Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Waning Power of Unions in the U.S.

In 2010, there were only 11 major strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more workers, the second-lowest number  since the major work stoppages series began in 1947 (in 2009 there were 5), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week (see chart above). The decline in work stoppages over the last sixty years coincides with the ongoing decline in union membership as a share of all workers, from a high of 32.5% of all workers in 1953 (almost 1 in 3) to 11.9% in 2010 (fewer than 1 in 8, and for private workers only 6.9% are in a union, or fewer than 1 in 14).

For example, in the 1947-1980 period when union membership averaged 30% of the workforce, there was an average of 300 major strikes and lockouts per year, and during the last twenty years since 1990, union membership has dropped to an annual average of 14% and the average annual number of strikes fell to 26. 

Update: In what may be a sign of the waning power of public unions and the start of a national trend to help repair state budgets, here's what's happening in Wisconsin:

"Gov. Scott Walker unveiled sweeping legislation that would severely curtail public employee rights and dramatically change the way Wisconsin negotiates with unions going forward.  
To union leaders, and many Democratic lawmakers, the governor's moves represent an all-out effort to end the influence of organized labor in Wisconsin."

Here's more:

"Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Walker's repair bill deals with collective bargaining. The governor wants to remove those rights for most of the 175,000 state and local employees in Wisconsin, allowing workers to negotiate only over salary. By ending state employees' ability to negotiate for their pensions and insurance rates, the governor will be able to increase employee pension contributions to 5.8 percent of salary and more than double their health insurance contributions (to 12.6 percent)."  


HT: Phil Beaver

58 Comments:

At 2/12/2011 11:54 AM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Yep, early 1970's, that's when the middle class quit expanding.

Be careful what you wish for.

 
At 2/12/2011 12:46 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Dufus II,

The middle class did not stop expanding in the 70's. The "middle class" is simply a stop on the mobility ladder. Massive, mostly third world, immigration tends to skew the statistics by bottom loading the lower quintiles, but people do not stay there very long. The "middle class" is alive and well.

* There was considerable income mobility of individuals in the U.S. economy over the 1996-2005 period. More than half of taxpayers (57.5 percent by one measure and 55 percent by another measure) moved to a different income quintile over this period. About half (56 percent by one measure and 42 percent by another) of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved to a higher income group by 2005.

* Median incomes of taxpayers in the sample increased by 24 percent after adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. Furthermore, the median incomes of those initially in the lowest income groups increased more in percentage terms than the median incomes of those in the higher income groups. In contrast, the real median incomes of taxpayers who were in the highest income groups in 1996 declined by 2005.

* The composition of the very top income groups changed dramatically over time. Less than half (39 percent or 42 percent depending on the measure) of those in the top 1 percent in 1996 were still in the top 1 percent in 2005. Less than one-fourth of the individuals in the top 1/100th percent in 1996 remained in that group in 2005.

* The degree of relative income mobility among income groups over the 1996-2005 period was very similar to that over the prior decade (1987-1996). To the extent that increasing income inequality widened income gaps, this was offset by increased absolute income mobility so that relative income mobility neither increased nor decreased over the past 20 years.

Entrepreneur, 2009

 
At 2/12/2011 1:29 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Rufus II, I claim unions have, and continue to, decimate manufacturing jobs in America. Increased competition for the jobs that remain drive down wages

All unions do today is eliminate jobs in favor of higher wages for an ever shrinking preferred class of thugs.

Be careful what you wish for,

 
At 2/12/2011 2:05 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Uh, huh, and Ketchup is a "vegetable," and flank steak is ribeye.

Just check out the median incomes of the Union States, and the Non-union states.

Serfdom is no way to go through life, folks.

 
At 2/12/2011 2:20 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Rufus, those same union states with high unemployment and massive budget deficits?

 
At 2/12/2011 2:33 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Is Labor Day now in jeopardy?

 
At 2/12/2011 2:56 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Sure, the same high unemployment, and massive deficits as the non-union states. check out Ma vs Tx for an example.

 
At 2/12/2011 3:00 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

Of course, you may want to ask yourself what those "deficits" would look like if the Union States weren't forced to send money to the non-union states every month.

 
At 2/12/2011 3:43 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

By their very nature, unions must seek to drive their employers into bankruptcy. If they don't, then they aren't doing their job. ...

