Anti-Union Shop Laws

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  1. Avatar Burt Likko
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    Once upon a time, there was a significant strain of popular culture that held up union workers, and in particular union organizers, as heroes. That seems to have disappeared. Sally Field portraying Norma Rae, standing on the factory floor holding up the “union” sign, is about the most recent example I can think of in which someone trying to stand up for workers has been portrayed in popular media as a hero. That was 1979.

    It’s difficult for me to think of contemporary examples of cultural depictions of unionized workers as heroes, and easy for me to think of popular depictions of union leaders as corrupt non-contributors, as wasteful and lazy, involved with business for the sole purpose of protecting incompetent or unproductive employees, or as calling for disruptive strikes and boycotts at the exact time that work is needed most to solve an imminent problem.

    Sometimes, I muse with the idea that unions have perversely succeeded themselves out of relevance. They succeeded in changing the political center of gravity such that notions of minimum wages and living wages and mandatory overtime and fair labor standards and safe working conditions and mandatory no-fault workplace injury insurance and now mandatory benefits like sick leave, vacation, and health insurance are all written into the law. With the law automatically providing so many things that unions used to need to collectively bargain for, perhaps a worker might reasonably wonder, why bother to join?

    I have business clients who prefer a unionized workforce. The collective bargaining agreements give management structure in employee relations issues. Now, these are concerns who pretty much have their acts together and know what individual employees are supposed to do. There are still problems, and the union isn’t always cooperative solving them: for instance, one of my clients wants to have workers participate in continuing education, and is even willing to pay regular wages to workers for educational time, but the union refuses largely for the benefit of a single employee who does not want to learn new skills seemingly for fear that her workload will change (which it no doubt will, although why she should fear this is beyond me).

    I also have individual clients who have seemingly-valid disputes with their employers who cannot seem to get satisfactory assistance or even explanations from their unions. They claim, and I have no way of determining if the claims are valid or not, that they aren’t the “favorites” of the stewards and directors of their Locals, so they feel like they are chits the union throws to management as part of a larger trade, to their disadvantage. They want their unions to go to bat for them and they don’t get it. Whether that’s true or not, it’s this perception of politicization and corruption, more than anything else, that I think is the real reason workers aren’t all that interested in being unionized anymore, and sort of resent unionization despite the fact that it would seem to be in their interests.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Burt Likko
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      The guy who ran Alcoa liked the unions. Used ’em to fight back against management who wouldn’t report safety issues. It may be a bit convoluted to have two lines of report, but it’s a bit more foolproof — and workers compensation costs a bundle!

      Union is a tool, just like management is a tool. A good CEO uses what he’s got.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      This is an interesting observation. I think it depends on the Industry. Notice how some public employee unions are more protected than others. Scott Walker couldn’t muster enough courage to go after the unions for Law Enforcement and Firefighters.

      There is a plausible argument that law enforcement reputation is helped by their strong union and that their union will go to the mats for any law enforcement officer accused of wrong-doing. Why do we accept that a union can go to the mats for law enforcement and firefighters but not for construction workers or teachers or actors or anyone else?Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Saul Degraw
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        That law enforcement reputation is helped or harmed by their unions? My impression has been that it’s the latter.

        When you read of the latest abuse by such-and-such an officer, and they can’t even fit all the previous abuses he’s been involved in into one paragraph, and enumerate how every punishment consisted of a week’s unpaid suspension years after the fact, sometimes interspersed with promotions, you wonder, “How on earth is this crooked goon still a cop?” And the answer is almost always, “Thanks to his union.”

        But somehow that doesn’t end up reflecting badly on the union, which after all is just doing what their mandate calls for, but only on the police force, most of whose senior officers would probably have loved to have been able to fire the guy on his first offence decades ago.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to dragonfrog
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          I don’t buy that.

          Most instances of police misbehavior that come to light are just examples of cops doing what they were taught to do. They’re not defying expectations, but living up to them.

          The idea that this is a matter of a few bad apples that would be out of there if the Unions weren’t protecting them is bullshit.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Alan Scott
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            says:

            That just means the union is complicite in the bad behavior.Report

            • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Oscar Gordon
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              says:

              I’m not arguing that they aren’t.

              My point is that police unions are corrupt because of the “police” part, not the union part, and that non-unionized police would be just as prone to abusive misdeeds.Report

              • Avatar aaron david in reply to Alan Scott
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                says:

                Its neither corruption nor non-corruption, its is just how a union is supposed to operate. The whole point of a union is to protect the interests of the union members. Period.

                It will take every situation and look at it through the eyes of the worker. If a worker says X, the union will back him 100% on X. The union, and it doesn’t matter wether its the teachers or firemen or cops or any other group, works this way. If they didn’t, they would quickly find themselves decerted.

                The one exemption to that rule is contract negotiation. As that is done behind closed doors, they will do what they can for the empolyee, but in the end the are working for the union.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Alan Scott
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                @alan-scott
                My point is that police unions are corrupt because of the “police” part, not the union part, and that non-unionized police would be just as prone to abusive misdeeds.

                Yes. Blaming the union for no punishment is a bit like blaming defense attorneys because obviously guilty people weren’t convicted. That’s…kinda their job. The failure was elsewhere.

                Employees *should* have someone on their side pushing for some sort of due process. And pushing to make sure that, while the allegations are still dispute, the employee is not let go simply because it’s easier. Etc, etc. That is what unions should be doing.

                The problem with police misconduct is there literally is no one that even *thinks* they’re on the other side involved in the process. Their management is ex-police who are immersed in the same toxic culture. The local DAs are friends with and work closely with the police. There is no one involved in the process actually trying to find them guilty…which is, let’s recall, the *entire premise* of an adversarial justice system

                Even local politicians are usually operating in the ‘This allegation makes the government I work in look bad, so it would be best if it’s not true, and second best if we drag it out over so long that no one is paying attention when we admit it is true’. (Although *sometimes* we get pushback here.)

                But usually there is literally no one in the system pushing the other way.

                The problem isn’t that, thanks to union rules, obviously guilty cops are suspended *with* pay. That’s a nothingburger. The problem is that obviously guilty cops aren’t convicted or even charged.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Why do we accept that a union can go to the mats for law enforcement and firefighters but not for construction workers or teachers or actors or anyone else?

        I don’t know about “we,” but I don’t accept it. That doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with unions, public or private, although I do oppose AUL’s.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        ” Why do we accept that a union can go to the mats for law enforcement and firefighters but not for construction workers or teachers or actors or anyone else?”

        Because *we* (I am not in your group) support right-wing causes, and police unions are right-wings. Firefighters ride those coat-tails, likely because they are perceived as right-wing.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko
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      Americans always had an interesting relationship with unionism just like we always had an interesting relationship with socialism. When the first unions and working men’s associations appeared in the United States during the 1850s, nativist parties often attacked them as foreign and non-American. A lot of the early union advocates were German immigrants. For most of the 19th and early 20th century, this sort of thinking persisted. Unions mainly consisted of European immigrants. The exception to this was that Anglo-Protestants who worked in mining were eager unionizers, particularly in Appalachia. Anglo-Protestant millworkers in the South or elsewhere were very hostile towards unions. This changed somewhat after the Great Depression but the South was always hostile towards unions.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq
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        I’d say that among the first unions in the US were in the 1830swith the “Lowell girls,”and I think they were mostly native-born Americans.

        But the fact that nativists tried to bait unions as foreign isn’t something I’d particularly dispute, unless the nativists were unionists themselves. The Knights of Labor got a good deal of mileage in the West out of race-baiting Chinese “coolie” labor.Report

    • Avatar notme in reply to Burt Likko
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      Burt:

      Have you seen or heard of any recent of union folks acting like heros? Back then unions actaully seemed to help the “little guy.” I agree that they’ve been a victim of their own sucess and then they got fat and happy.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to notme
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        I’m probably not the right guy to whom such a question ought to be addressed.

        I have seen unions used to organize and investigate grievances that seemed to apply to large numbers of workers, and union leaders sticking up for employees with at least colorable claims of mistreatment by management — or at least, treatment contrary to the terms of collective bargaining agreements. From time to time, I’ve heard reps refer to union members with the titles “Sister” and “Brother” and they have a way of making it sound like they really mean it that way, that they’re loyal to their fellow union members the same way they’d be loyal to an actual sibling. I usually find it in my heart to respect them for that on those occasions when they do that, even if they’re in an adversarial position to me.

        But I pretty much only see claims brought by individual employees against their employers or former employers, without a lot of union involvement. When there are unions in the picture, I either represent the employer, in which case the union is general an adversarial party whose conduct I examine critically, or an employee who is not getting assistance from a union, in which case I’m usually trying to figure out why the union hung this worker out to dry instead of seeing a shop steward or a rep from the Local step up to the plate for her Union Brother.

        I don’t get involved in things like actual labor disputes or negotiating CBA’s; I’ve only helped with a CBA negotiation once. I admit that I have a hard time forming sympathy for strikers when a strike actually inconveniences me, like a grocery workers, dockworkers, or teacher’s strike. Same thing for a lockout, although there I tend to focus my annoyance on management. As a dispute resolution professional, I presume that the party calling a strike or lockout has adopted an unreasonable and inflexible position in negotiations, and I fundamentally disapprove of any party engaging in tactics that are designed to make negotiations fail.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Burt Likko
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          “I presume that the party calling a strike or lockout has adopted an unreasonable and inflexible position in negotiations, and I fundamentally disapprove of any party engaging in tactics that are designed to make negotiations fail.”

          My presumptions usually go the other way, and in theory, I try to think that if workers decide to strike, they probably know what they’re doing. I used to adopt that presumption much more generously and widely than I do now (for example, I was against the last Chicago Teachers’ Strike and had little sympathy for it), and I do ask more questions and am more willing to judge things the other way on what I know of the facts. But I still hold to that presumption as a first go-to.Report

        • Avatar morat20 in reply to Burt Likko
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          That’s a weird presumption. My father started out union, ended up management — but I remember the two strikes he went on as a kid. They were not easy things. He wasn’t getting paid, for one.

          I know he at least had some warning to try to find a part-time job so we could afford food and whatnot, which beats a pink slip — but there’s no denying that a strike meant serious money worries, struggles to find a job, and a LOT of stress.

          It didn’t strike me as something you did on a whim. To strike, the union had to be at the end of their rope. Slow-downs, yeah — that was a negotiation tactic. But if they walked off the job?

          They felt they had no choice. At least that was the rank and file view.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to morat20
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            I recall when the IAM went on strike some years ago, there was a lot of grousing about how a large number of those pushing for a strike were the more senior members, those with higher wages & lots of savings (thanks to having first dibs on available overtime) who wanted a vacation that didn’t count against their time.

            if true it was a raw deal for the new guys who were not well positioned to weather a strike.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to notme
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        Yup! The AFL-CIO donated their showers to Occupy Washington. Now, you might not have liked the Occupy folks, but it was the decent, forward-thinking thing to do.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to notme
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        says:

        “Have you seen or heard of any recent of union folks acting like heros? Back then unions actaully seemed to help the “little guy.” I agree that they’ve been a victim of their own sucess and then they got fat and happy.”

        They still do.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      I appreciate your observations, Burt, but I do have an answer to what seems like a rhetorical question on your part:

      With the law automatically providing so many things that unions used to need to collectively bargain for, perhaps a worker might reasonably wonder, why bother to join?

      First, I’d question the “automatically” part of the equation. Those things can be undermined, at least at the margins and among some workers.

      Second, there’s plenty of argument for organizing to stave off arbitrary treatment. Whether that argument is good enough is another question.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        I don’t disagree at all. Employers cheat around the legal rules all the time. Policing against that is pretty much my job. If that sort of thing didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have disputes to investigate or lawsuits to litigate.

        Here, I’m trying to figure out why it is that a presumably rational and presumably non-ignorant worker would not want to join a union, and musing that there may be a cultural preference (“Unions are bad, mmmkay?”) as opposed to an economic calculation (“I can get just as much money/compensation relying on the law and my own negotiation skills, and not paying dues, than I would as a member of this collective bargaining unit”).Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Burt Likko
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          says:

          I’ve mentioned before that there are non-union employee orgs that seem to be working, & union advocates have not, aside from the legal issues, offered a good defense of traditional unions as opposed to NERBs.Report

          • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            I know you’ve given me a link to some brief the dept. of labor had written about NERB’s, and it was interesting. I do seem to recall, though, that the brief did mention things that traditional unions were better at than NERB’s (and perhaps vice versa?….I’ve lost the link, so I don’t remember).

            NERB’s are probably (usually) better than nothing, though.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko
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          Here, I’m trying to figure out why it is that a presumably rational and presumably non-ignorant worker would not want to join a union,

          I think about that too. I’ve always sorta concluded that propaganda plays a big part in all this. (Maybe “propaganda” is too strong a word since even tho there clearly is and was – in my mind – anti-union propaganda disseminated from Organized Capital (heh) there is clearly a cultural influence as well, as you mentioned.) But unions haven’t done themselves any favors on the political level, either. Even the word “union”, or “unionize”, at least at this point in time, carries a sorta negative connotation I have to overcome when discussing these issues.

          Yet, neither of those really gets to the heart of why folks whose economic life would very likely improve if they were in a union refrain from even entertaining the idea. Prolly some sense of rugged individualism or something. (Seriously.) I mean, I would probably have a hard time joining a union unless the context were really compelling, and I tend to be very pro-union. In principle, anyway.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater
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            says:

            Perhaps it’s the idea that once a union comes in, local control us list to the desires of a national organization.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon
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              For me, that’s clearly part of it. But there’s also all the corruption and potential for corruption, as well as all those protections for underperforming employees. I probably flatter myself in believing that I work hard, but I do tend to have a real problem with folks who don’t give all their effort in exchange for the money their making.

