There Is Power In A Union. Hint, Hint.

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A chat with a staffer at Union Facts yesterday reminded me: "Hey, what's going on at CPAC is far less important than what's happening in Congress at the moment." Indeed, what happened yesterday was that Democrats pushed the most impactful reform of union rights since, arguably, Taft-Hartley.

The House voted 241-185 for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to unionize by simply signing a card or petition stating their interest in joining a union, as opposed to the long-standing practice of secret-ballot elections.

In other words it hands unions more power to coerce people into joining—an idea that's danced across the labor movement's dreams for years. In the WSJ, Kimberley Strassel argues that this tremendously unpopular idea represents the end of the Democrats' honeymoon and a new beginning for the beat-down, divided GOP.

Labor explained that any union support they received in their tight races in GOP-leaning districts would be entirely conditioned on their later vote for card check. Most of them signed up for this devil's bargain, since, as one Democratic aide admitted: "We didn't have a choice."

The business community this week made sure that those Democratic moderates felt the burn. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace–a group of more than 300 business outfits against the card check–earlier this week laid out a six-figure radio buy for just three House districts, targeting North Carolina's Heath Shuler, Florida's Tim Mahoney and Kansas's Nancy Boyda. All three ran as conservative Democrats, and have only tenuous grips on their seats. The Chamber of Commerce spent another $400,000 on radio ads targeting 51 Republicans and Democrats who are also vulnerable next year. The ads had an effect. Card-check supporters had been hoping to get as many as 290 votes; instead they mustered just 241.

After breaking down to support most of the Democrats' "100 Hours" bills, the GOP caucus is cohering again, and getting noticeably more aggressive in the process. Grist for the idea that they needed to lose one election to regain their bearings. (And if you think "Yeah, but until they do, we've got card check," this isn't going to pass the Senate.)

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  1. If the Senate knows whats good for them, they’ll not pass this stupidity.

  2. Unions are a great idea……on paper. I can’t support the Democratic party as long as they continue to bolster organized crime, er, organized labor. Perhaps this country wouldn’t be nearly as great as it is without the security and power provided by unions, but that seems to be history. In my lifetime, all I have seen is (1) corrupt union leaders at the local level, (2) ineffectual unions that don’t even bother to unite the workers, and (3) significant contribution to the destruction of entire industries.

  3. i haven’t had my coffee yet; what’s wrong with this particular piece of legislation (outside of the fact that it involves unions)?

  4. I can think of absolutely no reason for Bush to not veto this, if it should clear the Senate.

    dhex, what’s wrong with this legislation is that it does away with secret ballots in union elections, opening the door for all sorts of shenanigans by unions, ranging from packing the “card check” process with ringers to highly credible threats of violence against anyone who doesn’t vote for the union.

  5. I haven’t had my coffee yet; what’s wrong with this particular piece of legislation (outside of the fact that it involves unions)?

    Well if I had to guess, and correct me if Im wrong, by doing away with SECRET ballots, the pro-union would now who to pressure to either vote their way or to fuck off and find another job.

  6. “We didn’t have a choice.”

    It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

  7. FRIDAY UNION HUMOR:

    A plumber and member of the local plumber’s union was called to woman’s apartment in New York to repair a leaking pipe. When he arrived he was pleased to discover that the woman was quite beautiful. During the course of the afternoon the two became extremely “friendly.”

    About 5:30 p.m. the phone rang, disturbing the bedroom shenanigans. “That was my husband,” she said, putting down the phone. “He’s on his way home, but is going back to the office around 8. Come back then and we can take up where we left off.”

    The plumber looked at the woman in disbelief. “What? On my own time?”

  8. Actually, the problem with the present system is that it allows employers free reign to intimidate workers into not joining a union. The voting process is drawn out by the company to allow them plenty of time to illegally fire organizers and let the lesson sink in for the rest. The employer notion of a democratic workplace is a sick joke when they strive to keep the typical nonunion company the very antithesis of democracy, or even basic rights.

  9. I simply don’t understand why government is in the business of regulating unions anymore. Maybe in made sense 75 years ago when union organizers would be taken out behind the woodshed and beaten senseless by company thugs, but is that really such a concern nowadays that any government regulation of unions is warranted?

  10. UNION HUMOR, PART II

    A dedicated union member was attending a convention in Las Vegas and decided to check out the local brothels. When he got to the first one, he asked the Madame, “Is this a union house?”

    “No,” she replied, “I’m sorry it isn’t.”

    “Well, if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?”

    “The house gets $80, and the girls get $20.” Offended at such unfair dealings, the man stomped off in search of a unionized shop.

    His search continued until finally he reached a brothel where the Madame responded, “Why, yes sir, this is a union house.”

    The man asked, “And if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?” The Madame replied, “The girls get $80, and the house gets $20.”

    “That’s more like it!” the union man said. He looked around the room and pointed to a stunning attractive blonde. “I’d like her for the night.”

    “I’m sure you would sir,” said the Madame, then, gesturing to an obese seventy-five year old woman in the corner, “but Ethel here has seniority.”

  11. UNION HUMOR, PART III

    Heath Shuler

    AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

  12. An organization of corporations seeking to minimize the influence of workers in decisions effecting how workplaces operate?

    Why, “The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace,” of course.

  13. R C Dean,

    Are you a professional union buster?

  14. A bill intended to take away from the workers the right to cast a secret ballot during a unionization vote, making them more susceptible to intimidation from BOTH their employers and the union organizers. What is it called?

    Why, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” of course.

  15. I agree with Lamar, in theory why not? If people want to negotiate as a group they should, and if someone doesn’t want to they should be excluded no matter how many people vote in favor. I for one would not want to involuntarily give a cut of what I make in order to support a particular political party. Nor would I want to be bullied one way or the other. Nor would I want to be forced to join as a new employee just because the previous group of employees voted to do so.

  16. Al,

    Horse shit. They become more suceptible to being intimidated by their employers by not given those employers several weeks to fire all the “trouble makers?”

  17. Nothing about this act makes firing the “troublemakers” and more illegal or difficult, it just means you can identify every single person signing yes on the union with little to no effort, not just the “noisy troublemakers.”

  18. Yawn. Private-Sector labor unions, slipping to an all-time low of 7.4% of the labor force last year, have truly outlived their usefulness. This is simply a fight to stay relevant.

  19. OK, joe, I will concede that you’re right here. This bill ONLY makes them more susceptible to intimidation by the union organizers, not by their employers.

  20. Andy,

    As a matter of fact, providing workers will union protections faster once they choose to go union does quite a bit to protect union supporters from retaliation.

  21. Al,

    Ever been in a union?

    Ever?

    Or do you just believe everything you read by people paid to run them down?

  22. joe

    Curious?. You’ve thrown that question out there a few times, so I have to ask – have you ever been in a union? If so could you give up the goods? If would be so kind.

  23. R C Dean, pleae tell Al and Andy what you do for a living, and how in demand your services are.

  24. Sounds like joe’s problems could be solved by regulating the secret ballot process, instead of doing away with it. If you shorten the time and automatically review any firings during that reduced time, you could achieve those goals without having, say, rocks through joe’s window because joe didn’t sign the sheet unionizing the city planners because the union was anti-New Urbanist.

  25. Joe:

    No, never. Ever. And no, I don’t believe everything I read by people paid to run them down, either.

    But why is it a good idea to take away the right to a secret ballot? Why?

    I like secret ballots. I think they are good things, not bad things. There is currently a rule requiring them during votes for unionization, and the rule was (I understand) instituted to protect the workers doing the voting. Now either the workers no longer need protection (which I think we all agree isn’t true), or the people supporting this bill don’t like the fact that the workers have that protection. This seems very undemocratic to me.

  26. it would seem like this would go in both directions in terms of the intimidation factor. then again, how much of a factor is that?

    bring on the anecdotes!

    naw, i mean, my dad was a shop steward for a long time; i’ve heard plenty. though nothing coming up on “intimidation” beyond the usual company writing up people for petty nonsense because of union activity; company throwing bullshit pizza parties to convince people to stay out of the union; the usual cajoling and arm-waving from reps on both sides, etc.

  27. I’ve been in two unions. One of them was selected because the owner and the union rep were childhood buddies and current racquetball pals. Worst doormat of a union ever. I was in a position where I couldn’t negotiate my own pay/benefits/duties because the union did that, but the union wasn’t doing that at all. Thank god I work in an industry where unions are a rare exception.

  28. The bill also contains an extremely offensive provision stating that if an employer doesn’t sign a new union formed under the bill to a contract within a couple of months, the union gets to ask the NLRB to impose a 2 year contract on the employer using binding arbitration, the methodology of which is “to be determined later”.

