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Author Topic: WW 10-01-2009 - Why Union Leaders Are Trying To Destroy Themselves
Jon Camp
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Why Union Leaders Are Trying To Destroy Themselves

Interesting ideas, and the pattern of going "a bridge too far" does seem to repeat itself constantly in history.

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Pyrtolin
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While some of the general cautions are valid, it's sad to see him depending on lies for his sources.

He's using the false Republican party line characterization of the EFCA as his central point- saying that it "eliminates the secret ballot"

It does no such thing. What it does is removes the ability of an employer to force a secret ballot (on which they can heavily influence) by skipping that step if enough people openly sign up ahead of time.

It skips the secret ballot as an unnecessary step when a clear majority vote already exists. And retains it when sufficient baseline interest exists but not enough people are willing to openly speak out.

He does note that the Writer's guild does its job properly, but he doesn't point out that part of the reason it stays in line is because there are at least two competing unions- and that right there is a critical element. One union is just as subject to bloat as any other monopoly- but if more room was made for multiple parallel unions to exist, the overall dynamic would change significantly. Finding balance between sufficient competition and insufficient leverage, though is tricky.

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whitefire
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Pyrtolin - It seems like you (or anyone else for that matter)might have some understanding of how Unionization works in a practical sense
Could you help me understand how it works now and how EFCA is supposed to work?
I'm confused vis-a-vis Walmart and their managing to avoid Unionization

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Lloyd
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quote:
It does no such thing. What it does is removes the ability of an employer to force a secret ballot (on which they can heavily influence) by skipping that step if enough people openly sign up ahead of time.

It skips the secret ballot as an unnecessary step when a clear majority vote already exists. And retains it when sufficient baseline interest exists but not enough people are willing to openly speak out.

I don't see how these two things that you list here aren't eliminating the secret ballot except maybe in the most technical sense.

As OSC said: "The secret ballot was a hard-won right for workers. Before that, management could fire or otherwise punish any workers who voted to unionize the company. The secret ballot protected workers from management."

If the union leadership is pressuring workers to speak in favor of the union how is that any different than management punishing or threatening to fire workers who vote for it.

How doesn't the secret ballot work to protect people from both sides? Why not remove that from the bill? As I understand the secret ballot piece of the bill is only a small piece of it.

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Pyrtolin
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This is off the top of my head- I'd have to dig back to find the technical details, to nail now the precise numbers and mechanics, but this is the rough idea:

As it stands now, if some workers want to start a union, they need to get a certain percent of workers at their company to sign a request for the union (more than 30%) once they hit that number, the matter can be brought to a vote. The company has the option to waive the secret ballot vote and just accept the request if more than 50% of the workers sign the card, but it can still force the vote it it wants to resist unionization, at which it has a few weeks of lead time to exert pressure on or remove the list of people that it now has to sink the vote. The only override there is if a clear case of unfair labor practices is presented to the NLRB.

The change in the EFCA here would take away the power of the company to force that ballot in the face of a majority. If better than 50% of the people have signed when the card is presented, the union is formed immediately without allowing the company the chance to break it by forcing the vote.

EDIT: Checked and updated with the proper percentages.

[ October 05, 2009, 10:03 PM: Message edited by: Pyrtolin ]

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by whitefire:
Pyrtolin - It seems like you (or anyone else for that matter)might have some understanding of how Unionization works in a practical sense
Could you help me understand how it works now and how EFCA is supposed to work?
I'm confused vis-a-vis Walmart and their managing to avoid Unionization

