TCS Daily


In Order to Form a Less Perfect Union

By Jerry Bowyer - March 13, 2007 12:00 AM

Earlier this month, House Democrats passed the Workers Freedom of Choice Act. This week it goes to the Senate. I'm not happy when Congress does anything to increase the power of any institution over human choice, but it especially makes my skin crawl when they do it under the euphemism of 'freedom of choice.'

Is it a good idea for the Federal Government to put its finger on the union's side of the scale when it comes to deciding whether to establish collective bargaining? Yeah, it's a great idea - if you want the entire stock market to perform like GM has.

The way it works now is that workers can join any union they want, but a particular workplace isn't considered a union shop until an election is held. It's a secret ballot. This protects the guy who doesn't want collective bargaining. The union guys might be able to pressure Joe into signing a union card, but they can't pressure him into voting to unionize the shop if they don't know how he votes. The Freedom to Lose Your Right to Secret Ballot Act changes all of that. It would make collective bargaining automatic when a majority joins the union. No pesky elections necessary.

This means more union shops. That's what it's designed to do. Having lost market share of private sector workers in thousands of elections over the past half century, unions have elected to change the rules instead of changing themselves. When you try to sell a product and your prospect says 'no,' you have three options: give up; improve the product, or cheat.

As things stand now, unions are wealth destroyers. It hasn't always been so, but it is now. Heavily unionized industries have been easily outpaced by their non-union counterparts in stock performance. Right-to-work states are growing much more quickly than non-right-to-work states. The U.S., where unions have been in decline, outperforms other developed countries which give unions much more power. In other words, there has been a gradual migration of capital and manpower from union-dominated industries, states and countries to places where the shareholders run the companies.

The phenomenon is too big, too persistent, and too pervasive to ignore. It will intensify, too, as things speed up. If the AFL-CIO has been having trouble getting people to sign up when they work at the same plant for 30 years with 10,000 other guys, how are they going to do in a world of small clusters of free agents collaborating for a few years, or even months, and then moving on to the next gig? Not too well, I think. They could change, of course; they could become market driven, more like professional associations: pro-growth, pro-productivity, and pro-ownership. They could offer continuing professional education, portable health insurance, networking events, and bulk buying services like the AARP or the chamber of commerce. They could, but they haven't. Instead they've decided to cheat.


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26 Comments

Let's get rid of the secret ballot for ALL elections - not just union ones
Let's have our elections for local, state, and federal elections be without secret ballots too. The Democrats and Republicans would transform their "get out the vote" campaigners to GET THE VOTE people.

People wouldn't have spend the time to go to the polls anymore. Workers for the politicians would be at your door asking you to fill out a ballot, sign it, and you would be done. There is NO chance of corruption and intimidation, right? Everybody would know how you voted, which would be good.

For all of you who think getting rid of the secret ballot for union elections is a good idea, wouldn't you agree to the above?

unions have always been wealth destroyers
it's just that for a time, American industry was dominant enough that the lost wealth could be compensated for.

Right to work
The public ballot is used in Las Vegas for new casinos. If over 50% of the eligible workers sign a card, the casino goes union.
But since NV is a right to work state, people don't have to join.

Right to work
The public ballot is used in Las Vegas for new casinos. If over 50% of the eligible workers sign a card, the casino goes union.
But since NV is a right to work state, people don't have to join.

Questions
If 50% of the workforce join the union does this mean every worker HAS to join the union i.e. making it a closed shop?

Or does reaching the 50% threshold mean that the firm merely recognises the union and undertakes collective bargaining on this basis?

If it's the latter I don't see what the problem is. Union members have an organisation to act on their behalf and non-members accrue the benefits without paying union dues. It's down to the union then to increase membership to further improve their negotiating position.

The claim that union activities benefit non-members is often claimed, never proven.
heck, the claim that unions benefit members is far from being a given.

How about answering the questions, Mark?
They were honestly put so I would appreciate an answer.

As regards your point, non-members don't pay union dues but receive the same pay and conditions after each and every wage round.

If they're so determined to remain outside the union, they should negotiate their own pay and conditions. It's never going to happen, however, for obvious reasons.

Many workers MUST join the union.
Many states require union membership if a union is voted in.