The logic of the free market is for companies to pay market wages, earn high profits, and reinvest their earnings in more factories, thus eventually creating industrial jobs ... Then, as the labor market tightens, market wage levels will rise as employers are forced to compete for scarce labor.

Unions are designed to impede this process.

The purpose of a union is to extract from its employer more than the market wage. If it doesn't do this, then there is no reason for workers to support it or to pay dues to it. Because companies must sell their output at market prices and pay market returns for the capital that they employ, they cannot afford to pay more than "market" for any major input. Accordingly, any unionized company for which labor is a significant part of its cost structure will eventually be destroyed.

Today's executives know that unionization is the "kiss of death" for their companies. They have no choice other than to resist unionization where possible and to disinvest and flee (whether to Texas or to China) if it occurs. If they don't, they will lose their customers to lower cost producers.

Labor Unions, and the Problem With "More", Louis Woodhill

 
At 2/12/2011 7:02 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

The perfect business environment for an employer is to work you until you drop dead of exhaustion, and/or starvation.

People in "Union" States are Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser;" that's just the way it is.

 
At 2/12/2011 7:17 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

rufus-

per your advice, i checked out right to work states vs forced unionization states.

turns out you are dead wrong in your claims.

from 1999 to 2009, U.S. Labor Department data show the number of private-sector jobs increased by an aggregate 2.3 percent in Midwestern Right to Work states, but fell by an average of 8.1 percent in Midwestern forced-unionism states, and plummeted by 8.8 percent in Indiana alone.

The next step in facing reality for diehard defenders of Big Labor’s special privileges is to acknowledge that the average disposable (after-tax) personal income per capita is also significantly higher in the five Midwestern Right to Work states (Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) than it is in the seven Midwestern forced-unionism states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin) or in the Hoosier state alone.

By making a quick visit to www.bea.gov – the website of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis – anyone can see that in 2009, the last year for which annual data are available, Indiana’s per capita disposable income of $30,983 was lower than Iowa’s ($34,385), Kansas’s ($35,714), Nebraska’s ($35,939), North Dakota’s ($37,286) and South Dakota’s ($35,662).

The overall average after-tax per capita income for Midwestern Right to Work states was $35,426, compared to $33,979 for Midwestern forced-unionism states as a group.

The 50-state income data Big Labor chooses to focus on ignore the fact that the two most populous forced-unionism states, California and New York, had overall 2009 living costs roughly 35 percent and 26 percent, respectively, higher than the national average, according to indices supplied by the nonpartisan, Jefferson City-based Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

The MERIC indices show the 2009 cost of living in forced-unionism states nationwide was 18.7 percent higher than the Right to Work state average – but union-propagated comparisons of incomes in forced-unionism and Right to Work states completely overlook this highly relevant, uncontested fact.

Some time ago, George Mason University’s Nobel Prize-winning Economics Department found that once adjusted for cost of living, families in Right to Work states averaged $2,800 more in purchasing power than families in non-Right to Work states.

A more recent study by Barry Poulson, an economics professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder and past president of the North American Economics and Finance Association, showed even more striking results.

Comparing households in metropolitan areas located entirely in Right to Work states and those located entirely in non-Right to Work states, Poulson found that families in Right to Work states have nearly $4,300 more in cost of living-adjusted household incomes.

Using the U.S. Commerce and MERIC figures adjusted for the interstate differences in living costs, the 22 Right to Work states had an average 2009 per capita disposable income of $35,543, roughly $2000 higher than the overall forced-unionism state average of $33,389 and Indiana’s cost of living-adjusted per capita disposable income of $33,604.

so, nice try, but the data is dramatically against you.

 
At 2/12/2011 9:59 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Che -

"Labor Unions, and the Problem With "More", Louis Woodhill"

Thanks for the link. Interesting and easy to understand explanation of the role of unions.

 
At 2/13/2011 3:27 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Of course, you may want to ask yourself what those "deficits" would look like if the Union States weren't forced to send money to the non-union states every month"...

Hmmm, an often repeat yet never substantiated (credibly that is) charge that doesn't mean much in light of the politics of both the House and the Senate...

 
At 2/13/2011 4:01 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Uh, huh, and Ketchup is a "vegetable,"...""