Walmart is actually an excellent example of an extreme here, since it has literally closed a store rather than allow the process to complete and a union to form. It takes punitive actions when it catches wind of a unionization attempt (in the US- Canadian Walmarts are unionized, because Canadian law makes it impossible for them to resist unionization.) The process would never reach the (company run) secret ballot phase if there was any chance of it succeeding at Walmart; it's already shown that it's willing to pull the nuclear option to prevent it. The only hope there is being able to form it without any company interference.
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whitefire
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quote:
Walmart is actually an excellent example of an extreme here, since it has literally closed a store rather than allow the process to complete and a union to form
On one hand I think that workers have the right, and therefore shouldn't be prevented from, organizing to fight for fair wages and labor practices.
However - if a company is willing to close rather than become unionized wouldn't that indicate the scale of the potential damage that could be done by unionization?
Further, I would think that the process of starting and shutting down a store could become so costly that some kind of de facto organizing could force changes if enough workers choose to do so? Of course, this could be more pain than many workers could bear while the process is taking effect.
My own personal thought is that this mutual inflecting of pain between employer and employee is universally destructive, and should end in the downfall of the business. One of the points OSC made generally is that there are some businesses that have realized that paying a decent wage is to the benefit of the company. Not sure why more don't see it this way (OK so I do, but it seems like they are being stupid/shortsighted).

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
However - if a company is willing to close rather than become unionized wouldn't that indicate the scale of the potential damage that could be done by unionization?
It's not about the closing of a company, it's about the closing of a specific store of the company (if I understand the situation correctly). Would Walmart be willing to close down ALL its stores in America, if all Walmart workers throughout America demanded unionization?

As for this constant conflict between union wanting to sell labour at the highest possible price (thus harming the company), and the business wanting to buy labour at the lowest possible price (thus harming the workers) -- it seems to me that one solution would be if the workers received benefits in the form of a percentage of the company profits.

Then the good of the company would automatically mean the good of the workers, thus motivating them to work more rather than less.

[ October 06, 2009, 10:30 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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whitefire
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I didn't mean to suggest they would close the whole company, however the costs of shutting down 1 store in materials, etc, not to mention lost revenue must be staggering.
I do think that employee owned businesses are a great idea (and I mean direct, not just through stock options). In my experience, this is easier said than done in our culture where employees turnover every couple years and, in some cases, months.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I didn't mean to suggest they would close the whole company, however the costs of shutting down 1 store in materials, etc, not to mention lost revenue must be staggering.
They have 883 stores in America. I'm guessing losing a single store isn't a big deal to them -- letting a precedent of unionization stand would be.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by whitefire:
I didn't mean to suggest they would close the whole company, however the costs of shutting down 1 store in materials, etc, not to mention lost revenue must be staggering.

True, but the point here is that WalMart has shown that it's willingto drop that bomb if it can get away with it, which means that it's much less likely to happen again, because nobody wants to be part of the next one to be shut down. Without additional protection, you'd have to get nearly the entire WalMart employment base to unionze at once to overcome that threat.

quote:
I do think that employee owned businesses are a great idea (and I mean direct, not just through stock options). In my experience, this is easier said than done in our culture where employees turnover every couple years and, in some cases, months.
Chicken and egg? Would turnover drop significantly if people had a stake in their employer's performance? That is, in part, what a vesting process in general is about, though- creating an incentive to slow down turnover.

(Incidentally, this is something that I liked about the bailout solutions for GM and Chrysler- by giving the unions active interest in the performance of the company, it forces the unions to have to moderate their position, and even makes it beneficial to do so.)

We already have many of the mechanisms in place; it would be good to encourage them to become more pervasive.

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whitefire
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Also, not to get too far from my original thought, what must Walmart expect unionizing will cost them?
I've seen figures saying that they could afford to increase wages by $1/hour with a negligible impact on price of profitability. I'm skeptical about these numbers, myself, but paying a "minimum/living" wage seems like it could avoid much of the other costs unions tend to impose.

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emarkp
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
It does no such thing. What it does is removes the ability of an employer to force a secret ballot (on which they can heavily influence) by skipping that step if enough people openly sign up ahead of time.

It skips the secret ballot as an unnecessary step when a clear majority vote already exists. And retains it when sufficient baseline interest exists but not enough people are willing to openly speak out.

Which is exactly what opponents of the act are claiming. Thanks for proving the point. If union thugs pressure enough people to sign the card openly, then the secret ballot is gone.
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LetterRip
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Hmm if I were a competitor to Walmart in a local area, I'd offer to hire the employees who attempted to set up a union which resulted in the local Walmart closing its doors.