  29. The fact that the ruling class has more or less convinced the workers than unions are a bad thing is one of the great acts of propaganda in US history.

    Meanwhile, the economy grows, unions lose influence, and guess what? Wages stagnate. How much longer will people not be able to put 2 and 2 together?

  30. Are you a professional union buster?

    One of my high school teachers left the profession and became a private consultant in the mid-80’s. His specialty? Advising companies on labor relations, ie, Union Buster.

    I saw him a few years later, and when I teased him about his profession he said “Any company that has a union deserves what it gets.” His selling point was: Treat your employees well, and they won’t want to join one.

  31. Al,

    “But why is it a good idea to take away the right to a secret ballot? Why?”

    Because the existing system leaves employees extremely vulnerable to intimidation and coercion by employers seeking to prevent them from unionizing, by giving them an opportunity to fire and threaten employees, before the vote occurs and they gain union protection.

    steveintheknow,

    I was in an AFSCME local for a few years. I was actually treasurer for a couple. Never got to break nobody’s legs, though.

  32. Whoa, whoa, whoa Tex. (And by Tex I mean Al.) I’m not anti-union by any means. In fact, to be honest, I don’t really care one way or the other. The embarrassing advantage of someone who works white-collar, I know. I know they were important to my dad and my grandfather, and while it seems to me that they’re not nearly as important now, it’s not for me to argue for it as a policy position.

    HOWEVER, my point was that if companies take illegal measures to suppress unions now, nothing about this bill is likely to change that, and I stand by it. I’m with Sandy and Al one hundred percent on the argument that my first instinct will always be that secret ballots are better. End of story, and you’d have to do some mighty fine tap dancing to even start to win me over from that.

    I think Al sums it up best, this was originally instituted to protect individual workers. I don’t care whether changing this specific aspect benefits unions or The Man, it definitely disadvantages individuals. And so I’m agin’ it. It’s also agin’ privacy, so again, I’m agin’ it. I don’t see any reason that this protection is less valid now than it was then, so I don’t think it should be taken away. If there are problems with the system they should be attacked with repairs within the secret ballot system.

  33. “the economy grows, unions lose influence, and guess what? Wages stagnate. How much longer will people not be able to put 2 and 2 together?”

    I’d like to buy your rock.

  34. Uh, yeah, employees’ losing bargaining power, employers keeping an ever-larger share of the pie – that’s pretty much the same thing as a rock keeping away tigers.

  35. Sorry, by Tex, I meant Joe. And Joe, your argument continues to about timeline, not about secrecy.

    Also, this whole “do you belong to a union” thing is crap. Joe, you’ve pontificated on the Iraq War, education, and a billion other things in the time you’ve been here. Are you a soldier? A foreign policy planner? A teacher? People can intellectually analyze and contribute regardless of status, and to waive the “you can’t understand this world” flag is a cheap trick.

  36. “bring on the anecdotes!”

    you got it. And the usual over-the-top (DEMAND CURVE) styles in yet another facet of the culture war.

    (also add something along the lines of what sage said!)

    toodles.

  37. Thanks joe.

    -Dan

    I gotta say..

    “ruling class”

    That’s just funny, and when you go on to use thw word “propaganda”, well that’s just irony.

  38. joe,
    I’ve been in a Union, and have worked with them in many places and environments.

    Big Labor = organized crime.

    Big unions prey upon their membership. Union dues are protection money paid directly to the mob. No employer (save the USN) ever took as much advantage of me as did the UAW.

    Small shops are not as bad. They are still problematic for both the membership and the employer. But they are not 100% criminal.

  39. “The House voted 241-185 for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to unionize by simply signing a card or petition stating their interest in joining a union, as opposed to the long-standing practice of secret-ballot elections”

    I suppose if every state were a right to work state, this might not be so bad. Since many states are not it is terrible. The majority of workers can sign a petition where I work and I am screwed and stuck in a union I never wanted to join paying protection money in the form of union dues to keep my job. That is BS. Further, I have to publicly come out against the union and tell the union thugs to fuck off and face the consiquences of being anti-union if the union gets enough signatures.

    In many states, a shop unionizing means everyone must join the union and give up some of their salary to support the union if they want to work. To coerce people like that, you ought to have to have a full election where everyone’s ballot is secret.

  40. steve, forgive me. I sometimes forget there is no such thing as social class in America.

  41. Joe,

    If you like unions so much, what kind of car do you drive? Do you drive an American car and support he UAW or do you drive a Japanese car like a Toyota that is primarily built in the United States in non union factories? Just curious.

  42. Andy,

    “Also, this whole “do you belong to a union” thing is crap. Joe, you’ve pontificated on the Iraq War, education, and a billion other things in the time you’ve been here. Are you a soldier? A foreign policy planner? A teacher? People can intellectually analyze and contribute regardless of status, and to waive the “you can’t understand this world” flag is a cheap trick.”

    When “pontificating” on those subjects, I don’t make factual assertions about the conditions experienced by those in those situations. That’s a pretty big difference, compared to the assertions about the alleged violence and intimidation experienced by union workers.

  43. joe:

    It sounds like we agree that of course intimidation from either side during a unionization movement is a bad thing. The reason intimidation is a concern is that, given the amounts of money involved, there will be people on both sides of a unionization battle with vested interests that might not coincide with the best interests of the employees doing the voting.

    It seems to me that there must be a way of protecting workers from intimidation and/or reprisals from their employers for unionization activity while preserving their fundamental right to a secret ballot.

  44. John,

    I drive a Civic. I don’t know or care about the union status of the factory where it was built.

    If I were one of those advocates of universal unionization, this would provide you with a good opportunity for you to call me hypocrite. However, since I’m not, and my only interest is in the right of employees to unionize their workplaces if they collectively choose to do so, it’s irrelevant.

    Show me where Honda factories are facing pressure from their employees to unionize and are squashing them, you might get me to buy a different car next time. But if those factories are full of happy workers who have no interest in unionizing, what do I care?

  45. Joe,

    That’s odd, because you called Al out on his union membership, and he’d exclusively discussed whether this bill could make people more susceptible to union intimidation. At no point did he try to tell some story about being intimidated by unions.

  46. “joe | March 2, 2007, 11:10am | #
    John,

    I drive a Civic. ”

    Wow. John drives a DODGE STRATUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    keed keed.

  47. Joe – are you saying that it’s your position that no union member, organizer, or supporter has ever sought to intimidate an employee into supporting a union?

    Just so we’re clear – has no replacement worker ever been subject to intimidation, either?

    I just want to make sure how bright you want the union halo to be here.

    I’d also be interested in your take on the basic fairness of allowing a contract to be imposed on an employer by bureaucratic fiat. How is that “bargaining”?

  48. Dan

    Sorry 🙂

    I consider myself to be full of it, so I don’t have many hang-ups about poking at others. I do consider “war on the middle class” language to be pretty funny though.

  49. Andy,

    It’s not odd at all. Assertions about union intimidation almost always come from people whose experience with unions consists of reading about them.

    Fluffy,

    No, I don’t make absolute statments like that.

    ‘I’d also be interested in your take on the basic fairness of allowing a contract to be imposed on an employer by bureaucratic fiat. How is that “bargaining”?’

    Federal mediation is not “fiat.” It is a process of reconciling both sides’ positions in case the bargaining is unsuccessful.

  50. Ever been in a union?

    Ever?

    Or do you just believe everything you read by people paid to run them down?

    I’ve never been in one, but I’ve worked security at a couple places that had unions. UPS wasn’t so bad, but the GE plant where I worked who had Teamsters representation was awful. When the Teamsters guys came to the plant to talk to the management, they were total assholes. Everyone who worked there was overpaid; even the guys who bussed the tables in the breakroom made twelve bucks an hour, twice as much as the security guys made, and they still stole our food from the fridge if we were dumb enough to leave it there. Because of the contract, everyone had ungodly amounts of vacation and sick time, and by God they used it. Most people came in three days out of the five they were scheduled for the week, meaning the warehouse was continually understaffed and the people who did come in were overworked.

    My favorite part of that particular contract was the yard tractor job. The person who drove the yard tractor had to have a full trucking driver’s license (not sure if this is a bullshit state requirement or a bullshit union requirement). The guy who had had the job left. According to the union contract, the company had to pay for the replacement to get the training. Since this was a several thousand dollar value offered for free, three or four people took advantage of it. They got the training, and immediately quit to go work as a commercial truck driver, making much more money. Finally they found someone who stayed, but because of the union rules they couldn’t make someone who had received training at company expense stay to repay their investment.

    Another place I worked (can’t remember where now) had a strike because the workers wanted seven weeks of vacation a year instead of six. A strike.

