Meyerson's Feudalism

The American Prospect's Harold Meyerson is indignant that the National Labor Relations Board recently upheld the rights of a security-guard company to prohibit its employees from "fraterniz[ing] on duty or off duty, dat[ing] or becom[ing] overly friendly with the client's employees or with co-employees."

So are there any off-duty activities that an employer can't proscribe? ... Just how much control over our personal lives do the citizens of the land of the free want to accord to our employers? [...]

There's a word for the kind of employer-employee relationship that the NLRB has just sanctioned. It's "feudal."

There's another descriptive phrase that comes to mind -- "just like The American Prospect." At least if my personal experience is any guide.

In the winter of 2002, the Prospect approached me about becoming a regular media columnist, to which I happily agreed. In January of 2003, my first piece had graduated to the fact-checking process, and then suddenly I was hit with an e-mail informing me that my article, and in fact my services overall, were no longer desired, precisely because of my "off-duty activities." An excerpt:

some of the editors had concerns ... that your affiliation with the soon-to-launch L.A. Examiner ... rather firmly places you on a different part of the political spectrum than the Prospect. Though it's clear to me from reading your writings that you are ... more politically independent than conservative, the increasingly prominant affiliation with [Richard] Riordan has given some of our editors pause.

Seeing as how Prospect Editor-at-Large Meyerson is a key columnist for the L.A. Weekly, and had just the week before written a laughable piece asserting that a newspaper edited by me and the author of this site was going to be "neocon" ... it wasn't hard to guess who "some of the editors" might mean. In subsequent phone conversations, my list of disqualifyingly undesirable "off-duty activities" was expanded to include writing six articles for Reason, and being paid to speak at a single weekend conference hosted by the devilish Institute for Humane Studies. It was also suggested that maybe my politics were drifting Rightward without me even realizing it. These things happen, I was told, and not without some sympathy.

Later still, all that was withdrawn as some kind of terrible misunderstanding; the real reason for parting ways was that my work didn't pass muster. But in the meantime, would I mind not writing about the details of this little communication breakdown? (Which I didn't for 10 months, and only then after my indiscreet neighbor Cathy Seipp spilled the beans.)

But to bring it back to Meyerson's policy debate, why shouldn't the Prospect be able to set rules about who its staffers or prospective columnists hang out with after hours, and what conferences they attend? It may sound like a crude method for detecting and discouraging political-spectrum deviance, but in my case it arguably saved them from the ignominy of having a contributor insufficiently enthusiastic about the Kelo decision. Like Reason, the Prospect is an opinion magazine with specific political goals, and the marketplace would happily determine whether such a "feudal" approach to extra-curricular activities will attract better employees and lead to more effective partisan journalism. I'd guess not, but I'm routinely surprised by what working conditions my colleagues are willing to accept, and by what expressions of political conformity prove to be popular. It is no longer much of a surprise, however, to encounter a Labor-obsessed paleo-lib pontificating out one side of his mouth while running his business out the other.

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  • ||

    I'll give this to the American Prospect- they are somewhat fairer, more analytical, and more evenhanded than other lefty publications (The Nation comes to mind first here). Also, they have a better sense of humor (as far as it goes. I mean, they aren't National Review funny- and yes, they are funny, if you don't think so then you haven't read enough of them- bu the Prospect can be funny now and then.)

  • ||

    Let's set this up as an SAT analogy.

    Security Guard:Dating Habits::Political/Editorial Columnist:Politics/Published Columns

    Yes, it's ok for a political magazine to turn down a columnist because of his politics. You see, a columnist's politics are relevant to his ability to be a political columnists.

    No, it's not ok for a security company to fire a guard because of his dating habits. You see, a security guard's dating habits are not relevant to his ability to be a security guard.

    Yes, the public statements you put into the media can be fairly considered by your employer.

    No, your private dating habits cannot be fairly considered by your employer.

    This seems like a non-distinction with a difference.

  • ||

    Matt, I can see how, if I hire you to write political columns for me, and you run around in your off-hours talking about how my politics are all wrong, that could be a serious issue in that you're undermining the very thing I pay you to do. (I could also see firing a Secret Service agent who spent his off-hours saying things like "Man, I wish Bush would drop dead.") But how does a security guard's social life interfere with his ability to do his duties?

  • ||

    Matt, did you receive a kill fee for that column?