I remember this "ketchup as vegetable" business, and the outrage it caused. When you knew the whole story, however, it made sense:

A requirement for federally funded school lunches was that each meal include a serving of vegetables; a worthy idea with unintended consequences (imagine that). It turns out that not many kids like vegetables, (surprise!) so most servings ended up in the trash. An obvious waste. There was no way out of serving vegetables, however, so the resulting "ketchup as vegetable". By serving kids something they actually WOULD eat, such as fries, and allowing them to decline the vegetables, much of the waste was avoided, while complying with the nonsensical federal requirement.

 
At 2/13/2011 10:39 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

morganovich,

I am not sure you can compare the low population states' income, whether they are unionized or not, to the high population states. They also have vastly different industries of farming, ranching, and mining that has not been changed much to manufacturing that has been dramatically changed. This might be a case of mistaking correlation for causation.

When figuring out the wages in non-union states, how was the union threat and corresponding result of above market wages in many industries quantified? To dismiss the availability of a union as a balancing power factor is as wrong as dismissing the implied power of a police officer's pistol that stays in his holster.

The Southern auto plants acknowledge they pay more than the average wage for manufacturing in the areas they are located partially to keep unions out. Toyota even had a secret memo made public about this strategy that they did not deny. Maybe all the non-union workers who are receiving premiums just because unions exist as an option should quit being free riders and pay unions dues for that privilege.

I am not sure that the power of labor unions has waned linearly as the number of union members has decreased as the title of the post seems to suggest. Recent events show labor unions still have quite a bit of power, and I KNOW a lot of people don't like that fact.

I find it interesting that the UAW and salaried Delphi retirees have teamed up in a current lawsuit to have GM pay the supplemented pension and health care that the PBGC will not pay and that the new GM says is the responsibility of the old GM and its agreement with Delphi. What do you think the salaried folks who probably spent their lives hating the UAW will think of labor unions if they win their case and increased pension and health care payments? Sometimes you have to rethink who is your friend and who is you enemy, don't you?

 
At 2/13/2011 11:07 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Walt, the UAW is helping Delphi salaried retirees as a part of a strategy to present itself as a new, improved UAW. They are not friends and I don't trust those guys, based:

1. On my professional experience working with them and
2. The fourty years living in SE Michigan. I just have to look around.

I have no doubt when GM, Chrylser and Ford are on better financial footing, the "mob rule quest for more" that is the UAW will come back. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

 
At 2/13/2011 11:23 AM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"Maybe all the non-union workers who are receiving premiums just because unions exist as an option should quit being free riders and pay unions dues for that privilege."

You keep repeating this as if it were true. I, for one, am not surprised that Toyota, or any other company, would consider it worthwhile to pay a premium in order to keep the deadly cancer of unionization at bay. But, in fact, many non-union workers make more than their unionized counterparts once profit sharing is taken into consideration. Profits. Now there's a word that one doesn't here very often with regard to unionized automakers.

"Recent events show labor unions still have quite a bit of power ..."

You must mean the corruption of the political process through the union's purchase of the Democrat party. Well, even more recent events have shown that Americans have had enough of the union/Democrat tag-team larceny which is bankrupting the country and destroying their children's futures. Come 2012, you'll get another dose.

"What do you think the salaried folks who probably spent their lives hating the UAW will think of labor unions if they win their case and increased pension and health care payments?"

They've probably spent their lives hating the fact that the UAW was destroying the industry that employed them. Why was a lawsuit even necessary? Because the unions had managed to bankrupt one of the greatest industries in America and now they must go hat in hand to the courts asking that the taxpayers - yes, the taxpayers - bail them out. If they win their case, they will only have succeeded in stealing the wealth of millions of Americans who have lived their lives responsibly. Only a union hack would see that as a victory.

 
At 2/13/2011 11:50 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

"I am not sure you can compare the low population states' income, whether they are unionized or not, to the high population states. They also have vastly different industries of farming, ranching, and mining that has not been changed much to manufacturing that has been dramatically changed. This might be a case of mistaking correlation for causation."

and union states like new york get MASSIVE increases in income from non union industries like wall street.

california gets a HUGE leg up from the high paying technology industry also virtually none of which is unionized.

i simply do not buy your argument. even in union states, all the best paying jobs are non union.

if anything, the populous states get an advantage in this comparison because of the benefits of all the non union industries in them.

ranchers and miners are few in number and make a pittance in comparison to those on wall street and silicon valley.

just the hedge fund guys in new york and connecticut probably take home more money every year than all the ranchers in america.

google, apple, intel, and facebook are probably worth as much as all the mines in the US.

there is just no way that the rural states are coming out ahead in this comparison due to industry specialization.