LetterRip

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by emarkp:
quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
It does no such thing. What it does is removes the ability of an employer to force a secret ballot (on which they can heavily influence) by skipping that step if enough people openly sign up ahead of time.

It skips the secret ballot as an unnecessary step when a clear majority vote already exists. And retains it when sufficient baseline interest exists but not enough people are willing to openly speak out.

Which is exactly what opponents of the act are claiming. Thanks for proving the point. If union thugs pressure enough people to sign the card openly, then the secret ballot is gone.
As it stands right now, signing a unionization card translates to a ~20% likelyhood that it will result in the signer losing thier job, with an ever greater likelyhood of experiencing some other kind of sanction from the company, all legally- there's no recourse. No comparable risk exists from the other side.

The "union thugs" don't have the authority to exert such pressure until after the union is formed, especially not when compared to the company which is free to do anything up to and beyond firing everyone whose name is on the card before the secret ballot is held. So, yes, it does allow for a nigh mythical scenario, while preventing a many very regularly employed pressure tactics used to fix the vote against unionization.

No one is "denied" a secret ballot if card check is enforced. They can still easily request one by leaving the card between 20% and 50%, especailly given the explicit risk that comes with signing the card. If the organizers are attempting to use some form of extortion to get the card signed, the target has explicit resources for protection from the company and the law in general.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
Hmm if I were a competitor to Walmart in a local area, I'd offer to hire the employees who attempted to set up a union which resulted in the local Walmart closing its doors.

That's about equivelent to saying you'd protect yourself by jumping when the falling elevator hit the bottom of the shaft.

(Just still being in business as competitor to WalMart, if you're not another major chain, is an impressive feat to pull off, since the local competitors are usually the first to fall when it moves in)

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emarkp
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Pyrtolin, are you for real?

1) Thugs don't need authority to pressure people. You've never heard of peer pressure or physical intimidation?

2) Saying that no one is denied something unless it's denied isn't typically considered thoughtful discourse.

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Pyrtolin
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1) In other words things that are explicitly illegal, and which people have legal recourse to protect themselves against. Unlike being fired because they signed the card, which they don't unless they manage to get the union to form first.

2) So we should discard laws against loan sharks because people are being "denied" the opportunity to have their legs broken? The only thing that is being denied is the near free ability that companies currently have to stack the second ballot (which the company itself, incidentally, not the workers or a neutral third party, is in charge of organizing and overseeing)

[ October 07, 2009, 06:47 PM: Message edited by: Pyrtolin ]

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whitefire
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Is the issue here that employers will just fire people who sign the card?
Wouldn't it be easier, then, just to make a law including the desire for union membership to be a protected class, like race, religion, etc?
Should there be a right to organize/unionize?

On a different issue:
quote:
Incidentally, this is something that I liked about the bailout solutions for GM and Chrysler- by giving the unions active interest in the performance of the company, it forces the unions to have to moderate their position, and even makes it beneficial to do so.
The problem I have with this (as regards the how unions and companies interact, not the bailout itself) is it isn't the workers who have ownership, its the unions. They may moderate their position toward the company, but they might also choose to screw their members if the situation calls for it.
Will the union having a stake in a company convince the workers to preform more for the good of the company?

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hobsen
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That last is a good question, whitefire. All I can say is that it might reduce worker discontent. Some unions are a lot more popular with employees than others.
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emarkp
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Ah, so we should ALSO get rid of the secret ballot for public elections! Because special interests might stack it somehow.

(shakes head)

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whitefire
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quote:
Ah, so we should ALSO get rid of the secret ballot for public elections! Because special interests might stack it somehow.
Isn't this exactly how caucus's work? You end up having to defend your choice. Boneheads make boneheaded choices - they get called on it.
Maybe if people were more civil I'd think this would be a good way to go, but that said, in the end, I too prefer secret ballots, since people tend actually to be nasty and brutish.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by emarkp:
Ah, so we should ALSO get rid of the secret ballot for public elections! Because special interests might stack it somehow.

(shakes head)

Apples and oranges. Unless your suggesting that we should do away with the card completely and instead just require all companies to hold regular (say yearly or semi-yearly) unionization votes that are regulated in a fashion similar to public elections.