  • MP||

    No, your private dating habits cannot be fairly considered by your employer.

    When those policies concern the Customers of the employer, then yes, the dating habits can be considered. I would imagine it might be of particular importance to a security firm, where a failed relationship could compromise an employee's ability to provide a consistent level of security.

    Note that I believe it is highly distasteful for an employer to dictate personal lifestyle choices. However, I do not see any reason to make this illegal per se. In addition, this particular policy appears to be quite sensible.

  • Matt Welch||

    Amanda -- I was offered a $250 kill fee for a 3,295-word article. (It had started as 2,000 words, but the editors wanted me to expand on it.) I asked for $900 instead, and eventually (about 6 months later) I received a check for $500.

  • ||

    test

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    You see, a security guard's dating habits are not relevant to his ability to be a security guard.

    What if he's dating a burglar?

  • ||

    Not that I necessarily agree with the policy, but it is the security company's right to run their business in the way they see fit. If the guards don't like it, they can find employment elsewhere.

    As for what possible reasons they could have for such a policy, here's a hypo from personal experience. Guard works at company X, and starts dating a secretary at company X. Pretty soon, company X starts noticing losses. After short investigation, overnight theft is suspected, with the probables being employees in secretary's department.

    Now, having observed this situation first-hand, there was a lot more going on, but isn't it understandable that a security company would want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety - the suggestion that the guard is letting the secretary commit overnight theft due to their relationship - regardless of whether he is actually doing so? Proof in these cases is extremely hard to come by, and creates all sorts of bad feelings as the fingers start getting pointed.

    Again, I think the policy a bit of an overreach by the company, but it is their decision to make, and they're the ones who will succeed or fail in the market. If guards won't put up with the BS policy absent extra pay, the company has a decision to make...

  • ||

    So if a guard dates a client, that would compromise his ability to do a good job? I'd think that the opposite would be true--I'd do a better job guarding somebody I loved (or liked, or at least lusted after) than someone whom I didn't care about one way or the other, but viewed solely as a source of a paycheck.

  • ||

    Jennifer - ease up on the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston fantasies. ;)

    Seriously, don't you think if you were supposed to be protecting someone you had a personal relationship with, you might be paying more attention to them than the external factors you should be monitoring for danger signs?

  • ||

    As others have suggested, what if the guard becomes lax and starts trusting a boyfriend or girlfriend more? What if the guard doesn't ask too many questions of the person who stays late in the office and leaves with her bag extra full ("Just bringing work home, honey!")?

    So there's a job-performance justification for such policies.

    And then, of course, there's the standard libertarian reason: Freedom of contract, freedom of association, yadda yadda.

    But my real reason for reluctantly thinking that it's a bad idea to ban such policies is a much more pragmatic one:

    It's easy to point to any particular regulation and say "Oh, no big deal. Really, [insert employer practice here] is too intrusive and doesn't really serve a rational purpose." And maybe it is too intrusive, and maybe it really doesn't serve any purpose. And maybe a regulation on the scope of such policies really would impose only minimal costs on employers. And maybe it wouldn't have any measurable impact on job creation.

    But multiply that "innocuous" policy by a few thousand pages and pretty soon you're talking about an onerous legal code that increases transaction costs and the unemployment rate.

    Any single regulation is, from a pragmatic perspective, "no big deal." Any single spending item is, from a pragmatic perspective, "no big deal." But add up the regulations, multiply the spending items by 535 members of the House and Senate, and pretty soon it's big.

  • ||

    Matt, how predictable the reliable lefties on this board (you know who you are) would come out in defense of the Prospect over your humble self. They so love to turn on anyone not "pure" enough.

    If the security guards don't dig it, they can go find a new job. Soon, the security company will come to realize that it isn't that hard to get a $10/hr job, and that they better back off of their employees or they aren't going to have any.

  • ||

    Thoreau--

    What about the compromise regulation I proposed when you and I debated this on another thread: requirements for employment must be stated up-front in the employment contract? I don't know how this would apply to this security-guard case; I'm thinking more of cases like the Kerry supporter who was fired for the bumper sticker on her car, or the company who announced that it would fire all smokers. If the contract already says "You cannot smoke" or "You cannot have Democratic bumper stickers" if you want to work here, that's fine. I just have a serious problem with bosses who are allowed to change the rules whenever they wish, so that the employee's livelihood becomes dependent not on his ability to do his job, but on an employer's personal whim.

