americans. Nothing bad can happen there

  • ||

    1) "Hating unions" does not equal "hating average Americans".

    2) Unions represent 7% of the workforce, therefore the "average American" is not a union member.

    3) It would be more accurate to say that unions hate the average American, who is saddled with paying their outrageous public-union benefits , not to mention the higher wage rates on public-bid jobs.

  • ||

    unions elevated more american families into the middle class than any other financial vehicle.

  • ||

    I note the use of the past tense in your statement. Very appropriate.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Orrin's just cranky. His mom caught him with her bottle of Oil of Olay.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Let's see what their pensions do to the rest of us before we cheer too much, OK?

  • Citation||

    Please?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    unions elevated excluded more american families into from the middle class than any other financial vehicle.

  • Mark||

    OhioOrrin, that's bullshit. Unions are ticks sucking on a free market. Unions exist because there is wealth available to support them. The free market generates the wealth; the rest is everybody squabbling for their "fair" share...

  • You really are||

    a naive little boy.

  • Realist||

    Yeah, and they didn't deserve it.

  • Mike M.||

    Unions elevated more american families into the middle class have driven more business out of the United States than any other financial vehicle.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: OhioOrrin,

    unions elevated more american families into the middle class than any other financial vehicle.

    Financial vehicles do not elevate anybody, as money is not wealth. It is production that does it (production of goods and services, tangible things), and as unionized labor is no more productive than non-unionized labor (demonstrated by the superior productivity of Hinda or Toyota workers over their UAW counterparts), your statement is therefore false.

  • Old Mexican||

    Sorry. "Honda".

  • prolefeed||

    "Hinda" sounds like an cheap Indian knockoff of Japanese cars.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Prolefeed,

    Why the inflamatory rhetoric?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Is Toyota guts!

  • Don't forget the LaToya Camry||

  • sevo||

    OhioOrrin|1.18.11 @ 9:11AM|#
    "unions elevated more american families into the middle class than any other financial vehicle."

    Bullllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
    shit.
    Pedal that line of propaganda at the hiring hall; they're dumb enough to believe it.

  • Moi||

    Perhaps that should read. Unions elevated more uneducated, unskilled individuals into the middle class by paying them wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more than they would ever be worth.

    Then in the process of overpaying for labor they proceed to run off many manufacturing jobs to other countries as business does whatever it can to avoid paying high school drop outs better wages for operating a impact wrench than people with Engineering Degrees.

  • ||

    They always bankrupted numerous airlines, car manufactures and other businesses.

    Yes, they were need in the 50's maybe even the 60's but not anymore.

    And the sad thing is that the union officers only watch out for them not their members. Look at the last GM plant closing in CA last year. They told the rank and file to shut-up and do it their way.

  • ||

    If you want to see what unions have really done to the middle class check out the towns/cities around Detroit today--Flint, Saginaw, etc--before you talk about how great they are.

    Ive seen these places and they are not pretty.

  • hrm||

    I live in those places - and it's not pretty.

    It's interesting - in the 1990s union die-hards were placing the blame at the owners of the Big 3 for moving all their shit to Mexico. Fast forward to 2008, and it's now imperative that the same "corporate bosses" get taxpayer money.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: LOL,

    That's right, keep up the hate against average americans. Nothing bad can happen there[.]

    "Keeping the Stupid where it belongs: Squarely in the Statist Fuck camp."

  • cynical||

    Unions represent below-average Americans, to be honest, though of course they have members of all kinds, and not all prisec unions are equally shitty.

    Average and above-average Americans don't need their services, and those fields that have a passionately meritocratic culture are usually the hardest for unions to crack -- despite the fact that members of such fields could probably see material benefit from more organization -- precisely because unions represent greed, entitlement, mediocrity, and belligerently lazy assholes; that is, traits that are morally repulsive to people in those fields.