Or would you prefer that signing the card to petition for a union carried with it, say, active protection from being fired, demoted, or otherwise reassigned (or denied an expeced reassignment or promotion) and a raise equivalent to at least the increase in the cost of living at the next pay cycle so as to prevent companies from using the standard techniques that are usually applied to punish those that advocate for a union (and I probably haven't hit all of the possibilities)?

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whitefire
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As I said, I'm not sure why such a protection is unreasonable. Also, if you can't fire someone (or some other action) it might encourage management to talk to their employees.
That was my point about caucuses for primary elections, which was poorly made. To get right to it, its a good thing to encourage a dialogue between all parties.
The card signing period seems to be the time for this dialogue, but I think everyone ought to be able to make their final decision without coercion (IE a secret ballot).

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whitefire
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I was going to add this with the previous post, but I didn't want to muddy the waters too much.
Here goes: From my experience in management, employee discussion of unionization is generally viewed as an attack on the company/management.
For some perspective I work in the auto transport industry (we transport new and used cars to dealerships etc), and the feeling we are being attached comes especially when union drivers/reps (I assume) come and talk to our drivers. Most of them (our drivers) don't come away wanting to unionize, but there are always some who try to rile up everyone else.
If the employees have a beef, I tend to want to hear about it. What I don't want is someone coming in and telling our drivers that the union way is the better way regardless of what the company tries to do.
Worse still is when some of the union folks try to intimidate our drivers when they don't want to play ball.
Maybe my experience is unique, but I can say that I've seen some bad behavior in the name of union solidarity most especially against those who have rejected the union (I don't recall ever being harassed as management except in the most general form).

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Doug64
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My own two cents, while I am unlikely to vote to unionize, certainly not where I currently work (the best company I've ever worked for), that chance drops to zero if the secret ballot option is removed. Until that option is returned, I will never vote for unionization under any circumstances.
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yossarian22c
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I don't see any reason to do away with the secret ballot. If the problem is companies firing employees who sign the union forms have the union turn over the list to the state labor department. If the labor department verifies a vote should be held they can then notify the company without the company knowing which employees signed the form. More secrecy instead of less seems like a better solution to me.
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enderhall
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This was a great article. I was wondering why the government gave the unions ownership in GM and Chrysler but It makes a lot of sense now.
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sclmlw
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I agree with both sides of the discussion here. Namely:

1. The current system allows too much power to individual companies to influence and intimidate workers.

2. The proposed system gives too much power to unions to influence and intimidate workers.

Just because current law is bad does not mean the proposed law is automatically better. Personally, I like the idea posted by yossarian of making the names on the card secret. After all, isn't that the source of the bullying that exists in the current system?

But perhaps I'm missing something here. Is there a good reason to show the actual names of the employees who sign the card to management? And if there is, can we find some other solution that eliminates the current source of bullying without trading it for another?

[ November 12, 2009, 10:36 AM: Message edited by: sclmlw ]

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whitefire
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Does the labor dept actually verify that the signers are employees of the company? I wouldn't be surprised if they punted this verification back to the employer for a number of reasons.
Without this kind of check the card signing process would be subjected to a lot of potential fraud.
Which raises the question of how good an idea the gov having access to a roster of all employees at all businesses is.

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sclmlw
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I'm not informed enough on this subject to know whether the labor department already has that information or not. Indeed, it seems that the only way they could enforce certain labor laws in this country would be if they had exactly such a list. But I'm interested to know what problems you anticipate from the labor department knowing who is on the roles at any given company?

In our case, the purpose of giving these names to the government is so that a dispassionate third party can verify the results and prevent coercion from the other parties during an election. Clearly it is a conflict of interest for the company itself to check the card. Indeed, even if the EFCA passes it still doesn't solve the problem of employer abuse of power in the event that fewer than 50% of the employees have signed the card. What else is government good for if it can't step in and act as referee in situations exactly like this one?

