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Author Topic: The right of the public sector to unionize
Serotonin'sGone
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I try to see both sides of most issues, and most of the time, I think I get it. But on this one, I have trouble. I can't think of any rational reason why the public sector should ever be allowed to unionize. If anyone has a well though out reason why this should be the case, I welcome it.

A bit more to flesh out my position: I believe that public unions are a terrible blight. They are essentially a conflict of interest, as it creates a special interest group with the ability to vote its way into higher paychecks, better benefits and job security. They create chaos (just travel to france sometime and witness the joys of RER strikes.) And they create stagnation, as they impel an additional layer of crap over the already glacial pace of government. They also promote politicians to promise ridiculous pension packages

Worse, they allow the republicans an easy target when attempting to malign unions generally, enabling them to cover private sector unions (which have a very important purpose, and I believe need to exist in any balanced economy) and public unions with the same negative brush. This lets the Republicans shift the debate from real issues (corporate malfeasance, municipal misgovernment, etc.) onto a massive straw man.

The inevitable end of my position is that people employed by the government should not be allowed to vote (though I'll accept that this is a debatable position).

Getting rid of public sector unions is on my shortlist of things to fix America (along with reinstating glass-steagall, improving shareholder rights, and strict laws enforcing disclosure of conflict of interest. Mind you those are the things which government could fix -- most of the major problems in America are beyond the touch of government).

[ June 03, 2012, 11:13 PM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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Greg Davidson
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So let me see if I understand your point: government workers should not have the ability to utilize a legal negotiation strategy for their employment contract because they have the potential to influence government through methods above and beyond pure economic negotiations (that is, by their votes and their fund-raising). If that's your premise, the same conditions hold for corporations: they also can influence government on matters directly related to their government contracts, through votes and fund-raising.

What is the principle that makes the cases different with regard to these contracts?

What rights should be stripped from those who contract with government?

[ June 04, 2012, 01:58 AM: Message edited by: Greg Davidson ]

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TomDavidson
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I'm not sure I understand why you think the voting power of public sector unions is the problem, SG. Do you really think they're voting their way to higher paychecks and better benefits?
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Mynnion
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Over the years my views on unions has gone back and forth. The unions have done a tremendous amount of good over the years. When I was young teachers were paid as poorly as social workers. This trend has turned itself around and in most cases teachers make a fair income based on their education.

On the other hand I have seen significant abuse. The Corp. I work for displays at trade shows every year and in many venues we can't even bring in our own equipment. It has to be delivered by a union representative. I'm sorry but our own engineers are far more qualified.

Ultimately I realized that many Americans are buying the bill of goods that the Republican Party is selling them. Deregulate businesses. Restrict workers rights. Corporate America will take care of you.

This is of course BS. Corporations have one agenda. Make money for their shareholders. They will do this anyway they can. The only protections that workers have is their legal right to collective bargaining.

This is no less true in the public sector. Unions are about more than increasing pay and protectionism. They are about protecting the rights of those workers and assuring that any time there is a down turn in the economy that they don't get shafted.

I am not saying that there should be no deregulation or that there should not be some limitations on organized labor but remember what things were like in the early 1900s. Sixty hour work weeks with little to no time off and no retirement. We all owe those early unions for our current standard of living.

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AI Wessex
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IMO, you can kiss the standard of living you remember from 30 years ago goodbye. You're right that corporations exist for the sole purpose of making a profit, but they also have to compete in a world where unions don't exist in manufacturing for the most part. Beginning in the 70s and accelerating under Reagan we moved from the "traditional" single worker per family to dual employment in order to keep up with that standard, but it's been impossible to maintain. You can make anything for less if you don't have to pay your workers more than they will accept as a bare minimum. I'm afraid we're heading in that direction, as well. Now that corporations are people, too, their rights are taking precedence over ours.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
On the other hand I have seen significant abuse. The Corp. I work for displays at trade shows every year and in many venues we can't even bring in our own equipment. It has to be delivered by a union representative. I'm sorry but our own engineers are far more qualified.
This makes more sense when you think about it in terms of distribution of available work. The problem is that if your engineers do the work for (effectively) free, then there is less need to have local employees to handle the work, and some number of them will end up laid off and unable to find other equivalent work. It's not an abuse so much as a direct, rational reaction to the fact that each of them needs to be allocated a certain amount of what work is available to get by.