    Even in traditional union settings, most people join because they have to, not necessarily because they like the union. In any setting where there's that one fucking asshole who makes life miserable for everyone else, rest assured that (unless he's the boss's son) he's still there because the union unhesitatingly steps up to bat for his sorry ass.

  • ||

    Meanwhile, the head of the UAW has announced a major effort to unionize evil "transnational" automakers in the US. Because the UAW made General Motors, Ford and Chrysler great.

  • Patriot Mike||

    Exactly. Ford, Chrysler, and GM aren't the Big Three, they're the Last Three.

  • Almanian||

    I'd like to smirk and watch the fail happen....but you KNOW it's gonna be a bailout. No way the gummint allows pensionpocolypse.

    So - "we" get stuck with the bill. Again.

    Fuck....my stomach hurts now...

  • ||

    Don't worry! A unionized Obamacare specialist is on the way over to your house to administer an enema...

    to your bank account!!

  • Almanian||

    You're not helping...

  • ||

    As someone who has family members part of the steel worker's union, I can tell you that your generalization is just that, a generalization.

    My Uncle is a structural engineer. He is now retired, but what he did took a lot of schooling. And he hired those who also knew their jobs (schooling alone does not mean that someone knows what to do).

    In order to learn the things that he needed to know, he worked making steel. And was part of the union. As was my father when he was young. Couldn't handle the skywalk's to he didn't last long. My son was part of the steel worker's union.

    Union's were needed, badly, at one time. Please, don't discount that fact just because they are, IMO, no longer needed.

  • ||

    Meanwhile, the head of the UAW has announced a major effort to unionize evil "transnational" automakers in the US. Because the UAW made General Motors, Ford and Chrysler great.

    Good luck with that. Most of their plants aren't in union-friendly states, and their production is (relatively) mobile. Toyota closed the massive NUMMI plant in CA, which was unionized, if I recall.

    The pension problems the unions have will be a major black mark on their organizing efforts. "Vote for the union, and get a bankrupt pension!" isn't going to sell well.

  • Booger||

    R C, I agree it won't sell well but the union organizers are very good salespeople....wish I could sell my company's product as well as they sell the benefits of union organization. If conjure up thoughts in the workers that employers need to be held in check, regardless of fair work laws at Federal and State levels, they will still join. Employers = Evil...Unions = Liberators. I have not talked with a single union member that understands basic business principals, they can't read a balance sheet and they have no sense of basic economics. But they do understand what it means to begin drawing a pension at 50 years of age.

    I don't think they will ever be dead, but I do think that an eventual sense of reason will set in with employers, whether its public or private sector. Perhaps reason is just the half of it though....I think employers need to show some balls as well. Don't give in, allow them to strike, take your lumps and survive a bad quarter or two, and set the precedent that they will not dictate a company's survival.

    And please, union members, don't say you're just looking to earn a living wage.

  • Mike M.||

    but the union organizers are very good salespeople

    No, they really aren't. If they were, they wouldn't need to push for national Card Check so hard, and organized labor would be growing instead of declining, as it has been for decades.

    The only thing the union organizers have proven to be good at in the long run is in convincing American industrialists they're better off doing business outside the country.

  • ||

    I worked in the electronics industry for over 25 years. There were unions that tried to get us to join with them, but we had no reason to. In order to keep the people who know how to work, make and design technology, the electronics company's learned early to offer an employment package the kept their employee's happy. The unions could not offer us anything more than what we were already getting. Usually less.

  • ||

    "transnational" automakers - you mean UAW THREATENS TO CALL NON-UNION AUTO COMPANIES HUMAN-RIGHTS VIOLATORS

  • Mark||

    Who is the biggest union employer now? Gub'mint? Imagine that...

  • Yep||

    The most under-worked, overpaid and over-protected workgroup in the country. Far, far from Upton Sinclair's meat-packing plant workers.

  • Libertarians||

    We hate voluntary association of workers because it hurts the bottom line of corporations um I'm not sure, but Rushbo said to!