[ November 16, 2009, 12:41 AM: Message edited by: sclmlw ]

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whitefire
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Well, for starters it would be another huge PITA for businesses, especially small business owners who would have to constantly update their employee lists, and could subject employers to additional tax reporting problems
A potential example would be the gov saying, "Hey, we stopped getting payroll taxes for this guy, but he's still on your roster - GIVE ME THE MONEy" when the business owner already submitted the change to one Agency who didn't pass it to the other.
I suspect there could be some privacy concerns as well, although, it seems that withholding tax has held up under court scrutiny (I assume there was some at first?).
Maybe a modification would be for the Labor Dept, in the event there is s submission would then request the Roster. It would probably be like a subpoena for records.

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LoneSnark
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And the charge that the minimum wage "eliminates jobs" is exactly the point -- it eliminates jobs with wages that you can't live on. That was the greatest evil of free market capitalism during the industrial revolution, and the minimum wage guards against it.
First, there is no such thing as a wage that one can't live on. Many citizens of the third world manage to survive on less than $1 a day, so it is elitist to suggest no one is capable of surviving on $41.20 a day.

Second, WalMart always paid more than the minimum wage anywhere I've ever lived.

Third, is it Card's position that a worker should prefer an hourly wage of $0.00 an hour to $5.15 an hour? Is it truly better to starve to death in the street than suffer the indignity of a low wage? It is one thing to be unemployed due to an emergency in the economy, but for a worker to be rendered unemployable as a matter of public policy strikes me as cruel. With employment comes dignity and self respect, be it $5 a day in China or $5.15 an hour in America. To be denied that so OSC can sleep better at night is immoral.

Unions have only ever helped union members, and they do it by condemning others to even poorer employment prospects. As union demands for compensation increase, companies respond in the long-term by employing fewer workers, just as any company would respond to higher energy prices by consuming less energy. Even if union rules prevent job destruction at individual coal mines, customers will respond to high coal prices by consuming less coal, which means fewer coal mines and thus fewer coal miners. As the number of jobs falls, union members whose mines do not close are safe and well compensated, but wages for the remaining non-union work-force is driven even lower. And these meager wages then get squeezed further, as consumer prices rise to pay the high union compensation.

American workers became wealthy in spite of unions, not because of them, thanks to improvements in technology, abandonment of the gold standard, and restrictions on immigration (in effect, all Americans are in one big union and foreigners are the ones being legally excluded, condemned to poor prospects outside the unionized territory).

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yossarian22c
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quote:
Originally posted by LoneSnark:
And the charge that the minimum wage "eliminates jobs" is exactly the point -- it eliminates jobs with wages that you can't live on. That was the greatest evil of free market capitalism during the industrial revolution, and the minimum wage guards against it.
First, there is no such thing as a wage that one can't live on. Many citizens of the third world manage to survive on less than $1 a day, so it is elitist to suggest no one is capable of surviving on $41.20 a day.

The US dollar is overvalued with respect to many third world currency. That means $1 in the poorest nations may be enough to buy food for a day. It would be impossible to eat (without government assistance or charity) on $1 a day in the US. Also the people who survive on less than $1 a day live in shanties. We don't allow people to live in shanties in the US. Look at the employment picture today, some companies could get away with $3 per hour wages. Even working 10 hours a day 5 days a week the person would only make about $700 a month. Without government aid that isn't going to provide for an apartment, food, utilities and transportation.


quote:
Unions have only ever helped union members, and they do it by condemning others to even poorer employment prospects. As union demands for compensation increase, companies respond in the long-term by employing fewer workers, just as any company would respond to higher energy prices by consuming less energy. Even if union rules prevent job destruction at individual coal mines, customers will respond to high coal prices by consuming less coal, which means fewer coal mines and thus fewer coal miners. As the number of jobs falls, union members whose mines do not close are safe and well compensated, but wages for the remaining non-union work-force is driven even lower. And these meager wages then get squeezed further, as consumer prices rise to pay the high union compensation.
I think that unions recently haven't best served their members or the companies they negotiate with. However saying that union jobs destroy jobs in other companies is silly. If the non-union mines/coal companies could produce coal cheaper or were able to be more profitable then they would grow not decline. The reason coal mining jobs are disappearing is the advancement of mining technologies that require fewer workers. Environmental concerns are the only reason I've heard for utilities to move away from coal, not high prices.