 
At 2/13/2011 11:52 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jason said: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." You just quoted my reason that labor unions need to exist. Whether an individual belongs to one or not is his or her own choice. Labor unions take away the "absolute" power from companies.

Che, Haven't you read, the UAW workers at GM will receive profit sharing checks for 2010 in 2011? I think you will see part of compensation tied to profits in the next contract. I don't see non-union companies treating their workers well to undermine unionization as a bad thing, do you?

I write employee manuals as one of my non-union jobs for non-union organizations. The main stipulated objectives usually are to lessen risk from bad hires and bad fires and deter labor union organization.

The main reason that employees organize unions is not to get better pay--it's for dignity, respect, and fair treatment. If you put due-process protections into the employee manual that prevents the boss from keeping his lazy son while laying a hard worker off, labor unions will have a problem organizing that company.

I know that companies are more worried about labor unions than U.S. labor law. The day that unions do not exist will be a sad day for workers in the U.S. whether they belong to a union or not. Labor unions will not be able to survive or thrive unless they add value to the company in the 21st century. So, to tie that together, it looks as if ALL workers need labor unions, and labor unions will have to adapt to survive. The next few years will be very interesting.

 
At 2/13/2011 12:04 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Che, Haven't you read, the UAW workers at GM will receive profit sharing checks for 2010 in 2011?"

you mean the profits that only exist because i had to help pay off all GM's debts and the shares that the GM employees own only because the senior creditors were screwed to benefit a political donor (the UAW). the profits that only exist because, contrary to settled law, GM was allowed to take it's NOL's out of bankruptcy and thereby "pay" taxpayers back with the taxpayers own money?

such "profits" as exist exist only because all the costs were paid by taxpayers. absent that, GM would be DEEP in red ink.

are we expected to applaud this fair minded and reasonable compensation scheme?

sharing out this "false profit" (sorry could not resist) paid for by taxpayers is just one more set of theft by the UAW. what share could they possibly deserve before they have paid back all the taxpayer largess?

that's some interesting perspective you have there walt.

 
At 2/13/2011 12:05 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

morganovich,

I am not saying the wages are higher or lower in either case (union and non-union). I am saying the dynamics of small states, large states, and different industries are too different to compare. You need a peer group methodology if you want to use those data, and you have not presented one.

Your comment that "if anything, the populous states get an advantage" even shows you admit these data are incomparable. If one state is advantaged or disadvantaged over another, an adjustment would have to be made in the data to compare them.

 
At 2/13/2011 12:26 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Walt said:

"Labor unions will not be able to survive or thrive unless they add value to the company in the 21st century"

BINGO.

But, what about unions that represent government workers?

The value proposition becomes harder to measure hence justify.

 
At 2/13/2011 12:59 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Morganovich, you'd swear we have a city of lottery winners here in Detroit because of the bonuses.

Your point these bonuses would not exist if taxpayers had not provided money to GM and Chrysler, as well as the supply base is a good one.

I really hate providing these bonuses for another reason: NONE of these companies are out of the woods yet. They have to provide bonuses to UAW per contract, and provided cash payments to salaried workers so as to not alienate them. I say NO ONE should be paid a bonus until the companies pay off The US government and other debtors to such an extent that they become self-sufficient OR investment grade again.

Everyone here wants to believe Detroit is back. I'll believe it when these companies can woo generations of Toyota and honda buyers, gain significant market share and reap the profits resulting from those gains.

 
At 2/13/2011 1:44 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"Labor unions take away the "absolute" power from companies."

Unbelievable. No company has "absolute power" since they are subjected to the demands of the market. Companies are perpetually engaged in a struggle for survival. They must compete for everything including good employees. That competition gives the employee power.

"The main reason that employees organize unions is not to get better pay--it's for dignity, respect, and fair treatment."

All employment in this country is "at will". If the company that you are working for mistreats you, leave. Take your skills down the road to their competitors and give them the benefit of your efforts.

"Labor unions will not be able to survive or thrive unless they add value to the company ..."

Name a single instance where an American union has brought "value" to a company?

