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Author Topic: Freedom of Information and Unions Strike breakers
Seriati
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What do you guys make of this story?

Fox News story

Apparently the teacher's union is demanding, pursuant to a freedom of information act request, the name, telephone number and home address of the temporary teacher's hired during the union's strike. A strike in which there was intimidation and threats with respect to such workers.

The school district says no, citing safety issues, the court's - so far - are ordering the release, and it's sitting in the Ohio Supreme Court.

I can not see any legimate reason to provide this information and a tremendous moral hazard in doing so, even if no violence occurs it creates a tremendous intimidation effect. It's not hard to imagine that during the next strike, the union strikers will inform those crossing the picket lines that they'll get their home addresses after the strike.

Home addresses should never be "public" information, and I think for any personal information there should be a requirement that you show a reasonable need, and that consideration of saftey ought to be allowed.

Are there any sources out there that you've seen that give it a different gloss?

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AI Wessex
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Sounds like Strongsville is a regular stewpot of corruption. I read that the city council, which opposed the teacher's union in the strike, rehired a member of the mayor's staff a day after he retired. He is now receiving his old salary plus his pension. I'm sure whatever happened has plenty of room for blame on all sides. Strongsville ain't beanbag.
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MattP
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I agree that this has a nasty flavor, but I worry about how restrictions on FOIA requests could be abused. Language like "reasonable need" tends to produce a lot of debate about what constitutes reasonable.
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scifibum
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I would like to know what the union's justification is.

From what I can see, it looks like the intent is to intimidate. There may be a public interest served by making the substitute teachers' identities public (the same article mentions a reason this might be so) but it doesn't make sense that the union would be asking on behalf of the public.

That being said, I'm sympathetic to the argument laid out here:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2014/05/19/safeguard-the-right-to-know.html

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stilesbn
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I might be more sympathetic if the request didn't also include telephone number and address. That seems like some sort of breach of privacy to me.
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
I would like to know what the union's justification is.

The only reasonable one I could see, is that they want to approach them to join the union. But it seems there would be a less invasive alternative to do that.
quote:
That being said, I'm sympathetic to the argument laid out here:

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2014/05/19/safeguard-the-right-to-know.html

I'm not sympathetic to that argument at all, for one simple reason it argues about protected "classes of people" when it should be explaining why there should be no protected categories of data. Why should the home addresses of any state employee be deemed a public record? I'm sure their social security numbers, and bank account information is in their file, why is that not also a public record?

Personal information when held by the state (and it needs it to verify identities, run background checks, deal with emergency medical situations, and other reasons) should not lose it's character as private unless its relevant to the public purpose. If a town employee has to live in a certain district, then proof they do is a proper public record.

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LetterRip
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My thoughts are that anyone who has a student at a school should have a right to know who the teachers are at that school, and probably anyone who pays taxes in a district for a school should have a right to know. Once a legitimate public interest can be established for a reasonable subset of the public, then there shouldn't be a means to restrict who can request the information.

So while I understand the risk of harassment, there is no reasonable grounds to withhold it.

Contact information does not seem necessary.

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scifibum
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Without contact information, a name is probably not sufficient to identify an individual (most of the time).
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Seneca
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Uh... considering United States v. Enmons this is extremely alarming.
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
Uh... considering United States v. Enmons this is extremely alarming.

I'm not an expert on that case, but historically it wasn't the federal government's job to police crime, it was the states. If that case essentially claimed that it was overreach to assert a federal crime with respect to union violence, it's probably not as egregrious as it may appear. It certainly wouldn't stand for the proposition that no criminal charges could be brought by the state, unless it was coupled with a pre-emption claim?
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PSRT
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I have a hard time with a FOIA claim being denied for substitute teachers, when anyone in the community can file the same request on me and get information that would be denied in this case.
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MattP
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quote:
The only reasonable one I could see, is that they want to approach them to join the union. But it seems there would be a less invasive alternative to do that.
I could see the Union wanting to find out if any of the subs are breaking Union contracts.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
The only reasonable one I could see, is that they want to approach them to join the union. But it seems there would be a less invasive alternative to do that.
I could see the Union wanting to find out if any of the subs are breaking Union contracts.
Why would that require adresses?
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Mynnion
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Does the union believe that the same information on it's members be public?
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yossarian22c
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Public employees names and salaries are available.

I'm not sure why the union is requesting addresses. Does anyone know Ohio law well enough to know if public employees addresses are also usually available under FOIA requests?

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Seneca
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quote:
Originally posted by Seriati:
quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
Uh... considering United States v. Enmons this is extremely alarming.

