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June 30, 2009

Comments

And George Cohen will be a fine FMCS director.

And the Employee Free Choice Act will be a good thing.

In case the origins of this thread got lost somewhere.

RL: "rather than just someone else's talking points."

Someone else's talking points? Who would that be? I'm sure you and your allies would rather talk to each other -- no challenges, no pesky dissent, no reality checks. I guess it's ok when you use insulting words but not me. On the other hand you and your RMA cronies are nothing if not self-serving.

R...Now you're Dr Freud? ...stupid, deluded and naive. Maybe you too in some ways? ....defensive. ...screwy beliefs...knuckleheads....narcissistic fantasies... The mental state of "unreason" in our time....

Very impressive. You're really not worth engaging with, Rick. Let me know when you have something of substance to say, rather than just someone else's talking points. Until that time, I'll save my breath to cool my soup.

...starting to make me sympathize a bit with Tom Lee...

Tom is welcome to your sympathy.

By the way, you were so busy launching your diatribe against the Right you failed to answer any of the substantive points I raised, even as you denied that I argued substance.

RL: "If you don't believe that actions have consequences, then perhaps you're free to believe that history has no relevance to current messes."

Who said history has no relevance? I asked what IS the relevance but you didn't answer.

RL: "What I dislike most about the way the Right thinks is that every single thing is jammed through one filter - Left/Right. The world is not that simple, except to the Rush Limbaughs of this world. People and society are far more complex than that."

Your opinion; the same could easily be said the other way around if someone were so inclined.

RL: "The Right increasingly denies even the existence of a spectrum of views from Left to Right; if one isn't on the hard Right, on every issue, then one is a Socialist. And everything bad (remember the Nazis) must be from the Left, even if all the evidence and analysis shows otherwise."

Nonsense, or maybe your actual opinion; you'd get plenty of disagreement on that. At least the Right tends to understand the issues which is more than the "feeling" Left can usually do.

RL: "It's a very self-contained world view; rather like paranoia, in fact. Reality is stretched on the Procrustean bed of ideology, rather than recognized as far more complex than simply good/bad or Right/Left."

No shit!?!?! Wow. Now you're Dr Freud? You're stretching or maybe you believe you're that smart.

RL: "Actually I studied both; was an econ major at Stanford for most of my time there, in fact."

That's good; you are definitely more knowledgable about a lot of stuff than the average musician.

RL: "Most of the rice field work in California is done by legal and illegal aliens; evidently even California, with its "total Democrat domination" (and why does the Right insist on saying "Democrat" rather than "Democratic"? Really very childish) has been pretty successful in providing better jobs for its citizens."

What are you talking about? What citizens? Unemployment is now around 10.5-11% You can't even get rice field work. And now the Obama administration is stopping all federal workplace inspections for illegals and they're stopping the monitoring that was required to match names to ss#'s. What is wrong with Democrat? Childish? Touchy, touchy.

RL: "But I recognize the thread linking the thoughts; anyone who disagrees with the Right can't have any experience of the "real world." Sorry, Rick; I've had plenty of experience of the real world. How about engaging with arguments instead of simply claiming that those who disagree with you are either stupid, deluded, or naive?"

Don't demagogue me. That's baloney. I engage substantively all the time. Unfortunately a lot of people are in fact stupid, deluded and naive. Maybe you too in some ways? You are certainly getting defensive. You do have some screwy beliefs which is starting to make me sympathize a bit with Tom Lee and what he has to deal with with you knuckleheads. Lots of people today also don't like the truth. They have an aversion to it, preferring their narcissistic fantasies. The mental state of "unreason" in our time. It's epidemic. But anything for a gig....

I know a lot about CA history. Relevance to current crisis?

If you don't believe that actions have consequences, then perhaps you're free to believe that history has no relevance to current messes.

RL: "And maybe someday you won't jump to conclusions about people who disagree with you."

I'm not jumping to conclusions; you are supplying the evidence.

What I dislike most about the way the Right thinks is that every single thing is jammed through one filter - Left/Right. The world is not that simple, except to the Rush Limbaughs of this world. People and society are far more complex than that.