As for profits, well, I think that morganovich covered that nicely.

 
At 2/13/2011 1:56 PM, Blogger Mkelley said...

If my co-workers and I are any indication, unions are in for even more hard times in this country. Most of us hate the international (Steelworkers Union) with a passion. When our contract negotiations come around, the international is nowhere to be found, except for the incompetent local rep whom everyone hates. The worst for me is to see our dues spent in massive amounts to elect socialist politicians that are bankrupting this country.

 
At 2/13/2011 3:40 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

MKelly,

How active are you in your union? I grew up attending union meetings where there was standing room only in a huge union hall. Today, only about 40 to 50 members attended our meeting out of about 1,300 people. Do you suppose we will have to listen to 1250 to 1260 people say "you union guys always . . ." until the next meeting? There is a good chance if your union is not doing what you think it should be doing, you are not doing your part to make that happen.

Labor unions fight to help all workers, but to survive they will have to figure out how to make the pie bigger instead of just demanding a bigger slice. If labor unions die, so do workers’ power—even and especially those without a labor union they call their own.

I support those who make an informed decision not to belong to a union, but if they don't realize many of the working conditions they enjoy came about and continue to be retained from the labor movement, they are very naive and don't know their labor history very well. Check out what drove the 40-hour workweek and overtime after 40 hours' work for the average worker along with paid vacations if you don't believe me. Remember, these hard-fought benefits can easily be lost if you give up the labor movement power that got them for you.

Che is dead and morganovich,

You are assuming the free market has no failures. Everything has failures--that's why you need backup systems for all of your critical processes. A job is a critical process to a worker. I am not saying unions are perfect, but I prefer my GM job backed up with one instead of without one. I hope your representative choices works out as well for you as mine has for me.

Che is dead, if all employees are at-will as you say, why do executives get golden parachutes? Do the average employees deserve the golden showers they get?

 
At 2/13/2011 3:50 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Buddy R. Pacifico,

I think there is a huge problem comparing public and private organizations.

If there is profit to be made, that activity probably belongs in the private sector, but I think we need to realize that a lot of beneficial services cannot be made profitable.

 
At 2/13/2011 5:43 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"I support those who make an informed decision not to belong to a union, but if they don't realize many of the working conditions they enjoy came about and continue to be retained from the labor movement, they are very naive and don't know their labor history very well."

Maybe it's time you brushed up on yours: The Myths of Organized Labor

 
At 2/13/2011 6:00 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Che,

You have your sources of biased information, I have mine, and we could trade them back-and-forth forever. Like most controversial subjects, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

 
At 2/13/2011 6:37 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

no, not at all. my point is that the data should favor the more populous union states and the fact that it doesn't is a damning indictment. i really doubt you'd want to see how new york and california fare in this comparison if you took out finance and tech.

the fact that the union states still lose despite their huge tailwind from non union industries (which derives from their being big population centers) makes the results even more poignant.

further, your proposed industry comparison methodology is meaningless. forced unionization affects the whole state, not just the industries that unionize. your method would leave out all these effects.

i think you are just obfuscating and trying to reframe the issue in a slanted way because you don't like the data.

 
At 2/13/2011 6:42 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

"You are assuming the free market has no failures. Everything has failures--that's why you need backup systems for all of your critical processes"

this is a pure straw man. please show me where i have ever argued that.

the whole point of the free market is that is does have failures. that's what makes it work. there is no evolution without natural selection.

what i object to is preventing companies that have repeatedly failed from reaping what they have sown. failure is good. it repositions assets into the hands of those who can use them better. sure, some people get hurt, but they all knew the risks when the invested/took a job/signed a contract.

if GM had been broken up and sold when it failed the first time, taxpayers would have saved money then and then would have saved it again by avoiding the second time and likely a third 10-15 years from now if history is any guide.

backing up a failed enterprise over and over is not the road to prosperity...

 
At 2/13/2011 6:46 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

"Che is dead, if all employees are at-will as you say, why do executives get golden parachutes? Do the average employees deserve the golden showers they get?"

this is the equivalent of "he stole from me so it's ok for me to steal from him"

pointing to one bad practice to justify another demonstrates nothing and provides no justification for anything.

it's not even a weak argument, it's no argument at all.

