December 11, 2012

Obama says right-to-work laws "have everything to do with politics."

Okay, but which way is that supposed to cut? If it's all political — and not really about what benefits people economically — then which side should we be on? Both parties are doing politics around this issue. That's a good observation. And then....?

112 comments:

Kirby Olson said...

So he's saying that everything he says on this issue has to do with politics?

Kirby Olson said...
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Matthew Sablan said...

Of course it has to do with politics. If it didn't, politicians wouldn't be involved.

Jay said...

That's a good observation. And then....?

I'm sorry, you must be confused.

See Obama, and all Democrats, do what is "right" good, and just.

It is just those meanie Republicans and the Koch brothers who do "politics"

Get with it, ok?

SteveR said...

Always in campaign mode

Ann Althouse said...

The 2 parties have different interest groups to cater to.

We need to back off and analyze the right-to-work issue without their help.

So... can anyone help here, without the usual party bullshit?

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Obama can't conceive of anything without political strife mandates. He's never worked for a living, nor been responsible for goods or services, in his life.

Matthew Sablan said...

I think that right-to-work would be unnecessary if we didn't have protectivist guilds and politicized unions muscling about, or if the unions and guilds restricted them to their actual purposes, instead of spreading tentacles through other spheres of influence. Frankly, I dislike the idea that we -need- RTW legislation, but I understand it is a necessary evil.

MayBee said...

I don't see how Michigan can ever thrive again without getting rid of the union hold on the state.

Why would any labor-intesive industry choose to relocate there at this point?

prairie wind said...
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prairie wind said...

We need to back off and analyze the right-to-work issue without their help.

What's to analyze? People have the right to work and they have the right to work without money being forcibly extracted from their paychecks to fund someone else's political goals.

John Cunningham said...

Obama is correct, it is all about the politics of forcing all employees to pay union dues, 80-90% of which is either donated to Demo candidates or used to fund the salaries of union reps who spend most of their time campaigning. in other words, forcing employees to fund the Demo party.

Tim said...

"So... can anyone help here, without the usual party bullshit?"

(W)ithout the usual party bullshit, yes.

Without looking at it through a politicized lens, no.

The issue exists because of politics.

Regardless, the analysis is still pretty simple.

Either one supports a politicized labor force, or one does not.

Either one supports labor utilization based upon politics, or based upon economics.

The outcomes from either approach are, for a reasonably intelligent person of reasonable education, fairly predictable.

Not so hard.

In fact, it's easy if you try.

Widmerpool said...

I'll give it a shot.

I think the first step is to recognize that no party wears the white (or black) hat in labor relations. Postitions are just steps along a continuum, which need to be restrained by policymakers. Left to their own devices, labor unions and their most avid supporters would like to accumulate all power to dictate wages and working conditions (closed shop, card check, no striker replacement etc.). Presumably the goal is to set these rules to increase public prosperity (which is not necessarily high wages for a chosen few).

Bob Ellison said...

Matthew Sablan said, "I dislike the idea that we -need- RTW legislation, but I understand it is a necessary evil."

Most people, the majority of voters, do not understand what "right to work" means at all. It is not an evil. It establishes what should be an obvious right. The lack of right-to-work law is the evil.

Mitchell the Bat said...

When it comes to civil service ranks, union-organizer must be way above community-organizer.

Lyle said...

Obama keeps explaining to America that he is economically illiterate.


Tim said...

"Why would any labor-intesive industry choose to relocate there at this point?"

In closed markets, in which a local business only competes for local customers, and only against other local businesses (say, hospitals in Detroit), one could choose to expand/relocate secure in the ability to pass on those costs to the local market already bearing those costs.

But otherwise, yes. Competing against businesses that do not have these artificial, politically imposed constraints and costs (local tax rates are another great example of this) requires businesses to minimize their liabilities and/or seek their own competitive advantages.

Closed shops are wonderfully effective in ensuring growing businesses with global markets do not come to your state.

Those jobs aren't good enough.

Pogo said...

I remain flummoxed that we require a law stating we have the right to work without being forced into a union or paying for one.

OTOH, we are now being forced to buy health care, so what do I know?

Ann Althouse said...

@Pogo I think the reasoning: it's a free rider problem.

Birkel said...
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Lyle said...

With right to work laws companies can be more free to hire and fire workers. This makes their labor costs cheaper. Unions have less power because workers don't have to join the union. Unions then can't make hiring and firing workers more expensive.