  • You really are||

    naive to how unions work, aren't you?

  • Libertarians||

    Why are we OK with all manner of autocratic behavior on the part of employers, but if a union so much as asks for a donation it's evil?

  • ||

    Unions never ask; they only demand...

  • Prohibition Kills||

    Who is we? "I" wouldn't donate to any union.

    The first part of your question is just plain ignorant, most businesses with unions are large manufacturers with boards of directors and any number of administrative layers. Iron fisted CEO's are rare and generally get ousted (I've worked in management at McLane, a huge grocery distributor, and witnessed turnover of this sort several times) in favor of a more people oriented leader. The fact is unions lower the capacity for any number of things like job freedom, promotions, or even lateral change.

    My point is, the autocracy you think is unique to the employer, actually exists more prevalently inside the union structure.

  • Moi||

    Did you work with Doug Singer at McLane?

  • Rather||

    Obviously I'm intentionally ignoring the fact that most unions use coercion to gain members and to fund their activities, directly or through the government. I couldn't be that stupid, could I?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Libertarians,

    Why are we OK with all manner of autocratic behavior on the part of employers[...]




    Because: IT'S THEIR MONEY?

    Wouldn't you be "autocratic" when hiring a plumber, or a drywall installer? Would YOU like it if the plumber or drywall installer suddenly turned around and demanded you pay them extra, beyond the scope of their work? Would you like it if they suddenly shut you inside your house, not letting other contractors bid or work?

    It is YOUR money, isn't it? It's not THEIR money, is it?

    but if a union so much as asks for a donation it's evil?

    No. When they try to do it in private property without permission, then it IS evil, as it is called TRESPASSING. Would you like it if a person is panhandling on your very doorstep?

  • Libertarians||

    So when someone sells his labor, that compensation isn't THEIR MONEY!!!? And they don't have a right to bargain in any way (collective or otherwise) to get the best price they can for their product? Seems like the only way to get around this is to impose artificial restrictions on their liberty. But they are just dirty proles, so that's OK. We're libertarians, after all.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Libertarians,

    So when someone sells his labor, that compensation isn't THEIR MONEY!!!?

    After the exchange, after agreed ex ante services are rendered, yes. Not before. BEFORE, the money is the employer's.

    And they don't have a right to bargain in any way (collective or otherwise) to get the best price they can for their product?

    They can, in the same way the employer has the right to tell an employee or colletivized employees to take a hike - but that is not what YOU have in mind, I fancy.

    Seems like the only way to get around this is to impose artificial restrictions on their liberty.

    There's already "artificial" restrictions on the employers' liberties: They are called the Wagner act, minimum wage, Equal Opportunity Act, you name it.

    But they are just dirty proles, so that's OK. We're libertarians, after all.


    I don't know what you are - statist fuck comes to mind, actually.

  • Teamster Sniper||

    Don't forget I have a right to shoot scab drivers during a strike -- then demand that the government settle the strike in the union's favor in order to avoid further violence.

  • ||

    No, dumbshit. Have you ever run your own business? Here's how it works, mkay?

    You tell a customer how much it will cost them if they hire you to do a job. If that customer is smart, he talks to more than one business to get the best value AS HE SEES IT for HIS money. Then, if you are good/lucky, the customer hires YOU to do the job. You get paid for doing the job, THEN the money becomes YOURS!!

    It's called "e-con-om-ics". There are LOTS of books on it at the "li-brar-y". Have your moomy drive you there sometime - it's crammed with knowledge, just waiting to fill empty brains.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    They have the right to bargain, as does the person they're selling their labour to. But it has to be decided beforehand. You can't contract to sell your labour and then violate the contract later because you've decided you want more money.

  • MJL||

    If a group of workers get together to demand the best price for their labor, it is called collective bargaining and is backed up by government agencies such as the NLRB. If a group of businesses get together to demand the best price for their product, it is called a monopoly and is ILLEGAL.