    I think unions can be a good thing. I think that the present regime of regulation in the US, combined with increased standards of living, means that unions are fighting for improvements at the margin in 90 % of cases, rather than the important safety and fairness improvements they fought for a century ago. Remove some of the heavy regulation of the way that companies and unions are allowed to interact, and I think that you might see some sort of increased relevance of unions.

    Meanwhile, the economy grows, unions lose influence, and guess what? Wages stagnate. How much longer will people not be able to put 2 and 2 together?

    Come out from under the bridge, Dan.

  51. If it’s one thing that can make the GOP cohere and stand up its the rights of businesses to stick it to their workers. Its what that party is all about…

  52. A big part of this debate is the fundamental question of who unions exist to fight against. The union rhetoric is generally unions-versus-management. But from the bottom, it often looks like unions exist mainly to fight other, nonunionized workers. Abolishing secret ballots would certainly clarify which of these is the real fight, but is that really what unions ought to be about?

  53. “But if those factories are full of happy workers who have no interest in unionizing, what do I care?”

    You shouldn’t Joe, but of course if they are truly being oppressed, it ought to take more than a secret ballot to keep them from unionizing.

    For the record, I only drive American cars, becaus the European ones I like are too expensive and I think Japanese cars are boring I just can’t get over my love of the American car.

    You should really read a history of the American Auto industry. The UAW did not do its workers or the industry any favors. It was incredibly short sighted and greedy. Going back to the 40s and 50s when companies like Studabaker and Packard were in trouble, the UAW refused to re-negotiate contracts and expected those companies to pay the same wages as the Big Three and did nothing to save the companies or the workers jobs as they went bankrupt. Had the UAW been more flexible, those companies might have survived and we would have a better U.S. auto industry. Instead, those workers lost their jobs and those companies died partially so the big three wouldn’t get any ideas.

  54. Via Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein, some data

    Research shows that, when threatened with a union, 30% of employers fire pro-union workers, 49% threaten to close down, 51% use bribery or favoritism to tilt the election, and 82% hire unionbusting consultants. Now that’s what I call morally abhorrent.

    Today I found some interesting data with strong bearing on the argument. A poll commissioned by American Rights at Work (a pro-union org), Rutgers University, and Jesuit Wheeling University surveyed 430 randomly-selected workers from worksites where employees had sought unions either through the NLRB election process or card-check. The survey included workers who voted both for and against the union, and included campaigns in which the unions both won and lost. The Eagleton Research Center and Rutgers conducted the calls over a couple of weeks in 2005.

    The results were telling: 22% of workers surveyed said management “coerced them a great deal.’ 6% said the same for unions. During the NLRB election, 46% of workers complained of management pressure. During card check elections, 14% complained of union pressure. Workers in NLRB elections were twice as likely as workers in card check elections to report that management coerced them to oppose (it’s worth noting that in card-check elections, 23% of workers complained of management coercion — more than complained of union coercion). Workers in NLRB elections were more than 53% as likely to report that management threatened to eliminate their jobs.

    Even more interesting, fewer workers in card check campaigns said coworkers pressured them to join the union (17% to 22%). Workers in card check elections were more than twice as likely to report the employer took a neutral stance and let the workers decide. So, in fairness to Megan, neither options is perfect. But these results show that one is decidedly less perfect than the other.

    From

    http://www.prospect.org/weblog/2006/10/post_1713.html#014061

  55. Al, Andy,

    I think you might be a little confused about what this legislation does. It does not replace the secret ballot with a card check.

    Right now, employees who want to unionize have to get their coworkers to sign union cards, and then present them to the employer, and schedule an election. The employer then gets a few weeks to hire a “consultant” like R C Dean to tell them how to threaten and fire troublemakers without going outside the letter of the law. At the end of the waiting period, the remaining employees vote, and if the proposal passes, they gain union rights.

    This bill will eliminate the second step, and allow the workers to gain union protection once a majority of them have expressed their desire to do so.

  56. When did we decide companies were supposed to be “democracies”? I must of missed that.

  57. Are you a professional union buster?

    No, but I have plenty of direct experience with union organizing, thanks.

    I know from first-hand experience that unions will not shy away from placing ringers in organizations who quit once the election is over and and will use threats of violence against those they percieve as anti-union employee leaders.

    I have never seen an employer behave as badly as the unions routinely do during organizing campaigns.

    Assertions about union intimidation almost always come from people whose experience with unions consists of reading about them.

    As if the record of violence and criminal behavior by unions isn’t amply documented.

    It seems to me that there must be a way of protecting workers from intimidation and/or reprisals from their employers for unionization activity while preserving their fundamental right to a secret ballot.

    You’d think so. But I can think of no way to protect workers from either side that doesn’t involve a secret ballot. Ergo, those who want to do away with the secret ballot must not be very interested in protecting workers.

  58. My understanding of unions from my personal experiences and those of my close friends:

    – nonunion employee’s get better pay and benefits than union employee’s, EXCEPT when the union employee’s are working for a declining company and/or a government enforced monopoly

    – unions obstruct work done by nonunion entities wherever possible with the threat of force

    – unions intimidate employees who vocally oppose unionization with insults at first and the threat of force later

    – unions do not tolerate “mixed” shops; the nonunion employees always make the unionized employees look too ineffective by comparison

    – union employees are substantially less effective than even minimally experienced and minimally trained nonunion employees

    Modern unions are a middle man between employers and employees that bears no responsibility for the effectiveness of their negotiations for employees and no responsibility for the effectiveness of the workforce for the employers. This is not to say that the idea of employee unionization isn’t a potentially valid and useful idea, but the modern incarnation is a pure leech to both employees and employers.

  59. Read, in grylliade’s comment, “…but because of the union rules…” as “…but because of the contract the employer agreed to sign afte negotiating with his employees…”

    Unions don’t get to impose “rules” on their own. They contract their services.

    John,

    “if they are truly being oppressed, it ought to take more than a secret ballot to keep them from unionizing.” It doesn’t. It usually takes several weeks of pressure, firings, intimidation and propaganda.

    And if you’d like, I can provide examples of corporations that “didn’t do themselves any favors” with their business decisions, but I’m certainly not going to present that as evidence for why it should be made difficult to form a corporation.

  60. Whoa, let’s stop this crap before it gets going. Driving a car not made by the labor unions does not make one a hypocrite for being in favor of unions. It just means you drive a car that’s right for you.

  61. Research shows that, when threatened with a union, 30% of employers fire pro-union workers,

    And why shouldn’t an employer get to hire and fire who they want?

    49% threaten to close down

    And why shouldn’t an employer get to decide whether or not to stay open or close?

    51% use bribery or favoritism to tilt the election

    Seeing as that may be a crime, you’d think there would be more prosecutions, if this were true in any meaningful way.

    82% hire unionbusting consultants.

    And why shouldn’t an employer be free to hire who they want to advise them on how to run their business.

    Sorry, but I just can’t see any of this (except the dubious charges of “bribery and favoritism”) as morally abhorrent.

  62. Joe,

    Sorry, I call shenanigans. You had no right to question his membership, it has nothing to do with anything he’s asserted.

    I think that disbanding the military would make America more susceptible to an invasion. Am I a soldier? Do I have proof America was ever invaded? Do I have proof that anyone WANTS to invade America? No, but I can damn sure make my own call about that. It’s the exact same thing here. Al pointed out that aspects of this bill could actually increase susceptibility to intimidation. He did so in the kind of polite, couched language you almost NEVER see in the sorts of form, including both a conditional (could) and the limiting susceptible.

    You clearly called out his union membership in an attempt to discredit him, and you were wrong to do so. Both because its irrelevant to the nature of his argument, and because if you take away someone’s right to explore ideas without first-hand experience you remove the entire point of intellectual discussion.

  63. RC Dean tells us, “I have never seen an employer behave as badly as the unions routinely do during organizing campaigns.”

    Which looks a lot less convincing coming after the statistical research A.B. points us to.

  64. Andy,

    Al wasn’t talking about the public policy effects (ie, being more subject to invasion). He was talking about the experience of union members.

  65. Losers so lacking in brains and/or good luck that they have to work at lowly jobs are beneath my contempt. Fuck ’em.

  66. I’m with MP.

    joe,

    Yes, I was in a union, for about a year. Is it appropriate for me to discuss this issue now?

  67. Some of my coworkers are in a union, but the majority aren’t even though all the jobs are quite similar.

    Most of my coworkers are very left-wing, but respect for the union can be predicted almost perfectly by whether they’ve ever been in that union. Most who have ever been in the union hates unions, while those who have never been in the union still think that unions are great and protect workers, yadda yadda yadda.