  • ||

    Jennifer-

    Your compromise regulation would no doubt be circumvented with clauses like "...and other requirements as determined by supervisor." Or, if those clauses were deemed too vague and struck down by this regulation, then either some idiot would sue and say "Where in the contract does it say I can't photocopy my ass?", or else the contract would be as thick as a telephone book.

  • ||

    Thoreau-

    As opposed to the situation we have now? Hell, my employment contract doesn't specifically give me the right to walk through my office; in theory, my boss could say "From now on you have to do cartwheels or else you're fired." And according to the hard-core libs, that would be perfectly appropriate.

    (I'm still in shock from the thread where people argued that Bill O'Reilly had the RIGHT to sexually harass an employee, provided the employment contract didn't specifically state otherwise. And the fact that this was the same day as a post wondering "Why the hell do Libertarians get less votes than LaRouche nuts?" was just the icing on the cake. Great tagline, though. Vote Libertarian: Because the guy who signs your paycheck doesn't have enough control over your private life.)

  • ||

    Thoreau,
    We have some hysterical examples of what you are alluding to where I work. Apparently every time someone gets caught with their hand in the till or with their hands in someone's pants, they cry "But the regs didn't say that I couldn't ". So, we now have required trainings where an executive tells new employees that not only can you not have sex with our customers, but you also can't have anal sex or oral sex with our customers. They also have to specifically say that you are not allowed to take drugs with any of our customers, not just the ones receiving treatment for substance abuse.

  • ||

    Jennifer-

    I'd be fine with a rule of "If it's not in my contract then it's none of your business!", as long as it can be formulated so that nobody can be fired and then sue on the grounds of "Where does it say in my contract that I can't [insert obviously outrageous and unprofessional conduct here]?"

  • ||

    Thoreau--

    Agreed.

  • ||

    Consider this, Jennifer:

    Employee sleeps with boss's wife. Never calls her from office phone, never emails her from office computer, never so much as mentions her at work or does any other thing that could be construed as letting it get into the office. But the boss finds out, and there's no way in hell that these two people can work together anymore. I mean, say what you will about principles and privacy, but the two of them working together is clearly a bad idea for both of them as well as for the company.

    If it's a big company the underling can be transferred elsewhere and the problem can be more-or-less forgotten. If it's a small company, what do you propose? I mean, say what you will about contracts, but these people can't work together anymore.

  • ||

    Thoreau--

    Hmm. Let me have a smoke and go think about that one for awhile.

  • ||

    Thoreau,

    In that case, it's too bad we've outlawed dueling. Pistols at dawn is the ideal solution there.

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    Possible solution to the problem - write up employment contracts like the Constitution (or at least like the Constitution was supposed to be...). Enumerate the powers of your employer, all other rights are reserved to the employees.

  • ||

    Randolph--

    I agree, but I can't figure out a contractual answer to the problem posed by Thoreau. On the other hand, I don't know if it would be possible for ANY contract to cover every possible contingency of obnoxious behavior on behalf of employers and employees.

  • ||

    On the other hand, I don't know if it would be possible for ANY contract to cover every possible contingency of obnoxious behavior on behalf of employers and employees.

    Which is why there has to be discretion. Will this discretion be abused by bullies? Of course. And if that were the only thing at stake I'd be fine with it. But the more heavily regulated the economy is, the more likely it is that a decision will be challenged by a lawyer, the harder it is for the economy to function.

  • ||

    Hmmmm...I may have been too hasty saying that the security guard's dating habits were unrelated to his job.

  • ||

    But the more heavily regulated the economy is, the more likely it is that a decision will be challenged by a lawyer, the harder it is for the economy to function.

    But wouldn't a simple "State the requirements up-front" regulation be simpler than the zillions of little regulations we have now? Regulations concerning how exactly members of the opposite sex are allowed to interact. Regulations stating exactly how much time off a person should be allowed to have. Regulations concerning the number of bathroom breaks. And on. And on. And on.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    "From now on you have to do cartwheels or else you're fired." And according to the hard-core libs, that would be perfectly appropriate.

    It's appropriate because "hard-core libs" act on the assumption that most people in the world are reasonable. Your boss isn't going to make you do cartwheels around the office unless maybe he's already decided to fire you, presumably for other reasons. Yes, it's true: If every boss were as capricious as Louis XIV and as mad as Kim Jong-Il, we'd need plenty of laws to protect us from them. Since they're not, we don't.