The Right increasingly denies even the existence of a spectrum of views from Left to Right; if one isn't on the hard Right, on every issue, then one is a Socialist. And everything bad (remember the Nazis) must be from the Left, even if all the evidence and analysis shows otherwise.

It's a very self-contained world view; rather like paranoia, in fact. Reality is stretched on the Procrustean bed of ideology, rather than recognized as far more complex than simply good/bad or Right/Left.

Certainly being a musician is a real job and to learn it you study music not finance or economics.

Actually I studied both; was an econ major at Stanford for most of my time there, in fact.

Working in the rice fields is where you end up as a result of liberals/socialists ruining the economy.

Most of the rice field work in California is done by legal and illegal aliens; evidently even California, with its "total Democrat domination" (and why does the Right insist on saying "Democrat" rather than "Democratic"? Really very childish) has been pretty successful in providing better jobs for its citizens.

Running a business teaches other valuable lessons of finance, making payroll etc.

As does running an AFM local; not to mention negotiating contracts with orchestra and theater managements.

But I recognize the thread linking the thoughts; anyone who disagrees with the Right can't have any experience of the "real world." Sorry, Rick; I've had plenty of experience of the real world. How about engaging with arguments instead of simply claiming that those who disagree with you are either stupid, deluded, or naive?

RL: "Is California a "welfare state"? Not in any sense that, say, Sweden (or even the UK) would recognize as such."

You can't be serious. And... CA is run by public sector unions as opposed to TX which has a very small % of union penetration and is right-to-work.

TL: " Is there "total Democrat (sic) domination of state government"? As I recall, the Governator is a Republican. And the multi-billion dollar cuts that have been agreed to are hardly the solution favored by the Democratic majority in the state legislature. Evidently "total domination" doesn't mean that they actually get to run the place the way they would like."

Evidently you are not paying attention.

RL: "You're very quick to throw out accusations of "intellectual dishonesty," aren't you?"

No, not quick but sometimes it seems appropriate.

RL: "If you want to have an honest discussion of how California got to be what it is today, then you'd start with the massive government spending on defense and infrastructure that has led to California being the economic engine for international economic growth and intellectual innovation that it's been since WW II."

I know a lot about CA history. Relevance to current crisis?

RL: "And maybe someday you won't jump to conclusions about people who disagree with you."

I'm not jumping to conclusions; you are supplying the evidence.

RL: "I'm not sure how working in the rice fields, as opposed to working in orchestras, is going to teach me how "things actually work." It rather sounds as if you don't think being a musician is a real job."

Certainly being a musician is a real job and to learn it you study music not finance or economics. Working in the rice fields is where you end up as a result of liberals/socialists ruining the economy. Running a business teaches other valuable lessons of finance, making payroll etc. Even the Chinese are warning us about collapsing the dollar.

I'm still mystified that you actually believe most American workers want to be in unions. They are all just lining up for the privilege of paying dues to people they don't trust. That is delusional.

RL: "Which (invaded by aliens -- legal and illegal) of course, explains why Texas is in the same boat. Oh wait..."

Texas? uh... welfare state? Public sector unions? Total Democrat domination of state government?

You were talking about immigrants and federal mandates, as I recall. Texas has both.

Is California a "welfare state"? Not in any sense that, say, Sweden (or even the UK) would recognize as such. Is there "total Democrat (sic) domination of state government"? As I recall, the Governator is a Republican. And the multi-billion dollar cuts that have been agreed to are hardly the solution favored by the Democratic majority in the state legislature. Evidently "total domination" doesn't mean that they actually get to run the place the way they would like.

Once again the intellectual dishonesty -- yes intellectual dishonesty -- of a Leftist is on display.

You're very quick to throw out accusations of "intellectual dishonesty," aren't you? Weren't you the one complaining about ad hominen arguments? You might try engaging with the arguments, rather than throwing around names, if you want to be respected by those who really do value intellectual honesty.

CA is in the shape it's in today exactly because of people like you Robert.

If you want to have an honest discussion of how California got to be what it is today, then you'd start with the massive government spending on defense and infrastructure that has led to California being the economic engine for international economic growth and intellectual innovation that it's been since WW II.

