Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unions: time for a comeback?

Hi everyone,

I've been hearing more extinction bursts from the right-wing hold outs. I've had a bunch of people complain lately that I'm "spinning" when I post -- tautologically true, of course, since subjectivity is always slippery and always present and, as tautological, their attempted critique is as trivial as it is contrived... probably by others.

Yeah, whatever. What's interesting is the burst of people using the phrase. They always come in bunches. Makes me suspect, maybe Glenn Beck must've trotted it out as their latest retreat-meme.

Anyway, another one of the extinction burst memes has been to turn up the anti-union noise machine -- must be nice to be happily middle class and never have had to take mountains of sh*t from a corporation to keep your family alive. For the rest of America, there's this nice reminder:

How Unions Gave My Redneck Family a Chance at the American Dream



PaulyW said...

There are plenty of hard workers out there that don't want to have a thing to do with unions. Unions have taken GM, Ford and Chrysler down. Now teachers unions will bring my property taxes up around my go choke on your property taxes, talk up the the wonderful unions but someday, hopfully you will get it...but I doubt it. Spin spin spin Mark.

Mpeterson said...

There are plenty of hard workers getting screwed by their bosses, you mean.

John Jost, West Bend said...

Hmm, PaulyW, I think Bob Lutz took GM down by building huge crap.
And I think you should read a bit of John Steinbeck.

James Dionne said...

The critical flaw in unions is that they absolutely refuse to cut out the unproductive members that drag productivity and competitiveness of the whole down. If union management would stop protecting the workers who abuse the system and actually care about the profits that a company makes to stay competitive in a global economy, everyone would win. But human nature makes us selfish beasts, (reinforced by the mob mentality of a union, literally and figuratively) and they frequently cannot see the forest through the trees. Why are the Auto unions trying to sell their newly found "ownership" stake in the auto companies? Because they know that it's really hard to bargain with yourself in labor negotiations, and the legacy cost pyramid scheme they have created is going to ultimately destroy them. You have the choice to own or not own a public traded company. You do not have that choice when it comes to joining a union.

Mpeterson said...

Labor relations always work through stages... abuses do happen in union management, but you have to remember who holds the actual power in the relationship: not the worker.

Only owners call them mobs. From the point of view of an at risk worker, management always looks like evil incarnate.

But a good place to start on this is, of course, Howard Zinn's little book: A People's History of the United States .

Pauly, when you're done with it, come back.

@James: You and I must have had vastly different experiences with unions -- and HR for that matter.

Unions don't come out of nowhere. Workers don't put themselves through misery and intimidation unless they have to.

Example: had US automaker management used Deming's principles back when he tried to introduce them -- instead of laughing him out of Detroit and sending him off to Japan, where auto management embraced his ideas for improved management/worker relations and, thus, immediately began to kick Detroit into... well, into where they are now -- had the Big Three listened to him, we wouldn't be in this pickle.

When management is responsive to the needs of workers, there's no need for a union. Check out Whole Foods, Costco, and even Dr. Bonner's Soap as good examples.

Are you under the impression that the tensions that created the need for unions in the 1930's are no longer with us?

Anonymous said...

James, being competitive in a global economy means human rights violations and it means Americans taking a wage that they (as a single non-family person) could not survive on.

Which really brings me to my point. I like this article, but it bears mentioning that any union fight is going to have to be an international one. Deplorable working conditions and low wages in the third world are going to have to go. The only way we will get any concessions from big business is if the world stands up to them.

Mpeterson said...

Here's the reference for Deming: W. Edwards Deming

Anonymous said...

Maybe another term should be used since the word "union" seems to be so loaded with knee jerk reactions from both sides.

Could we agree on a concept of people coming together to benefit the whole?

This pitting good people against each other is what gets people in trouble in the first place.

When a person can take pension money from workers, lie, cheat, steal and abuse rights, people tend to band together to stop such abuse. Usually after a lot of them lose what they had. Now that the non-union workers at the banks and on wall street have done their work ruining the economy, asking them not to do that in the future would be wise... but how are you going to do that if everyone is divided?