              (Which, not-so-oddly, is one reason I think employers in lots of sectors would benefit from increasing wages for low end workers: if employees feel like they’re already undervalued, they won’t expend any more effort than what they think they’re pay requires. Which already sits on the “under” side of things. Plus, if they’re already at rock bottom pay-wise another shitty job is just an interview away, which is another perverse incentive of underpaying workers.)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater
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                That to. Too many stories of bad actions.

                But there is no need for a union to protect bad employees. I think it is done because the national union demands such concessions & is not interested in changing that.

                Again, change the laws so a union can easily form without having to fall under some larger org.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                @oscar-gordon

                Should I union always defer to management if they say “X is a bad employee and we want to get rid of them.” There are times when management is right but there are also times when management is being wrong. I think it is generally good for unions to act as an early defense for the employee.

                This is sort of the same guideline of criminal defense. The guilty needed to be defended with vigor in order to ensure that the rights of the innocent are not trampled upon. Why is this different when it is the State v. Individual as compared to Employers v. Employees?Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                I’d say it’s the union’s job not to defer to management but to put in place some process whereby management has to show cause, and perhaps take progressive discipline measures (except for things like violence, or whatever).

                I’d go further and say the union should offer the same basic process to all covered members of the bargaining unit. At least at first blush. I know of one union that contemplated not pursuing an arguably good wage claim for some of its members because it believed that doing so wasn’t in the interest of the bargaining unit. (I don’t know what it ultimately decided–and I don’t mean to be too critical of the union because it’s between a rock and a hard place–but that is an example of a union not always defending its members. That said, that wasn’t really a discipline situation. Unfortunately, I can’t go into more details.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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                Saul and GC,

                But why would management fire somebody? Apart from situations already governed by the CRA, what would constitute a reason for firing which the union ought to view adversarially? In other words, why shouldn’t the union have an open enough relationship with management that it proactively tries to strengthen the union by weeding out the weak links?Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Stillwater
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                That’s a good question, and I have only a partial set of answers, and those answers aren’t mutually consistent.

                First, some managers act arbitrarily or for petty reasons, but not for prohibited reasons, a la CRA.

                Second, managers sometimes do fire people for prohibited reasons, a la CRA, and if they try to do so, and make up quasi-legitimate reasons to fire the worker, it’s harder to do so if they know they have to justify it.

                Third, some companies want to bust their unions and they might single out known supporters or leaders of the unions for firing. That’s illegal, but it can happen. But if the union is strong enough to insist on process, that’s more difficult to do.

                Fourth, I understand that unions sometimes have seniority procedures for layoffs, etc. If management tries to lay people off outside those procedures–i.e., fire them against seniority rules because, say, the more 50-year-old worker is no longer as strong as the 18-year old Stakhonovite working next to him–that 50-year old can call on the protection of the union. (Of course, as I argue in the OP, that situation sucks for the 18-year old, and seniority rules have a lot of problems. And whatever we think of the contract, I would permit the 18-year old to look at the situation and opt to say that his/her dues should go to a charity instead of to the union.)

                Fifth, unions aren’t only about protection from arbitrary treatment, they’re also about setting the conditions of work, such as keeping the pace of production at a manageable level so that workers work safely, for example and aren’t subjected to, say, speedups (where more production is demanded at the same pay). If a manager tries to speed up a workflow in contradiction to union rules and then tries to fire people who hew to the contract and don’t observe the speedup, it will help those people if a union can protect them. In that sense, it’s a question of unions enforcing an agreed-upon contract. (Of course, the work rules can sometimes reach ridiculous levels, and that can be a bad thing. But the principle of having work rules is not necessarily bad.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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                Gabriel Conroy,

                Thanks for the lengthy reply. I agree that there are all sorts of purposes which a union can serve, and all sorts of motivations for people to join or create one. Seems to me that the issues you talk about above could be addressed during the CB process, no? That is, a union could make clear that one of the conditions on signing the agreement with a business is that the following suite of protections (P1…Pn) are part of the deal. Which may be really good for workers! But protections that are too strong and too rigidly enforced (or enforceable) or too wide in scope would constitute a disincentive for management to endorse that contract. It would want – correctly so, in my view – some control of the firing process (at least) in order to ensure or enforce their own quality/performance standards.

                So, the question I posed was meant more from capital’s pov of the matter. Surely (I was asking) there are situations in which management is justified in wanting to terminate an employee. ANd if so, shouldn’t the union be supportive of management for exactly the same reasons as management invokes? Isn’t doing so good for the union?

                But that, at the end of the day, is one logical problem with unions in general: the perceived purpose of a union is protection of every member’s paycheck rather than cultivating better workers and a better work culture.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Stillwater
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                But protections that are too strong and too rigidly enforced (or enforceable) or too wide in scope would constitute a disincentive for management to endorse that contract. It would want – correctly so, in my view – some control of the firing process (at least) in order to ensure or enforce their own quality/performance standards.

                That *could* be a reason for management to sign on to such a deal. Once things are outlined in the contract, the union has to enforce them.

                Surely (I was asking) there are situations in which management is justified in wanting to terminate an employee. ANd if so, shouldn’t the union be supportive of management for exactly the same reasons as management invokes? Isn’t doing so good for the union?

                I’d say my answer is a qualified yes. But what’s good for the union is not necessarily good for the individual member of the bargaining unit. It’s not unheard of for unions to become contract enforcers against its own members. How that coexists with the other problem, of unions defending people who ought not be defended, or defending them past the point by which they ought to be defended (say, after progressive discipline has run its course) probably gets balanced out in all sorts of weird ways.

                Some of this goes to Oscar’s point above about how shop unions usually affiliate with larger unions and thereby cede some of their control. Things that are a no brainer on the ground floor–like that employee who not only shirks their duties but also makes more work for everyone else–might look different to the union bureaucracy. (However, I also know of a shop floor situation where one employee is dead weight, and the workers, even though they complain amongst themselves, don’t want to see that person lose their job.)Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                @stillwater “But why would management fire somebody?”

                Because they view themselves as an advocate for the employee?

                I have certainly assumed that’s why police unions defend all types of behavior.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
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                Because they view themselves as an advocate for the employee?

                By “they,” do you mean “management,” or the “union”?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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                says:

                Oy, I botched my wording there.

                I mean that there are times when management wants to fire someone for cause and it is fought by the unions. It’s not a case of, “if the union doesn’t support a termination than there’s no real cause.”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                @saul-degraw

                I don’t think a union need grant management their every desired dismissal, but they should also be careful & consistent in their process. Burt alludes to this inconsistency in who he represents that appear to be abandoned by the union, & others who are protected to a fault.

                The traditional unions are known for playing politics & favorites with who they go to bat for & why.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Burt Likko
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          Burt, just look around at the media, and at the attitude of people who vote Republican. There’s a massive amount of emotional stuff here.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Burt Likko
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      says:

      the most recent example I can think of in which someone trying to stand up for workers has been portrayed in popular media as a hero.

      There was that DS9 episode where Quark’s unionized.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Interesting post Gabriel.

    One of the thing that most frustrates me about American politics is how it is seemingly filled with lots of euphemisms like “right to work” and “death taxes”. I suppose that other democracies have this problem but I would need to do research.

    The big issue with union v. anti-union besides the management v. labor angle is that you are dealing with the liberal v. conservative/libertarian views on radical individualism. I generally don’t see trade unionism as a great destruction to individual rights and liberties. For many workers, unionism is the best way for them to argue because collective bargaining is power by numbers. I don’t see why the preferences of a handful of radical anti-unionists should rule here. This is another variant of when sides are split on majority rule.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw
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      ” I don’t see why the preferences of a handful of radical anti-unionists should rule here.”

      But why should a handful of radical pro-union activists rule? Often, the union is just not offering anything above what the company provides, and at the same time insults the politics of its potential members.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to aaron david
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        I don’t know if it is handful either. This might be one of those political divide issues where that are intractable and incapable of being revised because each side sees the other as the minority or the majority.

        We have been talking about the destruction or erroding of the middle class for several years or decades in the United States. Maybe we have been talking about it since the late 1970s. Almost everyone seems to agree that this is an issue and valid talking point. The difference seems to be about the cause and/or solution to this problem.

        I admit to being firmly on the liberal and union camp here. My view of history and events that the big drivers for ending sweatshop labor, long working hours, a lack of overtime pay and other abuses was human action and agitation. It was trade unions working long and hard that created the eight-hour day and ended child labor.

        I do agree that there are trade-offs. California requires overtime for any hour over 8 a day. This does prevent hourly employees from making agreements to work 10 hour days for 3 day weekends. I also debated with Gabriel against clopening and he expressed concern for those who wanted to do both shifts. I admit that I am more concerned with the abuses of clopening and willing to say that not allowing it is more important as a policy goal.

        I would be open to a legal framework for clopening if you could guarantee that no one would be pressured or coerced into taking a shift if they did not want to and companies respected that people have to take care of their families and it might be hard for a mom or dad to close at 11 and be back to open at 5 AM. I am cynical about this happening.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          Saul Degraw: I do agree that there are trade-offs. California requires overtime for any hour over 8 a day. This does prevent hourly employees from making agreements to work 10 hour days for 3 day weekends.

          In fact, it does not. California workers are allowed to work four ten-hour days and similar schedules without being subjected to overtime under the “alternative workweek” exception.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Alan Scott
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            Let’s say I typically work 5/8, but I want to leave at noon on Friday. If my employer is amenable, can I add an hour each day so that I can take off early on Friday? (Without incurring OT?)Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Alan Scott
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            Yes, if the employer jumps through the right legal hoops. You can’t simply verbally agree with your employees (or worse, simply tell your employees) that you’re going to go to 4/10’s or 9/80’s or some other alternative schedule. A bit more to it than that.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko
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              I don’t mean every week. I mean I’m going somewhere this weekend and I want to get a head start.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko
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              says:

              If I have a dentist appointment on Tuesday morning, can I make up the hours later in the week? Or would I have to work super late on Tuesday if I’m going to? (All assuming the boss is flexible.)Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                The real answer is, it’s all good until it isn’t.

                If you and your boss are flexible and you have no serious enough problems with your work to not complain to any external agent like a lawyer or the labor board, and your employer has no serious enough problems with you that your continued employment is not in jeopardy or you aren’t at risk of some other sort of discipline, then, well, it’s all good and everyone’s happy with the arrangement.

                I get to deal with the cases when the worker is pissed off enough about something that they go and talk to a lawyer. Because without jumping through the legal hoops, and the law has to step in and moderate, what you’re describing incurs overtime for the extra hours each day worked. Employee and employer cannot agree to a short-term switch to 4/10’s for a single employee. The reason why is pretty clear: if they could, the employer could just say, “Oh, this employee wanted to take off early on Friday so he agreed to work a few extra hours earlier in that week, and that’s why I only paid 9.75 hours of straight time a day” when the employee’s version of events is “I was required to work about two hours of mandatory overtime a day and when I complained about not even getting time-and-a-half for the inconvenience, I got my hours cut to only working half-time in retaliation.”Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko
                Ignored
                says:

                That really sucks. I’ve had that sort of arrangement everywhere I’ve worked. I’ve been able to save a lot of PTO and avoid UPTO by making up the hours during the week.

                I get the rationale for weekly overtime laws (though I’d prefer just a touch more flexibility*) and I do agree that those rules need to be written out and enforced to avoid abuse.

                But I’ve never worked in a state with an 8-hour limit and this makes me pretty glad I never have. Given the 40-hour constraint, the potential for abuse seems limited in comparison to the benefits of flexibility.

                * – I’d like to see flextime and/or accrual over a 2-week basis so that it all evens out. On the latter point, I’d be open to saying “No more than 45 hours on a given week and no more than 80 over two.”Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                IIRC, there’s a “make-up time” rule that allows you to miss part of a scheduled shift early in a week and get paid straight-time for making it up later in the same week even if you go over eight hours in a day.

                My feeling is this: These rules are for the folks making $20k a year, not the folk making $60k a year. The power differential in those $20k jobs is great enough that it would be really easy for the employer to screw over their employees with rules that allow for more flexible work schedules.

                People making $60k have other mechanisms by which they can achieve workplace flexibility. They might be exempt from the law because they work an administrative or professional job. They may be in one of several high-skilled or otherwise unusual occupations that are specifically exempted, such as computer programming. They may belong to a union, since unions are allowed to negotiate non-standard overtime rules as part of a collective bargaining agreement. Or, if worse comes to worse, they can just skip the first two hours of work on Tuesday and not get paid for it–something that the person making minimum wage probably can’t manage for financial and logistical reasons.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Alan Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                If the law recognizes the distinction between those who make near minimum wage and those who make more is encoded in the law, that alleviates my concerns somewhat (though only somewhat). But California’s law doesn’t seem to. It looks like Nevada’s law does.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                OTOH, saying “Well, as long as it doesn’t apply to me” has a real FYIGM feel to it. As someone who made more than a bit over the minimum wage, I could just take the hit instead of making up the hours, whereas someone making less or who had more financial responsibilities than I had might not be able to take the hit.

