Democrats Dropping Card Check

Senate Democrats are dropping card check from proposed labor legislation. I noted signs that this might be coming earlier in the year. Support among Democratic voters for this measure was mixed with the Democrats now attracting many professionals who lack traditional Democratic ties to labor. George McGovern, who never got along with organized labor (which helped deliver a landslide victory to Richard Nixon in 1972) has even made an ad opposing the plan.

The major problem with backing card check is that it doesn’t pass the elevator pitch test. If you have difficulty explaining the rational for your policy in the time span of an elevator ride you are in trouble. Some proponents have made arguments as to why card check is not as anti-democratic as it sounds but the elevator ride would be over well before they finish the first half of their explanation. We are going to have enough trouble debunking all the Republican distortions on health care reform and explaining the House bill which is over 1000 pages. Health care reform is worth the effort but I would not devote similar efforts to card check.

The ultimate problem is that we have gone through eight years of a Republican administration which repeatedly attempted to undermine democratic principles. Reestablishing democratic principles is more important than any short term goal. This is not aided by promoting a plan which, whether true or not, gives the appearance of being contrary to the principle of the secret ballot and free elections.

Update: George McGovern’s ad opposing card check:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afjp4Cx-3W0&feature=player_embedded]

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61 Comments

  1. 1
    Mike b.t.r.m. says:

    Yeah!

  2. 2
    Fritz says:

    I wonder what interesting bombshells will go through now that the most unpleasant measure got dropped.    I have wondered if opponents were being a bit single-focused.

  3. 3
    Justin says:

    The economic situation for the working class isn’t going to get any better until wages go up. The way auto workers and mine workers (etc) got higher wages was through unions. But it’s extremely difficult to form unions in the sectors of the economy that are replacing manufacturing (service jobs like Wal-Mart, etc) because of the employee turnover rate and the long time period in which a company can intimidate its workers out of forming a union. Card check would have solved this, and virtually guaranteed higher wages for people who now make only $7-10 an hour. Unionization in the service sector is what we need. Now, how hard was that to explain?

  4. 4
    Justin says:

    I would argue that strengthening and promoting the growth of unions IS one of the most important components of strengthening democratic principles. Our goal should be to persuade and convince those Democrats who have no ties to organized labor that this is in their self-interest also, because if the working and middle class have money in their pockets, business will be booming. I regard this as a huge sellout. How the hell am I supposed to explain this to people on behalf of the Democratic party? The GOP will turn right around and use this as an example of how we will sell out our own.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Justin,

    That does not respond to questions about card check at all. Simply saying “card check would have solved this” does not address any of the objections.

    Sorry–you have failed the elevator pitch test.

  6. 6
    Fritz says:

    Because the public nature of card check invites intimidation.  It’s really that simple.
     
    The problem of “This is why we need unions” is that it doesn’t address the disasterous loss of manufacturing jobs.  Saying “We’ll unionize what’s left” is pretty unhelpful.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    Supporters of card check would argue with your position, but that does pass the elevator pitch test for blocking card check.

  8. 8
    Joe M says:

    Card check is an open airing of personal views towards work conditions. I need an intelligent liberal to attempt, once again, to explain how the results of a secret ballot (similar to say, oh, a national and local elections process) do not reflect the will of the workforce being organized. If the union organizers cannot detrmine who voted how—neither can management. Current laws already address any meddling within that vallot process by either side, and the consequences for management are severe. So, what exactly is gained by an open aired voting process—OTHER THAN UNION OFFICIALS KNOWING WHO THWARTED THEM AND WHERE THEY LIVE. Also, if efforts are made to portray a “no vote” as out-of-the-ordinary, such as “you do not want to be ‘that guy’ in this vote (implied threat against your job)”–what sanctity is there in the process of voting your conscience? Card check is what it is: a blatant attempt to ratched up coercive techniques against those who choose a different path.

    The secret ballot is an American tradition. Any one who is afraid of a secret ballot should be met with deep suspicion immediately.

    I. for one, do not need, want or would put up with a middleman siphoning off my wages. If you want it, fine. I will not know your vote, nor you mine. That is just how it should be.