quote:
American workers became wealthy in spite of unions, not because of them, thanks to improvements in technology, abandonment of the gold standard, and restrictions on immigration (in effect, all Americans are in one big union and foreigners are the ones being legally excluded, condemned to poor prospects outside the unionized territory).
Please read some history from about 1870-1920. The lack of unions and government protections made Rockefeller, Carnegie, and others so rich that their heirs today are born rich. Their workers did not become wealthy. If you are concerned about coal workers read about the company towns where people who worked all the time were in perpetual debt to the company that employed them. Unions did a lot of good when they were created. I think many of the policies that modern unions pursue do more harm than good but there was a time when unions were necessary and did a lot of good for our country.

The other factors you mentioned have also helped to increase the wealth of the nation and workers. Unions however helped make sure some of that increased wealth helped to create a middle class instead of just an aristocracy. The creation of the middle class has been a good thing for the rich because their are more people who can buy their products. So they haven't lost anything by allowing the workers a piece of the pie.

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Chromesthesia
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You make great points. There's really no way one could live off of a dollar a day. It's difficult enough to live off of $41.50 a day.Especially as high as the food prices and gas prices are.
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LoneSnark
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And therefore, once again, because there's really no way one could live off of a dollar a day, it is better to earn $0.00 an hour than $5.15 an hour and therefore we should outlaw the ladder?

Fine, proof. Did you know that 1.2 million American workers are exempt from the minimum wage? That's right: back before the latest increase of the minimum wage, there were 1.2 million Americans earning less than $5.15 an hour! And that included tips! How can that be, if all such workers starved to death and could no longer appear in the statistics? Then you compare that to the number of workers for whom the minimum wage does apply and were earning $5.15 an hour (or ~$3+tips), which was only 345,000.

And I have read lots of history. And economics. Unions in the time of Rockefeller would have improved wages for those working for those companies that kept their jobs, Rockefeller would have been less wealthy, but it would have also caused widespread starvation given the already subsistence wages at the time and depressing them further for all other workers would have been potentially lethal.

quote:
However saying that union jobs destroy jobs in other companies is silly. If the non-union mines/coal companies could produce coal cheaper or were able to be more profitable then they would grow not decline.
Quite true, and they did. Many mines unionized during the 19th century, they were all driven out of business by non-union mines, as you describe. What I was discussing was the situation after the 1930s when unions used federal laws to unionize all the shops at once, precluding your example of non-unionized competitors (the UAW represented all auto workers, not just those at GM).

Also, mining technologies are advancing because miner wages have become so high. It turns out humans dislike being underground and would happily take a desk job for far less money, which is why miners nowadays earn far more than the average American: to keep them from quitting. Which, if you had read your history, you would know this was the same situation that existed in 1870. Sure, 19th century miners died often and earned nothing compared to us moderns, but they earned far more than their fellow recent immigrant brothers on the streets of New York. They may have lived their lives in debt to the company, but their children went to school and lived in a small two bedroom house. Had they stayed in New York, their children would have spent their childhood working in a factory and sharing a smaller one bedroom apartment with another family so they could split the rent.

People forget how oppressively poor we were back then. When your definition of 'state-of-the-art' is a steam engine, it is no accident that some of society is on the verge of starvation at any moment.

[ March 08, 2010, 01:15 AM: Message edited by: LoneSnark ]

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KidB
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One reason union mines might have lost business is that union leaders were routinely harassed and murdered by company goons.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Third, is it Card's position that a worker should prefer an hourly wage of $0.00 an hour to $5.15 an hour? Is it truly better to starve to death in the street than suffer the indignity of a low wage?
And if that $5.15 doesn't cover the costs of transportation and child care so you can work? IF you're going to drop further into debt or starve either way, why speed it up just for the sake of working for someone else while you're doing it?