    Since the unionization the union’s great success was getting the workers $100 off their insurance. However, the union has failed to get the regular pay raises that the nonunionized employees get. Union and nonunion employees used to be paid the same, now the union employees are paid less. This loss of income has come at a price for the union employees: they have to pay 2 or 3% of their income to the union. Where this money goes, nobody has a clue.

  68. This bill will eliminate the second step, and allow the workers to gain union protection once a majority of them have expressed their desire to do so.

    When faced with peer pressure and potential violence, lots of people who don’t really want a union will sign the card.

    When given the protection of a secret ballot, you are more likely to find out what they really want.

  69. Joe,

    So why can’t a shortened time line resolve this issue? And are you saying that the majority of employees have to sign the union cards just to schedule the election?

    And I don’t know why you keep saying “companies hiring union busting consultants” like its some nefarious action. Hopefully, the union is more than willing to help workers agitate for a union and take full advantage of it to maximize their own benefits. Why shouldn’t a company get someone who knows what they’re doing? This seems like being upset that defendants are allowed to hire lawyers?

  70. “Democrats pushed the most impactful reform of union rights since, arguably, Taft-Hartley”

    “impactful”? Seriously? I expect better from Reason.

  71. As others above have noted, private sector unionization continues to be a less and less significant segment of the labor force in the U.S., so the stakes here ain’t exactly all that great.

    Ignoring, as union supporters perforce cannot do, the inherent unfairness of the very notion of the “right to bargain collectively” without the reciprocal right of employers to refuse and to fire collectively, automation and outsourcing continue apace to undermine the usefulness of unionization among all but the most skilled, who arguably don’t need the power of the collective in the first place.

    The result? If you’re a professional athlete, unions are a sweet deal, though even then the handful of real superstars could do just as well without the unions. If, by contrast, you’re a day laborer or working a job requiring few skills and little training, a union won’t increase your job security or raise your income above its free market price all that much.

    Oh, sure, there are a few exceptions and, yes, state power continues to keep some unions artificially strong and valuable to their membership; but for the most part, worrying about whether secret ballots should be required is a bit like worrying whether VCR machines should be required to be HDTV compatible.

  72. I don’t understand why the main advertised provision of this is a big deal. Are the cards or petitions to be held by the prospective organizers? Then what’s the difference between that and proxy voting?

    Or is the petition displayed openly to all at all times? In that case, it becomes visible to both a prospective organizer and the employer, so I don’t see how it tips the balance.

    I agree that unions of any considerable size tend to become either bosses’ unions or Mafia unions (or become their own little Mafia). That tendency is certainly furthered by secret negotiations. I’ve seen where a union did nothing but get in the way of a contract, playing off their membership vs. the employer, and taking credit to both when they finally got out of the way.

  73. Unions are the scummiest organizations in this country. The worst thing to ever happen to a superior businessman was organized labor. Disgusting. I’m all for free-association but I’ll fire anyone on the basis of talking about a union.

  74. Grotius,

    Not only can you discuss the issue, which anyone can legitimately do, but you can also legitimately discuss the experience of being in a union. Heck, you could evern extrapolate from your own experience to make broad statements about union employess in general.

  75. joe, I’m shocked to discover that a pro-union organization, conducting a telephone survey with a less than optimal number of responders, is publishing results critical of their enemies. Color me unimpressed.

  76. joe:

    Unless I am mistaken, I don’t believe I ever mentioned union members; I mentioned employees who were deciding whether or not to join a union.

    If you had asked me if I have ever cast a ballot in a vote on whether or not to join a union, I would have been able to say “yes.” I won’t tell you how I voted, though; it was a secret ballot.

  77. Andy,

    “So why can’t a shortened time line resolve this issue?” Because there needs to be some time frame to confirm the cards and take care of the logistics, under any scenario.

    “And are you saying that the majority of employees have to sign the union cards just to schedule the election?” I’m not sure of what the cutoff is everywhere.

  78. Here’s my question: why does the card have to be signed by a majority of the workers, if you’re then going to have an election? That’s not how it works if you’re petitioning your local government for an election. You turn in a petition signed by like 10 or 20 % of the voters, and that’s enough to force an election.

    Why not have a requirement that 1/3 of the workers sign the card, and then have a secret ballot where you need a majority? Does that just make too much sense?

  79. Ammonium

    Where this money goes, nobody has a clue.

    It goes here

  80. “joe, I’m shocked to discover that a pro-union organization, conducting a telephone survey with a less than optimal number of responders, is publishing results critical of their enemies. Color me unimpressed.”

    …whereas we’re all supposed to credit your biased, financially-interested sample of one so very highly.

  81. Joe,

    At this point you’re either being willfully ignorant or just dishonest. Go read Al’s posts prior to your union question. In fact, don’t bother, I’ll quote them both here.

    -“A bill intended to take away from the workers the right to cast a secret ballot during a unionization vote, making them more susceptible to intimidation from BOTH their employers and the union organizers. What is it called?

    Why, “The Employee Free Choice Act,” of course.”-

    That comment actually says it makes them more susceptible to intimidation from both. And again, it’s just talking about possibilities, at no point is he drawing on experience.

    -“OK, joe, I will concede that you’re right here. This bill ONLY makes them more susceptible to intimidation by the union organizers, not by their employers.”-

    That came in response to your claim that employers already intimidate the unions. By virtue of conceding the point of bad behavior on their point, he arrives at the conclusion that the increased susceptibility for the unions still stands. Again, no experiential claims.

    And that’s it. And then, BAM, rather than answer, you play the “what right do you have to question me” card.

  82. joe,

    I’ll be blunt. I have no idea what the union did for me during that year. I paid them dues. I can’t remember them doing anything to keep me abreast of their activities.

    _________________________________

    Anyway, I gotta say, on its face doing away with the secret ballot sounds problematic. Then again, aside from issues of fraud and the like, I don’t see why the government is involved in regulating the interactions between unions and businesses.

  83. Joe –

    Binding arbitration absolutely IS fiat.

    If the government can present me with a labor contract that does not reflect terms I have directly negotiated and say, “This is your contract for the next two years,” that absolutely, positively is a fiat contract.

    Robert:

    The reason it’s a big deal is because right now if an employee is being subjected to pressure from pro-union employees, he can just sign their card and then vote against the union later. The organizers have no way of knowing, under the secret ballot system, which employees are definitely the ones who opposed the union. If the card system is the end all and be all, then anyone who refuses the card is obviously a “union enemy”.

  84. When faced with peer pressure and potential violence, lots of people who don’t really want a union will sign the card.

    When given the protection of a secret ballot, you are more likely to find out what they really want.

    So basically you’re in favor of the nanny state “protecting” people from, gasp, peer pressure?

    heh

  85. Grotius,

    Most likely, what the union did for you that year was keep your employer from going back on the commitments he made to the union during the most recent bargaining session.

  86. Joe,

    Well, then, is the cutoff over 50% anywhere? Because in that case, I’ll concede that it does just seem to be “getting rid of an extra step.” If you already have majority approval, the election COULD be seen as superfluous, though an argument that the company should be given some amount of time to make its own case would be an appealing one to me.

    So, they manage to count the votes for an entire national election (essentially) in 24? 48 hours? You can’t come up with a reasonable time line for this that resolves some of your concerns?

  87. Andy,

    I know that a 30% sign-off schedules an election, while an 85% sign-off…schedules an election.

    This provides the opportunity for a greater than 50% sign-off to count as majority approval.

  88. Dan T.,

    The central basis of libertarian philosophy is that there should only be enough intervention to prevent people from infringing on each other’s liberty. “Peer pressure” – when it can come in the form of concern for one’s welfare or physical violence – is very much the concern of the state. Just giving the use of force and intimidation to remove liberty a cute little pet name doesn’t make it any less insidious or any less of a central concern.

  89. I sometimes think i feel sorry for unions…then I realize unions are the same ideology that put Hitler in power.

  90. And joshua loses the thread.

    (In addition to not realizing that Hitler banned unions and murdered their leaders and supporters.)

  91. Joe,

    Sorry, but the argument that we have to remove the step of the election because occasionally more than 50% sign the cards and are then forced to wait for an election isn’t enough to win me over. Not even close. Especially when you’ve declined to address the possibility of time line changes.

  92. Because in that case, I’ll concede that it does just seem to be “getting rid of an extra step.”

    This assumes that signing a card in the presence of its proponents is the equivalent of casting a secret ballot. We all know its not, so lets not pretend it is.

    C’mon, people. How can anyone seriously say they are trying to “protect” workers while simultaneously doing away with the foundation for any such protection – the anonymity of a secret ballot.

  93. RC –

    Well, let’s remember that, ultimately, union organizers are salespeople.