I'm not an expert on that case, but historically it wasn't the federal government's job to police crime, it was the states. If that case essentially claimed that it was overreach to assert a federal crime with respect to union violence, it's probably not as egregrious as it may appear. It certainly wouldn't stand for the proposition that no criminal charges could be brought by the state, unless it was coupled with a pre-emption claim?
So the feds don't police except when they do?
When large multi-state/international organized crime rings rob, extort, intimidate, assault, steal, etc., they are pursued with these laws.
But when large, multi-state/international unions act the exact same ways it's OK?

Where in the NLRB does it list robbery, assault, extortion, intimidation, etc. as approved forms of striking? I must have missed that part...

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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Seneca:
So the feds don't police except when they do?

Like in everything touching the Feds, they are constantly expanding their power. It was once controversial that the feds could punish someone for murder in most cases, now it almost always is possible. In any event, the point was, the fact that it's not a federal crime is not that significant when it is a prosecutable state and local crime.
quote:
When large multi-state/international organized crime rings rob, extort, intimidate, assault, steal, etc., they are pursued with these laws.
But when large, multi-state/international unions act the exact same ways it's OK?

Not an expert, but the unions can be pursued with this law. I think it's for extortion or collusion. The case seemed to be standing for the proposition that violence was not actionable under this law (nor was stopping violence its purpose).
quote:
Where in the NLRB does it list robbery, assault, extortion, intimidation, etc. as approved forms of striking? I must have missed that part...
You're complaining that your Butcher doesn't sell vegetables here. Violence is covered directly by state laws against violence, are you really arguing that it should be pre-empted by the feds in the union context?

There's no reason that the Fed's couldn't revise the law to add this, but there's no real reason it has to be covered there either.

The question of whether Ohio law would require address disclosures for other employees misses the point. First, this is private information held by the state and it shouldn't be disclosable in this manner for anyone. Second, its a special miscarriage of justice to pretend that an open records law can not account for safety concerns.

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Pete at Home
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Union violence might well fall under RICO, don't you think, Seriati?

Seems that if they are using foia to obtains victims for threats or violence that would be enough constitutionally, if there's statutory power.

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NobleHunter
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Wouldn't there have to be threats or violence based on that data? Or at least evidence of the intention (conspiracy!) to commit same?
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Seneca
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Because unions have never historically gone after scabs right? [Roll Eyes]
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NobleHunter
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That's an argument to deny them the data, not to prosecute.
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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Union violence might well fall under RICO, don't you think, Seriati?

I think, and I'm not an expert here, behind Seneca's case is essentially that unions are not per se criminal enterprises, and that treating them as such and attributing any violent act by a union member in pursuit of the union's goals to the union as a whole, is unfair to the vast majority of the innocent union members,and even to the union itself. You're welcome to look at the case, but I'd suspect if you showed an actual intent or proof of collusion you'd be correct, but if all you can show is the effects not so much.

You are still free to hold the violent union members individually accountable.

Seneca I obviously agree that the union is requesting this to go after scabs and that they should be protected from that, both because they individual deserve to be protected, but also because this kind of intimidation would hopelessly warp the ability to resist a union's illegal tactics within the bounds of the current law.

After all the stories, I'm not sure I see any reason that unions should be allowed to force people to "walk through" a picket line at all. A tactic that is all about intimidation (which is illegal assualt) and often leads to battery. Why would that be okay, but it not be okay at say an abortion clinic?

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Mynnion
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Is the personal information of the Union teachers considered public and available upon request. If so then I would think the same rules would apply to union breakers. If it is not then I am not sure why the Union feels it has the right to information it would not disclose on it's members.
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LetterRip
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I suspect the reason wanting the names and contact info is for the purpose MattP alluded to - check to see if any broke contracts with the union.

If so the union probably has legal options.

I think it is idiocy to assume that the purpose is to do physical intimidation. They have plenty of legal options that would probably be more effective such as public shaming, shunning, bringing economic consequences to their family (ie boycotting any business their family is associated with) etc.

They are almost certainly requesting the information to 'go after scabs' but there is no reason to believe it will be illegal or immoral actions.

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Seneca
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quote:
I think it is idiocy to assume that the purpose is to do physical intimidation.
Since it is illegal in most jurisdictions for certain types of public employees such as teachers to strike at all, why do you assume that they wouldn't do OTHER illegal things too? They've most likely already broken the law, what's a few more offenses on top of that?