quote:
As union demands for compensation increase, companies respond in the long-term by employing fewer workers, just as any company would respond to higher energy prices by consuming less energy.
So they won't hire people that they don't need? That's amusing when one of the charges against unions tends to be that they force companies to overhire and pay people to do nothing. The fact that automation requires far fewer people to accomplish the same level of production is a far bigger force pushing down overall employment rates than unions.

quote:
As the number of jobs falls, union members whose mines do not close are safe and well compensated, but wages for the remaining non-union work-force is driven even lower.
As union members are better paid, they buy more products that they need, and even some that they want, from other companies, which increases their need for production leading to more hiring across the board, not less. By pushing compensation into the range where there is a close relationship between income and spending, they create far more jobs across the board than the short term loss of under-compensated workers who can't even keep up with their basic living expenses.

quote:
They may have lived their lives in debt to the company, but their children went to school and lived in a small two bedroom house.
They were actively prevented from accumulating any wealth, and even penalized for trying to save. Their kids went to work in the same mines as they did until compulsory education laws were passed to prevent them from being pressed in. No provisions were made for health or safety because there was an essentially limitless supply of people wiling to work for any wage, no matter how low, just for the sake of being employed- not to mention getting tricked into the con game of being paid in scrip and forced to spend it all at company stores designed to take it all back and then some to maintain their effective indenture.
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yossarian22c
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quote:
Originally posted by LoneSnark:
And therefore, once again, because there's really no way one could live off of a dollar a day, it is better to earn $0.00 an hour than $5.15 an hour and therefore we should outlaw the ladder?

Fine, proof. Did you know that 1.2 million American workers are exempt from the minimum wage? That's right: back before the latest increase of the minimum wage, there were 1.2 million Americans earning less than $5.15 an hour! And that included tips! How can that be, if all such workers starved to death and could no longer appear in the statistics? Then you compare that to the number of workers for whom the minimum wage does apply and were earning $5.15 an hour (or ~$3+tips), which was only 345,000.

They are homeless, live with their parents and/or receive government aid. Why should taxpayers have to subsidize business owners who pay their workers poorly?

quote:
Originally posted by LoneSnark:
And I have read lots of history. And economics. Unions in the time of Rockefeller would have improved wages for those working for those companies that kept their jobs, Rockefeller would have been less wealthy, but it would have also caused widespread starvation given the already subsistence wages at the time and depressing them further for all other workers would have been potentially lethal.

Why would higher wages for Rockefeller's workers depress wages for anyone else? If anything the increased wealth would have helped the other small businesses and workers in their communities.

quote:
Originally posted by LoneSnark:

Also, mining technologies are advancing because miner wages have become so high. It turns out humans dislike being underground and would happily take a desk job for far less money, which is why miners nowadays earn far more than the average American: to keep them from quitting. Which, if you had read your history, you would know this was the same situation that existed in 1870. Sure, 19th century miners died often and earned nothing compared to us moderns, but they earned far more than their fellow recent immigrant brothers on the streets of New York. They may have lived their lives in debt to the company, but their children went to school and lived in a small two bedroom house. Had they stayed in New York, their children would have spent their childhood working in a factory and sharing a smaller one bedroom apartment with another family so they could split the rent.

People forget how oppressively poor we were back then. When your definition of 'state-of-the-art' is a steam engine, it is no accident that some of society is on the verge of starvation at any moment.

How can you count living in perpetual dept to your employer anything but extraordinary impoverishment? If the ventures hadn't been so profitable maybe you could defend the low wages but the era is characterized by the robber barons. Men becoming so obscenely wealthy that 100 years later their heirs are still obscenely wealthy. How would taking 90% of their income and allocating it to the workers destroyed the economy or caused anyone to starve?

One of the greatest generators of wealth this country has ever known is Ford (who also became exceedingly wealthy). Ford generated so much wealth for the country because Henry Ford decided to pay his workers enough money that they could afford to purchase cars. Paying his workers enough to live on and have a little left over to purchase a luxury or two made our modern economy. The auto industry continued to be a large generator of wealth for the country because their workers were well paid. Even after the auto industry was unionized they continued to generate wealth for the country by creating a middle class. Wages large enough to actually live on are what supports the economy.