It rationing of a critical resource (in this case, wage paying work) that needs to be rectified by either providing a sufficient supply of additional work to eliminate the need to ration it out or by reducing the amount that the workers need to do to earn a reasonable living from it.

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vegimo
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It does get ridiculous when you can't plug in your own equipment at a trade show - the union electrician has to do that.
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Mynnion
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Pyr-
quote:
This makes more sense when you think about it in terms of distribution of available work. The problem is that if your engineers do the work for (effectively) free, then there is less need to have local employees to handle the work, and some number of them will end up laid off and unable to find other equivalent work. It's not an abuse so much as a direct, rational reaction to the fact that each of them needs to be allocated a certain amount of what work is available to get by.
This isn't a matter of denying work. The time of the engineer is not free. In addition, why would you pay someone for a service you can complete yourself. This is one of the main abuses of the unions. I have no problem paying someone to do needed work. I do however have an issue with paying someone to do something I can do as well or better because they have the power to force it.
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Mynnion
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quote:
It does get ridiculous when you can't plug in your own equipment at a trade show - the union electrician has to do that.
I have seen that also. You can add plug in network lines, phones, etc.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
The time of the engineer is not free.
It is, generally, to the employer of the union member. And even if they're working for the same company, odds are the engineer is salaried, not hourly, so his time is irrelevant, whereas the union member is paid hourly, so costs are directly proportionate to time.

quote:
In addition, why would you pay someone for a service you can complete yourself.
Because, in context, you already have your ration of the available work and they don't. Letting someone else get paid for performing a service that you'd receive no additional compensation for means that that other person can put food on the table and buy the things they need to maintain a reasonable standard of living, which translates to more work for other people and eventually works its way around the system as more potential revenue for your company, and thus a higher potential income for you.

You might prefer to grab 5 cookies from a tray as well when there are only enough on it for everyone to get 2, after all, it doesn't really cost you anything to eat a few more cookies, but the people that won't get any cookies because you grabbed more than your share are likely to be upset about that and maybe even push for rules that require that limit you from taking more until everyone else has had a chance to take their share.

quote:
This is one of the main abuses of the unions. I have no problem paying someone to do needed work. I do however have an issue with paying someone to do something I can do as well or better because they have the power to force it.
Then we either need to pay them more for the needed work or increase the supply of needed work so that they're not forced to try to reserve enough of an allocation of less specialized work to make ends meet.

I agree that the situation is obnoxious and inefficient, but it arises from an acute need to ration out the available work, not from any abuse of power.

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Mynnion:
quote:
It does get ridiculous when you can't plug in your own equipment at a trade show - the union electrician has to do that.
I have seen that also. You can add plug in network lines, phones, etc.
I've seen worse in a UAW auto plant. A plant IT person and myself needed to move a computer to the next room over. It was in essence a 5 minute task, but union rules forbade us from unplugging it or moving it. So we had to place a call and then go retrieve a cart. We loaded the computer onto the cart, but left it plugged in. (Actually we unplugged the power strip and then placed the computer and monitor on the cart and then plugged it back in. [DOH] ). After a 30 minute wait, the UAW worker showed up, unplugged the power strip, wheeled the cart into the next room, and then plugged the power strip into an available outlet without removing the computer from the cart. Then he turned around and left. At this point, the IT guy and I unplugged it again. Moved it over to the desk and then plugged it back in again.

[LOL]

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Ben
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Unions do have a role to play, and provide some benefits. My big problem with unions is the lack of choices with 1. the mandatory membership requirements to join if you want the job even though often one has NO help from them to get the job in the first place, 2. automatic enrollment and deduction of wages for union dues without any commitment to the new guy with skills who often gets shafted with seniority LIFO policies, and 3. frequent use of union funds for political purposes which one may be neutral or opposed to, rather than having separate transparent process and funding.

As for having enough work to go around, that's a silly idea if the union guy and engineer guy has to "share" the job without which the union guy would get nothing. Let's say that it was two union guys instead, then the guy with seniority would get the job, or production could be increased and there would be work for the second guy. But where production couldn't just be increased in some states where budget shortfalls are an issue, instead of layoffs, furloughs were suggested, to "share" and unions shot that down quickly.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Serotonin'sGone:
I try to see both sides of most issues, and most of the time, I think I get it. But on this one, I have trouble. I can't think of any rational reason why the public sector should ever be allowed to unionize. If anyone has a well though out reason why this should be the case, I welcome it.