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 10:38AM|#
    "Why are we OK with all manner of autocratic behavior on the part of employers, but if a union so much as asks for a donation it's evil?"

    Why are you incapable of posting without lying?

  • Number 2||

    Because employers are private actors who's "autocratic behavior" is not backed by the force of law.

    On the other hand, labor unions exert the power they do because the law gives them a privileged position and legal standing no other voluntary association has.

  • Progressives||

    We hate voluntary association of workers that's why we impose closed shop laws.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: LIbertarians,

    We hate voluntary association of workers because it hurts the bottom line of corporations[...]

    What's voluntary about "Hey, pal, you joining? 'Cause we knows where youse lives. That wifes of youse sure is a looker..."

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Hey, prick, if you paid attention to "Rushbo", you'd find he's not very keen on libertarians.

  • ||

    ...and the people on this board aren't too keen on Rushbo.

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 10:09AM|#
    "We hate voluntary association of workers because..."

    Were you born a lying brain-dead, or did it take long years of study to become one?

  • ||

    What the fuck is "voluntary" about workers in closed shops being forced to cough up money for union political slush funds the disbursement of which they don't even have a say in?

  • 35N4P2BYY||

    ... and so the reaper cometh.

    When you defy basic economics (large supply of workers capable of doing the job) there are consequences. I just hope that the treasury and by extension the taxpayer doesn't end up paying the price.

  • ||

    We hate voluntary association of workers

    Voluntary associations of workers I gots no problems with.

    Its the involuntary association of the unions and the employers that are the problem.

  • JD||

    Plus the special privileges granted to them by the state.

  • ||

    What's happened here is that Obama and the Dems sold out the unions for ObamaCare. There just is no money left to bail out their pensions, or their employers. ObamaCare made damn sure of that, with a $750BB tax increase and a $500BB spending increase (and that's based on the CBO numbers). It sucked all the fiscal out the room.

  • Realist||

    I hope it sinks unions....they suck!

  • Libertarians||

    We're for freedom... except for at least 8 hours of everyone's day, they should live in an autocracy. Democracy and individual rights is bad for business!

  • Prohibition Kills||

    Of course, you know of some benevolent force that will guide entrepreneurs to the light, always balanced and even handed. How simple and naive of you.

    Last I checked, if you think your employer sucks, you're free to give it a go yourself or find a new job.

  • ||

    Au contraire! They are perfectly free to start their own business!! Of course, then they would have to fund their own pensions, health care, etc., and where's the fun in that, eh???

    (Nice straw man, btw...)

  • Libertarians||

    I'm quite aware that libertarianism = freedom for employers and the wealthy and corporations & indentured servitude for everyone else. I mean, the word "freedom" is pretty cheap, and you can slap it on anything.

  • Prohibition Kills||

    You mean how, progressive, socialist and communist groups use the word freedom?

    It should be obvious, but I feel the need to point out how the government makes indentured servitude it's hobby.

    I'm sure you'll get those damn richers, you'll show them to grow a business and employ thousands of people, won't you?

    Stupid troll.

  • MWG||

    That's right, around 8% of the country is unionized, which means the rest of us are simply indentured servants to our corporate masters.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Libertarians,

    I'm quite aware that libertarianism = freedom for employers and the wealthy and corporations & indentured servitude for everyone else.

    You look as if you're aware of something that ain't so. The "indentured servitude" canard is always quite entertaining, as it shows your contempt for the work ethic, instead loning for parasitism (i.e. being supported without being productive.)

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    You realise indentured servants did get something in exchange for their labour? They got transport to America, food and other necessities. They signed a contract saying that in exchange for these things, they'd work a a period of time for no wages. They signed the contract voluntarily. Are you suggesting that it would be okay if they took the transportation, food and clothing, and then just walked out on the job they promised to do? How is that anything other than theft? I have no problem with it. However, the difference between that and employment today is that you can quit almost any time you want.