Maybe one day you will try to run a business, or you will find yourself working in the rice fields, and you will begin to understand how things actually work.

And maybe someday you won't jump to conclusions about people who disagree with you. I'm not sure how working in the rice fields, as opposed to working in orchestras, is going to teach me how "things actually work." It rather sounds as if you don't think being a musician is a real job.

RL: "Which (invaded by aliens -- legal and illegal) of course, explains why Texas is in the same boat. Oh wait..."

Texas? uh... welfare state? Public sector unions? Total Democrat domination of state government?

Once again the intellectual dishonesty -- yes intellectual dishonesty -- of a Leftist is on display. CA is in the shape it's in today exactly because of people like you Robert. Liberal thinking is destructive because it denies reality in service of it's ideology. Look at CA -- it is the "poster child" of liberalism. If the liberals prevail the whole country will look like that -- and worse. But I guess people like Robert think that is "progress."

Maybe one day you will try to run a business, or you will find yourself working in the rice fields, and you will begin to understand how things actually work.

RL: "But why am I arguing about reality with someone who apparently lives in an alternative universe?"

I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you Robert but there is no Santa Claus.

Not only is CA a welfare state but it complies with federal mandates to provide education and medical for aliens, and it has been literally invaded by aliens -- legal and illegal.

Which, of course, explains why Texas is in the same boat. Oh wait...

2) CA is run by the unions and everyone knows it. Sacramento is overwhelmingly Democrat and controlled primarily by public sector unions and people who want to tax business and spend like crazy.

Which, of course, is why taxes have been going up in California and unionized workers haven't been being furloughed. Oh wait...

...contrary to tax and spend leftist beliefs Proposition 13 had nothing to do with it....

The leftists have taken over the government and with their unions ruined one of the best school systems in the U.S -- in fact one of the best in the world. I grew up in CA and I know the state; don't tell me about CA you don't know what you're talking about.

Oddly enough, Rick, I grew up in California too and still have family there, so I do have some idea what I'm talking about. And I follow the news. To say that Prop 13 has "nothing to do" with the current crisis is a fact-free, ideologically based assertion.

But why am I arguing about reality with someone who apparently lives in an alternative universe?

I do not believe that overwhelmingly large numbers of Americans who want to be unionized are being prevented from doing so by violators. I think that is a falsehood. I believe overwhelmingly large numbers of Americans like living consistent with their belief in "rugged individualism" and independence, liberty. If the majority of American workers wished to be unionized they would be. I think to believe otherwise is a serious misunderstanding of American culture. Just my opinion.

To which you're entitled. Doesn't mean you're right. More importantly, it doesn't mean that the abuses that the EFCA is intended to address don't exist.

Obviously selective law enforcement is part of the political process. There are reams of law that are never enforced or partially enforced depending upon ...? And there are others that are rigorously enforced. Politics, democratic politics, representative government. That's what you get.

You're missing the point. The problem with labor law is not "selective enforcement"; the problem is that the penalties in the law are so laughably light. Yes; those penalties were arrived at through democratic politics. EFCA is intended, through "democratic politics," to address that issue.

RL: "Actually it is. California has a screwy system of taxation and budgeting (ever since Prop 13) that renders it extremely dependent on the income tax; a problematic source of revenue. Add to that the need for a super-majority in the state legislature to raise taxes, and the fact that the state is one of the largest economies in the world (with infrastructure needs to match), and you have a recipe for deep, deep deficits during economic downturns. And states can't run deficits."

You want a dose of reality? Here we go:
There are two major reasons for the current crisis in CA.

1) The welfare state combined with uncontrolled immigration, both legal and illegal. An advanced welfare state combined with open borders is unsustainable. Not only is CA a welfare state but it complies with federal mandates to provide education and medical for aliens, and it has been literally invaded by aliens -- legal and illegal.

2) CA is run by the unions and everyone knows it. Sacramento is overwhelmingly Democrat and controlled primarily by public sector unions and people who want to tax business and spend like crazy.