It's pathetically sad when I see it here in my own state. The WEA tells teachers to go on strike despite a judge's orders not to, and the judge starts fining the union hundreds of thousands per day, and in the end they wind up accepting the school district's last best and final that they would have had ANYWAY, AND they have to pay the fines for the illegal striking!

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AI Wessex
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quote:
After all the stories, I'm not sure I see any reason that unions should be allowed to force people to "walk through" a picket line at all. A tactic that is all about intimidation (which is illegal assualt) and often leads to battery. Why would that be okay, but it not be okay at say an abortion clinic?
Just so. People are far more understanding about extreme tactics in furtherance of a cause they agree with than one they oppose.

The scabs are breaking union rules and would be targeted for exclusion by the union in the future. It makes sense to know who they were. It seems to go a little far to gather personal details, but I share even my somewhat uncommon name with 4 other people in my county. I once gave a student an extra week to finish a homework assignment on a phone call, him thinking I was his professor and me thinking it was a co-worker goofing on me.
quote:
Since it is illegal in most jurisdictions for certain types of public employees such as teachers to strike at all, why do you assume that they wouldn't do OTHER illegal things too? They've most likely already broken the law, what's a few more offenses on top of that?
Why do you think the strike was illegal? Ohio legalized teacher union strikes over 30 years ago. The school system is breaking the rules (if not the law) by hiring scabs.
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JoshuaD
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AI: Assume for a moment that the Unions in Ohio are making unreasonable demands. What alternative does the school system have?

If the "rules" are:

1) The teachers can stop working at any time and demand more; and

2) The school system can't hire different teachers

Then the end result is the teachers have all of the power and the school system has none.

That's obviously (at least to me) a terrible system.

Unions can be a healthy way for the individuals employed by a large system to avoid being exploited. In this case, in the rules you outlined (which I don't think are the actual rules, for very good reasons), the employees have all of the power and can exploit the system.

A balance is necessary. One of the tools the school system needs to have is to say "well, we can't do that. We're hiring a whole new crew of people."

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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
The scabs are breaking union rules and would be targeted for exclusion by the union in the future.

This brings to mind the difference between a union for public employees and for private employees. What is the legitimacy to targetting these employees for "future exclusion"? Are you suggesting they should be barred from employment by the state? Or somehow that they can not become a teacher? Or only that after the state hires them on a non-discriminatory basis, that the union will not let them join? I don't see an argument for operating a state as a "closed shop" legimately, and plenty of moral hazard in doing so.
quote:
quote:
Since it is illegal in most jurisdictions for certain types of public employees such as teachers to strike at all, why do you assume that they wouldn't do OTHER illegal things too? They've most likely already broken the law, what's a few more offenses on top of that?
Why do you think the strike was illegal? Ohio legalized teacher union strikes over 30 years ago. The school system is breaking the rules (if not the law) by hiring scabs.
So how do you resolve the right of the impacted children to recieve a public education? Must the state concede to even an unreasonable demand if a strike is going to keep kids out of school.

Public services have to be provided by the state, education can not be deferred without consequences to children who are legally entitled to it, crime won't take a break while the police strike. This again highlights why public unions are not the same thing as private ones.

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AI Wessex
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshuaD:
AI: Assume for a moment that the Unions in Ohio are making unreasonable demands. What alternative does the school system have?

If the "rules" are:

1) The teachers can stop working at any time and demand more; and

2) The school system can't hire different teachers

Then the end result is the teachers have all of the power and the school system has none.

That's obviously (at least to me) a terrible system.

Unions can be a healthy way for the individuals employed by a large system to avoid being exploited. In this case, in the rules you outlined (which I don't think are the actual rules, for very good reasons), the employees have all of the power and can exploit the system.

A balance is necessary. One of the tools the school system needs to have is to say "well, we can't do that. We're hiring a whole new crew of people."

I'm not suggesting that either side has all the power, but if a union is the official bargaining body for employees and the employer legalized and officially recognizes their right to strike, then what is the argument against them striking? Certainly the contract wouldn't stipulate that if the teachers exercise their right to strike the state has the right to hire replacements on a permanent basis. What then would be the point of having a union or a right to strike?
quote:
So how do you resolve the right of the impacted children to recieve a public education? Must the state concede to even an unreasonable demand if a strike is going to keep kids out of school.
I don't have a magic answer. Obviously the children are entitled to their education and should receive it. If the state grants the teachers the right to strike when their contract demands weren't met then the teachers also have rights. It's a mess any time anyone strikes, but it's also a mess when employers deny their workers fair and equitable compensation or decent working conditions. Those are in fact the primary reasons for unions to exist, because employers are focused on profits or budget and too often ignore the welfare of their workers.