  • Libertarians||

    Leave it to one of us to actually defend the institution of indentured servitude.

    They signed a contract!!!

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    They did sign a contract, but that's not the important part. The important part is they held the other person who signed the contract to their part of the bargain: they accepted the transportation and food and clothing. If they don't hold up their end of the bargain they stole those things and should go to jail. Tell me why I'm wrong.

  • Libertarians||

    Some would say you're wrong because you fail to account for the indignity inherent in such an arrangement, and that modern standards require that laborers have some say over their working conditions. Not me, though, I'm a libertarian, and that means I believe we should all be free in theory, but not necessarily in practice.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Libertarians,

    Some would say you're wrong because you fail to account for the indignity inherent in such an arrangement,

    You're begging the question. Under whose standards are you stating there's an "inherent indignity"? According to whom, you? Me? Your dog? My cat? You're applying a value judgment on an arrangement you were not part of - that results in a fallacious argument.

    [...]and that modern standards require that laborers have some say over their working conditions.

    Who said they don't?

    Not me, though, I'm a libertarian, and that means I believe we should all be free in theory, but not necessarily in practice.

    "Statist fuck" comes to my mind about what you are, and not "libertarian."
  • Libertarians||

    So OM I take it you agree with me that the world would be a better place if parents could contract out their children for sweatshop work, without any pesky statues saying they can't? Everyone is more free in that circumstance, are they not?

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    1. There's far more dignity in entering a shitty contract consensually than there is in being forced into a much more comfortable situation. Only the former recognises that human beings a agents with free will capable of making choices for themselves. The latter treats them like cattle.
    2. No, parents don't own their children, so they couldn't send them to work at a sweatshop. What's more, because children can't enter into contracts in general, they can't go and work at a sweatshop 'voluntarily'. However, if an adult wants to work in a sweatshop, that's up to them. They do have a say over their working conditions: they can work there, they can work anywhere else that'll take them, they can work for themselves, or they can not work at all. All are fine choices.

  • Libertarians||

    And what if, due to a lack of labor laws, the only options available are working conditions that modern standards consider unacceptable? What's wrong with having minimum standards for these things? There's no guarantee that the market will provide decent working conditions on its own. On the contrary, it took the tireless work of progressives and labor unions to establish the standards we do have. That's the argument someone could make. But as a libertarian, I know that maximizing profitability for employers is the only thing that matters, even if 99% of the people are functional slaves. It's still the most free situation imaginable, because government is the only thing that can destroy freedom.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Leave that poor straw man alone! He's already dead! Oh, the humanity!
    I value profitability. Far more than that I value working conditions. I prefer a fairly egalitarian distribution of wealth. The question is how we get there.
    The problem I have is forcing employers to provide certain conditions. Nobody has any obligation to provide any working conditions at all. Nobody has an obligation to employ anyone, and nobody has any obligation to be employed. The employer gets to choose how to treat his employees. If the conditions he provide suck, he shouldn't be surprised if noone takes him up on his offer.
    There are always other options available than employment. Make something and trade it for money. Or find the most exciting way to kill yourself. Up to you. Point is you can't demand that other people provide employment. And certainly you can't demand they provide it for the conditions you want. You are not a functional slave if you can quit.

  • Tony||

    The problem I have is forcing employers to provide certain conditions. Nobody has any obligation to provide any working conditions at all

    Yes they do, and tough titties. We all have to abide by community rules. They have the privilege of making money in this society, they can accept minimum labor standards. Capitalism has to have a point--worshiping it for its own sake is ridiculous. By itself capitalism just doesn't deliver the kind of society that is expected by modern people. It needs help.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Yes, my argument was that we should worship capitalism. Get on our goddamn knees and sacrifice animals to it. That's why I used both of the words 'worship' and 'capitalism' over and over again instead of not at all. When I said 'nobody has any obligation to provide any working conditions at all' I meant that nobody has to employ anyone. All business owners could shut their businesses down if they wanted to - it's not only their right as autonomous human beings, it's also legal. Voluntarily exchanging things you make for money is not a privilege. It's the other person's money, it's your thing. You're both consenting to the exchange. If one of the parties gets the government to threaten the other one with violence to gain better terms the trade is no longer consensual, and whether he's rich or not the coerced party has been treated like a slave.