    Card check needs to die.

  9. 9
    Alex says:

    How can anyone support ‘card check’ and call himself/herself a liberal??? There’s nothing liberal in eliminating the secret ballot. That would only make it easier for union bosses to intimidate workers to join unions. If union leaders can’t convince workers to join unions, then they should ask themselves why is it that they don’t want to join, not try to impose unionization by coercion.

    Liberalism stands for individual liberty (just in case anyone forgot)

  10. 10
    b-psycho says:

    The problem with card check is the idea of a “check” even being necessary.  Having to go through government-imposed hoops to organize is a large part of what has neutered labor power.
    We’ve been using credit to paper over the fact that wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living, actually being eroded by inflation.  Unless the cost of needed goods & services crashes (unlikely), the only way out is for the average person to actually make more money, so they can pay for what they need and SAVE for what they want later.  We’re not just looking at a recession, we’re staring down a systematic collapse.

  11. 11
    b-psycho says:

    Alex: …as opposed to employer bosses intimidating workers to not join?  Why does this ridiculous image of union organizers as mob goons violating the peaceful sanctity of the workplace still get play?

  12. 12
    Dan says:

    b-psycho,
    The image of the union organizer as a mob goon still gets play because violence is the only method a union has to get everyone to toe the line.  Management has the power of the purse.  The union has nothing, but it badly needs some way to keep everyone in line, ergo, violence and intimidation.

  13. 13
    Fritz says:

    Psycho — a company I worked for had an ugly strike shortly after I left.  A friend of mine had his car trashed — he was an engineer, neither management nor a scab.  But it didn’t matter.
    There are reasons for the image.
     
    I could see the possibility of every company with unionizable workers above a certain size having a secret vote every 2 or 4 years on whether or not to unionize.  And this would include companies that were already unionized, so a union would routinely face the possibility of being disbanded by their members through secret vote.
     

  14. 14
    Edward J. says:

    As a life-long Democrat, the card check legislation made me embarassed to admit such. There is no justifiable explanation for this dead give-away to Andy Stern and other labor bosses. The mandatory arbitration provisions of EFCA are just as dangerous and need to be put to be as well.

  15. 15
    DN says:

    “Why does this ridiculous image of union organizers as mob goons violating the peaceful sanctity of the workplace still get play?” – because unions are nothing other than violent gangs of thieves and hoodlums (that exludes honest workers coerced into “membership” of course).

  16. 16
    Fritz says:

    DN, that’s harsh by my standards, and I do not tend to love unions very much.  A union works to improve benefits for its members and to do so it has to restrict access.  All sorts of corporations and professional associations (oh, doctors, for instance 🙂 ) do the same thing by lobbying for legislation to set barriers to entry.  So I guess you could say the more white-collar groups outsource the violence.

  17. 17
    b-psycho says:

    Fritz: how long ago was that attack?  Obviously there’s going to be people in every situation that think violence is a solution, but the way unions are portrayed makes it seem like they’re all equivalent to crime families.
    That corporations & white-collar workers organize for their interests shows exactly why blue-collar workers should be able to.  Anything less is unfair.  That said, I would rather that labor organizing not involve politics at all.

  18. 18
    Fritz says:

    As I said — the white-collar types have figured out how to outsource the violence to the government.
     
    My direct experience with union violence was long ago because, well, I left the rust belt.  And I am definitely NOT saying that corporations have not resorted to violence.  But when I worked in the rust belt, unions were a pain in the ass that made it harder for me to get my job done well.
     
    It is pretty clear to people not completely embedded in the union movement that there is a strong aura of desperation in the push for card check.  It really looks like:
    1.  We unionized manufacturing
    2.  Manufacturing left
    3.  Let’s unionize what is left
     
    Now maybe that’s unfair, but that is what it looks like.