While state income taxes are probably too high they did not create this crisis and contrary to tax and spend leftist beliefs Proposition 13 had nothing to do with it. Prop 13 was a good thing, aside from being 35-40 year old tax revolt. The much larger problem today, aside from 1) and 2) above, is the increasing costs imposed on doing business over the past 20 years.

The leftists have taken over the government and with their unions ruined one of the best school systems in the U.S -- in fact one of the best in the world. I grew up in CA and I know the state; don't tell me about CA you don't know what you're talking about.

RL: "This whole debate is about overwhelmingly well-documented abuses of labor law by employers in order to deny employees the right to be unionized, even when the employees want it." ..... "When companies don't fight unionization and remain neutral, unions generally win organizing campaigns. And when companies do fight, they often fight very dirty and in violation of the law. Unfortunately, as I've pointed out, such violations either go unpunished or are punished very lightly indeed."

I don't doubt abuses and excesses occur -- by companies, by unions, by government officials, by lawyers, by everyone. And they always will at one time or another. No one endorses that but we understand we live in human society. I also understand that companies, unions, whatever, fight for their interests -- and so they should.

I do not believe that overwhelmingly large numbers of Americans who want to be unionized are being prevented from doing so by violators. I think that is a falsehood. I believe overwhelmingly large numbers of Americans like living consistent with their belief in "rugged individualism" and independence, liberty. If the majority of American workers wished to be unionized they would be. I think to believe otherwise is a serious misunderstanding of American culture. Just my opinion.

Obviously selective law enforcement is part of the political process. There are reams of law that are never enforced or partially enforced depending upon ...? And there are others that are rigorously enforced. Politics, democratic politics, representative government. That's what you get.

Actually my concern is for the minority in both cases. If the majority wants the union but a minority doesn't, their right to opt-out should be clear. Conversely, if the majority votes against the union but a minority wants union representation they should have it as far as I'm concerned.

It's an interesting idea, and I believe that some countries do have labor laws along those lines; ie non-exclusive bargaining rights that provide for unions that only represent some of the workers in a workplace, or even allow multiple unions in the same workplace. I don't know how well it works, so I don't have an opinion on whether it's a good idea.

But such a change does not appear to be in the cards in the US, whether or not it's desirable.

If the majority of American workers wanted to be unionized they would be.

You haven't been paying attention. This whole debate is about overwhelmingly well-documented abuses of labor law by employers in order to deny employees the right to be unionized, even when the employees want it.

When companies don't fight unionization and remain neutral, unions generally win organizing campaigns. And when companies do fight, they often fight very dirty and in violation of the law. Unfortunately, as I've pointed out, such violations either go unpunished or are punished very lightly indeed.

You have the right to own a brand-new Lamborghini. But if car theft goes unpunished, or is punished with, say, a $50 fine, your right to own that car doesn't mean all that much; you won't keep it more than a few hours if you actually drive it around. Rights mean nothing if there is no enforcement when they are denied by others' actions.

RL: "The fact that California is going bust has very little to do with union density... "

Actually that's not true.

Actually it is. California has a screwy system of taxation and budgeting (ever since Prop 13) that renders it extremely dependent on the income tax; a problematic source of revenue. Add to that the need for a super-majority in the state legislature to raise taxes, and the fact that the state is one of the largest economies in the world (with infrastructure needs to match), and you have a recipe for deep, deep deficits during economic downturns. And states can't run deficits.

There are lots of states that have powerful public-sector unions. Some are in deep doo-doo and some aren't. The relationship between the two is tenuous at best.

RL: "...Then the workers shouldn't have a union. It's pretty simple; if a majority of the workers don't sign the cards, they won't be unionized. Do you have a problem with the notion that, if a majority of the employees want a union, they should have one?"

Actually my concern is for the minority in both cases. If the majority wants the union but a minority doesn't, their right to opt-out should be clear. Conversely, if the majority votes against the union but a minority wants union representation they should have it as far as I'm concerned.

RL: "To my mind, this is not about "expanding union power in the marketplace."

We'll have to disagree on this.

RL: "The last poll I saw on the subject found that a majority of American workers wanted to be unionized."