    And there’s nothing a salesperson hates more than a busted sale.

    So if you’re a union organizer and you get someone’s signature on a card, you feel like you’ve made the sale. The idea that that person then gets a chance to renege on the sale during the secret ballot process must be very galling to this particular sales force.

  94. “Peer pressure” – when it can come in the form of concern for one’s welfare or physical violence – is very much the concern of the state

    I agree, but there are already laws that make threats and other forms of coercion illegal. But there’s nothing wrong with trying to convince another person to follow a course of action if those illegal tactics aren’t used.

    But people don’t need to be protected ahead of time from what others might do to them – that’s where the nanny statism comes in.

    It’s mostly just interesting how when the topic is unions suddenly “personal responsiblity” goes out the window and people need the state to make sure there’s no chance of something bad happening.

  95. Joshua Corning:

    Unions are an ideology? All this time I thought a union was an organizion of workers.

  96. You know, actually, R C Dean is right. I wouldn’t accept a ballot signed “no” in a room with your boss, I’m not going to accept a ballot signed “yes” in a room full of union reps.

    I take it back.

  97. joe,

    More accurate to state that the Nazi regime did away with independent labor unions. Like the USSR and eastern bloc nations the Nazis had official, state sponsored labor unions. One big one with many divisions.

  98. I am a member of two unions: Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, the TV/Radio professionals guild.

    Prior to joining, I was a producer – and I absolutely hated dealing with the unions. They complicate things. They create huge amounts of paperwork. They’re filled with otherwise unemployable idiots – especially unions with actors in them. They spend most of their time trying to justify their existence.

    When I became an actor I had to join. As expected, it’s a bunch of people who feel that they’re entitled to X. They bitch if a shoot is 5 minutes late with lunch. They bitch if the on-set catering isn’t exactly what the union rules demand. They bitch exactly 30 seconds into overtime. Yadda yadda.

    Sure, the union does serve a purpose. It keeps folks from getting totally taken advantage of – but the fact is, there are plenty of people who would do what I do for a pittance.

    SAG in particular is plagued with infighting. It shot itself in the foot with the ill-advised 2000 strike. It’s repeatedly refused to merge with AFTRA which would be the smartest thing it could do. It really has no teeth, but at least it knows that now.

    On the bright side I made over $32,000 saying five words on a national TV commercial. Fifteen minutes of work in an air-conditioned booth. Behold, the power of a union.

    Absurd, I know.

  99. Either way these laws stink. When it comes to protection. As long as any individual is subject to a majority, there is NO PROTECTION.

    Should it really matter if 99% want to unionize? Why should anyone be forced to give up their right to negotiate on his or her own?

  100. Dan T.,

    This has nothing to do with unions. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t want a political election to be a hand count in the city square. After the threats have been made and the measure has passed, its too late to go back and press charges.

    Furthermore, intimidation cases are almost impossible to prove and almost never brought up because, wait for it, wait for it, the person is intimidated! If I’m going to vote in a political election, and a guy leans on the table where I’m voting wearing a Democrat sticker wearing a gun watches me, it might change my decision.

    That’s an invasion of liberty, even though there were no threats made. Same situation here.

  101. -B

    You got SAG card? Isn’t there a catch 22 on those puppies? From what I’ve heard its like trying to get a liquor license in Utah.

  102. Fluffy,

    “Binding arbitration absolutely IS fiat.” It was the “bureaucratic” part I was objecting to. This is not a case of the government imposing the outcome that it deems best, but of finding a reasonable middle ground based on what the two sides bring to the table.

    Grotius,

    A union is an orgainization among workers, not one imposed on them by an outside force like the government. The self-directed element is a necessary element of the definition.

  103. The reason it’s a big deal is because right now if an employee is being subjected to pressure from pro-union employees, he can just sign their card and then vote against the union later. The organizers have no way of knowing, under the secret ballot system, which employees are definitely the ones who opposed the union. If the card system is the end all and be all, then anyone who refuses the card is obviously a “union enemy”.

    But anyone who does sign the card is obviously a “union friend”, so I don’t see how it tips the balance.

    This assumes that signing a card in the presence of its proponents is the equivalent of casting a secret ballot. We all know its not, so lets not pretend it is.

    C’mon, people. How can anyone seriously say they are trying to “protect” workers while simultaneously doing away with the foundation for any such protection – the anonymity of a secret ballot

    RC Dean, have you ever participated in voting by proxy? I’ve done so, and I’ve also personally solicited proxies. Is it any less fair than a secret individual ballot?

    Someone seeks to represent you. You decide OK, so you sign that person’s proxy card. Anyone can offer to be your proxy. Maybe you mail it in, maybe you get a personal solicitation and sign on the spot. What’s the big deal?

    For that matter, what about meetings where the vote is by show of hands, whether proxies are included or not?

  104. Andy,

    Every day you are working while your employer works to intimidate you to vote the way he wants is a day you have a man with a gun standing over you. When someone holds you livelihood in his hands, you can’t pretend that it is the union introducing coercion into the equation.

    If it weren’t for coercion by employers, this wouldn’t be necessary, but as we all know, there are plenty of people with plenty of money to buy the serices of union busters, and who have no problem firing “troublemakers.”

  105. “I sometimes think i feel sorry for unions…then I realize unions are the same ideology that put Hitler in power.”

    AND HE BUILT HIGHWAYS TOO!

    YOU’RE DRIVING WITH HITLER POWER!

  106. Joe,

    But what about this policy changes ANY of what you described to me? You haven’t explained to me why eliminating the election changes any of that.

    Furthermore, can I assume you’ve conceded you were wrong to challenge Al on the grounds of union membership?

  107. A reasonable deal would be you can unionize whenever you want and employers can choose not to deal with a union whenever they want. If your union has enough clout you get all your stupid demands and drag the country down with you. If not, oh well.

    I just can’t let it go. Longshoremen cost this country nearly a half percent of GDP because of their crap, the docks were forced under the hilariously named ‘fair labor’ laws to deal only with the unions, and yet people are somehow shocked at the animosity unions generate.

    Workplaces are better in non perpetual struggle. It isn’t obviously true that unions help a majority of their members, but they do destroy jobs all the time. Adults shouldn’t be sitting around all day trying to figure out how to minimize their productivity – and that is what unions do. All day every day.

  108. Forms of Union coercion I’ve witnessed:
    Men walking a picket line with ax handles.
    Broken windshields and slashed tiers.
    Anonymous 1am phone calls “Stay home tomorrow or else”

    Forms of Employer coercion I’ve witnessed:
    All employee meetings held on the clock with Power Point slides.

  109. Andy,

    First, I ceased to care about your touching rescue of Al a long time ago. Assume whatever you want.

    Second, “You haven’t explained to me why eliminating the election changes any of that.” It eliminates the employers’ opportunity to coerce and fire employees before they gain union rights.

  110. Research shows that, when threatened with a union, 30% of employers fire pro-union workers,

    And why shouldn’t an employer get to hire and fire who they want?

    –Because it’s against the law to fire people for favoring a union.

    51% use bribery or favoritism to tilt the election

    Seeing as that may be a crime, you’d think there would be more prosecutions, if this were true in any meaningful way.

    No, given that especially under anti-union administrations like the last four companies rarely get into trouble even for firing workers I would be very surprised if lesser crimes were punished.

    Sorry, but I just can’t see any of this (except the dubious charges of “bribery and favoritism”) as morally abhorrent.

  111. “This has nothing to do with unions. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t want a political election to be a hand count in the city square. After the threats have been made and the measure has passed, its too late to go back and press charges.”

    Robert LeFevre objected to secret ballots as a way of escaping reponsibility. Doesn’t it ever disturb you that people can affect the outcome of an election without your ever being able to know who they are, and without ever being able to do perfectly legal things in retaliation, such as boycotting, shunning, or shaming?

    Arguing that the potential of violence against somebody on the basis of knowing something about them is also an argument against all freedom of communication. Why should the press ever be allowed to publicize anything bad or unpopular about someone, if it means they might become a target of violence?

  112. dhex,

    What’s so terribly ironic about Hitler’s roads is that they were very sparingly used during his time in power and were more of benefit to Allied troops than anything. Roads are neutral when it comes to their military usage.

  113. Ouch, joe gets SORE when he’s losing.

    And joe, I ceased caring about that line when you kept ignoring the time line response. Draw your own conclusion.

  114. It seems to me that there are 4 groups of people:
    (1) People who sign the card intending to vote “yes.”
    (2) People who don’t sign the card and intend to vote “no.”
    (3) People who don’t sign the card, perhaps afraid of employer reprisals, but intend to vote “yes.”
    (4) People who sign the card for whatever reason but intend to vote “no.”