  19. 19
    b-psycho says:

    Fritz: I agree it’s desperate, though IMO putting it as clearly as manufacturing leaving just because of unionization assumes the opposite was true, that without unions US manufacturing would still be the way it was.  I doubt it, since the comparative advantage (that is, purchasing power & cost of living in the US vs that of the countries where US-owned multinationals have moved manufacturing to) would still be huge.  How do you compete in manufacturing here when you’re up against people for who a dollar an hour is an improvement (as well as favors by foreign governments to relocating multinationals, but I won’t get into that here…)?
    Ironically, I think this along with stagnant wage growth fueled the everything-made-overseas stuff that we gripe about.  When you have less disposable income, that which you don’t get on credit you want discounts on, and having things made by people that can’t afford them allows a nice chunk of discount.
    BTW: I’m not anti free-trade, if you’re wondering.  If anything, trade isn’t free enough, in the sense that trade policy is overwhelmingly designed for the benefit of a few megacorps.  What we have is artificially greased trade, where we don’t distinguish between allowing it & overtly encouraging it.

  20. 20
    Dan says:

    Long term, a big part of what has happened is after WW2 there was a huge spike in the cost of labor.  The world’s factories were destroyed, the young men were dead, except in the USA.
    Thus blue colar jobs (i.e. union jobs) had a “golden era” in the 50’s and 60’s when if you wanted a car you needed to buy it from Detroit no matter how bad or expensive it was.  And then the rest of the world rebuilt, and management found itself unable to explain to Big Labor why their workers needed a massive hair cut.  So manufacturing left.
    Unions did NOT cause the golden era of labor, and unionizing everything that’s left isn’t going to enable industry over the long run to pay workers what their productivity is.  Predending otherwise is ignoring history and reality.

  21. 21
    b-psycho says:

    Dan, was management willing to take a haircut too?

  22. 22
    Fritz says:

    I am not saying manufacturing left just because of unions.  But that to me is the heart of the problem, and unionizing WalMart is going to do very little for anyone if we don’t solve the “people don’t make things here” problem.
     
    I have mixed feelings about free trade.  As you say, it is mostly there for the convenience of megacorporations — they can move assets at the flick of an electron, but people are stuck where they are.  And while Ricardo is obviously correct, monoculturing your economy “You build widgets and we farm corn and then we trade” has negative consequences as well.
     

  23. 23
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I’ve never been a member of a union, and I was a very strong proponent of the EFCA. Now, there may be solutions other than card check and I hope the labor movements seeks them out. However, as someone who has worked in a non-unionized ‘manufacturing’ (ironically, the job was a technical job which should have been done by trained professionals under workshop conditions rather than by unskilled labor under factory conditions, but that is another argument altogether) job in a ‘right to work’ state, I am disappointed that the petition portion of the ECFA is being dropped.
     
    This may or may not pass the elevator test, but the simple fact is this: a single employee has no negotiating power. A collective bargaining system gives employees the power to set fair prices for their work. Negotiating the best possible price for one’s labor is a core free market principle. Corporations have broken the free market system by deliberately seeking to undercut the rights and freedoms of their workers. Card check would have given workers a weapon to fight back.
     
    The reason for the downfall of American industry is only tangentially related to unions. It is about American greed. For some seventy or eighty years of strong unions AND strong businesses, America was more productive and successful than ever. During the 1970s and 1980s, both business and labor focused on ‘gimme’ methodology. Corporations steadily abandoned a commitment to business ethics and market competition and adopted a strategy of massive cost-cutting on the production end while massively expanding marketing and administration. Anyone can see why this was kind of stupid with a little thought. Unfortunately, business is still committed to the same philosophy right now.
     
    Unions reacted by fighting for more money and benefits to match executive inflation and resist the attack on their income rather than by making a more intelligent attack on the philosophy of cheapening the product and increasing the ad buys. It’s a natural human reaction, but it was a mistake.
     
    Unions certainly did nothing to help matters, but corporate executives made decisions bad for the American economy based on the view that they were most important factor in their companies’ success and their products were meaningless because tv ads would get people to buy anything.
     

  24. 24
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Ricardo was not talking about monoculturing the economy on a wide scale, he was giving specific examples of trade being better than attempting to compete with foreign products when the foreign producer had an unbeatable advantage. The problem with today’s ‘free trade’ is that it has nothing to do with Ricardo’s principles of calculated trade, but merely swamps every market possible with as much product possible in the hopes someone will buy it. Ricardo’s principles were based on demand, moden corporate commercialism is based on supply and marketing.
     