The first amendment? I've never understood how it could be constitutional to curtail basic unionization. If me and my fellow teachers (for example) want to

1. meet,
2. discuss work, and
3. agree, between ourselves, not to sign a contract that we haven't ALL agreed to...

how, exactly, does the government have any authority to prevent that?

Looked at another way; what is to keep the public sector employees in Wisconsin from meeting privately, writing a contract that they all support, and then each of them, individually, telling the state that that is the only contract they will sign? If those are basic, constitutional rights (and I can't see how they aren't), then letting the employer into the meeting to negotiate is simply a more expedient way to get to an end that all parties can live with.

quote:
A bit more to flesh out my position: I believe that public unions are a terrible blight. They are essentially a conflict of interest, as it creates a special interest group with the ability to vote its way into higher paychecks, better benefits and job security.
Insofar as this is true, it has nothing to do with unions; its a simple consequence of having public employees who retain the right to vote. The same thing could be said, with as much accuracy, about the military, for example.

quote:
They create chaos (just travel to france sometime and witness the joys of RER strikes.) And they create stagnation, as they impel an additional layer of crap over the already glacial pace of government. They also promote politicians to promise ridiculous pension packages
I'm not seeing anything here that distinguishes public sector unions from private sector. Try getting your ship's cargo unloaded if the teamsters strike; its just as disruptive (which, incidentally, is the point of a strike). And if pension packages add up to one one-hundredth of one percent of the amount of money squandered through corporate welfare, it might inch up on my radar of real budgetary problems.

quote:


Worse, they allow the republicans an easy target when attempting to malign unions generally, enabling them to cover private sector unions (which have a very important purpose, and I believe need to exist in any balanced economy) and public unions with the same negative brush. This lets the Republicans shift the debate from real issues (corporate malfeasance, municipal misgovernment, etc.) onto a massive straw man.

The basic class warfare strategy that the GOP uses here applies to public and private sector unions equally. What are the negatives of public sector unions that you think are tarnishing private sector unions? I can't think of a single public sector union that has had the level of problems with corruption that the Teamsters have had...

quote:

Getting rid of public sector unions is on my shortlist of things to fix America (along with reinstating glass-steagall, improving shareholder rights, and strict laws enforcing disclosure of conflict of interest. Mind you those are the things which government could fix -- most of the major problems in America are beyond the touch of government).

This is a pretty authoritarian way to look at the situation. A worker shouldn't forfeit basic civil rights just because they work for government; the state is just as capable of exploiting labor as Wal-mart is.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
But where production couldn't just be increased in some states where budget shortfalls are an issue, instead of layoffs, furloughs were suggested, to "share" and unions shot that down quickly.
Where did this happen? Here in Wisconsin, the public unions accepted the requested furloughs and pay freezes.
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Grant
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I recall that when the Republic of Texas was formed, the constitution forbade members of the Army from voting, since it was believed that being a soldier would create a conflict of interest.

I'm sure, that coming as it did from the state of Texas, that the idea can be dismissed.

Heinlein floated something similar, but to an extreme, in Starship Troopers , which I still consider THE classic of military science fiction. The counter-point would probably be more visible in [i] The Forgotten War [/i}.

Part of the problem with money in politics is the concept that it creates a conflict of interest in politicians.

I can see the need for public unions in the same way I can see the need for private unions. The taxpayers can take advantage of their empoloyees just as well as a private company can take advantage of theirs. The trick is to somehow maintain a balance. In the end, unions and employers will always cause problems if they only look out for their side, and not the big picture.

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Serotonin'sGone
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quote:
1. meet,
2. discuss work, and
3. agree, between ourselves, not to sign a contract that we haven't ALL agreed to...

how, exactly, does the government have any authority to prevent that?