  • Tony||

    All business owners could shut their businesses down if they wanted to - it's not only their right as autonomous human beings, it's also legal.

    That's true. But should one decide to operate a business, it's perfectly legitimate for government to require that they meet certain obligations. Because...

    Voluntarily exchanging things you make for money is not a privilege.

    But having a customer base, a currency, and agreed-upon standards that govern these exchanges are products of a stable society with rules. That society has the right to require anything it wants out of the parties benefiting from it. One hopes these measures would be fair and not burdensome, but they wouldn't be necessary if the market delivered them by itself.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    The state doesn't provide the customer base. The customers do. I have no idea what you mean by that.
    They do provide the currency - but they also make it impossible for anyone else to establish a currency. Even if labour was traded for actual goods business would be regulated and taxed on that exchange.
    The agreed-upon standards only need to be agreed upon by the people in the exchange, so this can be handled with a contract. I want a society with rules: no murder, no theft, no rape, no vandalism, no trespassing, no assault. And that's it. Anyone who wants to make it their business to enforce those rules should have to get payment for their services voluntarily, like everyone else.
    'That society has the right to require anything it want out of the parties benefiting from it.' Free blowjobs for the ruling class!

  • MJL||

    If it's a free and volutary exchange, aren't both parties benefitting from the transaction? Why the automatic assumption that only the seller benefits?

  • sevo||

    "Statist fuck" comes to my mind about what you are, and not "libertarian."

    Actually, a LYING statist fuck. The troll is one more brain-dead who read a review of Atlas Shrugged and decided s/he was an immediate expert on libertarianism.
    Just one more stupid troll.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Wait, hang on. Which one am I? The statist fuck or the brain-dead troll who read a review of Atlas Shrugged?

  • sevo||

    The Ingenious Hidalgo|1.18.11 @ 7:18PM|#
    "Wait, hang on. Which one am I? The statist fuck or the brain-dead troll who read a review of Atlas Shrugged?"

    Neither. Damn nested threads!
    I took the quote from OM referring to the troll who uses the lying screen name of "libertarians".
    ...mumble, mumble, damn nested threads, mumble...

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Oh I see. Sorry about that. Although I'm not keen on calling people trolls. I totally understand why you would, but I remember one time I was arguing against animal rights on the jref forums, trying to have a serious debate about something I actually believed. The argument ended when the people on the other side decided that I was a troll and therefore they didn't need to reply to my arguments. Pissed me right off.

  • sevo||

    The Ingenious Hidalgo|1.18.11 @ 7:59PM|#
    "Oh I see...."

    I use the term here advisedly. "libertarians" posts lefty stereotypes of libertarian positions which are outright lies, and uses those lies as strawmen to supposedly advance his/her argument.
    When the obvious lies are corrected, "libertarian" merely responds with further lies rather than engage the argument.
    = "Troll"

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Fair enough.

  • Rather||

    WAGE SLAVERY!

    HURR!

    DURR!

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 10:33AM|#
    "We're for freedom... except for at least 8 hours of everyone's day, they should live in an autocracy. Democracy and individual rights is bad for business!"

    Outright lies.

  • cynical||

    "except for at least 8 hours of everyone's day, they should live in an autocracy. "

    Only if they choose to do so. Plenty of people go into business for themselves, and plenty more would were it not for the anti-commercial attitudes of a good bit of the country and the small-business-crushing regulatory environment they create.

    Hell, the unions have looted enough from American manufacturing that they could have transformed those companies into co-operatives if they wanted to -- they want this arrangement. They need some class enemy to provide a simple scapegoat, otherwise people might start thinking for themselves and point the finger back at the union leaders and left-wing politicians.