 
At 2/13/2011 6:50 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

jason-

i hear you. these companies are making a big deal out of being "profitable".

of course they are profitable.

if i gave you a free factory and a free century of development, you'd be profitable too, especially if you paid no taxes.

the real question is what will happen in the next 10-20 years as they have to shoulder their own costs again. given that this is the same gang that ran these companies into insolvency twice before, my money is on insolvency again.

this whole thing is like lucy holding the football for charlie brown. no really, this time i mean it charles...

 
At 2/13/2011 7:02 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"i think you are just obfuscating and trying to reframe the issue in a slanted way because you don't like the data."

Data are fine. It's what you are trying to make them say that I question. Could be something there. Might not be anything there. There are a lot of potential factors to pick labor unions and definitively say they are the cause.

I am not convinced that taxpayers would have saved money by letting GM fail--at least in the short run. I've yet to see anything that shows that with $$ signs attached, and I have a folder of primary research sources that would withstand academic scrutiny that show otherwise. I am eager to see any credible research that shows a GM liquidation would not have been more expensive in the short run than the loan package was (especially at this point in 2011).

We could debate the long-run ramifications of GM's bankruptcy/non-liquidation forever, but we will have to wait and see what actually happens. You could very well be right in everything you say, morganovich. I sure hope you are wrong.

 
At 2/13/2011 7:10 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"this is the equivalent of "he stole from me so it's ok for me to steal from him"

I see it more as a "you got yours" so we will get ours situation. My agent will contact your agent, and we will discuss who gets what as equals should do.

We have a different perspective, but if I hit you, I would expect you to hit me back. Are you one of those "turn the other cheek" guys who is willing to take a smack in the nose without hitting back?

 
At 2/13/2011 8:39 PM, Blogger Mkelley said...

Walt, I don't go to union meetings any more. I used to make a few but am done with that. I doubt we have as many loyal meeting goers as you do in a group about the same size as yours. The Steelworkers International just announced a dues increase for us, and of course we had no say in the matter. The International keeps our diehards happy by sending them on "training" junkets every once in a while. One gal I know got to hear Nancy Pelosi speak back East last fall, so I guess you know where our dues go. The Steelworkers' monthly magazine is full of socialist propaganda and never makes it out of the post office. If I could vote to make this state "right to work" I would do it in a heartbeat, even if it cost me money.

 
At 2/13/2011 9:23 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/13/2011 9:27 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

MKelley,

"One gal I know got to hear Nancy Pelosi speak back East last fall..."

Wow! That sounds like something reserved for punishment.

Can't you guys (and/or gals) vote to de-certify the union at your location, or something like that? I'm sure Walt G. knows how it's done. I'm also pretty sure he would be happy to explain how to get it done if you ask him.

 
At 2/14/2011 7:10 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H.

You decertify the same exact way you certify--with a petition for an election. The best place for the details is the NLRB Website.

I don't have any problem with people who choose not to belong to a union, and I don't agree with interference in the process by either side. If and when unions are gone, all workers will be worse off for it. In my opinion, the influence that labor unions have just by being an option for workers is highly underestimated--especially by those who are not unionized or don't have legislative support from any other organized group.

 
At 2/14/2011 11:34 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Walt, I will give unions one thing, they have had a substantial positive impact on worker safety. Especially in the steel and mining industries. In my experience the claim that a completely free labor market also creates a safe labor market is not credible - I've seen the opposite. Lawsuits have more of a profound effect than just an open market - and we need to curtail those.

Today, there are ample significant worker safety laws. If they could be enforced without the help of unions, there would be no benefit at all for unions to exist. Except perhaps to bankrupt companies and allow new competition to grow, like a forest fire might renew a forest.

 
At 2/14/2011 12:14 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jason,

Part of the reason for unions to exist, in my opinion, is to give non-union workers another option that employers are well aware of. That option has the same effect that a policeman's gun has. The effectiveness of the weapon is determined by how many times they have not had to use it as well as how many times they have. For that reason, policemen fell naked without their guns. Don't underestimate how much non-union workers have benefitted by having a union option readily available to them. Don’t support worker nakedness by thinking about removing the union option whether you decide to use it yourself or not.

 
At 2/14/2011 12:59 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Except perhaps to bankrupt companies and allow new competition to grow, like a forest fire might renew a forest."

But the largest trees have political protection that keeps that beneficial process from happening, thus preventing the growth of younger, healthier trees..