    I think it would be somewhat naive to argue that either group (3) or group (4) would have no members. The solution would obviously be to set the requirement for having a ballot very low–say 10 percent of the workers at a site, or even less–but to continue the secret ballot. Perhaps an added layer of protection for employee organizers, such as submitting the cards to an independent board rather than the employer, would serve to further reduce the possibility of employer reprisals.

    If I were running for mayor and had signatures from 100 of the 183 residents of my town on my petition, I can’t imagine that anybody would say that I should immediately be declared elected. I also can’t imagine that anybody would argue that the system should be set up to declare me elected in a case like that.

  115. Come on folks. It is a Friday. Let’s be civil before we start partying this weekend. 🙂

  116. “Every day you are working while your employer works to intimidate you to vote the way he wants is a day you have a man with a gun standing over you. When someone holds you livelihood in his hands,”

    That would be true only if you had to work for that person.

  117. Gro:

    Wouldn’t it be fun to see the two sides in this (and other, typical left v right) arguments go at it on MXC (now playing on Spike)

    BLS Union Stats


    In 2006, 12.0 percent of employed wage and salary workers were union
    members, down from 12.5 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of
    Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of persons
    belonging to a union fell by 326,000 in 2006 to 15.4 million.

    –Workers in the public sector had a union membership rate nearly
    five times that of private sector employees.

    –Education, training, and library occupations had the highest
    unionization rate among all occupations, at 37 percent.

    –The unionization rate was higher for men than for women.

    –Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white,
    Asian, or Hispanic workers.

  118. JasonL,

    “Workplaces are better in non perpetual struggle.” Shutting up workers, making them fear for their well-being, can certainly stop them from struggling, if done ruthlessly enough, but it probably won’t last long. Not all peaces are equal – I’d have thought your foreign policy views would have taught you that.

    “Adults shouldn’t be sitting around all day trying to figure out how to minimize their productivity – and that is what unions do. All day every day.” Actually, what I did all day every day when I was in the union was my job. Every couple of weeks, I’d take a check to deposit in the bank during my lunch hour. Let’s not get shrieking hysterical here.

  119. Robert

    I find it pretty interesting that people use the proverbial “gun to your head” argument against either a private or public entity depending on their idea of liberty. Something private by its very nature involves a freedom of association, so like you I don’t see where this gun is coming from.

    But it is an interesting debate I think.

  120. ” Adults shouldn’t be sitting around all day trying to figure out how to minimize their productivity – and that is what unions do. All day every day.”
    And companies don’t do this? What company would not try to give as little as they could get away with for as much as they could get? That’s what bargaining is for…Union rules may promote inefficiency, but plenty of employer practices do the same (nepotism for example). One difference is that union rules make life better, more free for thousands while employer practices make life better, more free for hundreds….

  121. Andy, I’m going to conclude that I should talk directly to Al, if I’m looking for a useful discussion.

    Al, I like the idea of submitting the cards to an independent party. But as for your mayoral election analogy – if you want to mandate a regular schedule for union balloting, comparable to the regular schedule for mayoral elections, then we could do away with the cards altogether.

  122. Robert,

    “That would be true only if you had to work for that person.” And thus endeth the conversation. You either believe that employers have power over their employees – that there are no costs associated with having to find a new job – or you don’t. You either believe that you have as much power as your boss, or you don’t.

  123. Joe:

    You may not want to talk to me once I tell you what I really think–that any group of employees should be allowed to bond together to bargain collectively at any time, and that any employee should be allowed to bargain either as part of a group or as an individual. There will obviously be advantages and disadvantages to both.

    Since politics is “the art of the possible,” however, I will just continue supporting secret ballots as the best substitute for true individual autonomy.

  124. joe

    Yes I agree there is cost to finding a job, but there is also cost in creating and running a business. Which do you feel is the greater cost?

  125. “Workplaces are better in non perpetual struggle.” Shutting up workers, making them fear for their well-being, can certainly stop them from struggling, if done ruthlessly enough, but it probably won’t last long. Not all peaces are equal – I’d have thought your foreign policy views would have taught you that.”

    But that just isn’t reality joe. Union membership and participation has been on the decline for decades and I’ve not heard of any increase in workplace slavery and intimidation. Unionization is nothing more than formally saying “my interests as a laborer will never align with yours, we are at war forever.” From that moment on, every decision is made in the context of hostile negotiation. Paying well for hard work, incentive compensation and the like, just makes a lot more sense for everyone.

    “Actually, what I did all day every day when I was in the union was my job. Every couple of weeks, I’d take a check to deposit in the bank during my lunch hour. Let’s not get shrieking hysterical here.”

    What about actual union officeholders? They may be employees, but by defninition they wear a union first hat. Every minute that hat is on, their sole purpose for the last 30 years has been to minimize overall productivity – though they don’t call it that. They say they are maximizing benefits – by resisting automation of process, by resisting portable retirements and saddling companies with cradle to grave payouts, by increasingly formalizing when they won’t work under any circumstances facts on the ground be damned, by convincing thousands of people that physically moving that box is all they will ever be able to do, and so on.

    Workforce modernization and education? Nope. This has to be resisted because you are entitled to EXACTLY THIS JOB FOR LIFE.

    Planning to increase work productivity per hour? Nope. Not their concern. There is no connection between productivity and compensation. It is based only on clout. Can’t have the riff raff thinking that all they need to do is go to management with a way to help productivity and they will instantly be one of the most valuable employees. Just shut up, take your break, and don’t do anything ‘extra’.

    I did it for a while in the UFCW and was neighbors with the steward. I see benefits negotiations all the time in my current job.

    Unions are toxic.

  126. You either believe that you have as much power as your boss, or you don’t.

    Huh? BTW and regardless, (1) so what? and (2) what about the consumer?

  127. “”Binding arbitration absolutely IS fiat.” It was the “bureaucratic” part I was objecting to. This is not a case of the government imposing the outcome that it deems best, but of finding a reasonable middle ground based on what the two sides bring to the table.”

    So I take it you would not object if I offered you $1 for your house, and if you declined I had the right to force you to accept binding arbitration to find a “middle ground”?

    How on earth is it not oppressive to tell me I can’t set a drop-dead price in negotiations? If you don’t like my final offer, strike.

  128. “And companies don’t do this? What company would not try to give as little as they could get away with for as much as they could get? ”

    This may be shocking, but I come to work every day trying to figure out how I can improve operating efficiency and increase productivity for myself and those around me. Because I’m an adult. Because I see very clearly that I’d have no right to cry about losing my job if I’d come in every day trying to do as little as possible while costing as much as possible.

    Sure, there are practices on both sides that don’t follow this line of thinking, but it strikes me as supreme idiocy to formalize things so that those practices are the only ones that can ever be implemented.

  129. that there are no costs associated with having to find a new job

    Joe, there are costs associated with having to find a new job. That is not the question. The question is why you or I should have to pay under threat of force for someone else failing to prepare for those costs.

    You’re also failing to realize the employer is taking on most of the risk. So yes “gasp” he or she is entitled to most of the profit.

  130. “What’s so terribly ironic about Hitler’s roads is that they were very sparingly used during his time in power and were more of benefit to Allied troops than anything. Roads are neutral when it comes to their military usage.”

    it’s a cosmic joke on par with kim il sung’s neck tumor.

    but at the same time “YOU’RE DRIVING WITH HITLER POWER” sounds pretty awesome.

    dude also ate vegetables, and we all know what that means…

  131. Perhaps I’m duller than usual today. Could someone explain how a secret ballot makes employees more vulnerable to intimidation by employers?

    That’s a serious question, btw, and mostly aimed at Joe. I suspect I’m missing something important here.

  132. Jason L,

    “Union membership and participation has been on the decline for decades and I’ve not heard of any increase in workplace slavery and intimidation.” OK, you haven’t heard of it. The declining share of the pie going to workers, and the increasing pay differential between workers and employers, have been thoroughly documented going back three decades. No, it’s not chattel slavery, but some of us aim higher than that.

    “What about actual union officeholders?” I was the Treasurer. That’s why I got to spend lunch every othe Wednesday at the bank.

    The rest of your post is just stereotypoing. Homebuilders certainly don’t go out of their way to use union labor becuase their productivity declines.

  133. Yet again, the hypocrites don’t fail to amaze me.

    Secret ballot = more free choice.

    This is obvious to anyone with a preschool education. The spin here is truly depressing.

  134. DAR,

    “Huh? BTW and regardless, (1) so what? and (2) what about the consumer?”

    1. It is the imbalance of power that makes efforts to check the more powerful party’s clout necessary.

    2. What about him?

  135. Never mind my above question. I found the answer in Joe’s 11:20 post.

    My personal take: any person or group with power is likely to abuse it.