Union, non-union loaded terms.... just a means of keeping people from realizing they're being played. Do what is reasonable and intelligent for the common good, keep a balance and help one another, work together, communities are a good place to start.

Work together.

zombie377 said...

Wow, it must be nice to have your own personal trolls to run circles around everyday. I can never figure out where these stereotypes about unions come from. I mean I know management and the investor class have spent billions over the last century on "scientific strike-breaking" and propaganda techniques. But aren't you conservatives supposed to be so strong minded that outside forces can never influence your thinking? The American Labor Movement has never been nearly as strong as the wingnuts make out. My experience in the UAW at Kohler has been one of extreme peer pressure to pull my weight, and it is management that is constantly pushing for concessions and givebacks.

PaulyW said...

The unions of the past were needed. This is now John. When the teachers union has more pull in the legislature than the voters that put them's a big problem. Look at the budget..whats happening to the QEO?

Anonymous said...

PaulyW, Do you hate the teachers union because Mark Belling tells you to? Check out the registered lobbyist in Wisconsin. Then add up the lobbyist for WMC, MMAC, Tavern League and individual corporations and companies and the rest.. Then do the math and you'll see that teachers unions combined with the other unions are in the minority. Next time you call Mark Belling ask him for us if he belongs to the broadcasters union. American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. (AFTRA) has about 80,000 members, pretty good chance he does because they represent many members for Clear Channel. Larry T

Rich Kasten said...

I could not agree more with PaulyW - unions are a thing of the past. Whether it is WEAC, UAW or the Major League Baseball Players Association, their "wins" are long since gone. Many, many times their own arrogance and inability to take concessions has cost people jobs.

In my experiences working with union shops, it takes longer to get things done. I was told not to disconnect a hose as it was a union job. Then I was told it would happen 3 hours later - after their coffee break and lunch, all mandated in their contract. It took me all of 3 minutes to disconnect the hose and continue on with my other tasks. My opinion, if you consider yourself a professional and you are in a union, then something is wrong. If your boss treats you wrong and you are a hard worker, you will find that other job.

Yes, the employer bears some responsibility for the ridiculous bargaining rights given to the unions, but it costs a lot of time and money to train an employee and they don't always want to lose the investment by having them walk out on strike and getting replacements.

PaulyW said...

I don't listen to Belling for the union bashing. But if I have a different opinion than you, I listen to Belling? I have my own opinion Mr/Mrs/Miss Anon. And I can read what is in the budget....did you bother to read it? I know this fact...the QEO is going away and it's the only protection we had as home owners. Ask the teachers union where the dues go. Into the the Gov's campaign fund or the senators or representatives. Democrats...Bought and paid for.

Anonymous said...

We seem to be talking about 2 subjects here. First, I sent my children to private and the West Bend public school district. They went on to Moraine Park and UWWC. I discovered long ago that the teachers at all levels had the same passion. That passion was for the students. K-12, I was involved with their education (college they were mature enough, they didn't need my help). I would call teachers early in the morning, after school or they would call me at home in the evening. I know their day is longer than 8 hours. They have to prepare for their classes don't forget. Why do you think they shouldn't earn a fair wage? If you could write the payroll checks what would you pay a teacher? The last I heard a teacher in West Bend earns in the mid to upper 50's. It's difficult to earn a teaching degree in 4 years, most take 5 just for the bachelors degree. If they specialize or go for the masters it adds years. Every credit they earn it costs them tuition. Yet you think they should have limits on their contract negotiations that no other group has in either the public or private sector. I would suggest to anyone who thinks there is so much waste in the school system to take a tour. I did for every school they attended, and I saw that every dime of taxpayer money was being spent wisely.
Second. The Democrats are being blamed here. Why? January brought them the majority in Madison for the first time in over 20 years. Do you think the Republicans were really fiscally responsible? Lets see, just from memory. We had the creation of a stadium tax, reformulated gas that cost more gave less. Counties were granted to add a half cent tax. What about all those user fees? Tommy stick it to 'em Thompson promised lowers taxes changing welfare to W2. When did the taxes go down, I missed that. We saw UW tuition skyrocket while they refused to increase minimum wage so the kids could pay for college. The "sin" taxes increased. The wholesale liquor distributors lobbied the Republicans to protect their interest to ban large volume sellers from buying direct, costing the consumer more. When the Republicans lost the majority in January they left the states finances in a shambles. Larry T