  25. 25
    b-psycho says:

    I was saying that the “people don’t make things here” problem has root in people having less money to buy things with, so they gradually tend to favor the cheaper stuff — which obviously isn’t made here.
    Honestly, I think the big labor groups, having been corrupted by politics, are barking up the wrong tree.  Taft-Hartley really needs to be repealed first, otherwise they amount to squat.

  26. 26
    Brian T. Johnson says:

    Kudos to McGovern for standing on principle.

  27. 27
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic, sometimes single employees do have negotiating power.  I once went to my boss and told him “I want a 20% raise or I’m out of here — I’m underpaid”.  I got the raise.
     

  28. 28
    Eclectic Radical says:

    A single employee may have individual negotiating power with an individual boss under specific circumstances. As a general rule, single employees do not have credible negotiating power with large corporations. Particularly if they are replaceable grunts in the eyes of the corporation or if the corporation views all of its non-executive employees at or below a certain level as ‘human resources’ to be systematized rather than individuals with needs and concerns to be addressed.
     

  29. 29
    Fritz says:

    Sure — people who have replaceable skills need to band together.  The problem (and this is IMO why unions get the rep they have) is that they have to make sure other people who share their replaceable skills do not have the option of competing for the jobs that require those replaceable skills.  If they do not yet have the clout to contract the necessary level of violence out to the state (as professional associations do and corporations usually do), then they have to perform the violence themselves.

  30. 30
    Dan says:

    b-psycho said: July 17th, 2009 at 4:06 pm “Dan, was management willing to take a haircut too?”

    The issue I made was that the relative value of blue collar work went down, and I explained why.  Your answer is simply a blithe rejection of economic reality which mostly match’s the union’s attitude, which lead to manufacturing work being moved overseas… or just to non-union companies in other states.

    Fritz said: July 17th, 2009 at 5:37 pm If they do not yet have the clout to contract the necessary level of violence out to the state (as professional associations do and corporations usually do), then they have to perform the violence themselves.

    First of all, you’re admitting that the “union thug” image is the reality.
    Second of all, white collar workers do NOT “contract the necessary level of violence to the state” because there is no violence.  A Doctor does NOT have the right to prevent another Doctor from practicing, or even “stealing” his patients.
    Union violence exists because Unions already have sub-contracted their duties to the state.  Unions came into existence to counter management’s habit of killing and otherwise abusing their workforce.  However these abuses became illegal in the 1930’s (or so), and thus the actual need for the existance of unions was absorbed by the state.
    Modern unions in a modern society don’t offer economic benefits to society at large, nor to their host companies, and whether they offer benefits to the workers they represent is somewhat debatable.  Since they don’t bring anything to the table other than their own lack of bad behavior (i.e. not shutting down the company and not beating up the workers), they need violence.

  31. 31
    Fritz says:

    Dan, doctors have a lot of say in the height of the bar of entry into the medical field.    Much more blatant games are played by other professional associations.  I could cite examples for you, but it might save some time if you look them up yourself — the Institute for Justice website is a good starting place.  It is so much tidier if you can get the state to set up barriers of entry for you.
     
    Unions can bring something to the table — they could guarantee a workforce of high quality and expertise, for instance.  In essence saving the corporation a significant amount of HR expense.  This is, of course, just theory.

  32. 32
    b-psycho says:

    Dan, you do realize you’re essentially arguing that people on one side of the equation should forfeit their self-interest, right?
     

  33. 33
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “If they do not yet have the clout to contract the necessary level of violence out to the state (as professional associations do and corporations usually do), then they have to perform the violence themselves.”
     
    As an anarcho-socialist in principle (though a pragmatic democratic socialist in practice, as any anarchist system is an unworkable utopian concept that can serve as a valid ideal but not a concrete goal), I am not entirely supportive of the state monopoly of violence. I do believe the necessity of a base level of law and order, and I am opposed to most violence for religious reasons, but there is purely moral reason for some people or groups to have access to state-sanctioned violence and for others not to have recourse to retaliation. This is why the union violence of the Progressive Era (the Battle of Ludlow comes to mind) does not offend me the way it does law and order conservatives or horrify me the way it does nanny-state liberals.
     