  136. Fluffy,

    You don’t know much about how arbitration works, I see. No, it is not a process of splitting the difference regarless of the details. It is a process of finding a reasonable middle ground. If one party’s demands are manifestly unreasonable, arbitrators rule closer to the other side’s position.

    Lincoln, “failing to prepare for those costs” is not the same thing as “talking to his coworkers about starting a union.” No, people who try to improve their ability to strike a bargain by joining with their coworkers should not be faced with firing.

    Number 6,

    It’s not that secret ballot, so much as the two-step process. Having to announce the balloting to the employer beforehand, letting a hostile employer (and let’s face it, people don’t go around starting unions when they are being treated well by their employers) use his power to coerce, intimidate, and fire the union advocates.

  137. Number 6:

    “My personal take: any person or group with power is likely to abuse it.”

    Yes, absolutely. That’s why power imbalances are so dangerous; because without sufficient countervailing power, there will nothing to stop the more powerful from abusing their position.

    That’s why you don’t like the idea of the government owning all the guns, right?

  138. More (old) union humor:
    Q: How many Teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: 5

    You got a problem with that?

  139. joe

    Yes there is an imbalance of negotiating power, but there is also an imbalance of cost. That’s not to say, “AH, END OF STORY”, it just seems ingenuous to constantly label the “employer” as the objectively evil villain we have all come to know a hate. And yes I know a lot of it is in response to the hyperbole from the other side i.e. “unions are nothing but thugs”.

    Also, wouldn’t you think that there some “countervailing power” within both the labor market, as well as the actual market? Else why is private union participation not something like %90?

  140. I know, and I’m arguing for strict levelling or anything close to it.

    I don’t consider employers to be villians. I just acknowledge that they hold more power, and that their interests are not precisely the same as those of their employees.

    The low union rate is the consequence of a lot of things, not least the success of the unions in improving the standards of employment practices to the level where many employees, like myself, have no need for a union in our workplaces.

  141. as official arbiter of what does and does not count as a stupid thread:

    I declare this to be yet another in a series of stupid threads. There has been a number of these, lately; red-meat, libertarian-populist threads that give everyone a chance to be outraged-on-the-internets – spouting talking points, conjecture, and anecdotal evidence, and all in the “DEMAND CURVE!” tone that Mr. Moose and I so love to mock.

    Come on, guys. You can do better.

  142. I can agree with that

    You, and many others know way more then myself, I only have my beliefs. Given that, I am inclined to buy the theory that unionization was part of a transitional event from an agricultural to post a industrial economy. I guess that means that there was indeed a very important role to be played although a finite one. I guess we’ll see.

  143. Oh shit!

    I posted after the thread had been officially condemned. 🙂

  144. Yeah. What Mr. Steven Crane said.

    /kicks cupcake

  145. Joe- Yes, that’s one reason I’m wary of gun control. I suspect that in many ways, our positions are close. Unlike a lot of libertarians, I am suspicious of corporations and any other group that wields power. At the same time, since government is, by definition, the ultimate power in the area it rules, it’s subject to the most suspicion.

    I also tend to take a Friedman/Hayekean view of the market. Individual, decentralized decisions tend to work better than top-down direction. (There are, of course, exceptions, and there is an enormous gray area involving third-party externalities.) I also think that the market is a complex system, and government inputs tend to have consequences that can’t be predicted.

    Of course, none of that has anything to do with the topic at hand. As far as that goes, I’m going to do something pretty radical for an H&R type: I’m going to suspend judgment until I know more about the issue.

  146. Dan, wages aren’t stagnating. How do I know? Every time the idea comes up to index Social Security benefits to prices rather than wages, the Democrats work overtime to squash it. Since we all know the Dems are big SS supporters, the only reason they’d do that is if they believed that wages are rising faster than prices. The next time a Democrat trots out the “stagnating wages” line, ask them where they stand on indexing Social Security benefits.

  147. I’m sorry, but this is more important than some suggest. The competitiveness of US companies, tens of thousands of jobs and millions of peoples lives are being made worse by snake oil salesmen. Everywhere businesses fail due to lack of competitive labor or insufficient automation, you can find some idiot union steward ‘making sure his people get theirs.’ No doubt.

    No company I can think of is capable of shutting down US commerce for four weeks like the longshoremen did.

    They harm people they claim to help and they harm the economy as a whole. Their primary effect is to destroy overall wealth and jobs in the name of extracting absurd benefits from already uncompetitive industries.

  148. Joe,

    I’m not surprised that you’ve dismissed my argument for a more sensible solution to the problem. But the fact remains, as a strong union advocate, I’d think you’d be excited that Al and I have both expressed interest in trying to find some way to address the issues you see without incurring what we, or I, at least, see as a lot of unnecessary risk for the average worker.

    Apparently, you’re cool just yelling into the megaphone and “damning the man.” That’s fine, just don’t accuse me of avoiding useful discussion.

  149. I just sprayed 409 on the stove and the bubbles are starting to pop. It’s gettin’ pretty bad in here, I can’t hear a thing.

  150. Bob Smith,

    Quite a right, overall wages have been growing. However, all of the improvement has come at the top, while the bottom 90% has seen little or no wage growth, which would seem to be a better statistic for the question of workers’ wages.

    Andy,

    See my last reponse to Al.

  151. I, for one, appreciate the reach-around being given to me by the new Democrat majority.

  152. Joe is a died in the wool union man and no one will ever convince him that unions have outlived their usefullness or that unions will abuse or intimidate those against them. And despite his claims, unions do resort to violence.

    Personally, I feel that if you need a union to help you keep your job or get a decent rate of pay you are probably lazy or incompetent or both.

    Don’t like you job? Go find a better one.

  153. Joe –

    You continue to refuse to actually address my objection. “Arbitrators rule…” Why should arbitrators rule?

    Why should arbitrators have any right to impose any contract whatsoever, regardless of whether or not you think it’s fair or reasonable?

    Fine. They won’t just average the two positions. They’ll pick a compromise position they think is fair. Why should they get to say ANYTHING about what is fair?

    If I say, “$10 an hour is my final offer,” and the arbitrator says, “We rule that the union contract rate for the next two years is $12 an hour, because that’s what we think is fair,” this is absolutely, positively a fiat contract. It is absolutely, positively oppressive. And it would absolutely, positively be exactly the same if you asked for a selling price of $500,000 for your house, but I was able somehow to get a bureaucrat declare that you had to sell it to me for $400,000, because that’s what they think is fair.

    If the new union and the employer can’t agree on a contract, why shouldn’t the union’s recourse simply be to strike? They’ve been granted the opportunity to collectively bargain. The ultimate argument in collective bargaining is the strike. Why is the union even entitled to arbitration?

  154. Fluffy,

    “Why should arbitrators rule?” Because absent a binding arbitration rule, management can simply refuse to come to an agreement, and the workers continue to work without one.

    Arbitration is better than a strike, because a strike screws everybody.

  155. But you’re not interested in pragmatic answers like that. You’re asking a moral question, that beloved by libertarians, “Why should anybody but the business/property owner have any say into how a business works?”

    The answer is, because correcting power imbalances is necessary to prevent the powerful from screwing over the powerless, and decent opportunities for the least among us is more important than maximizing the autonomy of the most powerful.

    It’s a statement of values, and we’re on different sides.

  156. “because correcting power imbalances is necessary to prevent the powerful from screwing over the powerless,”

    Right, because that never happens now. What we need are more laws, eh?

  157. In addition to not realizing that Hitler banned unions and murdered their leaders and supporters.

    and Stalin put an ice pick into Trotsky’s head….your point being what?

    Oh maybe you are referring to Heyak’s point that centralized state power (as advocated by unions) often leads to strong men gaining power and using brutal means to protect, consolidate, and expand it once it is archived.

    Of course the history of the United States with the likes of Jimmy Hoffa and Huey Long in it such a thing could never happen here…right?

  158. Joe-In fairness, some libertarians (though not all) would suggest that the biggest problem with unions is precisely that they limit opportunity for the least among us.

    Before you chastise me, understand that I’m not fully endorsing that position. I think that in some cases, unions are invaluable. In others, not so much. But unions certainly can accrue so much power that they do their own screwing.

  159. I’m interviewing at a small University for a tenure track professor position. I was told I will be expected to join their faculty union. Unionized, tenured faculty. Seriously, what the f*ck?

  160. joe

    I would actually think that the difference isn’t so much of a moral one, but one of utility.

    For instance what if the power imbalance between the employer and the employee actually creates the most opportunity for the “least powerful”? What if maximizing the autonomy of everyone – including the most powerful – actually achieves this? I can’t prove this (I consume theories about justice, not produce them) – although France’s rigid labor market and high unemployment do come to mind – but I can say that those are the assumptions, or theories driving the beliefs.