    Now if you'll excuse me, Nick just took a shit in a bowl and the whole Reason staff has to report to his office and bow down to it.

  • ||

    Jennifer-

    I'll grant you that your proposal has the great virtue of simplicity. I fear that it has the vice of excess rigidity.

  • ||

    It's appropriate because "hard-core libs" act on the assumption that most people in the world are reasonable

    Sounds like the hard-core libs are wrong.

  • M1EK||

    Y'all arguing over regulation is quaint considering most of us live in right-to-work states in the most right-to-work country outside the Third World. How many rights to work we have. What a glorious world it is. My boss, for instance, can fire me any time he wants for any reason he wants beyond a couple of ones having to do with skin color.

    I think Matt was trying to frame this as "don't regulate this behavior; but loudly shun it", i.e., the public ought to be pointing at companies trying to bring us back to feudalism and telling them that they suck, rather than the current randroid attitude of tacit encouragement for bad actors like these.

  • ||

    As has been said, this really isn't a big deal. All the guard company is really saying is that indiviual guards can only deal with clients professionally. Any relationship, especially one conducted in close quarters (see high school), can lead to all sorts of trouble. This is hardly a case of a company regulating off-hours behaviour. Is rule that says "Guard our clients, don't fuck them" really that bad?

    As for The American Prospect, well, that's par for the course with many (if not most) writing jobs. A rule that says you can't also work for competitors hardly seems like a rule at all.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    But wouldn't a simple "State the requirements up-front" regulation be simpler than the zillions of little regulations we have now?

    It's an interesting idea, but what happens when the work rules need to change? There's not going to be a rule against putting a Clinton/Gore sticker on your car until Clinton and Gore are running for office, but once they are, your employer may have a good reason for not allowing it (eg, if your company is working on a Republican campaign). You don't need a rule against wasting time on the internet until Al Gore invents the internet. You needn't worry about listening to 2 Live Crew at your work station until Al Gore's wife launches her campaign against naughty lyrics. And so on.

    Until, like The Prisoner, you realize you've been working for Current TV all along, and your boss is Al Gore!

  • ||

    "It's appropriate because "hard-core libs" act on the assumption that most people in the world are reasonable."

    And those unfortunate few who work for bosses that are unreasonable are just shit out of luck.

    For anti-collective individualists, hardcore libertarians sure do like to look at things in the aggregate.

  • M1EK||

    Tim,

    "Yes, it's true: If every boss were as capricious as Louis XIV and as mad as Kim Jong-Il, we'd need plenty of laws to protect us from them. Since they're not, we don't."

    We did, in fact, have capricious bosses like that in this country in large enough numbers to justify the union movement at one point. Don't get too cozy.

    (I had a boss like that two jobs ago, by the way - even with a fairly good resume it took me about a year to get out).

  • ||

    It occurred to me that I should explain my semi-flippant response to Tim.

    You know how Marx claimed that people are inherently good, but society corrupts them? That never made a damn bit of sense to me--how can any one individual be good, but a bunch of them together be evil? You may as well say "One spoonful of sugar is sweet, but if you put enough together they'll all become sour."

    Same thing with the myth that people are reasonable. Mmm-hmm. All of human history is rife with people acting out of superstition, prejudice, rationalizations, cutting off their noses to spite their faces, and so forth, and yet we're supposed to believe that our vastly unreasonable society was formed by a bunch of reasonable people all merged together? So then, all of history is just one odd little blip, and any day now we'll all wake up and realize that we're really quite sensible people, and the last 100,000 years of our existence was just one big off day?

  • ||

    Carefull Joe, you may be abandoning knee-jerk liberalism and becoming a liberaltarian.

  • ||

    Now if you'll excuse me, Nick just took a shit in a bowl and the whole Reason staff has to report to his office and bow down to it.

    Ahhh, thank you for that good laugh.

  • ||

    It's an interesting idea, but what happens when the work rules need to change? There's not going to be a rule against putting a Clinton/Gore sticker on your car until Clinton and Gore are running for office, but once they are, your employer may have a good reason for not allowing it (eg, if your company is working on a Republican campaign).