    If one side in a negotiation has recourse to violent or intimidatory measures to resolve a dispute in their favor and the other does not, it is appropriate to balance the power to give the weaker side a fighting chance, assuming both positions have an equal ethical value… as they do if both sides are pursuing their true best interests.
     
    The big problem with both big business and big labor is that leadership on both sides does not truly understand its best interests, but that is an argument for outside regulation and arbitration. Not an argument to tilt the legal scales in favor of big business because they are good for larger campaign donations, as is the current case.
     
    I’m all in favor of meaningful reform of the manner in which corporations and unions interact and extending laws against criminal conspiracy and civil rights violations to more effectively cover corporate conduct as they already cover union conduct, but in the absence of such meaningful legislation I support anything that gives workers a bigger stick in negotiations.  To not do so, and not to reform the existing system in a meaningful way, constitutes approval of the state of affairs as they are and they are atrocious. It’s why I’m disappointed in the ambivalence of many Democrats to the bill.
     
    I understand Senator McGovern’s views on the subject and respect them, but the simple fact is that there is no alternative to the EFCA being offered by liberals (and the conservative alternative would make things far worse for employees who wish to unionize by giving corporations even more influence on the ballt process) and the dropping of the card check provision significantly weakens EFCA.
     
    I think a lot of white collar liberals are not entirely aware of, or in touch with, the working conditions of many laborers in ‘right to work’ states. The complete defanging of unions both sucks jobs from other states as corporations naturally move to the cheaper territory (which is bad for the economy) and means that the workers in the new facilities are effectively without recourse against their employers in a wide variety of areas.
     
     
     

  34. 34
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “The issue I made was that the relative value of blue collar work went down, and I explained why.”
     
    The relative value of blue collar labor went down because the philosophy of American business changed entirely. The original philosophy was that if a business met the public’s demands, charged a fair price, paid a fair wage, and conducted itself with responsibility it would suceed because it had earned its success.
     
    As the implications of television sunk in, business philosophy changed. Corporations came to believe they could buy out their competition, drastically cut the overhead of the product they wished to sell, and pump massive amounts of cash into marketing and administration to buy success. They believed they could manage and market their way to market share. This transition from a demand based entrepreneurial economy to a supply-and-advertising based corporate economy is what transitioned America away from capitalism and toward corporate-commercialism.
     
    Generally speaking, the transition has been disastrous for the economy. Especially in areas of manufacture, where corporations did not understand just how dependent the economy was dependent not only on their profits, but also their wages and the services they required from other business. This is why the slow death of the US auto and steel industries has been the faster death of many more businesses which had geared themselves toward the demand created by these industries.
     
    Supply side economics is great for ad-men and management, but it is destructive to most of middle class America. The destruction of American industry is not an accident or a matter of evolution, it is a matter of de facto suicide by business leaders who made the same mistake that Zachary Taylor made by drinking too much iced milk on a hot day. Zachary Taylor died of a stomach infection and that is what is happening to American business, in a figurative sense. Their greed is killing the economy on which they depend.
     
    Unions are to blame to the point that they chose the wrong methods to fight this change, angling for a bigger piece of a smaller pie instead of fighting to keep the pie big. That is all.
     
    The people with the power are the people who make the decisions and the people to blame when things go wrong. In the matter of the American economy, American business had the power and should bear the responsibility.
     

  35. 35
    Dan says:

    Dan “The issue I made was that the relative value of blue collar work went down, and I explained why.”
    Eclectic Radical said: July 18th, 2009 at 9:22 am The relative value of blue collar labor went down because the philosophy of American business changed entirely.

    That’s like saying the law of gravity has nothing to do with why objects fall down.  The laws of economics (specifically supply and demand) explain the relative value of blue collar labor a LOT better than “philosophy”.