Local elections are routinely decided by a small percentage of eligible voters. When you create a block which has the ability and power to vote itself increases in pay and benefits, you end up with abuse -- which is what we've seen across America. I have no problem with public sector unions -- if they forfeit the right to vote. It's the same thing with corporations and control of the board -- I don't believe they should have the right to unilaterally issue ridiculous levels of compensation to corporate executives -- they need checks from the shareholders. In the same way, with public service, I think the voter who does not work for the government (the served) should be the one determining compensation.
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Greg Davidson
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quote:
When you create a block which has the ability and power to vote itself increases in pay and benefits, you end up with abuse -- which is what we've seen across America.
How about social security recipients? Should they have the right to vote? Again, how about companies that enter into contractual relationships with the government - should everyone who owns stock be forbidden to vote?
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
How about social security recipients? Should they have the right to vote? Again, how about companies that enter into contractual relationships with the government - should everyone who owns stock be forbidden to vote?

Heh Heh. Just who are we going to have left to vote?

If we eliminated all those people from the voting pool, just what would occur?

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Paladine
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quote:
The first amendment? I've never understood how it could be constitutional to curtail basic unionization. If me and my fellow teachers (for example) want to

1. meet,
2. discuss work, and
3. agree, between ourselves, not to sign a contract that we haven't ALL agreed to...

how, exactly, does the government have any authority to prevent that?

You can meet, discuss work, and come to whatever agreements you want. If you don't want to sign a contract no one's going to force you; if you want to meet and talk no one's going to prevent you. Which of these things does anyone propose to deny to teachers? None of them, of course.

The things they might be denied are a little different. The state or municipality might refuse to deal with them as a union and insist upon negotiating with individuals who would then be free to sign whatever contracts they wanted, irrespective of any agreements they made with each other (they'd still be free, of course, to honor agreements they'd made with each other; the government just wouldn't *compel* them to). The state or municipality might hire teachers who aren't part of the group, and on more or less favorable terms compared to someone else. The state or municipality might fire them individually or collectively if they failed to show up for work.

quote:

I'm not seeing anything here that distinguishes public sector unions from private sector.

A multitude of things. In the private sector there's a built in control on union power. The union wants a bigger share of profits for the workers; the management wants a bigger share of the profits for the shareholders. The interests of the two groups align in such a way that each side balances the other; the union pulls negotiations towards the workers and the management pulls them towards the shareholders.

In the public sector, the union's motivations remain the same. The motivation of the people on the other side of the table, now a government official instead of a corporate manager, however, are different. He doesn't have a structural incentive to protect the taxpayers' money. He has a structural incentive to accumulate money and votes for the preservation and advancement of his political career. The union has it within its power to give a tremendous amount of money, manpower, and votes to politicians who are friendly to it. It's often the case that a politician will gain far more organizational and financial support for scratching the union's back than he'll lose in support from the rest of the general population whom he's colluding with the unions to rob.

That's where the conflict of interest comes from. SG is right that it also exists to a certain extent in the corporate world; that's where we get these incestuous relationships between high-ranking executives and boards of directors who effectively work to compensate each other at the expense of their shareholders.
In both of these corrupt types of financial relationship the people who are supposed to act as stewards for someone else's money stand to gain themselves by betraying the trust they're given.

quote:
This is a pretty authoritarian way to look at the situation. A worker shouldn't forfeit basic civil rights just because they work for government; the state is just as capable of exploiting labor as Wal-mart is.
Absent force or fraud or violations of labor law I'm genuinely unsure as to how labor can be "exploited". A corporation or governmental entity offers to employ you to perform a function at a mutually agreed to wage which is equal to or greater than the state and federal minimum wage. If you don't find it agreeable, find work elsewhere, start your own business, or suck it up.

[ June 05, 2012, 01:47 AM: Message edited by: Paladine ]

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Paladine
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quote:
IMO, you can kiss the standard of living you remember from 30 years ago goodbye.
And thank God for that. 30 years ago Microsoft hadn't sold you windows; IBM had just started making (comparatively awful) desktops. Apple hadn't made iPads or iPods or iPhones. There *weren't* any cell phones (those having been produced and sold to you by, you know, corporations). Plenty of diseases and conditions were death sentences which are treatable today thanks to our innovative drug companies. You had access to worse cars, worse food, less information, less music and entertainment, less and worse of pretty much everything there is.

If you really want to return to "the standard of living you can remember from 30 years ago" for the average person in this country, you're probably occupying a different planet than I am. For what it's worth, pretty much all of those technological innovations which have dramatically raised the standard of living of common people to heights of luxury, comfort, and convenience unimaginable to anyone on the planet a few short decades ago were produced by corporations.