Right-to-work is also better for unemployment because companies are more open to hiring new people. With union only work forces hiring new people cost more and therefore fewer people hired.

So its less profits and high unemployment versus greater profits and lower unemployment.

Take your pick America.

Ann Althouse said...

"People have the right to work and they have the right to work without money being forcibly extracted from their paychecks to fund someone else's political goals."

If the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union?

Ann Althouse said...

We all pay taxes, even if our party didn't win and the legislature is spending money for the projects it likes?

You don't get to opt out of paying your share just because you don't like that party.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union?"

-- That's where it gets back to my earlier point: If unions -solely- did what unions were supposed to do, fine. But, they've become political entities and your dues may very well go to financing a politician or issue you do not want to support. Unions are not the government and do not enjoy the special license to take money from people against their will.

Widmerpool said...

Talking about this in terms of "rights" is unproductive. Better to look at the world around you. Do I see states with union shops thriving? No. Do I see states with right-to-work laws doing just fine, and their workers not being abused? Yes. Abstract "rights" are (or should be) irrelevant.

Birkel said...
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vet66 said...

What really bothers the union heads is that they see the taxpayer playing by the Alinsky rules. Long overdue. Rule 4 - Make the enemy live up to their own rule book. Rule 6 - A good tactic is one your people enjoy. Rule 8 - Keep the pressure on. Rule 9 - The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself. Rule 13 - Pick the target, freeze, personalize it, and polarize it.

Let us hope that the bused in protestors finally figure out they are nothing more than useful pawns for the union apparatchiks who enjoy their dachas, rubles and perks.

MayBee said...

But if you are a good worker, the union may not have negotiated the best deal for you.

They spend your money in two ways that don't necessarily benefit the good worker:
1.Overhead of the whole union infrastructure. All the money that goes toward operating the unions, including the employees, comes out of the money available to pay the workers.

2. Retention of unnecessary or bad workers. Unions work to keep people from getting fired, which means good workers aren't paid their fair share (ha!) Money that could go to pay the good workers more actually is being spent paying people to do things like sit in a cafeteria and play cards.

Matthew Sablan said...

That's a good point; each bad employer being retained by the union is a job -not- available to someone who might be adding value to the company.

Tank said...

Ann Althouse said...

"People have the right to work and they have the right to work without money being forcibly extracted from their paychecks to fund someone else's political goals."

If the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union?


In addition to other points made above, this "may" be fine for the workers who already have jobs, but what about the rights of others in a free country. Say the union has negotiated a $40/hr wage with a cadilac benefits program. Maybe there are a group of just-as-qualified unemployed people willing to do the job for $30/hr and a smaller benefit plan? Why should they not have the "right to work?"

While the people who have these jobs might be paid less, they will be paid closer to their actual economic worth, which will no longer be distorted by gov't forcing the business to deal only with the union.

This means the business is more likely to succeed, and more likely to expand and hire more workers (at their actual economic worth).

Birkel said...
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Birkel said...
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davidjay said...

Ann:

Minutes ago I read that on another site that 11% of union budget goes to representational activities.

So, 89% of my money goes to stuff that I can't control and that usually goes against my principles. A serious free-speech issue.

Your issue of voting is a red herring, because I did not vote. My co-workers did not vote. The vote was held by a previous generation of workers at my company. How is that democratic?

holdfast said...

@Ann:

"f the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union?"

-True, if you believe in "one man, one vote, one time". Union elections are notorious for their coercion and other abuses. They make a Chicago municipal election look clean.

"We all pay taxes, even if our party didn't win and the legislature is spending money for the projects it likes? You don't get to opt out of paying your share just because you don't like that party."

-So now unions are just another part of the government? Where are they in the constitution? And even the Federal civil service is at least supposed to pretend to be politically impartial - unions certainly don't, so why would we treat them like the government? I stopped paying dues to the ABA years ago, because I don't want to fund my political opponents - why should autoworkers have to?

Here's another thought - the unions, by choosing to be so intertwined with the Democrats, have made themselves a target for Republicans. I mean, it's hard to know who owns who these days - they DNC or the Unions - but either way, they are an explicit part of the Demo machine, and thus fair game.

Seeing Red said...

That's broke, too!

MayBee said...

You don't get to opt out of paying your share just because you don't like that party.

How many layers past government can you still use the "but taxes!" argument?

After a while, it just becomes an argument for how some majority of people can tell you what to do in any aspect of your life, as long as there was a majority that decided it at some point.

edutcher said...

It's been political since Roosevelt.

Both of them.