That I don't believe for an instant. If the majority of American workers wanted to be unionized they would be.

RL: "The fact that California is going bust has very little to do with union density... "

Actually that's not true. At the beginning of this crisis the Governator tried to cut costs across the board, also in the public sector which is heavily unionized. Basically, in response to heavy lobbying, the federal government stopped the cuts affecting public sector workers by threatening to withhold federal funds that CA desperately needed. CA had to, and continues to, do some painful maneuvering around this particular roadblock. NY and NJ I mention just to show the correlation between heavily unionized non right-to-work states and severe economic problems in this economy. You could add Michigan to that mix.

RL: "...I do believe that government has a role in keeping the free market system healthy and in checking its inevitable excesses. But so do most Americans. As Ken Shirk so eloquently pointed out, even the Chamber of Commerce believes that government has a role in economic regulation, if only by regulating unions."

Then we have an area of agreement! I think we all understand the necessity of regulation but we might disagree on some of the details... Most regulation has historically taken place at the request of, and under the oversight of, the industries being regulated. Everyone has an interest in marketplace stability: workers, management, government consumers.

KS: "I forgot to mention that Section 8, from the Taft-Hartley Act, also made unlawful closed-shop provisions in union contracts, and opened the door to state "right-to-work" laws. If unions really wanted to make a power-grab, that would have been the place to do it. But, no, those cynical unions were only interested in manifesting the employees' choice whether or not to have a union."

While we may disagree on our interpretation of the facts of this labor history it's interesting to hear your take on it. Of course the legal/political battles continue and will inevitably continue on in the future. And why shouldn't they? Unions might have liked to take on Section 8 but obviously would only have done so if they thought they had a chance, however small, of success, which is highly doubtful. So you go for what you think you might be able to get.

I don't think it will ever be a truly "level playing field" nor should it be. We live, still, in a capitalist economy. Capital formation and risk-taking are the economic engines. And the engines create the jobs. Government's job fundamentally vis-a-vis the economy is to get business to perform. Workers have rights and so they should but barring destructive market intrusion capital will have the upper hand. The mobility of the marketplace must be preserved.

I personally would like to see unions evolve into something a bit more useful to 21st-Century economic circumstances. Private sector unions hold too tightly, I believe, to a 20-Century model and philosophy. With time they become less indispensable and run the risk of being increasingly irrelevant. That's because labor organizing to accomodate the needs of 21st-Century markets is necessarily different than organizing labor for the 20th-Century. We see signs of this today as membership drops in private sector unions. The numbers aren't just dropping because of anti-union stategies, they're dropping because workers don't feel compelled to join and unions aren't attracting them the way they might. Public sector unions are growing because they are really an extension of government at this point.

I think private sector unions can be relevant in the future but I think they will have to be more creative, more proactive, less reactionary, less 20th-Century model.


The assumption that unions are consistently motivated by benevolence while business is only motivated by greed is juvenile: worse than juvenile -- stupid. Good management understands the value of its employees.

True enough. There's an old saying in the union business - "the boss is the best organizer." It's related to another old saying: "companies that have unions deserve them." The best way for a company to not have a union is to treat its workers as if they did. Most companies aren't that smart, however. Hence the need, and desire, for unions.

What if a worker doesn't want exclusive union representation? What if he is happy representing himself? What if a business is trying to protect a percentage of its workers from a union those workers don't want representing them? What if the union in question has a borderline insolvent pension plan, for example, that workers don't want to get involved in, or workers have other misgivings about a particular union and don't want to grant it exclusive bargaining power?

Then the workers shouldn't have a union. It's pretty simple; if a majority of the workers don't sign the cards, they won't be unionized. Do you have a problem with the notion that, if a majority of the employees want a union, they should have one? It sounds like it.

With forced government arbitration workers would apparently lose the ability to vote on their own contracts. How would a union then be held accountable? How does that help workers control their own destiny or practice self-determination?

There is no current right under labor law for workers to ratify collective bargaining agreements. The AFM provides that right (except when the IEB is promulgating agreements it thinks it can't get ratified, of course.) But that's an internal matter, and not mandated by law.