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AI Wessex
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Many things are better today, to be sure, but who to thank?

If you want to ignore that the government invented the internet and that the government has funded a huge amount of scientific and military research, then yes, businessmen get credit for inventing the computer.

If you want to ignore that the NIH pumps billions of $$ into medical research that have led to most of the medical breakthroughs you're the beneficiary of, then yes, businessmen get credit for those leaps forward.

If you want to ignore the government's intervention and enforcement of individuals' Constitutional and civil rights, protection of the environment, physical infrastructure, laws promoting manufacturing and food safety and support for public education, then yes, you can thank businessmen for all of those great achievements.

If you think great strides forward are measured by ubiquitous conveniences like laptops and cell phones, then for that you certainly can thank businessmen and you can pay them an ever increasing portion of your income and wealth to maintain that status defined by convenience. Those lower on the economic scale who can't afford them and don't benefit from them may not appreciate those things as much as you, but that's not your problem.

You can ignore the role the government has had in research and support for entrepreneurial opportunities and believe in all the great contributions that businessmen have made, but IMHO that takes a lot of ignorance.

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PSRT
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quote:
You can meet, discuss work, and come to whatever agreements you want. If you don't want to sign a contract no one's going to force you; if you want to meet and talk no one's going to prevent you. Which of these things does anyone propose to deny to teachers? None of them, of course.
Serotonin is proposing exactly that in this thread, as he is proposing that if teachers do these things (you know, be a union) they shouldn't be allowed to vote... in other words, teachers should only be allowed to do one of two things they are constitutionally allowed to do.
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Serotonin'sGone
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PSRT: nonsense -- I said that was a drastic and debatable move. Seems a lot more reasonable to simply give up collective bargaining. But I'm all for giving people options, so if they'd rather collectively bargain than vote, that's fine.

[ June 05, 2012, 07:52 AM: Message edited by: Serotonin'sGone ]

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PSRT
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As I said, you are proposing that teachers give up one of two constitutionally protected rights.
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Greg Davidson
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I have to agree with some of the adverse comments about unions that were made above as well. It is simply inefficient to forbid some people to perform a job (such as unplugging and re-plugging a computer in an adjacent room) so that a union person can perform the same work. This seems analogous to a company forbidding customers from performing a simple function, such as copying a movie or some software. Or a movie theater forbidding people from bringing in their own snacks. In all these cases the most efficient overall approach is to just allow people to get what they want with the minimum amount of effort. But there is an over-riding economic imperative that counters efficiency. I don't like any of those situations - but I don't see the issue of unions and labor limitations as being significantly worse than the others.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
1. the mandatory membership requirements to join if you want the job even though often one has NO help from them to get the job in the first place, 2. automatic enrollment and deduction of wages for union dues without any commitment to the new guy with skills who often gets shafted with seniority LIFO policies, and 3. frequent use of union funds for political purposes which one may be neutral or opposed to, rather than having separate transparent process and funding.
Point 3 is false here- unions already must raise funds separately and explicitly for political activities, maintain separate accounts for them, and cannot automatically collect such funds.
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Grant
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I remember a similar story some guy told me about a place he worked. He said that he was not allowed to change a light bulb in his office. Had to get the union electrician to come do it.
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DonaldD
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I remember stories about owners hiring thugs to beat up employees who were trying to organize their co-workers...

Getting back to the initial topic of the thread: as far as the government is concerned, the main power that unions represent is not one of voting, it is one of money. And specifically for public sector unions, there is also the ability to have work action directly affect the government's ability to function.

Public sector benefits have not evolved mainly due to union members voting themselves more lucre, but rather by holding the populous hostage against politicians who are far more dependent on public opinion than other employers.

Just saying - the initial post seems to have missed the mark in defining the problem; as such, the proposed solution can then be seen not as corrective but as punitive.

A more coherent solution to the identified problem might be to limit political spending, lobbying, bribery, etc, to only real people, excluding unions from being able to project any effective power outside of employment negotiations. Of course, this would have the associated effect of castrating corporate power, so that seems like a non-starter.