  • ||

    This article only mentions private sector unions. Of course, any new rules won't apply to public sector unions.

  • JD||

    Public sector employers can simply steal money from the taxpayers' pockets, so they won't have to go begging for a bailout to fund their pension liabilities until later. California is simply leading the pack on this one.

  • d||

    Hemingway:
    First, unions will no longer have one of their most effective selling points: the promise of a stable job and a generous defined-benefit retirement plan.

    Those are two points; grammar please editors.

  • ||

    Toyota closed the massive NUMMI plant in CA, which was unionized, if I recall.

    Immediately following Gummint Motors' dissolution of their joint venture, I believe.

  • ||

    yep.

  • ||

    NUMMI is where GM was building the Pontiac Vibe (Toyota was building Corollas and Tacomas). Pontiac is gone, leaving Toyota to itself...they closed rather than deal with the UAW.

    I will say that Pontiac Vibes are nice cars, however.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    That probably has something to do with Vibes being Toyotas.

  • ||

    It has been said many times (and many ways); union work rules are *at least* as damaging as union wages.

  • Patriot Mike||

    C'mon, man, unions haven't ruined Michigan, West Virginia, closed-shop states, passenger trains, public education, domestic auto manufacturers, have they? So why does Michael Moore make his movies with non-union Canadian labor?

  • Nancy Pelosi||

    I polish my Cesar Chavez award every day, while watching my non-union minions pick my fucking grapes.

  • ||

    Like.

  • ||

    Don't forget steel-making.

  • MJL||

    You HAVE to be joking. Citation please??

  • Old Mexican||

    "Over all, nine of the top 21 biggest political donors in the last two decades have come from organized labor's nonpublic wing.

    Yet unions in the private sector have been careening toward extinction. As recently as the 1950s, they comprised almost a third of the American workforce. Now they make up just 7 percent. So what is Big Labor getting for its political support?




    I have an even better question: From where are they getting all this money to throw into the volcano like so many virgins? I sure do love the fact I am not in a union, paying union dues, just to have MY MONEY fatten the wallets of politicians.

  • ||

    I was wondering about that too, and also why they aren't using this money to directly take care of their members?

  • ||

    We know Obama is going to push this bailout. Otherwise he'll HAVE to be rejected by his liberal base.

    Bailout evil big business but not the noble working class? There's no way Obama is going to take that.

  • ||

    While the Casey bill is popularly referred to as a “bailout,” that’s not quite accurate. It’s really more of a new entitlement. Here’s what the plain language of the bill says: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, obligations of the corporation which are financed by the fund created by this subsection shall be obligations of the United States” (emphasis added). Under this bill, unions will get their failing pension plans paid out by the U.S. taxpayer in perpetuity, no matter how much money it takes. No dollar figure is mentioned.

    I'm waiting for some progressive wanker to pipe up and say that this will reduce the federal deficit. Government entitlement programs always reduce the deficit, dontcha know?

  • ||

    I'd laugh harder if the truth didn't hurt so much....

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I don't really expect republicans to not bail out union pensions.

  • ||

    "Dumb Bobby" Casey, my state's finest, who managed two real feats: somehow graduating from Holy Cross and improbably parlaying an ENGLISH degree from said university into the position of Pennsylvania Auditor General, is a true sack o' shite.

  • ||

    Well, you know the unions are just about out of ammo (eliminationist rhetoric alert!!) when they start claiming "human rights violations" at non-union car plants. Fuck 'em.

  • Moi||

    I don't know about anyone else but I personally would have no hesitation in telling some Union stooge to fuck off when asked how I want to vote. No one is going to threaten me without being forced to follow through on that threat there and then. IOW the second I were threatened would be the second I go off on their worthless ass.

  • ||

    Nobody is going to be stupid enough to actually threaten. It's implied. All the good totalitarians serve their revenge cold.