PS What's wrong with a closed shop is that you have to be part of it to make a living.

And pay your hard-earned money to something you didn't want to join.

davidjay said...

And a decertification vote at a UAW shop in Michigan???

you've got to be kidding.

Tim said...

"If the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union?"

As a matter of theory, antiseptic of reality, sure.

But, back in the real world, closed shops, over time, especially within highly-competitive industries, lead to the example the UAW.

It monopolizes labor, forces management to accept conditions that are, axiomatically, barriers to efficiency and competitiveness, and the next thing you know, your auto company is making shit cars that are overpriced, while your union's pension is dangerously underfunded and your workforce is out screwing prostitutes in RV's during break hours (true story), and you're asking the taxpayers to bail out your failing company.

So yeah, it isn't at all obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union.

Paul said...

Right-to-Work laws have TO DO WITH FREEDOM.

Yes freedom is politics... we had that discussion with King George a few hundred years ago... only the vote was by bullet.

Either you have the freedom to work where you want or you don't.

Simple as that.

n.n said...
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Big Mike said...

If gay marriage is a fundamental right then the right to work is an even more fundamental right.

Seeing Red said...

Talk about unions & the state, Zero Hedge posted an article from Bloomberg about average state pay:

Some other stunning observations from Bloomberg on the best job taxpayer money can buy. The best paid job: psychiatrist. At this pace, they will have lots and lots of patients.

Psychiatrists were among the highest-paid employees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey, with total compensation $270,000 to $327,000 for top earners. State police officers in Pennsylvania collected checks as big as $190,000 for unused vacation and personal leave as they retired young enough to start second careers, while Virginia paid active officers as much as $109,000 in overtime alone, the data show.



The numbers are even larger in California, where a state psychiatrist was paid $822,000, a highway patrol officer collected $484,000 in pay and pension benefits and 17 employees got checks of more than $200,000 for unused vacation and leave. The best-paid staff in other states earned far less for the same work, according to the data.

...

Mohammad Safi, graduate of a medical school in Afghanistan, collected $822,302 last year, up from $90,682 when he started in 2006, the data show. Safi was placed on administrative leave in July and is under investigation by the Department of State Hospitals, formerly the Department of Mental Health.

Another perk of public workers in Cali? $200,000 in accrued vacation pay:

n.n said...

The Unions were a reactive movement to real, perceived, and manufactured issues. They have since progressed to become a for-profit corporation, where they transform business owners and taxpayers to serve employees and government workers, respectively. Their business model operates on supporting "instant gratification" policies (e.g. health care, pension, education, salary) to which they then demand compensation for the ensuing consequences.

It is a dissociation of risk which causes corruption. It is dreams of instant gratification which motivates its progress.

garage mahal said...

Republicans come up with the most awesome sounding names for their most wretched legislation.

Right to Work!
Clear Skies Act!

rhhardin said...

Right to work shouldn't be necessary, if the rule of law had prevailed in labor law.

The original rule of law being that two union members can't combine forces and force an unrelated third party employer to bargain with them, if they can't do it individually.

elkh1 said...

I oppose labor unions where labor bosses make $200K a year plus perks and jobs and riches for cronies.

Hagar said...

"Politics" refers to the mechanics of governing - good bad, or indifferent - it is not necessarily a derogatory term, though generally preferentially applied to your opponents' efforts to have their policies enacted into law as opposed to your own party's activities.

"Right-to-work" movements come about when the unions are deeply involved in "politics" and have caused laws to be enacted that restrict the free movement of labor. In that sense, it is a bit like trying to reverse the effects of gerrymandering for the Democrats by counter-gerrymandering for the Republicans.

Obama is an economic illiterate. To say that efforts to restrain or loosen the free movement of labor and wage rates does not have anything to do with "economics" is really absurd.

MayBee said...

Affordable Care Act!

Balfegor said...

Re: Ann Althouse:

We need to back off and analyze the right-to-work issue without their help.

So... can anyone help here, without the usual party bullshit
?

No.

But let's try anyhow -- right-to-work just shifts economic advantages from union workers to non-union workers and employers. This can lead to lower wages (as the union is deprived of monopoly power), but that in turn can lead to lower prices. More importantly, right-to-work can also lead to greater flexibility in work routines (avoiding union work rules).

On the flip side, depriving unions of de facto monopoly power obviously weakens their ability to extract the maximum surplus from their employers (or taxpayers, for companies that receive bailouts). For the proportion of the working class who actually belong to a union -- a diminishing minority in the private sector -- right-to-work probably will be disadvantageous.