    Eclectic Radical said: July 18th, 2009 at 9:13 am …but there is purely moral reason for some people or groups to have access to state-sanctioned violence and for others not to have recourse to retaliation. This is why the union violence of the Progressive Era (the Battle of Ludlow comes to mind) does not offend me the way it does law and order conservatives or horrify me the way it does nanny-state liberals.

    This is an argument that union violence was needed and moral back in the 19th century and very early 20th.  I agree, it was moral a century or so ago, unionism has a glorious history if you go that far back.
     
    However in the 21st century it’s illegal for management to murder and otherwise abuse workers.  This suggests that it should likewise be illegal for unions to murder and otherwise abuse workers and management.  And the only reason for the lack of a secret vote appears to be so that union thugs know which workers need to be “convinced” to vote the “correct” way.

    Eclectic Radical said: July 18th, 2009 at 9:13 am …it is appropriate to balance the power to give the weaker side a fighting chance, assuming both positions have an equal ethical value… as they do if both sides are pursuing their true best interests.

    You’re arguing for the opposite.  I.e. that union thugs should be able to use force on weaker workers who want to vote against them because they don’t think it’s in their best interests to have a union.

  36. 36
    Dan says:

    b-psycho said: July 18th, 2009 at 2:40 am Dan, you do realize you’re essentially arguing that people on one side of the equation should forfeit their self-interest, right?

     
    So it was in the best interests of the workers to have their jobs (and often pensions) eliminated when the companies they worked for went under?  There are lots of successful car companies in the US, it’s just that they’re not the ones who deal with the UAW.  Similarly the big 3 are also profitable in countries where they don’t need to deal with the UAW.
     

    Fritz said: July 17th, 2009 at 10:53 pm Dan, doctors have a lot of say in the height of the bar of entry into the medical field.

     
    Sure, but that’s NOT what unions want.  Unions want the equiv of preventing specific patients from seeking *any* other doctor.  Yes, if they could do that they’d have a lot of power.  But I don’t understand why this is supposed to be ethical, legal, or something enforced by society.
     

    Fritz said: July 17th, 2009 at 10:53 pm Unions can bring something to the table — they could guarantee a workforce of high quality and expertise, for instance.  In essence saving the corporation a significant amount of HR expense.  This is, of course, just theory.

     
    I am unaware of any instances where this actually works this way.  I am aware of lots of stories where the union steps in to “save” the job of someone who is NOT “high quality”.  The later appears to be part of their job, the former does not.

  37. 37
    b-psycho says:

    Dan, you say that, in your opinion, labor needed to take a “massive haircut”.  You react to my comment about management with derision and anger, as if it’s a stupid question.  From this I can only conclude that your view boils down to it being somehow wrong for workers to try to defend their pay, despite it being the rational thing to do & especially necessary with life itself getting more expensive.
     

  38. 38
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic — there is another factor in the decline of the value of labor that you are not considering.  Women re-entered the workforce in huge numbers starting in the late-50’s and the 6o’s.  When you double the amount of available labor, it is not surprising that the price of labor declines.
     
    And I am not particularly referencing worker violence against corporations, but against other workers who are not in the group — the so-called “scabs”.  As I’ve said, a necessary (IMO) but unpleasant requirement of raising the price your members charge for their labor is the removal of those who are not your members from the ranks of job seekers.  In many cases the method of such removal has been violence.

  39. 39
    Dan says:

    b-psycho said: July 18th, 2009 at 11:13 am Dan, you say that, in your opinion, labor needed to take a “massive haircut”.

    Yes.  There was a massive loss of labor post-WW2, i.e. the supply went down, it shouldn’t have been a shock that the cost went up.  However after the rest of the world recovered and the supply went up, there were tremendous market forces pushing the cost down.
     

    b-psycho said: July 18th, 2009 at 11:13 am You react to my comment about management with derision and anger, as if it’s a stupid question.