As I said, NV allows public ballots for its Cullinary Union, but NV is a right to work state so workers don't have to join.

Ok
"Many states require union membership if a union is voted in."

Is that for the private AND public sector?
I'd appreciate a link to back up your statement, marjon. Thanks.

"As I said, NV allows public ballots for its Cullinary Union, but NV is a right to work state so workers don't have to join."

Not being an American, I'm unfamiliar with what a 'right to work state' is. Could you explain further?

I answered the questions I was interested in answering.
As to your other question, that depends on the contract the union forges with the company.

And no, your claim that the wages of non-union workers are controlled by union wages is false.

Non-union workers do negotiate their own wage packages.
I've always done so.

You didn't answer a question, you made a point
"As to your other question, that depends on the contract the union forges with the company."

Again, point not question. No matter.

"And no, your claim that the wages of non-union workers are controlled by union wages is false."

At every place I've worked where the union is recognised, and is therefore involved in collective bargaining, it negotiates on the basis of all its members but the employer agrees to wage rates and conditions affecting the whole workforce, regardless of union membership. Rather than negotiating with each employee, it imposes a blanket wage increase with minor andustments to save time and money.

The only exceptions I can think to this are managers who don't qualify for union membership due to their position. If they don't have their own union then I suppose they'd have to negotiate in isolation.

Perhaps there are exceptions and there is a different culture in the States but your claim that "the wages of non-union workers are controlled by union wages is false" clearly isn't true in every case, Mark. Perhaps you shouldn't deal in absolutes so much when making a statement.
And the non-iunion wages aren't "controlled" by union wages, they follow from the negotiations.

"Non-union workers do negotiate their own wage packages.
I've always done so."

Does your workplace recognise a union for your grade?

the point answered your question
...

I'll try again
If 50% of the workforce join the union does this mean every worker HAS to join the union i.e. making it a closed shop?

Or does reaching the 50% threshold mean that the firm merely recognises the union and undertakes collective bargaining on this basis?

They're quite straigh-forward questions, Mark.

Perhaps you're in a particularly mean-spirited mood after your 'victory' at the pumps though.

Unions membership declined...
because their usfulness declined.

If you do not like the pay a job provides....go find another one. Mobility is higher today than ever before. People change careers by free choice more than ever before too. Why have a union hold you back the world is your oyster. Unions just make workers complacent and lazy.

Corporate Socialism
Modern Unions are simply a way to collectivize the work force. The pay scale is equalized punishing the over achievers and supporting the dead weight.

I once worked for a heavily unionized company. The laziest employees were almost always the Union Stewards who filed complaints at every turn if we, as engineers, did something that was "their" job.

Worse yet was that different unions did different tasks. I watched a $50,000.00 piece of electronic equipment sit in the rain because the delivery guy was a Teamster and thus could not drop off the item inside. That was the brotherhood of forklift drivers or some non-sense like that.

The whole Union thing is a system designed to milk employers, fund Union bosses and support useless employees and policies.

I have seen it first hand. It is a joke.

Another fine example of unions is the current auto industry woes. I blame the companies as much as the unions but the whole situation was avoidable.

Alas, these rules are typical pandering to leftist policies and groups by our friends, the Democrats.

US Labor Law Terminology
I'll try my best.
Closed Shop: Before 1947, employees at unionized workplaces were required to be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before then, an employee who ceased being a member of the union for whatever reason, from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer's rules.

Union Shop: After 1947, employers and unions are allowed to operate under a "union shop" rule, which requires all new employees to join the union after a minimum period after their hire. Under "union shop" rules, employers are obliged to fire any employees who have avoided paying membership dues necessary to maintain membership in the union; however, the union cannot demand that the employer discharge an employee who has been expelled from membership for any other reason.


Agency Shop: A similar arrangement to the "union shop," under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but does not require them to formally join the union.


Open Shop: 1947 law also authorized the States to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. An employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union that may exist at the employer, nor can the employee be fired if s/he joins the union. In other words, the employee has the "right to work," whether as a union member or not whether they contribute financially to the union or not. The Federal Government operates under "open shop" rules nationwide, although many of its employees are represented by unions.

(Blatantly ripped off from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_work_state)

I Agree
I was gonna post that comment myself, but you beat me to it. Unions are wealth destroyers, and job destroyers.