Union members in right-to-work states also face a free rider problem, if the agreement they have negotiated with employers is extended to non-union employees who do not pay dues to support the union organisation. The obvious solution -- don't cover non-union employees with your union deal -- can lead to a price differential between union and non-union labour, to the longer-term detriment of union members if they don't also offer higher performance along some metric.

All things considered, I think "right to work" is the right policy, since it seems to me to benefit a lot more people (employers, non-union employees, consumers), albeit in small ways, versus the pro-union position which concentrates substantial benefits in a minority (union workers, officials) at the expense of everyone else. But people whose dream is for the private sector to re-unionise probably hope that in the future, that minority will be a majority (including most consumers), and thus, that overall, keeping pro-union rules (and introducing card check, etc.) will ensure that any surplus is reallocated from owners/employers to workers.

Birkel said...
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Hagar said...

elkh1,

You are seriously behind the times.$200K may get you a local steward, but in no way any kind of a labor "boss." You need to add at least one zero!

elkh1 said...

I oppose labor unions where horrible teachers, including pedophiles, are housed in rubber rooms doing no works but getting full pays and benefits courtesy of the taxpayers.

Seeing Red said...

Via Vodka & I think Drudge:

In the 1,420 days since he took the oath of office, the federal government has daily hired on average 101 new employees. Every day. Seven days a week. All 202 weeks. That makes 143,000 more federal workers than when Obama talked forever on that cold day in January of 2009

Something that can't go on, won't.

Balfegor said...

Re: Pogo:

I remain flummoxed that we require a law stating we have the right to work without being forced into a union or paying for one.

I think the point is more that under right-to-work laws, unions are disallowed from entering into exclusive dealing agreements with employers, whereby the employer either hires all union employees or collects union dues from non-union employees and gives them to the union. It's obviously a species of restraint of trade, but exclusive dealing arrangements in other areas aren't per se illegal.

Chef said...

I may be remembering incorrectly, but did President Obama *ever* get involved in the Wisconsin union fight?

If not, why is he deciding that now's a good time to wade into it in Michigan?

(Okay, okay, he's no longer up for re-election, but if labor issues are a sticky wicket, I don't see the utility in getting into them at pretty much any point).

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann brings up the free rider problem, but I think that you need to keep in mind that a lot of unions get and maintain power and membership through coercion, often very physical coercion. What seems to be the case with a lot of the older unions is that the real free rider problem is the union leadership. Top union leaders are no less part of the 1% and the ruling elite these days than are corporate CEOs, and most often, it seems, their pay and perks reflect this.

In terms of the older industrial unions, the unions have run a lot of good companies into the ditch. GM and Chrysler only survive thanks to federal money and federal intervention in their bankruptcy process - thanks to unions' hefty contributions of Obama's first Presidential campaign.

And, public employee unions are much worse. Thanks to their heavy contributions to mostly Dem politicians, as well as being the foot soldiers in many Dem campaigns, the public employee unions often find themselves bargaining against the very same politicians they helped greatly to elect. Which gets back to my original point - aren't the public employee unions and their militant union leadership really the free riders here, riding on the public ability to keep raising taxes and borrowing money to pay for ever more generous pay, pensions, and benefits?

And, I think another problem with public employee unions is that they seemingly violate the ideal of a non-political professional civil service. Now days, we are finding much of their union dues going for avowedly political purposes, regardless in many cases whether the employees actually joined the union or support their politics.

So, imagine the dilemma of a newly minted teacher. They worked hard to get trained and educated so that they can save the world and teach children. They apply for a public school job (where most K-12 teaching jobs are), and find that they must join a union, and that union gives a lot of money to the Democrats, and also pushes its members to participate heavily in Dem causes and campaigns. Throw in the Obama recession, and you have a lot of coercion to join that union and just suck it up, in terms of the politics.

Back to the idea of the non-political civil service. Used to be that the President, governor, mayor, etc., could replace most of the people working for him when taking office. This was abused. So, government employment, at most levels, became much more non-partisan. But, 100 years later, we find it again politicized, but now only benefiting one party, and doing so at significant expense to their taxpayers. In a lot of cases, it appears that these unionized government employees have taken over their own management. Presidents, governors, and mayors may come or go, but the unionized employees remain, continuing to exert undue influence on those elected to manage them.

MayBee said...