If no one has any money there is no demand for goods or services. A lack of demand hurts everyone trying to do business. Despite what you may believe or have seen in modern unions the original privileges unions fought for were a fair wage, safe working conditions, and reasonable job security. They didn't fight for the more onerous job creation/protection measures that modern unions have worked for. You probably enjoy the fruits of what the unions originally fought for: good wages, safe work environment, 40 hour work week and other benefits most jobs today include standard.

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LoneSnark
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quote:
And if that $5.15 doesn't cover the costs of transportation and child care so you can work?
Then the individual in question would refuse the work, no need to make it illegal.

quote:
The fact that automation requires far fewer people to accomplish the same level of production is a far bigger force pushing down overall employment rates than unions.
Exactly. Automation is not free, it costs money. As wages rise, firms invest in automation, reducing their consumption of labor. This is a good thing if wages are rising due to a labor shortage, as there were no workers for the jobs being lost. But, if wages are rising due to unionization then the automation driven job destruction will produce higher unemployment. And unemployment in the 19th century could mean death.

quote:
As union members are better paid, they buy more products that they need, and even some that they want, from other companies, which increases their need for production leading to more hiring across the board, not less.
Absolutely untrue. The Ford story is a myth perpetrated by Ford himself. Ford actually raised wages to reduce worker turnover, as the constant re-training of workers turned out to cost more than the money he was saving on wages.

quote:
No provisions were made for health or safety because there was an essentially limitless supply of people wiling to work for any wage, no matter how low, just for the sake of being employed-...
And therefore, it is all-right to condemn the minority of workers to unemployment and starvation if it excuses some workers from an uncomfortable lifestyle?

quote:
They are homeless, live with their parents and/or receive government aid. Why should taxpayers have to subsidize business owners who pay their workers poorly?
You don't. If American voters don't want to subsidize the poor they don't have to. Just change the law. I myself believe we should subsidize the poor, but that may just be me. What we should not do, however, is use our charity as an excuse to condemn the poorest among us to permanent unemployment.

quote:
Why would higher wages for Rockefeller's workers depress wages for anyone else? If anything the increased wealth would have helped the other small businesses and workers in their communities.
But unions do not create wealth, at best they just transfer wealth from consumers to unionized workers. At worse, they make the whole of society poorer, including a growing army of unemployed workers and consumers which have been denied the production that these workers could have produced.

quote:
How would taking 90% of their income and allocating it to the workers destroyed the economy or caused anyone to starve?
Because it is impossible to do that. At least, I know of no way. Company profits in the long run are not a function of wages or prices or anything like that. In the long run, company profits are a product of prevailing interest rates, capital invested, and vested risk. This is because the number and size of companies in an industry is not fixed. If you unionize the industry, granting a monopoly to these few workers, then wages will rise and in the short-term average profitability will fall. But not all firms were profitable, some were on the verge of bankruptcy before wages went up, which means now they definitely will go bankrupt. This will reduce competition for customers, driving up prices, and restoring profitability to the long-term trend. Of course, it also makes the workers in those now closed firms unemployed. Those unemployed workers will now starve, good work.

If anything, universal unionization should tend to increase profitability due to the increased risk of doing business (strikes).

quote:
Why would higher wages for Rockefeller's workers depress wages for anyone else? If anything the increased wealth would have helped the other small businesses and workers in their communities.
You need to follow the money. money to pay higher wages to unionized workers does not come from no-where. And it does not come from company owners either (see paragraph above). It comes from consumers, which as I said in my last post, tend to be poorer than the workers in question. The economy of 19th century America was not that complicated. Coal miners sent their coal to the cities where it was burned to keep city dwellers warm, run factories producing consumables and capital goods such as farming implements. As I said, before unionization, immigrant miners enjoyed living standards better than their immigrant fellows living in New York. Yes, unionization of coal miners will increase miner wages, but it also increases coal prices in New York, and thus the price of everything made from coal, in effect transferring income from the ghettos of New York and the farms of upstate New York to the rural mining villages of Pennsylvania. Transferring money from the poor to the less-poor is not helpful.
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