PaulyW said...

Well, it was not the republicans that took it was the dems. How much time do we have here to compare the merits of each party and the foolishness of all wasteful spending....but Mark started the topic on unions and I was staying on topic. Not the stadium tax, or the other items you mentioned. If you want to go off of topic, lets have at it. We can trade barb for barb and compare repubs to dems and get nowhere. Teachers can get 3.8% from the QEO. Now the sky is the limit. And the arbitration process has changed. The arbitrator no longer bound to concider the finances of the school district in the negotiations. So this is payback for the votes. And the only entity getting the benefit is the TEACHERS UNION.

Anonymous said...

PaulyW, I disagree that you think you stayed on topic with the teachers union. You brought the Democrats into the discussion with this:
Ask the teachers union where the dues go. Into the the Gov's campaign fund or the senators or representatives. Democrats...Bought and paid for.
So, bringing up both unions and the Democrats in my last entry I think was fair. But you skirted the questions.
On the teachers part, what would you consider a fair wage, what would you be willing to pay a teacher?
You feel the teachers union has so much clout, but you didn't comment on the wholesale liquor and beer distributorship's. That's a tightly knit business group, there are very few wholesalers in the state. How did they get uncompetitive legislation passed?
Federal law allows members of a union to petition the union to return the percentage of dues used for political purposes to the member. Next time you buy a beer ask for your money back on what the wholesalers payed in lobbing cost, see what that gets you. Larry T.

PaulyW said...

What does beer have to do with "Unions: time for a comeback?" Larry? So lets talk fair wage and teachers. The biggest problem: school districts can NOT pay good teachers better than bad teachers. They can not dismiss teachers for poor performance. I say it's time to remove the teachers union so we don't see the taxes continue to move up. There is nothing standing in the way of a raise every contract time...whether they perform or not. Most people in the real world are having wages frozen, or worse losing jobs. But the teachers union marches along with the pay increase and better benefits and a killer pension. And how do we get repaid????? They want more.

Anonymous said...

You think Gov. Doyle was bought and paid for by the teachers union. I'm saying the Republicans have been bought and paid for by the wholesale liquor and beer distributors, this happened over a year ago when the Republicans had the majority. My point was any union member who doesn't agree with the political actions can request a refund for the portion of dues that go to PAC, it's the law. Another limitation just like pay caps for teachers.put in place by Republicans. Know one else has pay caps and know one else has to return money used for a PAC, not for beer, electricity, a new car.

Republicans typically act on the business lobby, Democrats typically act on social issues, which includes unions and workers rights. You and I will rarely, if ever agree with each others ideology.

Who determines a good teacher from a bad teacher? Teachers can be fired. I worked with a person who taught high school math and got fired. He got fired from my employer too, also a union job. You can imagine he was a real gem. Teachers do get fired. Remember the Cedarburg teacher who happened to be the union president that was fired? He lost his arbitration case too. Should Jessica McBride be fired from UWM School of Journalism for writing a glowing article about a person she was sexually involved with? .

You can't dismiss the teachers union, because it's teachers legal right to have a union.

How do you get repaid? You get repaid by educating our children. Educating our children for good paying jobs just keeps a healthy social/economic society going. I think educating our children keeps crime down. I think there is a correlation between unemployment and crime. I also believe it's cheaper to educate children than imprison them as adults because they can't get a good paying job. But that is a whole new subject.