 
At 2/14/2011 1:13 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H.,

Both the small trees and big trees get pissed on by dogs, but the big trees can survive the abuse because they are stronger.

 
At 2/14/2011 2:15 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Walt G.,

"Part of the reason for unions to exist, in my opinion, is to give non-union workers another option that employers are well aware of."

Did I read that correctly? Are you claiming that unions see their purpose as protecting all workers, non-union as well as union? What nonsense.

A policeman's gun? A better analogy might be that an employer sees that there are thugs at a neighboring business who are destroying it. He wouldn't want his employees to be unhappy enough to erroneously believe they would be better off if they called in thugs to operate at his business also.

"Don't underestimate how much non-union workers have benefitted by having a union option readily available to them. Don’t support worker nakedness by thinking about removing the union option whether you decide to use it yourself or not."

Worker nakedness? How bizarre. You really have an active imagination.

You are using the word 'option' where it doesn't belong. As Jason explained, he doesn't have an option where he works. He is forced to pay for something he doesn't want, if he wishes to keep working there

"Both the small trees and big trees get pissed on by dogs, but the big trees can survive the abuse because they are stronger."

This analogy doesn't support your point, whatever it is. You must be unaware that urea, an important component of urine, has a high nitrogen content which is an essential nutrient for plants. Trees of all sizes get excited when they see dogs approaching, and begin to call out: "Here, doggy, doggy!" "No, over her, come piss on me!" "No, me! Me!".

How can you believe the larger trees are stronger, when they have been bankrupt multiple times over the years, and only survive due to government interference in the natural process? Just as a misguided government policy of suppressing all forest fires has reduced the overall health of forests, and creates the conditions for a worse conflagration next time.

 
At 2/14/2011 2:34 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H.,

Unions support laws that protect all workers--yes, you too. You will not know that is true unless unions are gone. The real strength of unions is that they exist as an option for workers, and that is why business is still so worried about them when only 6.9% of the private workforce belongs to one.

I agree that there is government interference, but that was one of the causes of GM's problem.

Jason can exercise his Beck rights at any time and quit the union. He can also start a petition to decertify the current union or attend meeting to change what he does not like about the present one. The choices are his to make, but it will take real effort on his part if he wants to see changes. It's easy to complain about what the other person is doing or not doing.

I was a landscaper for two years in high school. Believe me, you don't want dogs around your young trees.

 
At 2/14/2011 4:39 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Ron and Walt, fortunately I'm not in a union. But I know I don't suffer for it. I suffer for the lack of productivity as a result of working with the union.

 
At 2/14/2011 5:32 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jason,

If you are in a position supervising union personnel, chances are your pay is pegged at a percentage above their pay. Most employers do not want to pay supervisory personnel less than their employees for morale reasons. If they get a raise, you get a raise. Their gain is your gain without the union dues. Free money is kind of cool, isn't it?

 
At 2/14/2011 11:48 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jason

"Ron and Walt, fortunately I'm not in a union. But I know I don't suffer for it."

Sorry, Jason, I see that was MKelley. I'm not sure why I started thinking it was you.

 
At 2/14/2011 11:56 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Walt G.

"...and that is why business is still so worried about them when only 6.9% of the private workforce belongs to one.

Well, surely you can understand why, considering how much damage unions have caused.

 
At 2/15/2011 5:58 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Walt, I don't supervise union workers. I get a raise when my employer decides it is in their best interest for me to receive one. I am an engineer.

But I cannot pick up a tool and remove a bolt, or solder a wire or use tools of any kind without the threat of a union grievance written against me.

Or if I work on a weekend in the garage, all sudden like, the union starts writing overtime grievances, Logic: how can the engineers not need union techs, you are cheating us out of god-given overtime!

All I see is a group that is self interested. Not interested in productivity at all...and they celebrate that.

I mean, am I going to put someone out of a job If I use a 10 mm wrench to remove a battery terminal?

 
At 2/15/2011 6:56 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jason,

At our place engineers are salary, and salary usually makes more than hourly (we have third-part people who don't). If you can find the salary pay policy, you will probably find your pay is determined. at least in part, by the hourly wages paid. Non-union pay policies are usually well-guarded secrets.

If you are working weekends and they are not, and you are doing a job that is normally theirs, you are putting them out of a job at that time. There are probably ways to work you both and still add value--that's part of what I do.