Interesting that union dominated industries are failing, and closing their plants and fleeing the states, leaving the workers screwed, but workers in non-union industries are doing just fine.

I work in IT. We have no union, and we will never need one. Some say it is because we are in demand, and thus have no need to bargain collectively, and that may be true. But all an IT workers union would do is entrench certain workers, entrench a bureaucracy and make it nigh impossible for the average computer geek to find a good job. As it is now I can pick and choose where I want to work, all on my own, and even set my own price. The thought of a union is a nightmare to me.

Now imagine what would happen if the anti-Wal-Mart crowd managed to force Wal-mart to accept a union. Half of Wal-mart workers would immediately be laid off, and the other half would be under the thumb of a corrupt bureaucracy. All in the name of "helping" the workers too. Ridiculous.

There are also some very good arguments that can be found as to why capitalism, and rising marginal productivity are responsible for wage raises, rather than unions as the standard propaganda goes.

I Am Not Allowed To Plug In My Computer
No joke. If I get a new computer at my desk, I am not allowed to plug it in. I have to wait for the guy who's "job" it is to plug it in, and there WILL be a complaint if I do it myself. So, something I could easily do myself in a few minutes requires waiting for an electrical workers union guy. I think it is this way in a lot of manhattan office buildings.

Link
Under federal labor law and the state's Right to Work law, you have the right to resign from membership in a union at any time. If you resign from membership, you may not be able to participate in union elections or meetings, vote in collective bargaining ratification elections, or participate in other "internal" union activities. If you resign, you cannot be disciplined by the union for any post-resignation conduct.

If you resign from union membership, you are still fully covered by the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated between your employer and the union, and the union remains obligated to represent you. Any benefits that are provided to you by your employer pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement (e.g., wages, seniority, vacations, pension, health insurance) will not be affected by your resignation. (If the union offers some "members-only" benefits, you might be excluded from receiving those.) The Foundation neither encourages nor discourages you from resigning. The decision is yours alone.

http://www.nrtw.org/d/rtwempl.htm

NV card check
"The Card Check

Asking employees to sign a "card" is the newest union organizing strategy. Instead of holding an official election regulated by the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB], the usual practice in the past, organizers now simply collect signatures from a majority of workers and ask management to voluntarily recognize the union. This practice sounds harmless, but, as Restori explained, union representatives fooled non-English speaking MGM employees by not explaining that a signature constitutes a vote and authorization for dues withdrawal. "

http://nj.npri.org/nj98/03/cover_story.htm

Unions aren't nimble
Unions do improve productivity for median products (for firms that produce one unchanging product for long periods of time).

The problem is that unions make it expensive to switch between products. In general corporate actions are slowed in a union setting. In industry where being nimble is important unions are a big drag.

In the fast paced information age unions simply have a smaller niche where their increased transitioning costs justifies their increased productivity.

"Unions do improve productivity for median products"
I don't believe that.

Another problem with unions for liberals
Good comments on how crappy unions are, but here's another angle. More unions might humiliate, emabarass, and lower the self-esteem of liberals. It's because everybody knows that union bosses get really high pay, much more than normal people. For example, I heard that the teachers union boss or bosses,get about 250k a year. So if more unions, it would be a problem for liberals and other statists to justify the huge wage discrepancies as they usually do re ceos. Do people out there know the wages of other union bosses like the Teamesters, afl-cio, etc. Let's publish them here and not be concerned about embarassing liberals?

bur then the Dems would lose votes
after all all those dead people that vote for them all the time would not be able too

can you provide some evidence for that claim?
Of course any company that produces only one unchanging product for a long period of time, won't last a long period of time.

Companies that do produce such products also produce a huge slew of other products that they are constantly tinkering with.

Casius, the answer, I believe, is no
I read an article on this and, if I remember it correctly, the union is recognized by the Casino and they are used to set employee policy and for collective bargining. The casino does not then become a "union members only" or closed shop. The choice is still up to the individual. However, the retirement packages and benefits are run through the unions (at least in many cases) therefore the non-union member can be forced to pay these expenses out of his/her own pocket (Instead of paying union dues). Again, I don't believe this is the case always.

As for mark, well, he is mark!!

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