I have known elhi teachers who regularly work 60-70 hours a week and even buy classroom materials out of their own pockets. I don't hear the state (or anti-union arguers) going out of their way to praise or support the teachers for doing so. Know any cities that celebrate teacher appreciation day? They are instead often treated as a necessary evil rather than the caretaker of your children.

[ May 22, 2014, 02:01 PM: Message edited by: AI Wessex ]

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Seneca
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Wow I didn't realize that Ohio allowed teachers to strike. That's insane. Do they let cops strike too? How about EMTs?
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AI Wessex
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In your state (Washington) teachers have no "legally protected right to strike". I'm not sure that means that strikes are illegal, though. Illinois recently passed a law making it illegal for teachers to strike except related to their compensation. In other words, they can strike. I'm not sure how many states make strikes illegal for teachers or any other state or local employees. You were a cop, so I'm sure you know about blue flu. Did you even take part in a sickout?
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JoshuaD
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quote:
AI:I'm not suggesting that either side has all the power, but if a union is the official bargaining body for employees and the employer legalized and officially recognizes their right to strike, then what is the argument against them striking? Certainly the contract wouldn't stipulate that if the teachers exercise their right to strike the state has the right to hire replacements on a permanent basis. What then would be the point of having a union or a right to strike?
Prior to unions, the employer had an advantageous power imbalance: losing an employee is a small annoyance, but losing your job can be life shattering. As a result of this power imbalance, employees were being exploited by employers.

This power imbalance is a failing of capitalism, and we are right to try to mitigate it.

We have created a number laws to fix this exploit: minimum wage laws, federal unemployment insurance, and labor unions are the three that come to mind immediately.

The purpose of the labor union is for the workers to commit to one another that if one of them is mistreated, they will collectively leverage their power against the employer to resolve that mistreatment. Individually, the workers have very limited power to damage the employer, collectively, they have much more power. This collective power is better reflection of the real nature of the relationship between the employers and the employees.

So yes, it is good that people can unionize. And yes, it is good that they can strike sometimes. The rightful purpose of these things is to make sure that the employer doesn't try to exploit the individual employees. The employees are saying "If you want any of us, you have to take all of us on these terms."

The flipside of that has to be that the employer can say "no." It has to be able to say "I can't do what you want. If you're working together, that's fine, then you're all fired. I can't run my business that way, so I'll hire new people."

If not, then the employees can simply demand anything at all, and the employer has no recourse.

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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by AI Wessex:
I'm not suggesting that either side has all the power, but if a union is the official bargaining body for employees and the employer legalized and officially recognizes their right to strike, then what is the argument against them striking?

There isn't an argument against the strike in that case, but it doesn't follow that a mandated public service halts in that period. The way this typcially resolves is that there is absolute freedom to hire temporary workers (in some cases even permanent ones), and the strikers have protection against retailiation and sometimes a right to return.

Note a strike is never necessary, there are always other alternatives. Striking as a choice does not have to be consequence free.
quote:
Certainly the contract wouldn't stipulate that if the teachers exercise their right to strike the state has the right to hire replacements on a permanent basis. What then would be the point of having a union or a right to strike?
Unions exist to collectively bargain, there are all manner of obligations of good faith negotiation and rights to arbitration that are enforceable without regard to a right to strike. The point of having a right to strike, is simply the contrast to not having such a right. Striking without a right entitles the employer to take punitive measures, as well as measures designed to simply continue operations.
quote:
quote:
So how do you resolve the right of the impacted children to recieve a public education? Must the state concede to even an unreasonable demand if a strike is going to keep kids out of school.
I don't have a magic answer. Obviously the children are entitled to their education and should receive it.
Which means ultimately either no strikes, or yes scabs (or even permanent replacements).
quote:
If the state grants the teachers the right to strike when their contract demands weren't met then the teachers also have rights.
What you're assuming though, is that those rights include a right to return to employment. You can look, but I don't think that exists as a matter of law though it could by contract.
quote:
It's a mess any time anyone strikes, but it's also a mess when employers deny their workers fair and equitable compensation or decent working conditions.
This is about the public as an employer. I don't see a "denial" of fair and equitable compensation when you're talking about the town setting the educational budget. Every dollar paid is earned by tax, not by profit of some enterprise. Decent working conditions also seems an odd one in this particular case, given the communities children are also in the buildings.