Unions are "held accountable" by a number of ways; the election of officers, the possibility of a decertification or deauthorization vote by the bargaining unit (which would remain a secret ballot vote), and by DOL oversight. One could wish that their employers were subject to some of the same oversight.

Unions are unpopular among the American public in part because they are perceived as killers of the golden goose. Today we have record unemployment and the highly unionized states are in the worst shape of any, with CA, NJ, NY for example facing bankruptcy. Is this really a good time to expand union power in the marketplace? Only if you are a true unionist idealog, a socialist, which I am not.

To my mind, this is not about "expanding union power in the marketplace." It's about protecting the basic human right (recognized in a number of treaties, by the way) to organize and bargain collectively.

And do you have a source for your claim that "unions are unpopular with the American public"? The last poll I saw on the subject found that a majority of American workers wanted to be unionized.

The fact that California is going bust has very little to do with union density and a lot to do with its very peculiar tax and legal structure. I know less about NY and NJ, but making a blanket statement that union density is a cause of economic problems on a state level is well ahead of the evidence.

I guess I would be a "true union ideologue," but I don't consider myself a socialist. I do believe that government has a role in keeping the free market system healthy and in checking its inevitable excesses. But so do most Americans. As Ken Shirk so eloquently pointed out, even the Chamber of Commerce believes that government has a role in economic regulation, if only by regulating unions.

PS - I forgot to mention that Section 8, from the Taft-Hartley Act, also made unlawful closed-shop provisions in union contracts, and opened the door to state "right-to-work" laws. If unions really wanted to make a power-grab, that would have been the place to do it. But, no, those cynical unions were only interested in manifesting the employees' choice whether or not to have a union.

RL: "The law means nothing if there are not meaningful disincentive to breaking it. This bill would create such disincentives. Do Rick and/or the C of C have a better idea?"

RB: The philosophical question is, of course, whether the law compelling business to do anything should exist at all, i.e. how useful is that kind of government intrusion into the marketplace? It's a rhetorical question -- I don't expect an answer here.

Rick brings up the most excellent and elegant point. The counter-question, then, is whether a law that reduces workers' rights should exist at all, either. If you want a level playing field without the intrusion of the government, then let us have no laws governing labor relations.

But wait - we already tried that. A century ago, construction workers and miners engaged strikes, and employers responded by hiring Pinkerton and other private security forces to tamp them down. In extreme cases, working people were massacred by these private forces. Subsequent legislation to make unions unlawful did nothing to reduce the violence. Legislation making it a federal crime to engage in violence during union campaigns resulted in workers going to jail, or worse, but no employers going to jail, or worse.

1935 brought us the Wagner Act - the original National Labor Relations Act. Congress' declaration in adopting the Wagner Act stated that the Interest of the Country was served by the unimpeded flow of interstate commerce. The there-to-fore violence and wildcat strikes were severely impeding the flow of commerce, and that a remedy was indicated. The remedy, Congress concluded, was to formally legalize unions and workers' ability to unionize. The Wagner Act said, very simply, that employees had the right to support, form or join a union for the purpose of securing a collectively bargained agreement. These are called "Section 7" rights.

This simple solution effectively brought an end to the widespread workplace violence and saw an increase in the flow of interstate commerce. It also saw a significant increase in unions' influence in society. It counter-balanced the innate power of the employer to command an employee's time and withhold wages if it were dissatisfied with the employee with a collective right of the employees (i.e., unions) to withhold labor if they were dissatisfied with the employer's treatment.

But, wait! That was no good - all this level playing field hoohah. Employers must always be on top. So twelve years later, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, which added to Section 7 of the Wagner Act by stating that employees also had the right *not* to support, join or form a union. On the face of it, that seems fair enough, if, perhaps a bit superfluous. Oh, but wait - there's more. The Taft-Hartley Act added in several bits and pieces governing union behavior in worksite organizing and union contract campaigns, severely constricting, and, in some cases, eliminating tools through which employees had been able to secure collective bargaining agreements through peaceful means in the preceding twelve years. The employer restrictions in the same arena were few. These new restrictions are set forth in Section 8.