                I do hope there is a “making up hours later in the week” aspect to it… but that’s only good if you have an appointment earlier in the week, and doesn’t allow for the general flexibility that I enjoyed without penalty.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve worked jobs that said “we understand that there are 40 hours’ worth of work to do and just get them done”, I’ve worked jobs that said “our core hours are between (5 or 6 hour period) and we only require that you schedule your 40 hours in such a way that you are here during that interval”, and I’ve worked jobs that say “you will be here between the time of X and the time of Y and you will get an unpaid half hour lunch and two paid 15 minute breaks and you will not be paid for any time that you are here that is not between X and Y.”

                I’ve had decent paying jobs in all three of those but all of my minimum wage jobs fell in that last category.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Same here, more or less, and that might have been why I was initially amenable to these kinds of restrictions on jobs at or near the minimum wage. In Nevada, it’s “up to 1.5x the minimum wage” which, if the minimum wage is $7.25 seems reasonable or pretty close to it. But if we have a $15/hr minimum wage, that makes me kind of skittish.

                So I’m open to it at the lower end of the spectrum. At least, I can be sold on the idea.

                Though I repeat: I’ve never lived in a state that has had this law. In none of these states did I ever really see or hear of a problem with employers running rampant with 12/hr shifts just because they could. I have seen all kinds of other abuses, from last-minute-scheduling to “you’re salary now” to “even though you’re on break now we need you to look busy in case some clients come through”… but not this. And I have seen the benefits of flexible schedule, when they employer was open to it (which too often they are not).Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                CA doesn’t have a general exemption like NV does–but it’s individual rules for exemption each get a cutoff. The Executive/Administrative/Professional exemption isn’t available for anyone making less than twice the minimum wage, for example, and the Computer Professional exemption is unavailable for anyone making less than a set amount. The Union bargaining agreement requires something like 30% over minimum.

                Roughly, the California laws require both a certain level of pay and a certain level of agency from an employee before they’re overtime-exempt, while the Nevada law just requires a certain level of pay. Personally, I don’t have a problem with either approach.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Alan Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                When you talk about “overtime-exempt” are you talking about the 8 hour work day or both that and the 40 hour work week? The LV only applies to the 8-hour work day.

                In most of the states I’ve lived in, exemption from the 40 hour workweek has been pretty sorely abused. Which is unfortunate, because I do support that (albeit in my perfect world I would tweak it a little). I think there ought to be day (and a lot of it) between the 8 hour work day and the 40 hour work week limitations.

                If the wage+autonomy applies only to the 8 hour work day, though, I’m down with that, if the clearance is sufficiently low.Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                Again, it depends on which exemption.

                The Administrative/Executive/Professional exemption is exempt from both the 8 and the 40. But the requirements are a bit more stringent than the federal version. I suspect this is where most of the misclassification happens, but I’m getting the sense that employers are becoming increasingly careful about how they properly classify their employees. For example, the Store manager at my current job (who runs a medium sized store and supervises about 30 employees) is paid an hourly rate with overtime.

                The exemption for computer programmers is also for both the 8 and the 40, but since it applies only to those making 85k a year or more, I’m not worried about it being abused to underpay workers.

                The Collective Bargaining agreement exemption requires that ” the agreement provides premium wage rates for all
                overtime hours worked”. I’m not quite sure what “all overtime hours worked” means in this context.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Alan Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                So it sounds like 8 and 40 are rolled together, except for possibly the last category. At least, of the examples you mention. Any classifications you are aware of that make a distinction between the two?Report

              • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                I had thought that the collective bargaining exemption did, but upon re-reading it, I’m less clear. Alternative Scheduling and make-up time provisions do, of course, but they’re available to any non-exempt employee.

                Keep in mind that the Federal Overtime laws still apply, so any CA exemptions not also reflected in the federal law would still be subjected to the 40-hour work week.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                @jaybird

                Were any of those minimum wage jobs stuff that could have been done in non-standard hours?

                I am not wage and hour exempt even though I get paid well above the minimum wage. Most jobs I have given me a fair amount of leeway about when to come in and get the stuff done.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
                Ignored
                says:

                They were all customer service. Toy stores and restaurants with some light janitorial (to support the real employees during the hours that they were working).

                I didn’t get wiggle room in my schedule until I started making more than minimum. Granted, it was more by about a buck and a half, but it was more.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                Someone with your skill set should probably be making enough money and performing work of a nature appropriate for an exemption. Then, you would be on salary, and none of this would matter.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Alan Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re referring to Cal. Labor Code 513, @alan-scott ? That might apply to @will-truman ‘s situation. But the better way to go to get the sort of time flexibility I thought the scenario sought would be an exemption.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, I see that I missed @will-truman ‘s comment “not every week.” Once in a while (how often is not precisely clear, but NOT every week) you can use Labor Code 513 and do make-up time for up to but not exceeding an extra 3 hours a day (for workers on 5/8 regular schedules) within the same pay period as the time-off day.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko
                Ignored
                says:

                The 513 exception makes me feel less bad about the law, but I am still glad that I have not worked in a state with an 8-hour work day that makes flexibility more difficult than it is and gives employers an additional excuse to say “No, you need to work all day on Friday.”Report

              • Avatar Barry in reply to Alan Scott
                Ignored
                says:

                “My feeling is this: These rules are for the folks making $20k a year, not the folk making $60k a year. The power differential in those $20k jobs is great enough that it would be really easy for the employer to screw over their employees with rules that allow for more flexible work schedules.”

                I agree pretty much, but the US work world has been changing since most of us were infants, or before we were born. Many $60K/year people, if not most, are really just well-pain working class people, who think that they are ‘above’ those blue-collar union ‘slackers’.Report

        • Avatar Mo in reply to Saul Degraw
          Ignored
          says:

          @saul-degraw How do you square that with unions in LA asking for exemptions from the new LA minimum wage law for union shops?

          http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-los-angeles-minimum-wage-unions-20150526-story.htmlReport

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
          Ignored
          says:

          I don’t want teenagers who aren’t even getting paid overtime operating dangerous vehicles for 12 hour days.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t have a major problem with unions, provided they stick to their knitting. I have some issues with union tactics and the laws around union elections, etc. but that’s another story..

      What I really have problems with is when the state decides that it’s going to be a union shop state. The workers have no freedom of choice then, they have to join the union if they want to work.

      Also, union dues shouldn’t be used for non work related activities. I used to work on a auto assembly plant and a large number of workers were right leaning while their union was the UAW. Those guys saw their union dues go to an organization spending millions on electing candidates they disagreed with. That’s just plain wrong.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        Damon,
        keeping big auto functional was a lot of what they were paying for, though. (obamacare, specifically, dkos had the charts).

        The lack of regs around union elections has been a source of mischief before…Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim
          Ignored
          says:

          Kim,

          I worked in an auto shop back in the early 90s. Yeah, I know the ostensible reason of the auto bailouts, but that wasn’t in play back then.

          “The lack of regs around union elections has been a source of mischief before…” and will continue to be so….Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon
            Ignored
            says:

            Yeah, I wasn’t talking about the bailouts, just Obamacare — which was a really, really good idea. (Got no clue what the unions were running in the early 1990’s, though, and I can see that they might have just being running on default).Report

      • Avatar Francis in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        And workers cannot choose to receive less than minimum pay, or negotiate around OSHA rules, or (to pick an extreme example) sell themselves into slavery.

        States have very broad police powers. The remedy to a regulatory law you don’t like is found in the political sphere.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @damon

        To this point, I’d like to clarify a few things:

        What I really have problems with is when the state decides that it’s going to be a union shop state. The workers have no freedom of choice then, they have to join the union if they want to work.

        If a state is a “union shop” state, that only means that union shop clauses are enforced if they’re already agreed to. That doesn’t mean all shops or even a majority of shops are represented by a union, let alone by a union with a union-shop clause. You didn’t say otherwise, but I can see someone interpreting your comment to mean that.

        There is undeniably a certain restriction on choice. I do think that choice is somewhat attenuated by the fact (I’m assuming it’s a fact) that union shop in practice means agency shop. I’d see it further attenuated by my proposed conscience exemption. But yes, employees in union shop situations will have to pay when they might not want to.

        To this point:

        Also, union dues shouldn’t be used for non work related activities. I used to work on a auto assembly plant and a large number of workers were right leaning while their union was the UAW. Those guys saw their union dues go to an organization spending millions on electing candidates they disagreed with. That’s just plain wrong.

        I agree. And to strengthen your point, even though the law (as I understand it) forbids the union to use dues money for political advocacy, the union, when it does engage in such advocacy, pretends to speak for the members even if it’s not using dues money. I agree it’s wrong to compel someone to pay for the upkeep of an organization that does that. That’s one of the reasons I support a conscience exemption. Again, as I said above, the employee does have to pay when he or she might not want to and the conscience exemption is cold comfort to that person. But it’s a start.Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to Gabriel Conroy
          Ignored
          says:

          re: conscience exemption:
          I object to how my taxes are used. I should have a conscience exemption so I don’t have to pay for stuff I disagree with.

          Or maybe some other mechanism whereby I can influence how my monies are spent.Report

          • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to LWA
            Ignored
            says:

            I object to how my taxes are used. I should have a conscience exemption so I don’t have to pay for stuff I disagree with.

            Well, then you should support conscience exemptions for union shops.Report

            • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
              Ignored
              says:

              To give a non snarky answer, I’ll say this. I don’t think it’s okay for the government to take my tax money, and then in my name, do all sorts of mischief that I find morally abhorrent. I do concede the state’s legitimate authority to do just that, at least when it comes to the taxation power side of the equation (not to the acting in a morally abhorrent way part of the equation), provided the taxes aren’t King John level onerous.

              It seems to me that the logical consequence of your analogy is that the union ought to be conceded the same authority I concede the state. Some union supporters might extend that logical consequence and thereby hope to supplant the state, say with a series of autonomous workers’ groups, and maybe even create a system of federated republics, so that we can have a Union of Worker-group Socialist Republics, that would lead a charge with an International Movement. I’m not there at all–and I don’t think you are, either–so that particular logical consequence doesn’t appeal to me.

              I do say this about the conscience exemption: its beauty lies in the fact that it’s a good signal to the union of general satisfaction/dissatisfaction. If its coffers really risk depletion, then it’s doing something so wrong, it’s not going to survive a decertification vote, exemption or no exemption.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                Or maybe the union members could do the same we do with our taxes, vote for the people who do what we want, and live with the consequences of the vote.

                My objection to the conscience stuff is that it assumes there is some sort of right to personal satisfaction while remaining a member of the group.

                That is, I demand the benefits of membership in the group, but only on my terms, and never on any I find objectionable. I reserve a line item veto over any provisions I want, while the group does not.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LWA
                Ignored
                says:

                As long as unions remain private organizations & are not state bodies, your tax objection argument falls flat.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to LWA
                Ignored
                says:

                My objection to the conscience stuff is that it assumes there is some sort of right to personal satisfaction while remaining a member of the group.

                That is, I demand the benefits of membership in the group, but only on my terms, and never on any I find objectionable. I reserve a line item veto over any provisions I want, while the group does not.

                I don’t see it as a “line item” anything. It’s not as if a conscience exemption permits covered workers to partially contribute to the union only when it does x and not when it does y. (Well, I guess it does permit it. If I conscience-ly exempt my, say, $50 dues deduction, I suppose I can donate $25 of my own money to the union and make it pinky swear it will only use it in the way I prefer.)

                To your main point, though, my chief argument for the conscience objection–aside from my concern that the current “religious” exemption now practice in some localities violates the rights of the non-religious–is that the union does not always support the worker, and the worker does not derive the benefit in those situations. Therefore, the worker is not “enjoy[ing] the benefits of membership in the group,” at least not 100%.

                Also–and along with Oscar’s point about unions being private organizations–I ask what are the harms to the union? The worker has to pay regardless, just not for the upkeep of an organization he/she finds objectionable.

                Finally….a conscience objection goes a certain distance toward addressing one of the big rhetorical tropes that AUL advocates like to bring out, i.e., the notion that union-shop contracts compel workers to pay for an organization they don’t support. With a conscience exemption, they’re no longer compelled and one of the rationales of AUL supporters is partially refuted. (Partially–not wholly–because the worker still has to pay something, just not to the union.)Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                @gabriel-conroy

                You don’t think that the term “conscience” be limited, reserved for things that are of a highly offensive or personal nature?

                Otherwise what distinguishes it from “whim”?Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to LWA
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, I have to confess to something….that’s a fair question, especially because in the comment you were responding to, I insisted that one argument for the exemption is that workers shouldn’t be compelled to support something that speaks or acts against their wishes or interests. Yet elsewhere on this thread, I did say something to the effect of, no reason should be given to get the exemption.

                The short answer is, I do believe no reason should be given and someone can, indeed, invoke the exemption on a “whim.” The main argument for allowing them to do so for any reason remains the one I cite above: it’s wrong to compel someone to pay for the upkeep of an organization with which he/she disagrees and in some cases works against his/her interest.