I think often we blend public and private arguments, because it's far easier to make the argument about a private employer that's exploiting their workers. In the public union's case its far more likely to be the inverse, with the public union signing sweet heart deals with officials who should be acting as fiduciary's of the public trust.
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Those are in fact the primary reasons for unions to exist, because employers are focused on profits or budget and too often ignore the welfare of their workers.
This is a public union, profit is irrelevant. "Budget" is a euphamisn for the tax burden a community can afford. No one is entitled to more compensation from a community than it can afford, the judgment is whether to work for that community.
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AI Wessex
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quote:
The purpose of the labor union is for the workers to commit to one another that if one of them is mistreated, they will collectively leverage their power against the employer to resolve that mistreatment. Individually, the workers have very limited power to damage the employer, collectively, they have much more power. This collective power is better reflection of the real nature of the relationship between the employers and the employees.
Not only to confront mistreatment with a united voice, but to argue for wages and betterment of their lives, as well. The rise of the middle class in this country was more due to unionization than any other factor.
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Note a strike is never necessary, there are always other alternatives. Striking as a choice does not have to be consequence free.
That sounds a little naive. If you have no power to strike, you may have other options. Even if you do have the power you may have other options. But it is an enormously effective way to get your employer's attention.
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Unions exist to collectively bargain, there are all manner of obligations of good faith negotiation and rights to arbitration that are enforceable without regard to a right to strike. The point of having a right to strike, is simply the contrast to not having such a right. Striking without a right entitles the employer to take punitive measures, as well as measures designed to simply continue operations.
Now I'm confused. You just argued against the need to strike; now you're giving a reason why it may be necessary.
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Which means ultimately either no strikes, or yes scabs (or even permanent replacements).
No. A strike should be a last resort to deal with an employer who doesn't bargain in good faith or who is undermining the employees.
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What you're assuming though, is that those rights include a right to return to employment.
That's *exactly* how a strike is meant to work. The employer doesn't have the right to replace striking workers unless the workers violate other key constraints on their employment. Striking is not such a reason.
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This is about the public as an employer. I don't see a "denial" of fair and equitable compensation when you're talking about the town setting the educational budget.
This also seems rather naive. You assume an employer with perfect motives here, but I'm sure you would complain about government waste if given the chance. Why not put rewarding teachers for safeguarding and furthering the welfare of your children as one of your highest priorities? How about higher than rehiring a retired employee at full salary + retirement benefits at the same time?
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This is a public union, profit is irrelevant. "Budget" is a euphamisn for the tax burden a community can afford.
I would say "budget" is more a euphemism for how the government chooses to allocate its funds. Don't forget some of the funds come from state and/or federal grants.
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PSRT
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quote:
The flipside of that has to be that the employer can say "no." It has to be able to say "I can't do what you want. If you're working together, that's fine, then you're all fired. I can't run my business that way, so I'll hire new people."

If not, then the employees can simply demand anything at all, and the employer has no recourse.

You've just returned us to employers having virtually 100% of the power in the negotiation, unless you assume full or nearly full employment.
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JoshuaD
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PSRT:You've just returned us to employers having virtually 100% of the power in the negotiation, unless you assume full or nearly full employment.
I don't think I have. It is difficult and costly to replace an entire workforce at once.
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NobleHunter
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Not prohibitively so for the big multi-nationals (which doesn't apply to unions of municipal or state workers). If you're a $100 million plant in a $100 billion company, the company's not exaclty under pressure to negotiate.
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Seneca
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It is most definitely illegal for teachers to strike in my state, that's why when the WEA does it anyway they get heavily fined per day and risk personal contempt orders for their leaders as well.
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2009842035_apusteacherstrike3rdldwritethru.html

As for "blue flu," my guess is that is largely a regional myth, never had much of it in my area and never saw it in one county sheriff and 4 municipal PDs I've contracted out to.

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PSRT
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quote:
I don't think I have. It is difficult and costly to replace an entire workforce at once
Its also difficult and costly for the workforce to go on strike. In fact, its more difficult for most workshops to organize a strike, because most of the workers cant afford the lost wages for more than a day or two, than it is for most companies with unionized workforces to replace the strikers. If you are large enough that your workforce has unionized, you have a large pool of unemployed people to draw from.

Without the requirement that a striking workforce be hired back, there is no almost no economic reason for a company to bargain in good faith, because replacing the workforce at lower wages is certainly cheaper than paying them a fair wage.

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PSRT
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The fact that striking CAN be illegal is a huge infringement on first amendment rights. It takes the US's hypocritical approach to free speech issues for it not to be widely recognized as such. I am surprised that someone who claims to be all about the constitution argues that striking should ever be illegal.
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