    I work for an ad agency; even though my boss can't tell who our future clients will be, how hard do you think it would be to include a clause saying "Don't undermine our clients in your off-hours?"

  • Matt Welch||

    A rule that says you can't also work for competitors hardly seems like a rule at all.

    FWIW, that wasn't a rule (if I recall correctly), and if it had been stated as such, I may have even considered following it.

  • ||

    Matt, obviously I don't know what happened in your situation and you certainly make it sound like you got hosed. Since you were already writing for other publications at the time you got hired at the Prospect, I am surprised that the limits of your outside work were not discussed. That along with the fact that you were fired not for writing something, but for you affiliation with a then non-existent publication puts the Prospect on shaky ground. Most places would have questioned you about your connection to the Examiner and made you choose before outright firing you. Imo, that is their real mistake.

  • Matt Welch||

    Stretch -- In fairness to the Prospect, I was never *hired*, not in a contractual sense. They approached me about doing a regular media column, I said yes, we agreed to try it out, the first piece had gone along quite swimmingly ... and then G'bye. Whatever current and previous affiliations I had were neither secret nor a problem, until they were.

    The Prospect famously has some disconnect and disagreement between various layers of editors, and my guess is that what seemed unobjectionable to one, was unforgivable for another. C'est la vie. I was certainly pissed off at the time (especially since I'd not received so much as one thin dime from that rat-bastard Riordan), but it probably all worked out for the best for everyone involved.

  • ||

    As has been said, this really isn't a big deal. All the guard company is really saying is that indiviual guards can only deal with clients professionally.

    Actually, the part of the policy that was most objectionable from the point of view of labor law was that employees can't hang out off duty with each other. The reason is that federal law protects the right of employees to act in concert vis-a-vis their employers:

    Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist
    labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their
    own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose
    of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection ...



    (Nat'l Labor Relations Act, sec. 7.) It is a violation of federal law for employers to interfere with that right. See this paper by Sam Heldman for more details.

    If a purpose of the policy was to discourage the employees from forming a union or from sharing information about their pay or job conditions, the policy is arguably a violation of federal law.

  • ||

    And those unfortunate few who work for bosses that are unreasonable are just shit out of luck.

    Get another job. It is that simple. What us "hardcore libs" are essentially saying is the economic gains made by little regulation outweigh the stagnation and lack of choice created by your nanny instincts.

  • ||

    The American Prospect's Harold Meyerson is indignant that the National Labor Relations Board recently upheld the rights of a security-guard company to prohibit its employees from "fraterniz[ing] on duty or off duty, dat[ing] or becom[ing] overly friendly with the client's employees or with co-employees."

    As well he should be. I can understand, for the reasons listed above, why fraternizing off-duty with clients might not be kosher. But with each other? That's pretty damn absurd. I think we as libertarians need to be as vigilant about the abuses of power by corporations as we are about the government's abuses. Play one against the other, so to speak. And this is a clear abuse of power, so maybe it's not inappropriate for the government to intervene and say that this is going too far.

    As an aside, I worked security for five years, and I can tell you that most of the concerns raised here aren't concerns, mainly because security officers (not guards, though the distinction is academic to me) don't actually guard. As far as I can tell, the whole point of security (if you're not armed) is to reduce insurance costs, because rarely did I actually have to guard. I was paid commensurate with my responsibilities (~$6-7 an hour), so it's not really a good gig, but it's not a bad way to work through college.

  • ||

    "And those unfortunate few who work for bosses that are unreasonable are just shit out of luck."

    joe:

    The problem is that imposing the regulation is imposing a cost from the libertarian perspective. The regulation may ensure that every employee is protected in some way, but it also ensures that every employer has to pay a cost. We perceive the cost to be significantly higher than liberals do, in general.

  • ||

    "Get another job. It is that simple."

    La la la la la la. Happy happy happy happy.

    Jason,

    Some of you weigh the costs differently. Many others simply assert that society has no right to impose such costs, no matter how much greater the benefit. I do recognize the difference between the two positions, which is why I made sure to use the term "hardcore libertarians."

  • ||

    he American Prospect's Harold Meyerson is indignant that the National Labor Relations Board recently upheld the rights of a security-guard company to prohibit its employees from "fraterniz[ing] on duty or off duty, dat[ing] or becom[ing] overly friendly with the client's employees or with co-employees."