     
    Not anger, just derision.  Your question was totally off topic. Like it or dislike it, the reality was the reality, and irrational attempts to repeal the law of gravity economics were always doomed to end badly.
     

    b-psycho said: July 18th, 2009 at 11:13 am From this I can only conclude that your view boils down to it being somehow wrong for workers to try to defend their pay, despite it being the rational thing to do…

     
    Rational?  The Steel companies went bankrupt, the car companies went from something close to a 100% market share to bankruptcy, and without the gov take over the workers would have lost everything.  With the gov running things I fully expect that GM will cease to exist in a decade or so anyway.
     
    Why is it “rational” to pretend that reality is something other than reality?  If the workers had NOT had a union with a gun to the head of management, most of them would still have jobs.

  40. 40
    b-psycho says:

    Are you seriously willing to argue that if you’ve been working somewhere for several years, if management comes to you one day saying they want to sharply cut your pay the rational thing to do is say “yes sir!” & take it with a smile?  Even if their own pay is going up at the same time?
    Really, how does that make sense?  You can’t argue on the basis of sacrificing ones own needs for the long-term good of the company if there’s no intention of sharing the burden. That’s a false choice based on a fixed pool view of economics, a view that the only way some people can succeed is to claw back others.  How someone can hold that kind of view of the market and not end up a hardcore leftist puzzles me.

  41. 41
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Fritz, it’s true that unions (particularly unskilled unions like the teamsters or the service employees) have a vested interested in preventing employers from hiring outside the union… particularly in instances where a strike is likely and non-union workers are part of corporate strategy to break a strike or instances (such as when Kroeger/Food4Less chose to end its relationship with the greengrocers) where a corporation is actively seeking to expel the union from its labor rolls. The ‘scabs’, however, are ultimately exploited by the corporation as a result of the corporation’s victory over the union. They work for less pay and fewer benefits than they would have in a union shop and the union workers are out of work. Everyone loses but the corporation, spends the saved wages on executive bonuses.
     
    Do you believe that legislation to break unions, render them impotent, or to exclude their members from employment is intended to protect the rights of non-union workers? If it is, why is it nearly always accompanied by loosening of the labor laws that would protect employees in place of the union?
     
    Personally, I think an effective system of criminal enforcement against corporations and their officers would be far more effective and desirable than card check.  That’s not going to happen. Card check was theoretically possible. Sometimes you have to settle.
     

  42. 42
    Fritz says:

    Economics is not a fixed-pool.  Whew.  But how much good will it do for executives to be eating cod instead of caviar?  Are we talking an extra nickel per hour per worker or something?  Psycho — is this about anything other than symbolism?
     
    The 1950’s situation for manufacturing labor in America was an aberration — a great one for the USA, to be sure.  Every other industrialized society in the world had managed to whack each other into near oblivion, leaving our manufacturing capacity unscathed and our skilled workforce almost completely intact.  In the decades after that, our old competitors rebuilt and new competitors emerged — and the price of labor (and of the output of manufacturing) dropped as the supply expanded.  It seems highly unlikely that the rest of the world will be nice enough to immolate again without taking us with them.

  43. 43
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic — the “scabs” aren’t in the union, remember?  So when the shop is unionized they get, er, zero.  Surely you aren’t going to state that everyone joins the union and everyone gets a full-time union job.

  44. 44
    Fritz says:

    Oh, and Eclectic — no, union-busting legislation is created for the purposes of reducing the costs to large corporations.  I’m not dense.

  45. 45
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “Are you seriously willing to argue that if you’ve been working somewhere for several years, if management comes to you one day saying they want to sharply cut your pay the rational thing to do is say “yes sir!” & take it with a smile?  Even if their own pay is going up at the same time?”
     
    b-psycho makes the most important point in this debate. Those seeking to blame unions and the overpricing of labor (or corporate taxes, for that matter) for America’s economic decline always fail to address the massive inflation of corporate management pay as corporations have become less and less well managed. Executive pay has increased far beyond the rate of inflation or the increase of the cost of living, and has continued to increase as it becomes increasingly clear the quality of American corporate management is going downhill. Yet most blue collar labor is more poorly paid than ever before and working people are having a hard time scratching out a living… assuming they have jobs.
     