    Of course I am not trying to convert you, but I do think that the differing conclusions have the same morality behind them. At least for some of us.

  161. Hah, #6 found fewer words to say the same thing. 🙂

  162. I profess ignorance in the history of unions. At what point did it become regulatory for unions to consult with management while forming?

    What I mean to say is, take unions to their most basic level, a group of like minded people banning together to petition the management for redress of grievances (low pay, long work hours, etc.). At what point in history did the company management have to be brought in on this process of forming the union?

    When the colonies wanted to ask redress for the stamp act, did they have to consult with King George and the Governors before unionizing (forming the Brothers of Liberty) or striking (dumping tea)? Why do we have to do this now? More importantly, how does the government have the ability to tell unions how to form?

  163. Union recruiting techniques I have witnessed first hand.
    #1.Politely given a hand out that explains how unions are the reason the sun rises and basically the source of everything good in life.
    #2.I had eggs thrown at my vehicle.
    #3.I had company tools defaced/stolen.
    #4.I have had to drive in a separate entrance to a jobsite for no other reason then to indentify the nonunion workers.
    One of my favorite t-shirts I ever saw was a pipefitter wearing a shirt that said “God bless union people”.Before I started working in the trades I was indifferent to unions now after 14 years I would work at Mcdonalds with a smile on my face before joining a bunch of thugs.

  164. Any time you raise concerns about union intimidation of workers to a supporter like joe they’ll either just complain that employer intimidation is more frequent and worse or ignore it. I suspect it stems from a lack of concern for the nonunion workers, who after all are just standing in the way of the union’s earnest efforts to win them a fair shake in the workplace. Gotta crack a few omelets to make a more socially just society, and all that jazz.

  165. joe,

    Have you ever been an employer? If not, please stop talking about how much power employers have over their employees, since you can’t possibly understand that without having walked in their shoes.

  166. Ya gotta love how telling someone “you can’t work here if you join the union” is intimidation by the employer, but telling them, “you can’t work here if you DON’T join the union,” well, that’s only fair because of all the tremendous benefits you get from your union reps!

  167. I don’t know if Joe will come back to this thread, because it’s pretty far down the page now, but:

    The “power imbalance” you’re talking about exists in each and every relationship between a seller and a buyer. Every last customer of mine has exactly as much power over me as I have over the people I buy labor from. Am I entitled to having an arbitrator require my existing customers to submit to arbitration with me when I want to change the terms of my product or service offering and charge more money?

    And how about my lawyer and my accountant? I’m buying their labor, too. Why shouldn’t we, as a matter of “values”, grant bureaucrats the right to force me into two-year contracts with my lawyer and my accountant? If we don’t, and I enter a dispute with my lawyer or my accountant, I might just refuse to keep buying their labor. Isn’t that just as great an injustice as telling my new union that I won’t go beyond my final offer and if they don’t like it they can strike? If not, why not? And if your answer boils down to “Lawyers and accountants are rich and poor lowly workers are not,” then I guess you don’t really believe in equality before the law then, huh?

  168. If people don’t remember why firms are forced to negotiate with unions at all, it boils down to state power. In the 30s Congress passed laws requiring firms in interstate commerce to recognize unions as bargaining agents. I believe the first of these was the Wagner Act. Follow-on legislation, notably the National Labor Relations Act, built upon this foundation. Needless to say, I think such laws violate the property rights of the owners, even if the Supreme Court has disagreed with that.

    What these laws also did was make it tough for those who want to be represented by Union B to have the agent of their choice, should Union A win a workplace election. That was a big deal back when the AFL and CIO were separate organizations, or when the Teamsters were outside the AFL-CIO.

    BTW, I’ve worked two jobs that were covered by a union contract. In the first, I signed on temporarily. I was working the summer between college semesters. I could have worked a total of six months, at which point I could have applied for another temporary gig, if one was available, but it was always possible that, if they liked me well enough, I could have been offered an open-ended position. In the latter case, I would have had to join the union, or at least pay an agency fee in lieu of dues. My second experience with a union, I got a factory job. It was a “permanent” job, but new hires had to wait six months before they joined the union. I expect that the owners had negotiated that grace period with the union, so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the hassles of firing a member who wasn’t learning the required tasks fast enough, or hadn’t proved to be dependable. Man, was that an unpleasant place to work. The long-time employees hated anybody who hadn’t joined the union yet. Whenever they saw a newbie walk onto the floor, all they could see was “Well, that’s 40 hours of overtime a week the rest of us won’t be getting.” After about 6 weeks of that, I had an opportunity to move out-of-state, and took it. I wound up working in a non-union shop down South. There were jerks there, too, of course, but the overall atmosphere was much friendlier, and pretty soon I was the one getting as much overtime as I could handle. When I quit that job, to move back North, the management begged me to stay. If my plan hadn’t been to return to college, I might’ve. I wasn’t really cut out for factory work, but I’m glad I did it. Some of those jobs require a great deal of technical knowledge, and can’t be filled by any schmoe off the street. Others demand a strong back and a will to get the job done, not bad qualities to have.

    The whole history of labor-management relations has been poisoned by state involvement. Today we may gripe that the government’s thumb is on one pan of the scales or the other, but earlier in our country’s history it was pretty explicitly with the owners. There never seems to have been a dedication to the idea that the state should be neutral between owners and workers when they have disputes, restricting itself to guarding against any party resorting to violence or its threat.

    Kevin

  169. My only experience with a union was when I worked at AT&T. It was my first job, and I was a software developer. I wanted to switch the video card in my PC, and my boss told me, “Go ahead and do it, but don’t let any of the union guys see you.” I thought that was a weird thing to say — of course it was weird since I grew up in the South and was never exposed to the famed “union mentality”.

    So later I asked my boss why I should have to hide doing work from another coworker. He told me that the hardward support department was unionized and that their contract stipulatd that they did all of the internal PC support for which they would bill at $150 per hour. I was aghast.

    Later, I started to notice the red vests that people wore all around the office and stated in large white letters: “I DON’T WANT TO STRIKE, BUT I WILL IF I HAVE TO!!!”

    And that is what the “union mentality” is: lazy, incompetant, stupid, threatening, and prone to violence. Did anyone else notice joe’s indignant attitude? Is anyone suprised that he supports unions?

  170. Unionized, tenured faculty. Seriously, what the f*ck?

    Unionized AND tenured!? Those individuals have got to be the laziest, most good-for-nothing wastes of semen on the planet! What the f*ck indeed!

  171. To those who have such a low opinion of unions, I have a personal story to tell.

    My conservative credentials are about as far right as you can go. I am a card carrying member of the religious right and a political independent because the Republicrats have deserted the Constitution.

    I worked for a company for 28 years. Was highly thought of with respect to my work’s quality and quantity. The company put me in charge of a languishing product line and within a couple of months the company gave me a raise and started using what I had done as a bragging point for the whole company with our customers. Things were extremely good.

    Then: The company decided to get politically correct and proposed an extremely humiliating and intrusive drug testing policy. For example: If the testing company sent over a young man to collect the urine samples, female employees would be required to provide their samples IN FULL VIEW of the collector.

    I pointed out the assault on employee dignity that was being proposed and asked the company to adopt a more reasonable policy.

    They refused. They said the policy was researched and was legal and that all employees were going to be treated the same.

    I tried several times to have the policy reviewed by upper management and modified. They refused.

    I pointed out that in the company they had three generations of women working there. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters and asked if they thought such a policy that would force these women into such a humiliating situation was right… I was told “yes”.

    Under the laws of the state I reside, the ONLY protection against such a policy would be if it were part of a union contract.

    After learning that, I contacted a union for information on organizing and notified the company of my actions (hoping to finally get them to modify the policy to a reasonable one).

    I was fired the next day, charged with two completely false charges… very serious charges that have adversely affected my longstanding good reputation.

    While I have prevailed through three appeals and now find my case in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, I have been reduced to working for a fraction of what I was making, and at my age I have found decent employment… eluding.

    All of that has been over the past 2.5 years.

    When I prevail and the company is forced to take me back, they will only have to pay the difference of what I would have made and what I have made since then. Virtually no other penalties will be assessed against them. Their deliberate and malicious attack upon me (and my family), goes unpunished.

    You can take your hypothetical objections to the Employee Free Choice Act… and put them where the sun does not shine.

    The legislation is needed.

    If the secret elections are that important… keep them. But provide better protections for employees who are heavily invested in their vocations and provide more penalties against unethical employers.

    For all your comments and opinions… You are not dealing with reality.

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