                I do say, however, that the “whim” could not be whimsically exercised with the conscience exemption, at least as I envision it. The worker has to go out of his/her way to opt out of the automatic dues payment and then choose a charity. I’d want to make it easy for the worker to opt out, but he/she will still have to take the initiative.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                Richard imposed a 25% tax rate on wealth and income. John imposed a 6% import/export tax and John is the one who gets the blame for onerous taxes?Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Murali
                Ignored
                says:

                @murali

                I’m afraid I don’t follow you?Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                It seems that John applied taxes that, by today’s standards, are normal, or maybe even light and that the bulk of his taxes fell on the aristocratic class. If John’s taxes are considered onerous, then what about the one’s that are currently enacted in your country?Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to Gabriel Conroy
          Ignored
          says:

          @gabriel-conroy

          Thanks for pointing that out. I can see where what I said could be confusing. To respond, the state is a Union shop. I was required to join the union upon accepting employment at the company..and I joined the UAW. This was long before the court rulings that folks who objected to the “non employee related” union work, the political contributions, etc., didn’t have to pay those parts of the union dues.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        “large number of workers were right leaning while their union was the UAW”

        How’s that righty-leany stuff workin’ out for ya, union members?Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to LWA
          Ignored
          says:

          Not sure how it was “working out for them”. Frankly, I was surprised when I learned that. They have no love for the union either..given that it essentially had not done what it was supposed to do…keep their good paying jobs. Many had been on and off employed by the company as the worker levels see sawed between highs and lows…Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @damon
        Also, union dues shouldn’t be used for non work related activities. I used to work on a auto assembly plant and a large number of workers were right leaning while their union was the UAW. Those guys saw their union dues go to an organization spending millions on electing candidates they disagreed with. That’s just plain wrong.

        I’ve never understood this argument, because somehow it only seems to apply to unions, and not the business someone is working for.

        I mean, I understand that union dues that go on to lobbying for political positions pass through workers hands, whereas corporate profits that go lobbying don’t ever do that, but, seriously: Someone labored, and that labor earned the company some money, and then the company went out and spent that money lobbying on, for example, decreased safety regulations or against a min wage increase for that same worker.

        No one ever says the worker should have the ability to opt out of *that*. (You appear to be using 5% of my labor for political purposes that I disagree with. I am opting out, so you can either pay me 5% more or work me 5% less and pay me the same.)

        Of course, I’m not saying that workers should have the ability to opt out…I’m just a little baffled as to why people think the same argument applies to unions. Hell, at least with unions people get a *vote* as to where their money goes.Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to DavidTC
          Ignored
          says:

          David,

          Here’s the difference. When I’m in an union, the union dues are supposed to be for paying for the union to do certain things such as 1) monitoring the collective barging agreement, negotiating new ones, reps to deal with mngt on day to day issues, etc. They aren’t for contributions to political campaigns.

          If you’re an employee in a company, the wage you are paid is for your labor. Any profit the company makes between paying you and all the other costs and selling products is owned by the corporation. The owners can then decide to do what they want with THEIR money. There is no agreement or understanding that company profits be used for anything worker related.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Damon
            Ignored
            says:

            Just restating *that* people feel different doesn’t really establish why people think that way.

            When I’m in an union, the union dues are supposed to be for paying for the union to do certain things…

            The owners can then decide to do what they want with THEIR money.

            Why is the money that people have given the union any different from money given a corporation? In both cases, the owners of the thing decide what to do with it. (The owner of a union, of course, being the members.)

            See, you’ve just *asserted* what you think union dues are supposed to do vs. what you think corporate profits should do. They’re just obviously different to you…but they’re not really. The corporate money might be *slightly* more indirect, I guess, but that’s a faint justification.

            I mean, this is a bit moot, because unions haven’t been able to use their own money for political purposes for a while. But I just think it seems strange.

            I suspect somewhere in there was some concentrated anti-union propaganda that managed to convince workers that unions were directing ‘your’ money places you wouldn’t approve of, while failing to mention the white elephant in the room that corporations have always done this, and to a much much larger extent.

            I know it *seems* obvious there’s a difference between the two, but there’s not any actual reason there should be. Like I said, at least with unions, there was some sort of *vote*.Report

            • Avatar Damon in reply to DavidTC
              Ignored
              says:

              “Why is the money that people have given the union any different from money given a corporation? In both cases, the owners of the thing decide what to do with it. (The owner of a union, of course, being the members.)”

              But the owners of the union, the members, as you say, DON’T have say in how all the funds are used when those funds are used for political campaigns. That’s the whole point. If I am required to pay 100 dollars a week in union dues and the union mngt only spends 75 on issues related to work at the plant and gives the 25 dollars left over to some congressman, they are spending MY money (i’m in the union) on stuff that’s not to the benefit of me. I’d think that’d be clear. But of course, it’s not the union member’s money. It’s the union management’s money isn’t it? Bringing the lie out into the open.

              Second corporate profits are owned by the shareholders, not the case with the union example. Additionally, the corporation pays the workers in exchange for the labor. Anything left over, is the companies. The workers never had any ownership in the profits of the company.

              “I suspect somewhere in there was some concentrated anti-union propaganda that managed to convince workers that unions were directing ‘your’ money places you wouldn’t approve of, while failing to mention the white elephant in the room that corporations have always done this, and to a much much larger extent.” I wouldn’t call it propaganda when I heard UAW members bitching about what their union dues where really going for vs what it was ostensibly to be used for. And again, see above re ownership.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Damon
                Ignored
                says:

                Does a shareholder have more say over how corporate funds are spent for lobbying, than does a union member over union dues?

                Isn’t the remedy for each of them the same, i.e., vote out the ones they don’t like?

                Is there some sort of conscience clause for shareholders of BofA who don’t want their share of profits spent on the GOP? Is there anyone agitating for that?Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to LWA
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s not about “say”, it’s about ownership.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        “Those guys saw their union dues go to an organization spending millions on electing candidates they disagreed with. That’s just plain wrong.”

        Meaning candidates who were not actively trying to destroy unions.Report

    • Avatar notme in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Saul:

      What do you object about accurate descriptions like “right to work” and “death taxes?” Or is the real problem that those are phases from the right? Sounds like sour grapes to me.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to notme
        Ignored
        says:

        @notme

        What about “right to work” laws ensure the “right to work”? I can imagine a few features, such as, “right to work without having to pay agency fees.” I can imagine, too, that a heavily unionized economy can deny opportunities for those not fortunate enough to be in a unionized shop or to get work in one. I can also imagine, as I pointed out in the OP, that “right to work” can be juxtaposed to true closed shop situations, which were theoretically legal before Taft-Hartley. But other than those claims, I have a hard time seeing “right to work” as being more than a sloganish description of what AUL’s actually do.

        “Death taxes” I’ll leave for another day.Report

        • Avatar notme in reply to Gabriel Conroy
          Ignored
          says:

          I dont think anyone ever said the the RTW laws “ensure” anyhting. They just provide the oppertunity to work without being forced to join an entity you don’t want to be a part of. Maybe you prefer the term “death fee”? Or even better, the “death contribution.” Dems can sell it to folks that their death is really an oppertunity to contribute to the govt to ensure the contitutity of gov’t after they are gone.Report

          • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to notme
            Ignored
            says:

            Well, as I hinted, I don’t have much interest in litigating the “death taxes” issue. For RTW, why is it a “right to work” when, as you suggest, it’s a “right to work without having to join a union (after you get hired in the first place,)” or (sometimes) a “right to work without having to pay an agency fee to the organization that supposedly represents you you whether or not you join that organization (after you got hired in the first place)”?Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to notme
            Ignored
            says:

            Maybe you prefer the term “death fee”? Or even better, the “death contribution.”

            How about “estate tax” since that’s what it really is? If it was really a “death” tax, it would be doing a terrible job, given that the vast majority of deaths don’t appear to be taxed. It’s barely more accurate than calling income taxes “life taxes” because they’re paid while you’re alive.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Troublesome Frog
              Ignored
              says:

              Eggsarctly. Course, the estate tax is imposed on the person to whom the titles and deeds of the estate transfer to. And alsocourse, the Founding Fathers had a very specific purpose for imposing inheritance taxes, enshrined in the very fabric of our great nation by being one of the Founding Taxes.

              Edit: If notme wants to gripe about taxes, I’d think the Great Liberal Conspiracy behind the institution of the income tax would be a better target.Report

          • Avatar LWA in reply to notme
            Ignored
            says:

            Borrowing old arguments and pasting them here with only tangential pertinence…

            One of my favorite axes to grind is when people try to resolve things with only the language of rights. E.g. I have the right to a union, vs I have a right to work.

            An employer and the union agree that all employees will be forced to join as a condition of employment.

            The state steps in and tells them they can’t do this.

            Is this a restriction of rights, an expansion of rights, is this more freedom, or the road to serfdom?
            Is it an intrusion into the private contract, or an upholding of individual rights?

            It becomes muddled because the status quo wasn’t a vacuum, the state was an integral and active party to the contractual negotiations between any employer and employee- it sets the basic ground rules and enforces them with violence in even the most laissez faire scenarios. The state didn’t just fall from heaven into the Garden and start messing with the noble savages.

            What we call rights are often in conflict with other goals, and sometimes each other.Report

            • Avatar notme in reply to LWA
              Ignored
              says:

              LWA

              What is wrong with you? I’ve never heard of a good lib wanting anything but more rights? I thounght in the liberal verse you could or should have a right to almost anyhting? Housing education, heatlecare, blah blah blah.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to notme
                Ignored
                says:

                Sure, back in the good old days, when liberals advocated for having heroin-fueled orgies in the streets and free T Bones handed out with welfare checks.

                But more and more, liberals call for community and compliance to norms, while conservatives call for individual freedom.

                Fun test-
                Make a list of magazines, articles or blogs with the word “Liberty”, “Freedom” or synonyms, and then another with the words “Community” “Unity” or synonyms, and see what camps they fall into.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA
                Ignored
                says:

                So long as neither side has to change their posture of moral superiority nor whether the other side continues to be wrong, it’s all good at the end of the day.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to notme
        Ignored
        says:

        @notme

        “Right to Work” and most similar turns of phrase are prime examples of Orwellian doublespeak. I also suspect that most Republicans and their financial donors know this.

        If you want to be union-busting thugs who don’t believe in collective bargaining, say so. Doublespeak is what happens when people are smart enough to know that their ideas can’t be sold straight in a Democracy.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
          Ignored
          says:

          I agree that “right to work” is doublespeak, but I don’t agree that people who support AUL’s are necessarily “union-busting thugs who don’t believe in collective bargaining.” I see some decent policy reasons for which someone might sincerely support AUL’s. I don’t support AUL’s, for the reasons stated in my OP, but I can see how someone can do so without being a “thug.”Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Gabriel Conroy
            Ignored
            says:

            “I agree that “right to work” is doublespeak,”

            I do too, but no more than I do “anti-union laws.”Report

            • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
              Ignored
              says:

              How about “anti-union shop laws”? (Where it’s understood that “union shop” = “contract with a union shop clause.”)

              ETA: that was probably too harsh. But I call them Anti-Union Shop laws to refer specifically to what those laws forbid. In that sense, they’re descriptive and about as neutral as possible for such a contentious issue.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, that would be better obviously, but I still think it’s a phrase that’s designed to provoke an emotional response more than it is describe a position.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Is there a better term, though? I’ve heard “right to work for less,” which to my mind is even more…..questionable and seems to make a lot of question-begging assumptions about what unions do.

                I realize that in such an emotionally laden topic, there is probably no term that won’t evoke an emotional response.

                I also don’t think it’s “doublespeak” to focus on what the laws in question do when assigning a name to them.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                I call them ‘outlawing certain types of private contracts’ law, but that’s just me.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s kind of my feeling, too. That said, I concede the state’s authority to outlaw private contracts provided it have a good reason (and I’d go further and say the reason has to be VERY good). A lot of laws forbid certain sorts of private contracts. So AUL’s are not unique in that respect.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                @gabriel-conroy
                A lot of laws forbid certain sorts of private contracts.

                I can’t think of ‘a lot’ of these laws.

                There are laws that require certain contacts to be done certain ways, like forbidding oral contracts or require notarization or requiring it be filed with the government or whatever. (You can’t just sell someone a house…you have to inform the government of it, or it’s not real.) But that’s not what we’re talking about.

                And, of course, anything illegal to start with is illegal in a contract, but that’s also unrelated.

                There might be *some* laws that specifically forbid contracts about things that are otherwise legal to do, like prostitution contracts, but they’re pretty damn rare. In fact, I can’t think of any others *besides* prostitution. I’m sure there are a couple more, but not ‘a lot’.

                And I can’t think of any sort of law forbidding an exclusionary agreements between two parties. There’s no law forbidding my local grocery store from agreeing to a contract that require it only sold goods from certain distributors, or any law even vaguely like that…unless one of the parties is abusing a monopoly, and even then it’s rarely a ‘law’, it’s a court decision.(1)

                But sans monopolies, I really can’t think of an example.

                The only somewhat law I can think of is non-competes not being allowed in a few places, maybe, but those are being disallowed by the courts on the grounds that they stop people from earning a living *after* they stop working for a company. I.e., they’re being struck down because of hardship. No one seems to have any problem of having non-competes/no-freelancing contracts applying to *current* workers.

                And with contracts between a union and a corporation, a ‘hardship’ claim is a bit nonsensical. You could perhaps come up with an analogy to non-competes: ‘Union contract says union must approve all workers, union refuses to approve anyone qualified to do Step J in production so no goods can be produced, but contract says that as long as other workers show up they have to get paid. So company sues because union contract is imposing extreme hardship.’

                But that’s not what we’re talking about here, and not how union contracts work even at union shops. That’s a sort of insane hypothetical union contract…which is, hilariously, exactly analogous to contracts that *workers* are currently signing.

                1) Unless it’s a *legal* monopoly, like the cable company or railroads, at which point the court decisions will end up as law eventually. But whatever.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                Such contracts aren’t so much “forbidden” or “outlawed” as they are rendered unenforceable by law. Not much difference. And yeah, there are a lot of contracts so rendered. Off the very top of my head:

                1) Performance requirements often are.
                2) Non-enforcement contracts are often unenforceable.
                3) You often cannot waive parental rights and responsibilities to a child prior to conception or birth.
                4) You often cannot waive tort liability.
                5) An employment contract wherein the employee agrees to be paid below the minimum wage.

