Tag Archives: unions

Organized Labor goes Bananas…

A few points of interest for those of us who follow the trials and tribulations of organized labor…

The participants in the Republican Presidential Debates, or whatev’ they are calling that clown show these days, pulled off a major coup by engaging in a work stoppage, a mutual agreement on contract terms, and a negotiation session regarding working conditions. There is no other way to describe their actions that I can think of. These candidates now have *zero* anti-union credibility.

It brought a chuckle and a tear to my eye to see how they wilted under the brutal white-hot pressure of a televised debate and demanded that they be involved in setting terms and conditions for their working environment. As President Obama has pointed out, Putin is waiting for you in the green room, bitches.

In another shocking turn of events, football players at Mizzou organized a work stoppage in support of a hunger-striking classmate, forcing the resignation of their University President. The headline is Players Wage Power Play. They used the leverage of college football economics to enact change. I applaud them and their efforts. I hope it bears fruit in the form of real social change and not just an administrative change.

The subtext that I immediate saw was this: If NCAA athletes ever unionize, they will do so under a no-strike structure. In organized labor there are contracts that allow the workers to strike (work stoppage) and contracts that don’t (binding arbitration). The Mizzou action may have a side-effect of greasing the rails toward unionized NCAA athletics, with the caveat that they will concede the right to do what the football players at Mizzou just did.

The financial calculus has not changed. The universities and television networks reap enormous profits from big-time NCAA athletics, and the athletes see a tiny fraction of that cash-flow. The imbalance was exploited by the Mizzou athletes with a reversal of the “Right Stuff” axiom… No Buck Rogers, No Bucks. The football coach at Mizzou, Gary Pinkel, makes over $4 million per year. His support of the athlete’s actions, probably more then those actions themselves, sealed the deal for president Tim Wolfe.

I admit that the no-strike wrinkle is a bit of organized-labor wonkery, but I am sure that I am not alone. The athletes may get stipends, health care, guaranteed scholarships (no take-back in the case of injury), and so on. But they will probably have to hand over the right to strike in order to get that. And if so, it would mean that Mizzou may have been the event that won a battle but lost a larger tactical war.

Wage and Benefit Script-Flip

On a continuation of the previous post: What Americans have been subjected to over the past decade or so is social engineering applied to public discourse.

When public sector workers are demonized, and private sector workers (or the public in general) are holding “counter-protests” against public sector unions at the behest of political and media figures, I’d like to ask “why aren’t you protesting against your employers instead?”  The answer may be that they don’t have job protections and fear firing without due cause, which is something they might have avoided if they were involved in a collectively-bargained contract.  That bit of mind-bending irony aside:  I see a lot of “we in the private sector have had no wage increases…” or  “we have no leverage in obtaining fair and affordable health insurance…”  And somehow, instead of trying to improve that situation, they have decided to believe a group of billionaires who tell them that their quality of life is simply not affordable.    In almost every case, the income and benefit differences that are being used to motivate their opposition to unions are not a problem of public sector, organized labor wages outstripping the economy.  They are a case of private sector wages and benefits lagging behind the economy.  One thing that has not lagged behind the overall economy: PROFITS.  Those executives who told you that your health plans cost too much, your salaries were unaffordable, you needed to work longer hours for less, Federal Healthcare is a communist plot… many things that industrialized nations use as indicators of “quality of life”… they have had no problem finding windfall profits from either your efforts or your insurance premiums.  They shipped your quality of life offshore, but they still want their jet-set existance. Unions did not cause the huge income gap in the United States.  They did not create a robber baron class that has concentrated the majority of the Nation’s wealth in the upper 2% of its citizens.  Blaming unions for the single-percentage gap between public and private sector wages is suddenly became the hobby of people who make orders of magnitude more than the workers they have pitched into this battle by proxy.

Re: profit.  Most public sector jobs are not-for-profit, so the disconnect plays into the lie that there is a strong equivalency between say, building automobiles, and ensuring bridge and highway safety.  Why would multi-billionaires like the Koch (pr. “Coke”)  brothers care whether unionized workers made more than their wage-slaves?  Why would they finance a union busting Gubernatorial candidate and continue to provide financial and logistical support after his election?  Maybe because they were facing unionization efforts in their factories.  And if public sector unions don’t represent a better deal, the leverage of unions in the private sector is considerable weakened if not eliminated.  Union busting is still union busting, and anyone who thinks that their party, or favorite media outlet, or tough talking salt of the earth governor is above union busting in exchange for cash is simply fooling themselves.

The Enemy Within

When processing the anti-organized-labor diatribes from these supposed defenders of The American Way, at least consider that the motivation for stripping unions of their rights has much more to do with lowering the bar than lowering any deficit.  These are the same people who have shipped our industrial base to third world sweatshops, and have reneged on their “promise” of a full-employment high-tech wonderland.  What they have delivered is a nation based on retail sales of cut-rate goods from countries with very low wage and benefit standards.  They have collected massive subsidies, both tax relief and direct payments, from the same governments and in many cases have returned *nothing*. In Wisconsin, you have a situation much like we faced in Connecticut 10 years ago under convicted felon John Rowland.  The real problem with unions is that they didn’t contribute sufficient campaign cash to the Republican party.  Wealthy individuals, on the other hand did.  They would like the tax dollars that go to the public sector to be directed into their pockets.  They have a Governor who agrees.  Everything else in the argument is complete bullshit.

Speaking of Connecticut, when you see folks like the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) crying about how overpaid the public sector is, do consider that what they really want is a lower bar for their own employees wages and benefits, lower degree of protection for our environment, less enforcement of workplace laws, less enforcement of tax collection…. It is self serving in the most crass and harmful way.  State subsidies to the private sector have risen from $3million 20 years ago, to over $330 million today.  And *nowhere* in the discussion of budget cutting will you hear that sacred cow asked to accept less.  The working poor, the middle class, the sick, the abused, and so on… they will be asked to give, and give again.  The working-class heavy tax hikes hit the mostly working-class state employees in a way that the millionaires of the state love to call a “double hit” when it applies to them.

As much as I agree that state governments should be looking to eliminate branches wherever the work can be transferred to the private sector without a decline in service, we have seen much more graft an sub-par work under private contractors that by public employees.  The breakdown of the motor-vehicle emissions inspection program, and the failure of the privatization of highway construction inspection program for the I-84 “little dig” are just the peaks.  And peaks they are.  The emissions inspection program has been reduced to nothing (the intent, I believe) and every day thousands upon thousands of motorists travel over a highway in Connecticut with improperly constructed drainage and culvert systems.  More privatization, or less State oversight, is simply not what the public needs, though it might be exactly what wealthy patrons of our elected officials were promised.