I think the point is more that under right-to-work laws, unions are disallowed from entering into exclusive dealing agreements with employers


I'm trying to think of a reason an employer would choose to enter into an exclusive agreement with a union.

Matthew Sablan said...

"I'm trying to think of a reason an employer would choose to enter into an exclusive agreement with a union."

-- Because the union has recruited a threshold of workers who will walk out if the employer doesn't and will picket to keep anyone from replacing them. It's powerplay against powerplay: Who will cave first?

garage mahal said...

This all about the rights of workers, who Republicans care so deeply about. That's been proven over and over again.

Matthew Sablan said...
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MayBee said...

In my experience- and you all can tell me if you've seen otherwise- unions poison worker's attitudes toward the employer itself.

The UAW workers I know are always grateful to the union, rather than say, GM, for their job. They call people who work on salary "management" and it's always said with disapproval, as if everyone in management is just out to screw them.
There's very little "we're all in this together" attitude. Very little recognition that the company has to be healthy to pay all the bills. There is, as I said earlier, no money for the union that doesn't come out of the employer/employee. It's a parasite telling the workers to hate the host.

Matthew Sablan said...

Garage: You are correct; that's why Scott Walker won handily, twice, and had the Senate restored to Republican control after pushing for these reforms. Squirrel?

Pragmatist said...

Unions give money to democrats, corporations give money to republicans. Republicans attack unions and democrats attack corporations. It is always political when you are making or hoping to make, laws that benefit you at the expense of your perceived opponent. Every politician is paid by someone to fight some fight they want to be fought.

Hagar said...

A local union bargaining with an employer is one thing. If the union has "bought" the legislature and have caused the state to add its weight to the union' side of the negotiating table, that is quite another thing.

But this is not "politics"?

Give me a break!

MayBee said...

Because the union has recruited a threshold of workers who will walk out if the employer doesn't and will picket to keep anyone from replacing them. It's powerplay against powerplay: Who will cave first?

That's not really my definition of *willingly*.

EMD said...

It monopolizes labor, forces management to accept conditions that are, axiomatically, barriers to efficiency and competitiveness, and the next thing you know, your auto company is making shit cars that are overpriced, while your union's pension is dangerously underfunded and your workforce is out screwing prostitutes in RV's during break hours (true story), and you're asking the taxpayers to bail out your failing company.

You also must pair this with near-sighted and shit-for-brains management to get to General Motors-level dysfunctionality.

Tank said...

MayBee said...
I think the point is more that under right-to-work laws, unions are disallowed from entering into exclusive dealing agreements with employers


I'm trying to think of a reason an employer would choose to enter into an exclusive agreement with a union.


Because the union has pursuaded all of the current NFL or NBA players to sign up for the union, including all of the biggest stars who the public actually is willing to pay to see.

Hagar said...

The public employee unions - NEA, AFT, and AFSCME - are also remarkable in that the "management" are also likely to be members of the union, and in fact often are high ranking officers of both organizations.

It is a weird situation.

Seeing Red said...

The rights of workers.....so people who don't belong to unions don't work?

Please define worker.

Seeing Red said...

I'll play, the Michigan union doesn't care about families. Look at the laws it did and also tried to get thru.

Tried to extort money from people who make decisions and barge their way into peoples' homes.

MadisonMan said...

If a majority of workers votes to unionize, I do think that all of the workers should be paying for the Union. But the Union should have to hold votes periodically -- every 2 years? 5 years? -- so that workers are guaranteed to be getting something more from their union membership than the occasional free lunch.

I don't think that the Employer should be responsible for removing dues, however. This is 2012, after all -- automatic deposits are everywhere, and all the Union Members (that is, all the employed) can just have Union Funds siphoned from their checking accounts every 2nd of the month, or whenever, and the Company and Union agree that if someone stops them while the Union Bargaining contract is in force, that person loses their job.

Hagar said...

Where have all the railroads gone?

Referring to all the long gone little ones that served the local communities whose tracks are now being turned into hiking and bicycling tracks for the privileged classes.

Big government likes big corporations and big unions, and vice versa, and all heartily dislike the rest of us.

Bob Ellison said...

Ann Althouse said "@Pogo I think the reasoning: it's a free rider problem."

Fallacious. The free-rider argument requires that all parties are included in the contract or law in question. This is not the case with right-to-work. Those who choose to ride freely in right-to-work situations have no contracts with the union.

BDNYC said...

Milton Friedman opposed right-to-work laws. It's clear that right-to-work laws represent, in some sense, an interference into freedom of contract or association.