                You can say “Yeah, but those things are illegal…” but that’s kind of the point. They’re forbidden. Unenforceable at least, and in some cases subject to penalty if executed.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                @will-truman
                1) Performance requirements often are.

                Uh…howso? Checking Wikipedia real quick, it appears there are three reasons they are problematic:

                1) in that sometimes the buyer doesn’t buy anything, in which case they literally have no consideration. That’s not the courts ‘forbidding’ a contract, it’s just…not a contract. No one appears to have gained or lost anything, so the courts are just going to say ‘Who cares? Get out.’
                2) Contract wildly out of expectation of one party. Aka, ‘I have a black hole in my stomach and I just paid for an all-you-can-eat buffet’. This is the general ‘good faith’ rule of contract law, and is a principle of all contracts, and not really relevant here.
                3) Antitrust stuff, which I mentioned.

                2) Non-enforcement contracts are often unenforceable.

                …I have no idea what those are.

                3) You often cannot waive parental rights and responsibilities to a child prior to conception or birth.

                …? How often do people *contractually* waive parental rights? I mean, I guess that can happen, but it’s surely not how it normally happens. I suspect this has nothing do with *contracts*, and is just something you can’t do *generally*.

                4) You often cannot waive tort liability.

                …which is, again, something that can’t be done in general.

                5) An employment contract wherein the employee agrees to be paid below the minimum wage.

                Which is something that can’t be done regardless of whether the employees agrees to it or not.

                You can say “Yeah, but those things are illegal…” but that’s kind of the point. They’re forbidden. Unenforceable at least, and in some cases subject to penalty if executed.

                And you’ve missed my point that exclusivity contracts are *otherwise* legal.

                It is entirely legal for a corporation to say to another corporation, let’s say, a temp agency, ‘We will only hire our office staff through you’ and sign a contract to that effect.

                It is also legal for them to say to a uniform maker ‘We will require all our employees to purchase a uniform from you’ and make a contract to that effect.(Before anyone says ‘companies can’t make workers buy uniforms’, yes, they actually can. They just have to inform people of it when hiring, *and* the cost gets subtracted when calculating min wage and whatnot.)

                Requiring employees to do something as a condition of their job is completely legal for corporations to do. That, in fact, is basically the *premise* of employment. This includes employers having made agreements with third parties that they will interact with that third party *exclusively*, and passing that requirement on to their employees.

                But, in a sole exception, it is *not* legal, in ‘right to work’ states, for a corporation to say to a union ‘We will require all employees join your union’ and then make workers do that. It is a *specific* contractual carve out for an otherwise legal activity.

                The point, Will, is to think of something that *is* legal, but you are not allow to make contracts about it. (I guess bribery sorta counts, but that almost always involves at least one party misusing a position to personally make money, so it’s really *fraud* on the part of the person with the position.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to DavidTC
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                says:

                #1 is in reference to performance requirements. My wife had a 90-day early out policy in her contract. When we were talking about leaving, we talked to some lawyers and they mostly said such performance requirements aren’t enforceable. They cannot *force* her to come in to work, even though it’s entirely legal for her to come in to work. The employer might be able to get some money out of it, but they can’t get what the contract says.

                #2 should be “non-compete” rather than “non-enforcement”

                The law, as I understand it, is that if an employer hires through an “employment agency” and there is no material difference between that and a union, an employee would be able to sue on the basis of RTW. It’s not unlike how “contractors” can sue that they are actually “employees” and demand benefits and if the employer can’t outline the differences, the employer could have to pay.

                There is one big and immediate difference between an employment agency and a union, though: who pays. If the employer pays, then it’s a contract between the employer and the agency. With a union, it’s the employee who pays. So it’s requiring something specific of the employee, and that’s just as illegal as requiring them to quit smoking in California, even though quitting smoking is entirely legal and you can offer inducements to try to help them quit and all of that.

                But if an employer wants, they can contract through an employment agency, even allow that agency to “represent its workers”… and functionally act as a union. If, that is, they’re the ones paying the union and it’s not coming out of the paycheck. Which is kind of a murky difference, but it’s one recognized in many aspects of the law.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                @davidtc

                What Will Truman said.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                I guess we could call them “open shop laws” (to distinguish them from “union shop laws.”) So that could be a term.

                I do wish to be clear. As far as I know, “union shop” is a technical term meaning “a contract that requires workers to join a union after they have been hired.” To call a law that seeks to outlaw the “union shop” an “anti-union shop law,” again, doesn’t strike me as Orwellian doublespeak.

                Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                “Open Shop Law” seems fair. Except terms are less useful when you have to explain what they mean. RTW is misleading, but familiar.

                (Oddly enough, when I lived in Deseret, nobody knew what RTW meant. I mean universally everyone thought that RTW meant “employment at will”. It was so universal I came to the conclusion they must have gotten passed under one package with the Right To Work banner flying over it.)Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to notme
        Ignored
        says:

        notme, because they are both lies. ‘Right to work’ not only does not mean a right to work, but fewer rights at work. ‘Death taxes’ are not taxes on death, but taxes on estates.

        BTW, since taxing something produces less of it, why do you object to ‘death taxes’. If we got them high enough, we’d all become immortal!Report

  3. Avatar aaron david
    Ignored
    says:

    I am a union member. CWA local xxxx. I have also managed in a union environment (Teamsters local 150,) including through both certification (voting to unionize) and de-certification (voting to leave the union.) Burt nails much of what is good and bad with contemporary unions, especially that it is often ridiculously easy to manage in a union environment. But the corollary is that it is very hard to manage well in a represented environment. This stems from the fact that the point of the contract is that you cannot treat individual employees in different ways. In other words, you cannot reward good work. On the other hand, it is ridiculously easy to discipline workers, as you just point out in the contract what they have done wrong. It will be grieved, but everything is. Every one of there disciplinary actions becomes part of the bargaining, and unions have no problem horsetrading who can be terminated vs. who stays. At least in my experiences.

    On the plus side for the employee, you will have shop steward and business agents* constantly looking out for you, as that is their job. And they will be tenacious when the union politics will allow it.

    A union wants all good aspects of work to derive from the union and they will be at pains to point this our at every opportunity. Safety meetings where nothing gets done except excuse all workers for several hours, union barbeques on company time, etc. For an employee, getting paid while standing around BSing is great. For the company, who negotiated every bit of that time, not so good. And they watch what is going on, and see who wants to shirk.

    Most employees will have very little experience in contract reading when the sign up with the union, and will be suprised what the contract allows and doesn’t allow. It is not a get out of jail free card, and it might have very little to do with what the union has been promising workers verbally. As I state at the top, the union members that I managed voted to decertify exactly one year after voting to unionize due to the union not getting them the promised pay raise and not “protecting” them from justified disciplinary actions. The only thing the union did was take dues.

    Overall, my biggest complaint with unions is not the unions themselves, rather the people on both sides of the fence politically who have never been in a union telling me how great/awful it really is.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to aaron david
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      says:

      I have no personal knowledge to compare with yours, @aaron-david . But that is how I imagine a union-contracted shop works when the union is strong and when it covers a traditional (for lack of a better word) employment situation.

      In the unions I have the most direct firsthand knowledge–which were a graduate student union and a faculty union (both public employees unions)–the unions are so weak they don’t/can’t enforce key provisions they allegedly bargained for.

      Another type of union, that of skilled trade workers, such as the IBEW, seems stronger than the unions I know and seems to operate slightly differently from what you describe, inasmuch as the skilled people represented have much more autonomy, union or no union. (Also, I say IBEW, but there’s a lot I don’t know about that union or those whom it represents. I’m just going off of stories my father, who was an electrician from ca. 1952 to ca. 1992 with the IBEW, used to tell. Things might be different now, and the stories themselves may have had all the shortfalls that memory and storytelling bring to bear on such issues.)Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @gabriel-conroy
        Sorry, that last sentence came off a bit harder than it should.

        That said, My union, at least the part of it I am in, is a trades union like the IBEW or the Boilermen, etc. But, like most unions that saw declining membership, it picked up ancillary personnel that didn’t used to be covered by contract or whose position didn’t exist during formation. I happen to be highly skilled in two trades (Steamfitters would cover my other trade most effectively, now I do high end Telecom work.)

        The big problem with unions like your fathers (and mine) is the changing politics of its members. As someone else in this thread has pointed out (Damon?,) people dislike it when the union dues are directly supporting the political opposition. This results in many jobs being handled in the entirety by non-union shops, and non-union groups underbidding union labor. Again, if people don’t feel that the dues they pay are helping them, they will move on if the union can’t force them to stay.

        Oddly enough, my father was treasurer of his faculty union for a long time, until the union bargained away raises (his words not mine.) At that point he went fair share.Report

  4. Avatar Vikram Bath
    Ignored
    says:

    To address that wrong, I support “conscience exemptions.” With conscience exemptions, employees could direct their dues to be paid to a charity.

    I have never heard of this. It sounds like a good idea.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Vikram Bath
      Ignored
      says:

      Thanks, Vikram.

      I actually think the result of such a plan in the typical bargaining unit will be a few people invoking it, and the vast majority not doing so.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        so would this basically be an expansion of the religious exemption, with less BS on the whole religious aspect?Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
          Ignored
          says:

          Pretty much. I’d want everyone who wishes to, to be able to say, “I want my dues to go elsewhere” without having even to give a reason. (The actual recipient would be limited to a charity, but I’d want to give as wide a range of choices possible.)Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Gabriel Conroy
            Ignored
            says:

            If you want your dues to go somewhere else, elect different leadership for your union. It’s not as if unions are dictatorships. Just like with any democratic organization, you’ve got two choices – find a way to change peoples minds or leave.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse Ewiak
              Ignored
              says:

              And if the union/employer are the only game in town & both are corrupt enough that elections are a joke?

              Withdrawing financial support is an effective way to voice objection until a way can be found to break the corruption.

              PS again unions are private organizations, so there is no moral or social obligation to support them financially just because they exist & enjoy some regulatory capture.Report

            • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Jesse Ewiak
              Ignored
              says:

              In the meantime, much mischief can be done before the democratic wave elects new leadership. And my concern isn’t only about the majority that presumably controls the union. It’s about the minority who are not as well served by the union.

              I’ll add that the “if you don’t like it, leave” attitude, in fact, has a complicated and not altogether admirable pedigree.

              ETA: more to the point, the conscience exemption gives the worker an extra chance to make his/her voice heard. It’s actually more democratic in that respect because it requires the union to listen more to dissentersReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                “if you don’t like it, leave” == FYIGMReport

              • Avatar Barry in reply to Gabriel Conroy
                Ignored
                says:

                “I’ll add that the “if you don’t like it, leave” attitude, in fact, has a complicated and not altogether admirable pedigree.”

                It’s the standard right-wing and libertarian line to you if you have problems with your employer.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Barry
                Ignored
                says:

                And the standard left-wing one when you have problems with the government of your country of birth, which you didn’t even choose.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Glyph
                Ignored
                says:

                Standard is not the word I would use to describe such stupidity.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Dave
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, fair enough.

                But I’d rather be told to get another job than to move to Somalia.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Glyph
                Ignored
                says:

                @glyph

                But I’d rather be told to get another job than to move to Somalia.

                Why? Beachfront property is pretty cheap if you can defend it and you can always pursue a career as a pirate..Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s used on the right wing too, e.g. Iraqi citizens who were killed, maimed, or displaced by the invasion weren’t innocent victims, because they had chosen to stay there and live under Saddam.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling
                Ignored
                says:

                To try to bring this back somewhat on-topic, I’ve never worked in a unionized industry, so I have no firsthand knowledge. My friends who have had experience dealing with unions in their workplace were not always positive in their experiences – there was a lot of pressure to join, they didn’t always feel like they got their dues’ worth, etc.

                I guess I look at unions as like, well, unions – getting married can certainly bring you a lot of benefits, in terms of being able to work collectively to raise kids, or save money, or look after each others’ interests in the face of outside forces.

                But of course, a BAD marriage, to a partner you don’t trust, is a living nightmare. Sometimes one partner is in it for the common good, but the other partner is in it for themselves.

                I’d hate to get a job, and then have someone there tell me, “oh, by the way, we’ve picked a work spouse for you. Hope it works out!”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve never worked in a unionized industry

                Mine have all been ionized too.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Vikram Bath
      Ignored
      says:

      Erm, wait.

      Do people here not actually know that unions *already can’t* use unions dues for political purposes?

      Because they can’t. They used to be able to, but can’t.

      All unions these days are organized as two organizations, the union itself which is a 501(c)(something..I want to say 6?), and a political lobbying arm, a 527. Donations to the latter are entirely voluntary. (Although you can make them *while* paying union dues, and the union passes them along.)

      Of course, I have no idea if Citizens United changed this.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        501c’s can still lobby, can’t they? I mean, if they’re putting something out in favor of Obamacare (not a specific pol, just a policy…)Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        I would cheerfully concede to unions the power to use dues money for political purposes if in return employees got a conscience exemption. In fact with a conscience exemption, my reason (don’t know about the law’s reason) for opposing the use of dues for politics vanishes.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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          says:

          You don’t *need* a conscience exception, generally. And if you do…you already have one.

          Here is how it works, as I understand it. Be aware this is confusing, and often stupid.