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 4:53PM|#
    "So OM I take it you agree with me that the world would be a better place if parents could contract out their children for sweatshop work, without any pesky statues saying they can't? Everyone is more free in that circumstance, are they not?"

    Yes, you stupid shit, the world would be a better place.
    I'll leave the proof up to you in the fantasy that you do have a brain.

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 5:32PM|#
    "And what if, due to a lack of labor laws, the only options available are working conditions that modern standards consider unacceptable?"

    And what if unicorns were green? What then?

  • Tony||

    There seems to be plenty of evidence for that claim, coming from all the experience we had with labor conditions before labor reforms existed, and those that exist today, in countries without them.

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 1:19PM|#
    "I'm quite aware that libertarianism = freedom for employers and the wealthy and corporations & indentured servitude for everyone else."

    IOWs, you're a brain-dead ignoramus who has no idea what you're posting about.

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 3:41PM|#
    "Leave it to one of us to actually defend the institution of indentured servitude."

    WAGE SLAVES! MORE BRAIN-DEAD TALKING POINTS! STUPID STRAW MEN!
    Helped you out.

  • sevo||

    Libertarians|1.18.11 @ 1:21PM|#
    "...We're libertarians, after all..."

    No, you're a lying asshole.

  • ||

    I just noticed this wholly anomalous column in the LAT by nominally reliable Democratic partisan David Lazarus, entitled "It's time to retire utilities' 'bulletproof' pension system":


    There's nothing unusual about Southern California Edison's request for a 7.5% rate hike, partly to cover its pension fund losses. But at a time when few people have guaranteed retirement benefits, why can't utility workers share the pain?


    Wha-wha-wha? The LAT is nothing if not a reliable weather vane of Democratic consensus, even (and perhaps especially) in their business pages. It's very interesting to see the occasional heresy pop up, though I expect he will be sent to reeducation camp presently.

  • sevo||

    Lazarus used to write tripe for the SF Chron; why he no longer does is a mystery.
    Regardless of where his crap ends up, he's a dedicated follower of Krugman. I'm sure he is totally ignorant of where his comments might possibly lead; he thinks, oh, about 5 minutes beyond his current position.

  • S&M||

    He gets off on talking about shared pain.

  • Amakudari||

    I'm a bit skeptical that the proposal would jeopardize the financial health of those companies (beyond the status quo) if the rule goes into effect. Research into understated pensions has shown that investors do apply a discount to companies based on pension risk. If someone wants I'll dig up a link. What would really change is an increase in the need to raise capital (bad for valuation) with an increase in financial transparency (good). You can look for confirmation at UPS's chart when they announced the supposedly additional liability: the stock gradually rose with the general market. In other words, it's a fairly straightforward financial issue and markets are generally good at handling those. Management can think it's smart by underfunding off-balance sheet obligations, but people have a way of figuring these things out. Good example: no one takes a company's book value as the truth, just an okay reference point.

    And that's what makes all of this a new entitlement; the expectation was that companies could sink under the weight of those pensions. If the companies were valued fairly with that in mind, any increase in their value from the bill is a direct subsidy. (Likewise for union pensioners receiving an unexpected increase in benefits.)

    It is impossible for investors to accurately value a company without knowing their pension liabilities.

    FWIW, it's all guesswork. Better information helps hone the estimate (helps you be more "precisely wrong"), but if Wall Street's publishing reports on the issue, you'd better believe someone knows what's going on. There are public documents on the state of those funds' finances, too. Analysts can put that information together without the accounting standards to match. The real wildcard with accounting standards is when they force real changes, like in financial crisis when FASB mark-to-market proposals would have forced banks to raise capital.

    </dry reading>

  • Ayn Rand Paul||

    I would be depressed about this if the comments were so Goddamn funny. OK, I still am depressed, but am giggling.

  • Ayn Rand Paul||

    If the comments WEREN'T so goddamn funny. Time to go home!

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