Within thirty-five years of Taft-Hartley, employers had raised to a high art the exploitation of the lopsidedness of Section 8 governing bargaining behavior and the perversion of Section 9 governing unionizing elections. The term "management consultant" was a euphemism for a union-buster. The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s saw this particular gig grow from a small niche to a full-blown sector of the legal profession. The provision requiring parties to bargain in good faith became laughable. A union bargaining in bad faith could lose everything if it tried to strike after bad-faith bargaining. An employer bargaining in bad faith is merely ordered to return to the bargaining table. A law designed to foment collective bargaining between workers and employers transmuted into a blueprint for protracted legal battles between opposing lawyers, the outcome of which battles waited months, if not years, for adjudication by the federal courts. Meanwhile, union supporters were unlawfully fired in order to weaken union support amongst employees (the penalty for which - if there even was a penalty - was to rehire the supporter, i.e., no fine, no jail time, no damages, no nothing). The result? Collective bargaining delayed or, if all went well, gone.

Interestingly, the Employee Free Choice Act proposed to change none of the above. Interestingly, it preserves the usefulness of management consultants, preserves the provisions that burden unions with enormous financial liability if they transgress Section 8. It preserves the weak penalties imposed upon employers for violating Sections 8 and 9. The Taft-Hartley battleground, so weighted in favor of employers, remains unchanged by the EFCA. If unions really wanted to make a power grab, it would have been to change Section 8, which is where the real battles are fought, not Section 9, which is only about the manner in which employees choose to unionize, together with a procedure to urge both parties to reach a first agreement (which, if they fail to do, by the way, is not imposed by the government, but by an independent private-sector arbitrator that both parties agree to, and which arbitration also, by the way, stands as much chance as being in favor of the employer as it does the union).

So, I would take Rick's philosophical question about government intrusion and say, "Why entertain half-measures? Let's see a repeal of the entire National Labor Relations Act!"

But wait! We already tried that . . .

Basically "card check" will make it easier for unions to organize businesses. I don't think that is in dispute. One problem with the conversation about it is the assumption that workers want the union and management is against it, for all the best and worst reasons, respectively. I don't think this is a true assumption. The assumption that unions are consistently motivated by benevolence while business is only motivated by greed is juvenile: worse than juvenile -- stupid. Good management understands the value of its employees.

What if a worker doesn't want exclusive union representation? What if he is happy representing himself? What if a business is trying to protect a percentage of its workers from a union those workers don't want representing them? What if the union in question has a borderline insolvent pension plan, for example, that workers don't want to get involved in, or workers have other misgivings about a particular union and don't want to grant it exclusive bargaining power?

One way, under current law, a company may protect workers against a union is the "secret ballot request," as Robert pointed out. This ensures that workers are less likely to be tricked, coerced or intimidated, and at least have an opportunity to vote before a union is granted exclusive bargaining rights over those workers. "Card check" will change that.

With forced government arbitration workers would apparently lose the ability to vote on their own contracts. How would a union then be held accountable? How does that help workers control their own destiny or practice self-determination?

Unions are unpopular among the American public in part because they are perceived as killers of the golden goose. Today we have record unemployment and the highly unionized states are in the worst shape of any, with CA, NJ, NY for example facing bankruptcy. Is this really a good time to expand union power in the marketplace? Only if you are a true unionist idealog, a socialist, which I am not.

RL: "The law means nothing if there are not meaningful disincentive to breaking it. This bill would create such disincentives. Do Rick and/or the C of C have a better idea?"

The philosophical question is, of course, whether the law compelling business to do anything should exist at all, i.e. how useful is that kind of government intrusion into the marketplace? It's a rhetorical question -- I don't expect an answer here.

Robert, I appreciate the thorough response. It's good for everyone to have a more comprehensive understanding of these issues. I have to think about a couple of those points before I comment further.