    Common business practice, pre-'60s. Not generally enforced but the threat of enforcement helped keep the fraternizers from abusing the relationship to the disadvantage of the company or of co-workers.

  • ||

    M1EK (and Jennifer, too),

    Workers actually have more power than you realize. If you live in a state with "at-will" employment laws (like California), then, in theory, you can quit at any time, for no good reason, or you can be fired at any time, for no good reason. But that's not how it works in practice. You really can quit at any time. But there are many, many exceptions for when you can get fired. Not just race: you can't be fired for whistleblowing, or reporting harassment, for example, and if you're fired totally randomly, you can probably still sue for wrongful termination.

    Then there are contracts. Basically, if you violate a provision of your contract, the worst thing your boss can do is fire you. Once you're gone, they can sue you for breach of contract, but that suit will get laughed out of court, unless your absence is somehow costing them real money. On the other hand, you can sue your boss for a whole list of reasons, even in an "at-will" state like California.

    At least that's what my buddy who's an employment lawyer tells me.

  • ||

    It's not so simple as to just "get a job." But for those who say it is, what about the opportunity costs of the fired employee? Say I lose my job today for refusal to do cartwheels. And say that last week somebody posted on Monster.com a job that would have been perfect for me, but I didn't bother to apply since I had no idea I'd soon be fired for my lack of gymnastic enthusiasm.

  • ||

    "I think we as libertarians need to be as vigilant about the abuses of power by corporations as we are about the government's abuses"

    This has to be the funniest statement I have ever read on this board. Libertarians being vigilant about "abuses of power by corporations" ??? I didn't think that conecpt of corporate abuse of power even existed in the libertarian mind. And be vigilant how? By vigilantly repeating "if you dont like it get another job"

    Correct me if I am wrong, but in the libertarian mind :
    If the government proposes any kind of regulation that limits the ability of the public to excersize their free will in private there should be an uproar

    If any kind of private entity / corporation proposes any kind of regulation that prohibits the abilty of its employess to excersize their free will in private thats just part of the labor free market.

    Seriously, is there anything that a company could do to its employess that you people think should be prohibited? What if employees weren't allowed to take bathroom breaks? What if (like Jennifer said above) you had to do cartwheels to get around? What if my boss decided that employees can not fraternize with red-heads? What if a company restricted employees to only being allowed have sex once a week. Or better yet, if I start my own business, Im going to institute a "no casual sex" clause because that kind of risky behavior might make my insurace rates go up.

    I know it sounds ridiculous, but no more ridulous then the belief that we shouldn't regulate a business's ability to restrict the rights of its employee rights in their private lives, but somehow shame companies into giving better benefits or something. Or the belief that "the labor pool will dry for your company if you don't treat your employees better". Riiiight, because people who need work and are willing to be exploited so they dont starve to death don't really exist. And "just leaving your job" is like changing shirts when you have a family relying on a paycheck.
    Oh that's right, the real reason that most companies wouldn't treat their workers poorly (like locking them into a big-box retail store overnight) because they are worried about not attracting the best and the brightest! As my most recent trip to Wendy's reminded me, they really do want only the best and brightest cashiers and burger assemblers.

  • M1EK||

    "you can probably still sue for wrongful termination."

    I live in Texas.

    QED.

  • Cathy Seipp||

    Spilled the beans and wanted you to insist on the getting the full amount for the column, as I recall.

    That having been said, I don't think there's anything wrong with a political magazine wanting its regular contributors to basically agree (or at least not sharply disagree) with its politics. But Matt's politics weren't and aren't all that opposed to the American Prospect's. Meyerson was damning him strictly through guilt-by-assocation: because he'd been meeting with Richard Riordan, a (liberal) Republican, about starting a new L.A. publication that, while certainly not on the right, wouldn't be as kneejerk predictable as the L.A. Weekly. The horror!

  • Matt Welch||

    Actually, they *did* give me some lip about voting for Ralph Nader....

  • M.J. Basial||

    According to dictionary.com, "inalienable: incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred"

    According to our Declaration of Independence, among those rights incapable of being surrendered or transferred is liberty.

    And that means you can't transfer or surrender your liberty to employers, either. It's not just about government. Otherwise, they'd have said "inalienable with respect to The Man".