          In 1988, the courts said that union members can claw back any portion of their dues that went for anything *but* some narrow union purposes. This is called ‘Beck’, and unions have to prepare a ‘Beck report’ and inform members it exists. You can see what amount of your dues did not go to union purposes. Not just ‘political stuff’, it would apply to, for example, the union spending money trying to get more workers to join.

          And in states with right-to-work laws, that is what *non*-union workers are supposed to pay to start with. (These are called ‘agency fees’.) But this clawback also applies to union workers…they just have to ask for it.

          Okay, hold that fact in your head for a second.

          Here’s the other half: Way back in 1947, certain political behavior in Federal elections was made illegal for non-profits. (All of them, not just unions.) A lot of state passed similar laws for state and local elections.

          Those entities, including unions, ended up doing what they were supposed to do: They set up a companion 527 (A political action committee, aka a PAC), and solicited donations to it. Note they are not allowed to give money to it, but they can *collect* voluntary donations from others for it and pass that money along.

          So if you were a member of a union, you would have dues. And somewhere in your union paperwork, when they were setting up your union dues, there would be a little checkbox where you could also donate to their PAC at the same time. (Some states allowed this to be opt-out instead of opt-in, and other states didn’t allow it as part of dues at all, you had to do that separately. This used to be a clever way to attack unions, but it’s kinda stupid in the universe of direct bank transfers.)

          And until 1988, unions also did a lot of ‘political stuff’ that didn’t need to be put under the PAC, like voter-registration and GOTV stuff. In addition, they can send anything they want, no matter how political, to *their own* members. So that was kept in house, and paid for out of the union dues.

          But when Beck happened in 1988, that sort of spending became clawback-able, so often it ended up in the PAC *anyway*, despite being something the union could still legally do itself. This let them keep bookkeeping nice and separate. (Although there probably is always some tiny fraction that can be clawed back.)

          So, until recently, generally unions were structured in such a way that their political behavior was via a separate organization that people voluntarily paid into.

          And, then, hilarious, conservatives blew that system up with Citizens United blowing up PAC rules.

          Just like corporations can now directly donate to PACs, (as long as those PACs are Super PACs and don’t coordinate with candidates) *unions* say they can do the same thing. With actual dues.

          Heh. Oops.

          The clawback still exists, though, and it will get that money back, but it’s something you actively have to do, and it takes a year.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC
            Ignored
            says:

            I knew about the Beck rule, although I was told (back when I was part of SPEEA) that there had to be a religious component to it, and SPEEA would be pretty hard nosed about that.

            The rest is new to me, thanks for filling in the blanks.Report

          • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to DavidTC
            Ignored
            says:

            And in states with right-to-work laws, that is what *non*-union workers are supposed to pay to start with. (These are called ‘agency fees’.) But this clawback also applies to union workers…they just have to ask for it.

            That’s not how I understand it. AUL’s mean that even agency fees are unenforceable.

            The clawback still exists, though, and it will get that money back, but it’s something you actively have to do, and it takes a year.

            ….which is why I want a conscience exemption, to make the process easier. Also, it would mean the employee has to pay something (even if to a designated charity). I confess to never having heard of the Beck rule before. But from what I can see, replacing it with a conscience exemption is much a much cleaner solution.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    I think if an employer wants to limit his work force to folks in unions, I’d be hard pressed to force him to do otherwise. Whether she does that wholly of her own volition and accountable only to herself OR because she negotiated an arrangement with union leadership, I say that’s fine by me.

    The situations where I’d object are government employees. I don’t think the government should require folks to be in unions. I understand why this might be preferable to them (for both legitimate and illegitimate reasons), but public sector unions are problematic on a number of fronts.

    If Ford only wants to hire union assembly line workers, you can still go work for GM or Chevy or Chrysler. (Are those all the same company? I don’t know shit about cars…) But if Newark or the state of NJ say they will only hire unionized teachers, they’ve really put non-union teachers in a bind because of the quasi-monopoly that governments hold uniquely.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      @kazzy

      I purposefully avoided the public employee issue, but I certainly agree it’s a different issue, but for different reasons. I’m actually at a point where if we concede a government employees’ union, then I can see a compulsory agency fee with a conscience exemption. (I insist on the “agency fee” framing because I see a big difference between having to pay fair share dues and having to subject oneself to the criteria for union membership.)

      But I’m not sure I do concede that a public employees union is a good thing, or at least not a public employees union that can bargain and strike with the same freedom private sector unions have. It’s not because public employees are bad (ahem, I am one) or because the unions are necessarily corrupt, but because, to me, the incentives are all wrong. “Management” has less of the interest that private-sector management does in staying healthy financially. And if the state’s finances start to suffer, it’s harder to adjust worker compensation and when things get bad, the state has to resort to layoffs and bumping people down instead of pay cuts. None of this is necessarily “caused” by the unions–it’s usually caused by politicians who pander to taxpayers and state workers–but the unions often make resolution difficult.

      Finally, one pedantic point. I don’t think a private employer is necessarily allowed to hire only union members. To me, that sounds like a closed shop. The lawyers here can tell me where, how, and why I’m wrong here, because I suspect I’m at least partially wrong.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        Your argument about incentives is primarily why I oppose public sector unions. Citizens pay their salaries but are excluded from negotiations. That’s screwy.

        I don’t know the laws about open- and closed-shops or whathaveyou. But if an employer must treat non-union and union candidates equally, that would seem to put both in a ‘protected class’ which seems wrong to me. Not legally wrong (fuck if I know what the laws are!) but morally wrong.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          Kazzy,

          Would you object to a law saying that an employer cannot discriminate based on the employee’s preference for or against a union?Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
            Ignored
            says:

            @gabriel-conroy

            Yes. Because someone’s involvement (or lack thereof) can dramatically alter the relationship between employer and employee.

            I could see an employer thinking, “I hate hiring union guys. Every time I fire one, I get sued.”

            I could also see an employer thinking, “It is just easier hiring guys out of the local 78. They all agree to the collectively bargained contract so I don’t have to have two dozen negotiations every year.”

            I’d be hard pressed to tell either of those employers that they had to ignore those concerns.

            Involvement in a union is both mutable and impactful (potentially) on the quality of the employee. As such, it seems reasonable to allow employers to consider it.

            Interestingly, you and I have discussed these matters before and largely landed in the same place: https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/12/19/kazzys-unified-theory-on-unions

            And I probably oversimplified my argument about public sector unions and citizens. Your emphasis on incentives is really the issue I was trying to get at.Report

            • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              Thanks, Kazzy. I meant my question a little differently, and in a sense tangential to the point we were talking about. What I meant was, is it permissible for an employer to fire or not-hire someone based on whether that employee/applicant might support a union?

              At the extreme, what I’m referring to are yellow dog contracts. At the non-extreme, I guess what I’m referring to is an employer going out of his/her way to find supposedly pliant employees to stave off a unionization drive or to bust an existing union.

              My own answer, despite my own libertarian impulses, is that an employer probably shouldn’t be allowed to do so legally. I’m prepared to admit, though, that I haven’t really thought that issue through.Report

            • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              (Also, thanks for linking to your other conversation. I do think I’m a less robust supporter of unions than I was then.)Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          “Your argument about incentives is primarily why I oppose public sector unions. Citizens pay their salaries but are excluded from negotiations. That’s screwy.”

          So, the legislatures and governors aren’t elected in your state? Weird. Somebody should look in that.Report

          • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Jesse Ewiak
            Ignored
            says:

            There is distance between the legislators and the citizens. And the legislators have sometimes a strong incentive to appease the unions for the time being because it’s often possible to accede to higher wages, etc., for a while, but 10 or 20 years down the line have to pay those higher wages with higher taxes.

            I actually disagree a little with Kazzy, because I think it is hard for the citizens ever to have a seat at the table in any meaningful way–even assuming we can identify one “citizen interest,” which we can’t–so their absence is not itself an argument against public employees unions. But the incentives to accede to the unions’ demands is still there.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse Ewiak
            Ignored
            says:

            Somebody should look in that.

            The legislatures or governors of Maryland, Illinois, or Missouri looked into that and determined that they are perfectly representative of the citizenry.Report

            • Avatar Damon in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              Which is, in a word, complete bullshit.

              Md, for one, is a captive democratic state. To say the a solidly liberal democratic state is going to negotiate hard and strong against public sector unions who surprisingly, donate a lot of money to the elected representatives, is laughable.

              And there are plenty of accounts in the new of gov’ts giving public sector unions unrealistic wage increases or pension guarantees to appease them and generating financial havoc for the gov’t entities they allegedly represent.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jesse Ewiak
            Ignored
            says:

            @jesse-ewiak

            The NYC School’s Chancellor is an appointed position. And while she is appointed by elected officials, she is not directly accountable to voters. As such, she has very different incentives when negotiating salaries or benefits than a typical private sector employer.

            This doesn’t necessarily mean that public sector unions can’t excuse… only that I think, at a mimimum, they have to take a very different form than private sector unions.Report

            • Avatar switters in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              The anti public sector union argument has a whiff of victim blaming to me. I get why they are problematic. And I get the issues with incentives. But those issues are issues with our government and its structure, not with Unions, if you ask me.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to switters
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                says:

                Indeed. I can’t figure out a single objection to the unions that don’t apply to half the things the government does.

                ‘Oh, look, our elected officials just locked us into a ten year contract with a trash collection company that we can’t really afford, but by the time we can’t afford it, they’ll be out of office.’

                With purchases and contracts, of course, the solution is soliciting bids, which mostly works, even if the system is very game-able. But that does not work very well with employees.

                In theory, you can privatize the entire thing and hire someone to do the work for you, but that has problems of trying to *manage* that.

                In a world with strong private sector unions and a bunch of protection for workers, you could do without public unions by simply having the rule that public workers get near-identical pay and benefits and stuff that their private sector counterparts get, but they don’t get a real union…this still leaves the problem of firefighters and police and teachers not having much to compare to, but it deals with the civil service.

                Sadly, we can’t really do this *here*.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to switters
                Ignored
                says:

                @switters

                The anti public sector union argument has a whiff of victim blaming to me. I get why they are problematic. And I get the issues with incentives. But those issues are issues with our government and its structure, not with Unions, if you ask me.

                It certainly seems to me that in practice, that’s what we have: a combination of victim blaming and thinly veiled sneers at the type of people presumed to be covered by most public employee unions. I personally hate the fact that the “side” I favor in these disputes tend to rely on portraying public employees as evil or lazy. Some are and some aren’t, and I prefer to leave the scapegoating at the door.

                That said, while I don’t believe I have much animosity to public employees and while I believe their unions are only doing what they’re designed to, in short while I believe they’re not evil….I still believe their powers to bargain collectively need to be curtailed. Perhaps it’s easy for me to have this opinion because of the state I live in.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Kazzy
          Ignored
          says:

          “Citizens pay their salaries but are excluded from negotiations. That’s screwy.”

          No more than anywhere else in government.Report

  6. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    All: I really appreciate this discussion. But alas, it’s bed time. I’ll try to rejoin tomorrow, but it’s gonna be a busy day and I can’t promise. I do promise to make an effort to read all your comments, though.

    Again, thanks for engaging.Report

  7. Avatar Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    Stillwater: But that, at the end of the day, is one logical problem with unions in general: the perceived purpose of a union is protection of every member’s paycheck rather than cultivating better workers and a better work culture.

    I really like this framing of the issue & I think it cleanly gets to the heart of the issue.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s a framing of the issue, not necessarily the facts of the issue.

      And I never cease to be amazed at how the right thinks that the major problem with the USA is that most people are paid too much.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Barry
        Ignored
        says:

        @barry, the actual problem is that as long as public sector workers have weird things like employer provided health care, pensions, or decent protections against being fired on a whim, people in the private sector might question why they don’t have those things.

        Thus, the 40 year campaign to act like the reason the DMV is crappy is because the lady behind the counter has a middle class salary, not the fact it’s a crappy bureaucratic place with lots of dumb rules, much like, I don’t know, vaunted private sector firms like AT&T or Comcast, who as we know, are perfectly pleasant to deal with 100% of the time.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Barry
        Ignored
        says:

        @barry

        Care to expand on what facts you are talking about?Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      @oscar-gordon and @stillwater

      Yes, this is what both the plus and minus of unions.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s weird how that an organization of workers only caring about the needs of the workers, not the workplace (even though I’m sure I could find dozens of examples of various unions actually working to create a better work culture and improving worker skills) is a bad thing and a reason why unions are indeed, an overall bad thing, that must be carefully looked at and be worried about, but the fact that capital can organize itself into organizations that only care about the need of those who hold that capital to grow faster and larger, without worrying about the cultivating better workers or a better work culture if it effects profits, is wildly celebrated in culture, largely by the same people who bash unions for only looking out for ya’ know, the people in the union.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse Ewiak
        Ignored
        says:

        Right, because no one here is worried about capital structures & the incentives at play.

        Also that is not the topic in discussion so that part of the comment is a distraction & red herring.

        As to the first part regarding workers & workplaces, pretending that these are separate issues is dishonest & ignores the fact unions have been actively involved in setting the rules & tone of workplaces for a few generations now, so yes we get to be critical of unions who choose to only focus on the worker when it’s convenient.Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to Oscar Gordon
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          says:

          No, I think Jesse’s comment is exactly the point here, assuming it was referencing this

          @stillwater

          ” But that, at the end of the day, is one logical problem with unions in general: the perceived purpose of a union is protection of every member’s paycheck rather than cultivating better workers and a better work culture.”