Alternatively, you could explicitly roll back anti-union busting legislation.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Heinlein floated something similar, but to an extreme, in Starship Troopers , which I still consider THE classic of military science fiction.
As I recall, in Starship Troopers, people could only earn the right to vote/full citizenship if they had either performed at least one term of military or civil service. You couldn't vote while in either, but once you have properly invested yourself in society, you were granted full privileges.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
I recall that when the Republic of Texas was formed, the constitution forbade members of the Army from voting, since it was believed that being a soldier would create a conflict of interest.

I'm sure, that coming as it did from the state of Texas, that the idea can be dismissed.

Heinlein floated something similar, but to an extreme, in Starship Troopers , which I still consider THE classic of military science fiction.

As I recall, Heinlein proposed exactly the opposite. Only those who had performed military service had the franchise.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
As I recall, Heinlein proposed exactly the opposite. Only those who had performed military service had the franchise.

[Smile]
Yes, but they were not awarded the franchise until AFTER they had successfully completed their term of duty. Forgot that part?

So what Heinlein wrote about was similar to what the Republic of Texas had done, since both did not allow current members of the armed forces to vote.

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
As I recall, in Starship Troopers, people could only earn the right to vote/full citizenship if they had either performed at least one term of military or civil service. You couldn't vote while in either, but once you have properly invested yourself in society, you were granted full privileges.

Right. I don't remember the civil service part, but sounds like something he could have put in. The point is that they could not vote WHILE employed by the government. You could only vote AFTER.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
I remember a similar story some guy told me about a place he worked. He said that he was not allowed to change a light bulb in his office. Had to get the union electrician to come do it.

And I recall stories of idiots standing on chairs to change their own lightbulbs, falling and suing the company. Successfully. Workman's comp doesn't care if you were an idiot. If you allow people to change lightbulbs and they hurt themselves doing it, you are liable.

Same goes for people shorting circuits by plugging in too much stuff. Just because most people can perfectly well do most simple tasks doesn't mean that everyone can do everything they think they can.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
As I recall, Heinlein proposed exactly the opposite. Only those who had performed military service had the franchise.

[Smile]
Yes, but they were not awarded the franchise until AFTER they had successfully completed their term of duty. Forgot that part?

So what Heinlein wrote about was similar to what the Republic of Texas had done, since both did not allow current members of the armed forces to vote.

Thank you for clarifying.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
And I recall stories of idiots standing on chairs to change their own lightbulbs, falling and suing the company. Successfully. Workman's comp doesn't care if you were an idiot.

Well, gawd bless America and workman's comp. Another case where the law protects, what did you call them, "idiots", to the detriment of everyone else.

Welcome to the idiocracy.

And I'm sure the reason the union demanded that only the electrician change the lightbulb had everything to do with protecting the company from being sued.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
As I recall, in Starship Troopers, people could only earn the right to vote/full citizenship if they had either performed at least one term of military or civil service. You couldn't vote while in either, but once you have properly invested yourself in society, you were granted full privileges.

Right. I don't remember the civil service part, but sounds like something he could have put in. The point is that they could not vote WHILE employed by the government. You could only vote AFTER.
The civil service bit may come from conflating other writing where he advocated that in general with the books; it's been a while.
I think it's also important to note that you couldn't vote before either. Imagine if we applied similar logic to corporations- you didn't get a vote unless you were a retired employee (maybe allow long term (5-10 year) investors as well) You'd probably see a big shift from short term flash to longer term sustainability.

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Grant
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Pyr, don't tell me you actually see positives in such a system. LOL
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Paladine
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quote:
Many things are better today, to be sure, but who to thank?
Like I said, thank God. [Razz]

quote:
If you want to ignore that the government invented the internet and that the government has funded a huge amount of scientific and military research, then yes, businessmen get credit for inventing the computer.
Not only invented it, but constantly improved it and made it able to do a wider and wider range of things with greater and greater effectiveness. The computers we have today can do an astonishing number of things because they were designed to do so by people who wanted to make a profit by creating a good or service which other people wanted to freely buy.

quote:
If you want to ignore that the NIH pumps billions of $$ into medical research that have led to most of the medical breakthroughs you're the beneficiary of, then yes, businessmen get credit for those leaps forward.
As far as I know the NIH isn't responsible for "most" of the medical breakthroughs in the past few decades, although I'm open to seeing any information you have in support of the claim. They certainly aren't responsible for producing and delivering lifesaving drugs to people, making them more affordable, etc.