    Defining the scope of that liberty will certainly provide much room to argue. But if you claim that employers can demand ANYTHING and if you don't like it, work elsewhere, I say that's the wrong approach. There are certain things over which an employer has no jurisdiction. Any contractual clauses which restrict such things are null and void, and I can ignore them at my leisure. I'll pay them as much heed as an unconstitutional law.

    Governments are instituted to protect these liberties from your neighbor's intrusions on them. Whether your neighbor is doing so from elected office, his home, or his storefront is of no importance.

  • ||

    You know what?

    If we could, just a little more often than we do now, get people who have issues with some corporation's policies to talk about them without hissing and foaming about how there oughta be a law, maybe more libertarians would be willing to view such complaints as anything but someone's attempt to run everyone else's lives.

    Just saying.

  • ||

    Ya, what Lincoln said.

    If I want to fire you for any reason, I own the job. You are SOL.

    If you want to quit for any reason, you own your labor, I am SOL.

    Sounds fair to me.

  • ||

    You guys are right. Without government we would stumble around blindly and take the first job we could get selling crack in dark alleys to pregnant twelve year olds. There is no possible way to figure out how to pick a decent job without strict government regulations. I guess we should resign ourselves to a hunched existence from all the cartwheel stress.

    Now that I've hopefully sucked all the hyperbole out of the room, let's get down to what we really care about. More choices are better for the worker in almost every scenario imaginable. Every regulation you add reduces the number of available employment opportunities due to the cost the business has to occur to enter the market in the first place. That's the true cost of regulation and the reason I oppose it.

  • M1EK||

    lincoln,

    Why did we get unions in the first place?

  • ||

    Re: Comment by: Steve, law geek for a day at August 15, 2005 04:51 PM

    Your post got me thinking. What if an employee abruptly quit his job and was heard to say in front of several witnesses, "It's because my new boss is a darned Negro." Could the employee be sued by the company for racial discrimination and forced to rejoin the firm?

  • M.J. Basial||

    Stevo Darkly,

    Right or wrong, I'm pretty sure that'd make a hell of a sitcom!

  • ||

    lincoln:

    Im talking about the libertarians who constantly spew "don't like it??? Quit!" talk. And there are quite a number of them both on this forum and many other forums like this one.

    Am I wrong in my belief that libertarians get up in arms if the gov't tries to restrict freedom in peoples lives, but when corporations do it its A-OK cuz thats some kind of free market model?

    We don't like them. Don't necessarily hate them either but we definitely don't like them.

    I'm not interested in whether you have an affection for them or not, nor am I interested in your beliefs about the legitimacy of their charters, my comment was about the attitudes most libertarians take when the gov't tries to limit corporations ability intrude on the private lives of their employees with nonsense about limiting who they can interact with, whether they can smoke or drink on their own time, whether they can restrict your use of drugs on your own time etc. etc. etc.

    My astute observations have come from reading libertarian articles, libertarian forums (like this one), and speaking to my libertarian friends as well. And the prevailing attitude among them is this:
    Oppression/exploitation/and invasions of liberty or privacy are acceptable when they come from the private sector.

    Am I wrong? The comments on this board don't seem to contradict me. But I'll keep an open mind.

  • ||

    Stevo,

    Funny example. Of course, the practical answer is no, but I think the theoretical legal answer is also no (again, these are mostly state laws. I know a little about Calif law and nothing about other states' laws).

    If your boss ever sues you for leaving, the court isn't going to force you to go back to work. That's indentured servitude. What they could do is make you pay for your employers' losses. Now, if you're an athlete or a movie star or a super hot-shot lawyer, I could see how breaking your contract might cost your boss money, but for most schmucks, it just doesn't apply. Employment contracts are legally binding on both parties, but in practical terms, they're almost always unenforceable against the employee.

    It's kind of neat how the law has sorted that out, because it tilts the balance of power to make things almost equal. Your boss can fire you, which hurts you a lot. But, you can sue your boss, which might hurt him a lot.

  • M.J. Basial||

    I'd feel less shafted being fired for no reason at all, than for being fired because someone saw me have a cigarette in my back yard.

    And yeah, that's weird, I know.

  • ||

    According to Griggs v. Duke Power Co. , it's already the law that an employer can not impose regulations or requirements for employement that have nothing to do with the job....

    such, the act (Title VII of the CRA of 1964) prohibits employment tests - when used as the controlling factor in employment decisions - that are not a "reasonable measure of job performance" - despite the absence of actual intent to discriminate. The exam must measure the person for the job - not the person in the abstract.