    I raised this issue and so did b-psycho and no one has really offered an argument, and I am waiting… the shift of American business from a demand standpoint to a supply stand point coupled with the massive executive pay hikes for corporate management is at least as responsible for the decline of the US economy as the damage done by union pay and benefits. Why is it always labor that must eat the bad economy and not management, when management is being compensated far more and constitutes a far more inordinate percentage of compensation costs? Why are increased marketing buys coupled with productivity cutbacks not criticized as sharply as labor costs?
     
    If the problem is that the economy is not productive enough to support worker pay, then why are executives paid more than ever while productivity is  cut?
     
    The principle of scarcity requires someone to take a hit for the increase in management and marketing expenses in the supply side economy and labor is the most convenient area to cut back for management because less productivity can raise prices of the corporations’ produce. However, what happens when the productivity cuts reach the point where they price the produce out of the market?
     
    I’d say something like what we’re seeing in the US economy since the early 1990s. More and more top-heaviness and a deeper divide between the management and labor classes.
     
     
     

  46. 46
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic — IMO one of the worst problems we have in this country is the lack of effective corporate governance.  The boards of directors are supposed to represent the owners of the corporation and hire the CEO. who then reports to the board and is fired if he is shoveling money into his pockets and not running a tight ship.  Instead we have CEOs who are on the boards of companies whose CEOs are on the board of the company he runs and everyone scratches each others’ backs.
     
    And then when things go south and the corporate stock crashes, the stockholders are left holding the empty bag and the CEO and the board members make some pretty speeches and continue to draw their cash from the till.
     
    It’s a disaster.  Not just for workers but also for stockholders.  And now everyone is a stockholder!

  47. 47
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Fritz, if I were a utilitarian, I would argue that those ‘scabs’ who did get union jobs (as some percentage of them certainly would) would be better off than all the ‘scabs’ with non-union jobs now and that increased utility for as many of them as possible would be a good thing. Not being a utilitarian, I realize that is crap.
     
    However, economically speaking, good paying union jobs done by the happiest and most skilled workforce increases productivity and those workers then participate more fully in the economy. This means business employing non-union workers makes more money and is able to pay its workers more commensurately with the value of their produce. So income goes up for everyone, whicle productivity rises and everyone has more money to spend which is good for the economy as a whole and further fuels the process.
     
    To make a capitalist argument, the more money people make the more money they are able to spend and the more they can help to sustain the economy and everyone benefits.

  48. 48
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Fritz, I don’t disagree with you. As it happens, your argument about corporate governance is one of the best arguments in favor of ‘communism’, or rather collectivization. Cooperative business ventures which share revenue across the board, bargain collectively with employees, and make everyone responsible for good governance while prove better able to weather economic difficulty.
     
    This is why the quasi-Marxist NFL is the most financially viable business in sports.
     

  49. 49
    b-psycho says:

    Fritz, I’m just sick of arguments for some people to subordinate their self-interest to a whole (in this case, the company) but not others.  If there were workers willing to take that, whatever, I see it as a sucker move & think it wouldn’t have saved their jobs anyway but to each his own.
    Obviously the rest of the world having to rebuild gave the US an advantage, I’m not ignoring the wars.  We took that advantage for granted.  Personally I think it was suicidal on our part to depend so much on a few companies anyway, maybe if things weren’t so concentrated we could’ve kept up.  I can’t be the only one who finds it ironic that at the same time the US was up against a regime built on a command economy our auto industry took all its marching orders from Detroit.

  50. 50
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “I can’t be the only one who finds it ironic that at the same time the US was up against a regime built on a command economy our auto industry took all its marching orders from Detroit.”
     
    Indeed, after WWII the Big Four (then Ford, Chrysler, GM, and the now defunct American Motors)  swallowed up nearly all their smaller competitors using the income from the government contracts they received as reward for their patriotic devotion to national service during the war. They prevented entrepreneur Preston Tucker from entering the market, as well, using that newly centralized power base.
     
    Then they were the US auto industry in its entirety, the entire nation sensitive to their success or failure. Not precisely a true free market.
     
    Like most organizations or individuals with that degree of power, they lost sight of their own best interests.
     

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