          Why is it that if I assert that the problem with corporations is that they only want to protect shareholder value, I am seen as a woolly headed socialist, yet when I assert the same thing about unions, I am a conservative?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jesse Ewiak
        Ignored
        says:

        Without a workplace there’s nowhere for workers to work.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jesse Ewiak
        Ignored
        says:

        Jesse Ewiak,

        …but the fact that capital can organize itself into organizations that only care about the need of those who hold that capital to grow faster and larger…

        I think the difference is this: the interests of capital can grow “faster and larger” only if it out-competes rivals in an open marketplace shaped by consumer choices while union interests only grow larger by better protecting their own. (Until they don’t anymore – see: offshoring, anti-union laws (sorry Tod), corruption and graft…)

        And if (as I’ll suppose you’re thinking) capital grows “faster and larger” as a result of gummint intervention, then we – as a society! – ought to change things so it doesn’t happen, yeah? That’s a problem of gummint, not capital, yeah?

        All that said, I’m not anti-union. I’m actually pro union. And I’m certainly not pro-capital (whatever that means). Capital is doing just fine in these United States. It doesn’t need any help from me.Report

        • Avatar Dave in reply to Stillwater
          Ignored
          says:

          @stillwater

          I think the difference is this: the interests of capital can grow “faster and larger” only if it out-competes rivals in an open marketplace shaped by consumer choices

          What do you define as “interests of capital”. Pools of capital can increase in a competitive marketplace if they can out-compete rivals through making good investments and achieving returns beyond their target IRRs, but I don’t see how “interests” plays into this. It’s way too abstract for my liking.

          I also take exception to the use of the term organizing to describe what happens with capital. Capital is raised and the process of raising capital can’t and shouldn’t be compared to organizing labor (although I’m not sure if anyone is doing that)Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Jesse Ewiak
        Ignored
        says:

        The real problem here is that unions are cartels that are not only tolerated by the government (which I don’t have a problem with), but actively supported. Employers are compelled to negotiate with unions. Workers can’t be fired for union activity, even striking (i.e. refusing to do their jobs, to the detriment of the company).

        That quote from Wealth of Nations that’s so often taken out of context is relevant here:

        People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

        More at the link. Note that the “corporations” to which Smith refers are more like trade guilds, and not what we think of as corporations today.

        To head off the inevitable misguided snark about how Capitalism is the One True God and Adam Smith His prophet (you know who you are), I’ll point out I’m not presenting Smith as an authority here. I’m quoting him here because a) he expresses the point well, and b) the first sentence is so often quoted out of context.

        Edit: Also, if you guys (you know who you are) could stop making that disclaimer necessary, that would be great.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg
          Ignored
          says:

          BB,

          But that Adam Smith quotation applies even more to the owners of enterprises. At least that’s the way I’ve always read it. It seems preposterous to attribute to Adam Smith the belief that guildsmen would value the economic well being of (edit: same guild members!) more than a business owner would his? I mean, he was a smart fella, yes?Report

        • Avatar LWA in reply to Brandon Berg
          Ignored
          says:

          @brandon-berg
          You need to do a little more work than shout “Cartel!” and expect everyone to see your point.
          If your point is that, when workers vote to bind themselves into a union, and the state forces the owner to recognize them as a unit, that this is bad?

          I don’t see unique harm here. We do similar things all the damn time- such as when a group of shareholders bind themselves into a unit, and the state forces us to deal with them as an indivisible entity. Or when one condominium owners bind themselves together, and everyone else has to recognize them as a single entity. Or when the state sets rules for what contracts it wants to honor, and how this is to be done. Or when the state declares that This is property, but That is not.

          All these things restrain competition, limit choice, and are coercively enforced with violence by men who guns who put you in a cage.

          The cartel argument assumes that there is a free and unfettered level playing field, which simply doesn’t and never has existed and can’t ever.Report

          • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to LWA
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            says:

            It seems his argument is more against the state-required recognition than it is against the cartel-like features of unions. The one distinguishing feature I see from what you describe and the union is that in a corporation, the shareholders buy shares voluntarily, and that’s true of associations of condo owners (I assume you’re referring to HOA’s?). When a state decides on a contract, then it’s performing an adjudicatory function that’s different from insisting that someone bargain with an entity they may not wish to bargain with.

            I’m not clear exactly on what you mean about the state deciding what is and isn’t property. So I’ll withhold comment on that.Report

          • Avatar Dave in reply to LWA
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            says:

            @lwa

            All these things restrain competition, limit choice, and are coercively enforced with violence by men who guns who put you in a cage.

            Please elaborate how each of the examples above restrain competition and please include detailed specifics.Report

            • Avatar LWA in reply to Dave
              Ignored
              says:

              @dave
              Market competition can only exist within a set of rule and regulations, right? I mean, in a state of pure lawless anarchy, there isn’t competition, there is only survival of the most violent.

              In fact, its almost a tautology. Market competition literally means competition within the existence of a market, which can only exist by defining boundaries of behavior, enforced by the state.

              So I can open a competitor to Coke, but I can’t blow up the Coke bottling plants and hijack their drivers.
              In a state of pure lawless Mad Max anarchy, I could.

              So like when the state declares that a song is now property, it limits competition. I can’t adapt that song to new words, I can’t sing it in competition with the original author and so on.

              Or when a group of shareholders binds themselves into a single entity- I never agreed to that, did you? Yet the state compels us to recognize that entity. As a sole proprietor competitor my position may be weakened for example. In a purely competitive world, they wouldn’t be able to shield themselves from liability.

              Even in the most minarchic scenario favored by libertarians, there are provisos and caveats- you can compete, but ONLY under terms X, Y, and Z. That is, your choices while broad, are effectively limited, and the rules are coercive.

              What I am saying is that there is no such thing as a market free of state interference- its meddling all the way down!Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to LWA
                Ignored
                says:

                @lwa

                Market competition can only exist within a set of rule and regulations, right? I mean, in a state of pure lawless anarchy, there isn’t competition, there is only survival of the most violent.

                I don’t like the fact that you gave me these two choices to work with since your position can win if only because your alternative is unworkable. Please allow me to rework this a bit.

                Can markets exist outside of the rule of law? For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to say no since it’s probably not the case for any market of a meaningful size that has complete strangers transacting with one another.

                Can markets exist inside the rule of law but without burdensome rules and regulations governing how people transact in those markets? In some cases, yes. In other cases, not so much. I can’t have a general opinion on this because my views will vary on a case-by-case basis. This is why ideological discussions about markets in general aren’t productive. No one really knows what they’re agreeing or disagreeing with.

                In fact, its almost a tautology. Market competition literally means competition within the existence of a market, which can only exist by defining boundaries of behavior, enforced by the state.

                Again, laws against murder or theft are not market regulations because they govern whether or not people are engaged in economic transactions.

                I’ll address this:

                Or when a group of shareholders binds themselves into a single entity- I never agreed to that, did you? Yet the state compels us to recognize that entity. As a sole proprietor competitor my position may be weakened for example. In a purely competitive world, they wouldn’t be able to shield themselves from liability.

                First, on what basis do YOU need to agree with an arrangement made by other people? Why?

                Second, so what if you’re “compelled” to recognize a corporate entity (a loaded term if there ever was one)? Why is this a problem? How would you not recognize a corporate entity and what would you recognize in its place?

                Third, if you are a successful architect with a strong book of business, an excellent reputation in the marketplace and have spent years developing a strong base, then that tells me that you’ve done quite well in the marketplace and that your corporate structure has not hindered your ability to perform in the marketplace. As it is, you only said that your position “may be” weakened which means you have no specific examples to show me HOW you are weakened. I don’t see the problem.

                Fourth, you say in a purely competitive world, people couldn’t shield themselves from personal liability in business transactions. Can you please explain to me why not? If it’s a matter of contracting between various parties, these things can be negotiated. If we’re not in a state of anarchy and under the rule of law, the enforcement of contracts would fall under that would it not?

                I’m not saying I’d want to live in that kind of world (I wouldn’t), but rather that there’s nothing stopping something like this from happening assuming people want to do it.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Dave
                Ignored
                says:

                “Second, so what if you’re “compelled” to recognize a corporate entity (a loaded term if there ever was one)? Why is this a problem? ”

                What he means is that he thinks we should be able to sue Hobby Lobby’s boardmembers as individuals, rather than being required to sue Hobby Lobby as a separate entity.Report

              • Avatar LWA in reply to Dave
                Ignored
                says:

                @dave
                OK I agree that ideological discussions are difficult- which is why I object so often to phrases like “free market” which don’t really mean the same thing to everyone.

                DD restated my point- that the massive volumes of regulations and case law regarding corporations, contracts, and liability all limit actions, restrain people from doing things we don’t want them to do- such as suing individual shareholders.

                Which gets back to my original point that it isn’t JUST unions that limit choice and competition- limitation of choice and action is the essential point of regulation and law.

                We’re just haggling over the boundaries.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to LWA
                Ignored
                says:

                @lwa

                DD restated my point- that the massive volumes of regulations and case law regarding corporations, contracts, and liability all limit actions, restrain people from doing things we don’t want them to do- such as suing individual shareholders.

                In this case are we restraining people from doing something we don’t want them to do or from doing something they shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

                I will be the first to admit that my background in philosophy and formal logic is somewhere between zero and zero; however, from what I can piece together about the concept of justice, I can not for the life of me how suing passive shareholders fits within a concept of justice that I could sign on to.

                It sounds too much to me like anti-corporate, far left wing stupidity. I would hope that the liberals here are smart enough to realize how bad of an idea this would be, at least as a general concept.

                We’re just haggling over the boundaries.

                I think so. I have a different definition of the essential point of regulation and I think I can get you to agree with me. I’m partly with yours with respect to action. On a few points, I can even sign on to choice.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Dave
              Ignored
              says:

              Dave,

              Please elaborate how each of the examples above restrain competition and please include detailed specifics.

              “Between the investment and the profits falls the shadow.”

              I don’t know about the specifics either, but to his more general point I think it is interesting that domestic law as interpreted by the USSC is that management has a fiduciary responsibility to maximize return on investment for shareholders rather than maximize return on labor for workers.

              I mean, I get the idea, but to have it codified at the Highest Levels and all? … ?Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                @stillwater

                I mean, I get the idea, but to have it codified at the Highest Levels and all? … ?

                Am I bad person if I’m not troubled at all by this? Maybe it’s because fiduciary responsibilities address ONLY the relationship between capital and management/investment advisor, etc.

                Personally, I think it’s a way to give investors comfort that their rights are protected in our capital markets and it forces money managers to pay close attention to keeping incentives aligned and preserving a capital base rather than just rolling the dice.Report

        • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Brandon Berg
          Ignored
          says:

          Brandon Berg,

          The trade guilds weren’t really like either modern unions or modern corporations. They were more akin to associations of small businesses. The members of a guild weren’t employees of some company or companies.

          So the situation Smith is describing would be like Joe’s Plumbing, and Fred’s Plumbing, and Sam’s Plumbing, all of whom are one or two-man shops (typically a Master and an Apprentice), and all operating in the same market area, getting together for a pint at the local pub and colluding to fix prices for their services. There’s a family resemblance to unions in that they were skilled trades and a family resemblance to corporations in that they were ostensibly independent business enterprises, but not wholly analogous to the modern incarnation of either. The other commonality is that, like both unions and corporations, they were recognized as legitimate entities by the government of the time.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg
          Ignored
          says:

          I say strikes are better than rioting and destroyed machinery. The Powers That Be agree.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      Oscar Gordon,

      Thanks for saying that Gordon. To be honest, I could handle the high-level corruption if the low level corruption weren’t sorta built into the current union model. I think the thing I said upthread is just cultural poison. Makes it hard for me to get enthused about unions as they’re currently constructed. (Tho I’m a big fan in principle!!)Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        I’m a very big fan of employee organizations, I’m just very wary & critical of the traditional union structure & I think the best way for employee representative orgs to thrive is to end the effective legal monopoly of the traditional union & let other structures evolve to meet the needs of the current workforce.

        For this I am branded an anti-worker conservative by the partisans.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
          Ignored
          says:

          @oscar-gordon

          To that point, I’d add that informal organization is/can be a good thing. I’ve worked in a union situation only a couple of times (and they were not the typical union), but everywhere I’ve worked has been organized in some way. There’s always been some set of norms that the coworkers enforced among themselves and often against management.

          Also, I think it’s ridiculous to argue that just because someone points out the bad parts about unions or the tradeoffs that comes with having unions or doesn’t like unions, that they are necessarily “anti-worker.”Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon
          Ignored
          says:

          @oscar-gordon
          I’m a very big fan of employee organizations, I’m just very wary & critical of the traditional union structure & I think the best way for employee representative orgs to thrive is to end the effective legal monopoly of the traditional union & let other structures evolve to meet the needs of the current workforce.

          This seems to be a very confused point. Unions are not monopolies because they have a ‘legal monopoly’, they are monopolies because they negotiate such a monopoly. Of course, we’re using ‘monopoly’ in a rather goofy way here…a corporation signing a contract with someone to exclusively supply labor to them does not make that one supplier a ‘monopoly’, anymore than McDonalds signing a contract to exclusively buy soft drinks from Coca-Cola makes Coke a monopoly.

          But this is getting around to the point: Unions are actually *legally* constrained in how they operate. They can’t just ‘end’ that. And a good deal of that constraint is to *cripple them*, not to help them.

          Like I always say, I’m all for removing any regulations that have anything to do with unions from the law, as long as we remove it *all*. Allow companies to fire unionizing workers, allow any sort of behavior at all. Unions are just a non-profit like any other, no special powers or considerations. Or, as importantly, no *restrictions*.