  • ||

    Of course most client-facing or public image jobs have contract moral's clauses and such during employment.

    And as others have noted, when writing for a magazine, one must have some belief in the opinions of the editorial board. And this works outside of politics as well. For instance one wouldn't be required to hire or keep a technophob to write articles for a technical publication.

  • ||

    Well, ChicagoTom, some might say that I no more OWE you a job, than you owe me your labor, unless we can mutually agree on the terms.

    If I'm a flake with ridiculous terms, don't work for me. But don't tell me that you're free to pick the terms on which you're willing to take employment, but I'm NOT free to pick the terms on which I will offer it.

    So yes, I would be one of those who thinks that society has no right to impose such costs, regardless of the benefit.

    If I decided as an employer to not hire anyone who wouldn't do cartwheels across the office instead of walking across it, I would be an eccentric, and an asshole. What I wouldn't be doing is creating a harm that society would be entitled to remedy. For it to be a harm, I would have to somehow OWE you employment, and I would therefore be "harming" you if I didn't give it to you in the manner in which you wanted it. As far as I am concerned that's a lot like saying I have been "harmed" by everyone who hasn't given me a blowjob where and when I wanted one.

    And I'm kind of stupefied that this thread in 60 odd posts old, and no one has even mentioned the most obvious reason this policy exists: to protect the employer from liability for sexual harassment suits. Since there effectively is NO way to be protected from liability arising from employees' private relationships, it is only natural that employers might wish to start preventing those relationships from occurring.

    The American Prospect should shut their yaps about objecting to this or similar employer policies, until such time as they take some positive action to provide protection for employers from being sued because an employee relationship didn't work out. The people who are posting that there is no legitimate employer interest in what employees do in their personal lives are about thirty-five years behind the times. There SHOULDN'T be any legitimate employer interest in what employees do with their personal lives, but decades of litigation have created just such an interest. If you want to blame someone, blame the courts and interest groups that created this environment. Don't blame the businesses that have to operate in it.

  • ||

    fluffy said:
    Well, ChicagoTom, some might say that I no more OWE you a job, than you owe me your labor, unless we can mutually agree on the terms

    What terms are these? Terms of employment?
    I have no problems with rules that regulate my conduct at work (with some exceptions) but why should any employer be allowed to regulate my personal life?

    And you seem to be simplifying the issue a bit. It isn't merely about the terms of employment presented when I am offered a position. Many employers impose regulations on their employees after they've been employed for some time. My understanding is that in at-will states you can be fired for anything at all at any time.

    As far as OWING me anything as an employer, I never claimed that employment is owed to me, but I do feel that as an employee I should have some legal protections that prevent you from exploiting me. If you make me an offer and I take it over another offer, and then all of a sudden you start demanding that I do all sorts of things that were never presented to me when I made my decision (ie demanding that I work weekends, or forcing me to take on responsibilies that weren't ever described) , doesn't the employer OWE me something since I gave up another opportunity? Doesn't the employer have an obligation to live up to his word?

    In essence I believe that anything not relevant to the duties performed should be completely out of bounds. I don't think that an employer should be able to force you to, for example, not eat fried or fatty foods in order to try and keep his insurance costs down, nor should for example Best Buy be able to fire me if I shopped at Circuit City. (Of course there are exception like when pro-sports teams add clauses that you cant engage in risky activity, but in those cases there are explicit terms in contracts that are agreed upon)

    Finally, I was never looking to cast blame on anyone for the current situation, instead I was commenting on what is typically the libertarian position in cases like this. A position which I think is squarely at odds with personal liberty. The whole reason that labor regulations came about was because many employers were in fact exploitng their workers. And lets be honest, if one company starts imposing these types of restrictions and they deem it successful, most every other company will follow their lead. But I suppose the proper response would be to find a different profession/specialization?

  • ||

    "Oppression/exploitation/and invasions of liberty or privacy are acceptable when they come from the private sector."

    Well, yeah, sorta. The difference is that the private sector has no right to use physical force (those nasty gun things) to accomplish these acts. Gov't does.

    Don't want to be oppressed/exploited/lose your privacy or liberty, don't volunteer. Why is that so hard?

  • M1EK||

    dogbreath,

    The Third World is calling. It ought to be a paradise for somebody as rational as you. Good luck.

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