You are not working alone doing a dangerous job with batteries are you? How close is the nearest eye-wash and emergency shower station? Is it checked weekly? Can you get there with both your eyes closed (blinded with battery acid)? Is it unblocked and open from at least three sides? Is all this noted on your standardized operating procedure plan (SOP)? If no SOP, do you have a written pre-task plan? That's also what I do.

 
At 2/15/2011 7:06 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H, "Well, surely you can understand why, considering how much damage unions have caused."

How much damage has insurance caused from moral hazard and adverse selection? Should we eliminate insurance? Unions are nothing more or nothing less than insurance you hope to use to mitigate the risks associated with a job. Some people buy insurance, and some decide to self-insure. I do both. I think my union investment has been a much better investment than my car and house insurance has been over the last few years.

 
At 2/15/2011 4:45 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/15/2011 4:53 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Walt G.

"I think my union investment has been a much better investment than my car and house insurance has been over the last few years."

There's that word "investment". You and Obama both use it incorrectly. Would you say you were "investing" in lunch? Or "investing" in a taxi ride to the airport?

Insurance is an "expense". We pay money for a service. We are transferring the risk of a potential financial loss to someone else for a fee.

Your homeowners insurance has protected you all this time against the potential loss of an amount equal to the replacement cost of your house and all its contents. If you think your union dues have protected you from a greater loss of income than that amount, then you have benefited more from the expense of union dues.

Unlike unions, however, insurance policies seldom destroy the company you work for.

 
At 2/16/2011 7:08 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"If you think your union dues have protected you from a greater loss of income than that amount, then you have benefited more from the expense of union dues." I believe they have.

What destroyed company, Ron H? My GM stock is up 9.24% since I bought it 90 days ago. I will receive over $4000 in profit sharing next month (which is tempered by the $30,000 in compensation losses from the contract changes). And our plants are running full out on overtime (the ones that are left)

GM paid back ALL of their loans to the Treasury five years early and pulled their application for a U.S. loan for fuel efficiency modifications while Ford accepted theirs. GM is still about 1/3 owned by the Treasury on an equity basis, but Ford owes more in loans to the U.S. than GM does on a debt basis. “Experts interviewed by Reuters noted that Ford Motor Co (F.N) accepted $5.9 billion in Energy Department loans in 2009. Ford, unlike GM and Chrysler, did not receive a government bailout. Ford got a sales boost for resisting massive aid and suffered no consumer or investor backlash from taking the DOE credit.” (Source: Reuters)

Of course, these conditions can change very quickly ($5 gallon gas), but GM is doing pretty good right now. There’s still a lot of work to do to stay solvent into the future.

 
At 2/16/2011 12:20 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Walt G.

It's pointless to go over all that same ground again, so I won't do it. But, as always, you refuse to acknowledge that the company you used to work for was destroyed by shortsighted unions and fearful management over a long period of years, and should have been allowed to die a dignified death - again - but instead was reanimated by a series of government applied electroshocks - again. This wasn't the first time it has been denied its inevitable fate when it became comatose, and it probably won't be the last. Nationalizing car companies isn't the road to prosperity.

You can portray this Frankenstein monster as a bright new creation if you wish, but most people know better. The ridiculous spin you put on the numbers, especially the use of taxpayer money to pay off government loans is just silly.

Do yourself a favor, Walt, give it up. Why do you continue to ask people to laugh at you?

 
At 2/16/2011 12:48 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H.,

What do you mean "not the first time"? Are you thinking about Chrysler in the 1980s? As far as I know, GM never declared bankruptcy before (they were close in 1982 and 1991,but they never applied for any government money). The 70s are a blur to me, so maybe it was then you are talking about?

I am not much of one to give up on anything, and I don't care if anyone laughs at me. I will laugh right along with them on the way to my stock broker.

 
At 2/16/2011 1:10 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H.,

Personally, I have a few people who owe me money. I don’t give a rat’s ass whether I get back the bills with the same serial numbers on them that I loaned out or not. I just want to get paid back. Maybe you are pickier and more poor than I am if you have a problem with where legal money comes from. A lot of people said GM could not pay that money back, and they did.

Loans to pay other loans or the same loan is quite a common business transaction. I refinanced my house with my old lender and paid the old loan off to get a better interest rate myself. Was that a bad thing to do?

 

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