{quote]If you want to ignore the government's intervention and enforcement of individuals' Constitutional and civil rights, protection of the environment, physical infrastructure, laws promoting manufacturing and food safety and support for public education, then yes, you can thank businessmen for all of those great achievements.[/quote]

The great thing historically about our government, the thing which differentiated it from the other governments of the world, is that it more-or-less left us alone and allowed our creative energy to flow freely. We've relied for over a century on the idea that no one in the world could out-think or out-produce hundreds of millions of free people pursuing their own interests.

We haven't had the best public education or the best environmental protections or the best physical infrastructure or any of the rest of it; we've had the most free people. It isn't our government that's made us the hope of the Earth. It's our people. Not because we're genetically or racially better than anyone else or because we occupy a nicer piece of real estate, but simply and absolutely because this has historically been a land of freedom and opportunity. It's exactly that thing which is attacked by burgeoning governmental expansion.

quote:

If you think great strides forward are measured by ubiquitous conveniences like laptops and cell phones, then for that you certainly can thank businessmen and you can pay them an ever increasing portion of your income and wealth to maintain that status defined by convenience. Those lower on the economic scale who can't afford them and don't benefit from them may not appreciate those things as much as you, but that's not your problem.

Al, when you talk about "standard of living" I assume that you're talking about access to things like quality food, quality transportation, entertainment, medicine, and comfort as a general matter. The vast majority of people in this country have access to more and better of all of those things than they did a few decades ago. I don't see how that can be seriously disputed.

And please do me a favor and don't tell me "what I may not appreicate" and "what's not my problem". I'll take no pious, condescending lectures from liberals on compassion and caring. It's not compassion to demand that the government take money that doesn't belong to you and give it to other people; it's far more caring and charitable to freely give your own time and money to help those who are less fortunate, and to urge your friends and neighbors to do the same. That's what I do, and that's what I believe in. The fact that I don't want government confiscating someone else's money to set up an inefficient and unsustainable program doesn't remotely imply that something's "not my problem".

quote:

Serotonin is proposing exactly that in this thread, as he is proposing that if teachers do these things (you know, be a union) they shouldn't be allowed to vote... in other words, teachers should only be allowed to do one of two things they are constitutionally allowed to do.

Maybe I misunderstood, but I don't think SG was objecting to a group of teachers getting together, talking and voting on whatever they want. Instead the problem is when government formally recognizes the results of those votes, compels people to belong to the group doing the voting, and assigns formal and legal weight to the results of the voting. The problem is when government insists that even people who don't want to belong to the union should have to pay the union; that's the kind of thing that'd end.

You can get together and vote however and on whatever you want, but when it comes time to negotiate your contract then that'll be done on an individual basis without regard for the union's position. You're free to abide by the decision of the majority or not, as you see fit, and so is everyone else. No one should be forced to belong to your association or to pay dues to it. You're free to do whatever you want, but so is everyone else.

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PSRT
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quote:
Maybe I misunderstood, but I don't think SG was objecting to a group of teachers getting together, talking and voting on whatever they want. Instead the problem is when government formally recognizes the results of those votes, compels people to belong to the group doing the voting, and assigns formal and legal weight to the results of the voting.
Here's the problem: If a group of people working for the government get together, vote on a person to negotiate their contracts with the government, and agree to abide by that negotiation for all of the members of the group, the government has no choice, under the first amendment, to negotiate with that group, or hire an entirely different set of people, because we have the rights to freedom of assembly, freedom to petition government for redress of grievances, and freedom of association. That freedom of association allows me to get together with the other members of my school district, form a negotiating group, and appoint a member of the group to be my representative for purposes of addressing my grievances with my employer, who, since it is the government, I have an absolute right to so petition.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
You can get together and vote however and on whatever you want, but when it comes time to negotiate your contract then that'll be done on an individual basis without regard for the union's position.
You have to go in on an individual basis up against an employer who is doing it on a collective basis? If you want it to actually be on an individual basis, then the manager you're negotiating with has to be operating on the same basis; no company policies or guidelines, no regard for the company or industry's position. If you can't assure that it really is an individual negotiation on bot sides of the table, then how do you expect it to even remotely make sense to force the employee to negotiate as an individual against a collective legal construct (or, more realistically, effectively against a cartel of such due to the natural state of collusion that companies operate in especially in regards to things like labor costs)
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