Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Union Fields"?

Out in that alternate social network world in which I also participate, but try to keep it social for the most part, I have some "friends" who lean left. Some more than others.

One of them recently posted a video in which Reagan says that "being in a union is a basic right".

To which I responded that I think most people would agree -- but most of the problems arise when they don't extend the same courtesy to those who don't want to be in a union.

And I got a couple responses below, and my replies follow.
‎"In a free market, isn't someone free to seek employment in a non-union field?"
First, what is a "Union field", and who gets to define that?
"Is anyone really surprised that they have to join the teacher's union if they want to teach in a public school?"
And why should they have to? I call things like this the "But the BELL rang" defense.

The deal is, unions are fine so long as they are voluntary. They do give its members power, which can and has been used toward much good over the years.

However, like any other form of power, it is subject to, and in fact a magnet for -- abuse. Which has also occurred much over the years. It gets especially nasty when that manifestation of power gets into bed with the highest form of earthly power, that necessary evil called "government". Which has also happened much over the years.

The biggest gripe I see from the unions (they don't come out and say this, they just use the generic "union-busting" and "anti-union" rally cries) aimed at, in this case, the state itself, since it's public schools -- at least in Wisconsin -- is that the State wants union dues to be voluntary. By that they mean that the state will not take union dues out of the teachers' paychecks and give them to the union (which then turns around and forks a healthy helping over to Democratic coffers, which is why Democrats' hair is standing on end now) -- forcing the Union member himself to take that money and do with it as the Union member sees fit. Ah, liberty!

Now, if the member values the union, and wants to remain a member in good standing, he will pay his union dues to the union like any good club member does to the club to which he or she belongs.

But of course the unions are rightfully afraid that this won't happen.

And so they engage in their usual schtick of calling people Nazis and Fascists and making a lot of noise about their selfless dedication to "the children" (which is dangerous and incivil if their political opponents ever mimic it, but their Reagan-sanctioned right if they themselves do it.)

Government employee unions, while still perfectly valid to have -- have an additional danger, as a columnist I respect recently wrote:
"In the private sector, the capitalist knows that when he negotiates with the union, if he gives away the store, he loses his shirt. In the public sector, the politicians who approve any deal have none of their own money at stake. On the contrary, the more favorably they dispose of union demands, the more likely they are to be the beneficiary of union largess in the next election. It's the perfect cozy setup."
In this case, "the store" is the state coffer. And it's been going on for many years now.


It continues.  He posted a joke about evil, bad CEO's and idiot Tea Partier tools.

A unionized public employee, a member of the Tea Party and a Big Corp CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the tea partier and says, "Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."
So I replied....

Well, in this case it isn't the CEO, it's the government itself that is grabbing the cookies. So I'm not sure why we're transferring the behavior back to big bad evil business .... except for the fact that the government not ...being all just and benevolent just doesn't fit into the progressive worldview. So it is projected on the evil enemy, CEOs.

The cookie analogy falls apart quickly, too, when you realize that cookies don't just appear in the middles of tables. Somebody puts up money to buy the equipment and the building and the resources for the cookie factory, and buys the ingredients, then hires people (otherwise known as "creating jobs") to bake those cookies.

Of course, some cookie CEO's take advantage of cookie baking employees, and those employees have every right to form a cookie baker's union and bargain collectively for better terms if they can get them.

But if some cookie bakers are happy working for less than the CBU 103 union is demanding (wouldn't that make the union "greedy", by the way?) -- why should CBU 103 be able to force the other cookie bakers to join them in their demands and follow their rules?
He changed the subject to Teddy Roosevelt.
A "Union Yes" friend of his chimed in:

We have union shops where everybody isn't forced to join the union. The APWU (postal workers) is one such union. But the union must still represent the employees who don't pay union dues. So those employees take a ride for free. What's fair about that? And typically, they're the biggest complainers (grievers). The union dues are not high and job and benefit protection is well worth it.

And yes, the unions use a lot of the dues to protect their rights in Washington. And there's a "trickle down effect" that really works in it. We all benefit - even those who have non-union jobs.

[and some other union propaganda about there would be no middle class if not for unions and the only reason our "Democracy" works is because of the middle class]
And I had a little to say about that, too...

So if I improve my property so that it increases the value of the surrounding property, do I get to charge my neighbors for the added value?

No, I don't. It was my choice to improve my position. If my neighbors sign an agreement that they ...will help me pay for it ahead of time, then yes. That would be like a neighborhood association.

If I went door to door with my clipboard and pen with Bubba and Guito standing menacingly behind me and, ahem, "asked everybody nicely" ... well that would be a union.

And if the government forced my vote (at the "request" of the unions) to be public so the union's thug would know whom to ... lean on ... if they didn't like my vote, why that would be "card check"


Whitehawk said...

When we allow unionization of public workers we establish another authority to hamstring our government. Do the teachers of Wisconsin work for the union or the state of Wisconsin? When they are asked to do something difficult or sacrificial by the government (or more accurately, the people of Wisconsin) do they do it or do they say, "Your going to have to talk to our union rep. before we can do anything because the union is who we answer to." In times of emergency you can see the real problem. Just as we are seeing in Wisconsin now.

To better illustrate the trouble with unions consider what it would do to the military if it were unionized. "Sorry General. We had to stop firing. We reached our 30 shell limit. It's time for our break. Uh.. do you speak any German?" Union asserted authority them trumps the chain of command and deals a defeat to our national interests. Government employee's in other capacities provide vital functions to citizens as well. If they are answerable to unions first there can be dangerous conflicts of interest. Any company that has a unionized work force knows exactly what a disadvantage this puts you at. Costs must go up and deadly delays can occur.

I am not blind to the fact that unions can prevent abuses by employers, but honestly, it's the governments job now to prevent abuses and the channels for dealing with these abuses are well established. Unions are now employing themsleves to force artificially high compensation for their contributors and add a layer of management with potentially conflicting motives.

In private sector companies, where is the right of the business owner to choose who works for him/her and what he/she will pay them? All choices are removed from the owner yet he/she is stuck with the bill of artificially higher wages and benefits (which includes the cost of the salaries of the union officials) and employees who are not directly answerable to him/her.

If a labor union wants to share in the profits of a business they should consider taking on some of the risks. For instance, it would be much more equitable for a union to contract or bid for the labor on any given project. If they run over on labor cost, they payout of their pocket. If they do a job faster and more efficient than expected they share in the profits earned.

Competition keeps everyone honest.

jeffmon said...

where is the right of the business owner to choose who works for him/her and what he/she will pay them?

That's the rub right there. The National Labor Relations Act (NRLA) of 1935 inserted the Federal government between employers and employees. It said that employers must negotiate with unions.

The Taft-Hartley act of 1947 was a step in the right direction, it allows states to pass Right to Work laws. This demonstrates once again that legislation begets more legislation to 'fix' it, when the original legislation should not have even been enacted in the first place. We pass a law, it gets abused, we pass more laws to stop the abuses, it goes on until there are so many laws it is impossible to imagine all of them.

No doubt they even contradict one another.

Then they create bureaucracies that make rules that do not have to be voted on by elected officials, but still carry the force of law. That makes the aforementioned number of laws insignificant by comparison. Pretty soon we are trapped in an ever-tightening straitjacket of laws passed for our own good, and we wonder what happened to Liberty.

Kind of got off track on that one. Sorry.

philmon said...

No, Jeffmon, that was very well put. And frankly, I could have used that material a little earlier. I'm not up on historic labor laws, just the principles.

More facts is better! Thanks.