But here's a question: how does a company's ability to lock the union out relate to all this? Over the past couple years the Yamaha plant (people who work in wind instrument manufacturing are members of the UAW) in Grand Rapids closed down completely in part because labor costs had become prohibitive. The Bach plant (formerly Selmer) in Elkhart, IN suffered annual labor disputes every year for a number of years. It created major problems in part because the plant had limited production capacity under the best of circumstances. Chinese manufacturers were ramping up. Selmer was finally bought out (about 3 years ago) by what is now Conn-Selmer and they decided to lock out the union. They refused to renegotiate but they did offer workers the chance to return at a higher pay scale than before if they would quit the UAW. Some did, some found other jobs, some probably left town. Conn-Selmer was willing to pay more to ensure no more disruptions in production. They moved all their beginner and intermediate horn production overseas and now only produce pro horns -- and they do it profitably.

How does this situation fit with either existing law or law under "card check?"

If a company can lock the union out after it was unionized what is to prevent it from doing the same before unionization, or does that change also with card check?

Under the existing law today, workers have a chance to vote for or against unionization in a private-ballot election that is federally supervised. Under Card Check, if more than 50% of workers at a facility sign a card, the government would have to certify the union, and a private ballot election would be prohibited--even if workers want one.

Under current law, an election is only held if the employer wants one; there is no current “right to a secret ballot.” Needless to say, most employers decide to ask for one (probably not because they’re great believers in union democracy, though) - and then use the lengthy period between the card signing and the election to "influence" the employees, while the union is effectively barred from doing the same (no access to the worksite, no access to company-paid anti-union propaganda sessions, etc). So unions have become understandably wary of the "fairness" of secret ballot elections.

Some of those problems could be solved in a different way, though – speeding up the election process so that it happened within a few days of the card check, for example, and providing the union the same access to employees in the pre-election period as the employer has.

Card Check could put government regulators in charge of private business decisions. Once a union is certified, the business and union would only have 120 days to reach agreement, before facing the prospect of being forced into binding arbitration. This means a panel of government arbitrators who may have no understanding of the business could impose a two year contract deciding all workplace terms--without any vote by the company or its employees… By placing government regulators in charge of a two-year decision, business flexibility is limited--at a time in our history when it is needed most. A recent poll found that 75% of voters believe government arbitrators should not decide the conditions of a union contract.

Under current law, the employer is under no obligation to agree to any CBA at all. Needless to say, such stalling has become a favorite tactic of union-busting law firms advising such employers. They hope that, after a year or two of having a union and not seeing any change in their working conditions, enough workers will become fed up that a decert vote will succeed - and it's a tactic that often works.

This provision simply puts a deadline on that stalling. Most employers, when faced with the prospect of coming to agreement with their workers or going to arbitration, will choose the former - just as happens in most contract administration matters, where companies face precisely the choice.

If Rick, or the Chamber of Commerce, have a better idea for ensuring that companies bargain in good faith to reach an agreement, I’m all ears.

By the way, the arbitrators won't be civil servants, and won't be "regulators." But the COC is counting on people not knowing that.

Card Check would impose harsh new penalties on businesses--but not on unions--for violations during the union recognition process. This is unfair, and potentially disastrous for small or medium businesses, who are not familiar with unionizing campaigns or the National Labor Relations Act. If Card Check passes, many of these businesses would be facing unionization for the first time.

Talk about a bullshit argument; why is it unfair to expect companies to obey the law? Currently, the penalties for breaking the law in this area are laughable. So, of course, many companies take the rational course and fire union supporters. The only penalty they might face, years down the road, is payment of back wages - minus any wages the fired worker might have earned in the interim. That's a small price to pay for intimidating enough union supporters to stop an organizing drive.

The law means nothing if there are not meaningful disincentive to breaking it. This bill would create such disincentives. Do Rick and/or the C of C have a better idea?

TG: "Since Mr. Blanc felt it necessary to share some of the anti union rhetoric of the Chamber of Commerce,..."

Not accurate. The rhetoric is anti-"Card check" not anti-union. But it's interesting that you feel if someone is against "Card check" then they must also be anti-union. Next time you have an election at 802 do you want to be able to vote using a "secret ballot," or do you just want to write your name down on a card? "Card check" robs the worker of his right to a secret ballot. Is that your idea of caring about the rights of workers?

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