          And enjoy the fact that now 40% or 10% or *any amount* of workers can start a union. Enjoy the ‘sub-unions’ magically springing up among the five guys at the factory that know how to fix the equipment and think the existing union doesn’t value them enough. Enjoy having to have the police arrest, one by one, striking workers that are blocking deliveries, or chain themselves to doors. Enjoy Teamsters that won’t cross picket lines because sympathetic strikes are now legal.

          Enjoy total chaos on the part of the workers, guys. People have *no idea* how much the current union structure is keeping things in line. Formalized union law took away a lot of the power of workers joining together. Some of it was involuntary and taken from the unions by force, and, I will admit, some of it was existing unions making sure they didn’t have any competition. Remove that and…wow.

          Oh, and please notice that the previous ways of dealing with unions, aka, police and private violence against organizers, will in fact backfire *horrifically*. This isn’t 1927 anymore, and everyone has camera phones. Likewise, corporations can’t ban strikers from the corporate store, or kick them out of their corporate housing.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC
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            says:

            You are assuming I want all union laws stricken, I don’t. I want them amended to allow for greater flexibility.

            Which ties to my incorrect use of monopoly. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of current labor law is that if I want to organize the workers of OCP, I have to coordinate & ultimately become a local arm of SEIU, or IAM, or what not. I can not simply organize as the United Workers of OCP & be recognized by the NLRB.

            So only the established unions can play the game which means if I want to organize, I have to subject the fledgling org to all the policies & politics & baggage & bureaucracy of the national org. Which, if things are bad, may be an acceptable trade-off. But if we just want to organize, that trade-off may be unacceptable enough to discourage organization (this is my theory regarding the decline of union membership).

            So allow for the protection of NERBs (within reason – your micro union of 5 guys who only know how to fix the machines would be too fine an org). I’m not saying it would be politically easy but if we want worker organization to survive without forcing unions on everyone, I think we need to allow for non-traditional unions to enjoy the same legal protections.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon
              Ignored
              says:

              @oscar-gordon
              Please correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of current labor law is that if I want to organize the workers of OCP, I have to coordinate & ultimately become a local arm of SEIU, or IAM, or what not. I can not simply organize as the United Workers of OCP & be recognized by the NLRB.

              I don’t even understand what you’re saying here, but from what I can tell, you’re wrong.

              Workers are not voting to unionize and then assigned as members of an existing union…workers are voting to *join a union*. A *specific* union. That can be a union with ten thousand members, or it can be a union with 0 current members and the people voting would be the first to join it.

              You can certainly found your own union if you want, and try to get people to vote to join it, or even get a vote to *switch* to your union from an existing one. (Assuming you can get past the absurd thresholds often required to even hold the vote in the first place.)

              I’m not saying it would be politically easy but if we want worker organization to survive without forcing unions on everyone, I think we need to allow for non-traditional unions to enjoy the same legal protections.

              And I’m completely baffled by the idea of ‘non-traditional unions’.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC
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                says:

                @davidtc

                DavidTC: Workers are not voting to unionize and then assigned as members of an existing union…workers are voting to *join a union*. A *specific* union. That can be a union with ten thousand members, or it can be a union with 0 current members and the people voting would be the first to join it.

                This is not how I’ve been led to understand the law as it is. From what I know, if you want the recognition of the NLRB, you have to vote to join an existing union, or jump through considerably greater hoops to be recognized independently (is this an effect of Taft-Hartley?) . The existence of NERBs suggests to me that there is something severely unattractive about a traditional union (e.g. UAW, IAM, SEIU, etc.) Such that employees are willing to go it alone.

                If I’m wrong about how the process of labor organization works today, then I am open to an education (guest post anyone?).Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                says:

                @oscar-gordon

                I think you might be wrong, but I don’t know the law or union organizing well enough to know whether that’s the case. My understanding–and it’s an understanding based mostly on ignorance–is that it is possible for a non-affiliated union to win recognition without necessarily jumping through more hoops. I do suspect that the amount of resources necessary to navigate the complex NLRB rules (I’m assuming they are complex….I don’t know the details) and the resources necessary to overcome employer recalcitrance, when employers want to invoke every procedural obstacle to unionization, is large.

                Again, though, I’m speaking mostly from ignorance.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                @oscar-gordon
                If you want the recognition of the NLRB, you have to vote to join an existing union, or jump through considerably greater hoops to be recognized independently (is this an effect of Taft-Hartley?)

                If you ‘want the recognition of the NLRB’, as in, you want them to acknowledge you *exist*, you…incorporate a 501(c)(5). Tada. You’ve got a union. Be sure not make any typos, or you might end up with a charitable non-profit, or a cemetery corporation, or a black lung benefit trust. (The 501(c) section of code is *weird*.)

                The NLRB, of course, will not care you exist. The trick is to get them to recognize that said union is *representative* of a specific group of workers at a company. You do that by getting enough support to call a vote for the union, and then have the union win said vote.

                There is absolutely no *legal* difference between the UAW doing this and a union I founded five minutes ago.

                Now, as Gabriel Conroy said, the UAW knows how to do this, has a lot of experience in doing it, has lawyers that will fight back against anti-union efforts in the company, and can get support from existing union members. So is much more likely to actually pull it off. But legally there’s no difference.

                If you have a problem with that, don’t blame the unions. Blame the anti-union people making laws that make it hard for the union to get a vote at all, and businesses that attempt anti-union stuff.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                @davidtc

                So it is Taft-Hartley is the problem. Got it.

                I shall keep that in mind, because I stand by my earlier assertion that the it should be easy to organize without having to be sneaky or call in an 800 lbs gorilla.Report

              • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                @oscar-gordon @davidtc

                I’m not sure it’s right to say that Taft-Hartley is the problem. From one point of view, it’s part of the problem.

                But from another point of view, the problem is a predictable consequence of getting the government involved. If the government is going to set up a recognition process wherein it binds people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, there will be challenges. If the government imposes rules, it creates ways to get around those rules, or at least a mechanism for challenging and appealing those rules. Any formal recognition process enforced by the state in a system in which recourse to the courts is permitted is going to have that problem.

                Which doesn’t mean the government shouldn’t be involved. And there are probably ways to make the problem less of a problem (say, by “first contract arbitration,” which theoretically would speed up the contract negotiation process). But the problem would still remain. And it remains, I suggest, with or without Taft-Hartley, with or without Landrum-Griffin, with or without AUL’s or state-level “labor peace acts.”Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC
            Ignored
            says:

            It’s interesting how you’re saying “if we ban unions the workers will have even more power” as an argument for the present union structure, although being vaguely libertarian in philosophy I appreciate your agreement that workers have the most power and authority when each of them is treated as an individual.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck
              Ignored
              says:

              @brandon-berg
              It’s interesting how you’re saying “if we ban unions the workers will have even more power”

              That’s not what I said. What I said was ‘If we *remove all regulation of unions*, the workers will have even more power’.

              Conservatives often think that regulations like ‘not allowed to fire unionizers’ and rules like that are making unions stronger, without noticing that the *entire structure* of the law is, in fact, designed to limit the power of unions, while giving union some ability to bargain *within* those constrains. (Hell, a lot of them don’t seem to notice that ‘right to work laws’ forbid something that is otherwise legal.)

              Removing those constrains…wow. Just wow.

              as an argument for the present union structure

              I’m pretty sure I didn’t argue ‘for’ anything, or ‘against’ anything.

              I said, in some sort of hypothetical world, where all the constraints on how companies have to act towards unions, and how unions have to act towards companies, were completely removed, I’d be sitting there laughing my ass off.

              A lot of people who think that it would *harm* unions, that unions want all these rules, the people who think ‘union labor law’ is solely rules are about how companies can act toward unions, would be completely surprised.

              As such a thing is *not* going to happen, and not even proposed, I don’t really feel a need to take a ‘position’ on it. While I admit there would be a lot of schadenfreude as conservatives got what they were demanding, good and hard, there also would be a lot of utter chaos, so if it was some sort of serious thing, I have no idea what side I’d take.

              although being vaguely libertarian in philosophy I appreciate your agreement that workers have the most power and authority when each of them is treated as an individual.

              …yes, because that’s what the workers are going to do…act as individuals. Right. *shifty eyes*

              They certainly won’t meet in secret to issue a series of anonymous pay demands, and, if those demands are not met, work *mysteriously* slows down and machines *mysteriously* break and OSHA is *mysteriously* called all the time and everyone *mysteriously* gets sick the same day. I mean, it’s not like that’s what happened last time. (And meeting in secret is so much harder now, right?)

              Except this time, the companies can’t call in the Pinkertons without getting their asses sued off and showing up all over the news.

              Meanwhile, the Teamsters are refusing to cross the picket line, and the *other* union at the plant is threatening a sympathetic strike.

              Unions don’t exist and have power *because* of the government granting them some ‘legal monopoly’ or whatever started this thread. They existed and had power even before they legally could exist!Report

  8. Avatar Montaigne
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m somewhat surprised by the lack of recent (relatively speaking) historical perspective here. @burt-likko mentioned that “Norma Rae” was the last pro-union organizer movie he could recall. The following year, Ronald Reagan was elected president, with fairly strong support of blue collar (and often unionized) so-called “Reagan Democrats” who were alienated by their perception of the identity politics of the Democrats, as well as all the damn hippies.

    Not long afterwards (1981), Reagan moved aggressively against the striking air traffic controllers, breaking their union (PATCO was decertified from its right to represent workers by the Federal Labor Relations Authority on October 22, 1981). Politically, it was a masterstroke for the anti-union Republican agenda. The political optics were perfect; ATCs were allegedly recklessly endangering the public (no one wants to go down in an airliner crash) for filthy lucre and their own comfort. That provided a solid beachhead for the past 30 years of aggressive Republican efforts to turn public perception against unions and the relentless efforts by conservative legislators to pass AULs.

    True, the chart shows union membership declining prior to that. Part of that was due to the efforts of post-agricultural Southern states to attract manufacturers by making it difficult to establish unions. But I think (and my father was a union member in the auto industry in Detroit, so I grew up hearing about unions) that the real turning of the tide in public opinion with respect to unions was Reagan and the very public dismantling of PATCO, the ATC union. IMO, blue collar workers who were enthusiastic “Reagan Democrats” struck a Faustian bargain with the Republicans they still don’t seem to perceive.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Montaigne
      Ignored
      says:

      @montaigne

      There’s certainly an argument that the PATCO strike played an important role in the turn against unions, although I do think, as you point out in your last paragraph, we can see precursors to that changing of the tide. Billy Joel’s “Allentown” may have been written a few years after PATCO, but the union people had already started to crawl away in some industries before then. And the rise of the sunbelt (as you say) contributed to that. AUL’s, incidentally, played a role in that transition.

      By the way, have you read Joseph McCartin’s COLLISION COURSE, about the PATCO strike? He doesn’t like the direction things went after 1981, and he supports unions generally, but his telling of the strike presents a somewhat more complicated picture, pointing to some missteps that PATCO made that could have saved it, at least before the decision to fire the strikers was announced.Report

  9. Avatar Will H.
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    says:

    I haven’t read the comments yet, and I will go back through when I have time.
    However, this is a common misconception:

    employees must join a union after they hired..

    That may be the case in some places, but the only way I have ever seen it work in actual practice is that union membership is required before employment.

    More details:
    As a journeyman, I have to pay dues on time two months in a row to have “member-in-good-standing” status. Without that, there are only three counties in Florida that I can work in, the jurisdiction of my home local; the same as would be the case were I an apprentice.
    Member in good standing status confers on me the right, as a journeyman, to work in any jurisdiction in the US or Canada.

    I never fill out an application.
    I get a referral from a business agent, who then receives a bio sheet form my business agent.
    If I’m going in as an inspector, they may want to see a resume and my certs before I get to the job.
    I get the time I am to be on-site available for work from my business agent. Typically, he’s the one who gives me directions to the site.
    I arrive at the time and place, then attend safety orientation, and fill out whatever paperwork the company needs as part of my safety orientation.

    No one that’s not carrying a book gets on the job.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Will H.
      Ignored
      says:

      @will-h :

      You’re an electrician, correct? My father was one (a journeyman, member of IBEW), and I think his situation was similar to yours, or at least roughly so. All of that seems to me effectively like a “closed shop,” which I had thought was illegal under Taft-Hartley.

      To the extent that AUL’s are designed to combat those types of situations, I can certainly see why “right to work” is still an accurate term.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        No, not an electrician.
        Electricians have the right to put their name on any out-of-work list in any jurisdiction.
        My guys don’t roll like that.
        Most of the stuff is BA to BA.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Will H.
          Ignored
          says:

          Sorry, I had thought you said (quite a while back) that you were an electrician. Truth be told, even though my father mentioned going to the union to “put his name in” whenever he got laid off, I don’t recall him mentioning “business agents.” Maybe they didn’t have business agents, or maybe they had another name (or maybe he just didn’t talk about them).Report

          • Avatar Will H. in reply to Gabriel Conroy
            Ignored
            says:

            I remember a few weeks (months?) back that someone said they were an electrician at one time. Wasn’t me though.
            My union has a reputation for not getting along with electricians. Or boilermakers. Or ironworkers.
            Or themselves, actually. There are several different trades within the union, and there is quite a bit of tension between them.

            I’m thinking the IBEW probably had a BA that did the calls from the list.
            The business manager tends to handle things with the contractors, while the business agent deals with the rank and file.Report

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