Closed shops are bad for business, and if a business is stupid enough to let its labor be union-controlled, then they should suffer the consequences and not be saved from themselves by the government.

The only plausible justification, IMO, for right-to-work laws is that unions have behaved so poorly and criminally that the most efficient way to combat them is to deprive them of their dues, membership, and power. We should at least be honest about it. This has nothing to do with increasing freedom; it's a constriction of it, in service of public order and decency and, of course, business interests.

Balfegor said...

Re: MayBee:

In my experience- and you all can tell me if you've seen otherwise- unions poison worker's attitudes toward the employer itself.

I think that's probably true to some extent, but it's not an artifact of unions per se. It's an artifact of American union culture. Taking UAW for example -- it's not like Toyota or Hyundai don't have powerful unions back home in Japan or Korea. They do! And those unions can be quite aggressive in negotiations. But they're not stupid-greedy. And their underlying companies are still on the upswing (more or less), so they don't have to act like rats scrabbling for chunks of a dwindling pie.

MayBee said...

Because the union has pursuaded all of the current NFL or NBA players to sign up for the union, including all of the biggest stars who the public actually is willing to pay to see.

Good example, Tank.

Balfegor said...

Re: BDNYC:

Closed shops are bad for business, and if a business is stupid enough to let its labor be union-controlled, then they should suffer the consequences and not be saved from themselves by the government.

This is actually my biggest problem with union employers today -- that they get bailouts from the public when they get into financial trouble. If I could (obviously this would never happen) companies with unionized workforces would be automatically barred from government bailouts.

Unions are fine, and can be a healthy part of a free market. Think of the union not as an association of employees, but as a kind of labour-force sub-contractor for the company -- that's essentially their function (although the circumstances in which unions emerge give them an unfair advantage). But that only works if all parties are subject to the discipline of the market -- everyone (owners, managers, suppliers, union) has to figure out a sustainable way of dividing up the surplus they generate. You're not subject to the discipline of the market if when all of you screw up, and the discipline of the market is going to send you into bankruptcy, the government steps in to give you taxpayer money to keep you running.

Balfegor said...

Re: Bob Ellison:

Fallacious. The free-rider argument requires that all parties are included in the contract or law in question. This is not the case with right-to-work. Those who choose to ride freely in right-to-work situations have no contracts with the union.

No, but imagine we have three companies -- A B and C. B and C are suppliers; A is the purchased. A and B can negotiate an agreement whereby B is sole widget supplier to A, but if A needs to use another widget supplier (C), A will pay B its lost profit on the volume of supply sourced from C.

C is not a party to the contract between A and B, but it's certainly affected by that agreement. Because A is restricted in what contracts it can form.

Similar with unions negotiating contracts that affect non-union workers.

Bob Ellison said...

BDNYC said "Milton Friedman opposed right-to-work laws. It's clear that right-to-work laws represent, in some sense, an interference into freedom of contract or association."

Both an appeal to authority and a framing refraction in two sentences!

Tall Guy: I want to work for you, Mr. Circus Owner. I'm eight feet tall, so I think I could be your Tall Man.

Circus Owner: Do you belong to the Circus Union? Otherwise I can't employ you. My contract with the other folks says it's out of bounds.

Tall Guy: But I'm just a tall guy. I can understand how your contract with Fat Man and Little Dude might prevent you from hiring me, but that seems like restraint of trade. I'm no expert, but...

Circus Owner: Milton Friedman says I have a right to restrain trade according to my business practices. In fact, according to some people, he says that the government protects my right to restrain trade thus. So go find another circus.

Bob Ellison said...

Balfegor, the obvious solution is that unions should only negotiate for union members. Non-union members are on their own.

Bruce Hayden said...

Here is an example today of the physical intimidation side of labor unions: Democrats threaten violence on Michigan House floor

EMD said...


We need to back off and analyze the right-to-work issue without their help.


I linked to a couple of papers/studies in the other thread, but no one here is in a reading mood.

Peter said...

'prairie wind' said, "People have the right to work and they have the right to work without money being forcibly extracted from their paychecks to fund someone else's political goals."

People tend to focus on the money, but it's not just the money- it's the union work rules.

Technically, there are no such things as closed union shops anymore- there are only agency shops (in non-RTW states). That is, they can't force you to join the union, but they can force you to pay an agency fee.

But more to the point, the union in an agency shop is sole bargaining agency for all employees in the bargaining unit. Including any who refuse to join the union.

Which means, union work rules apply to everyone. Which all too often means that hiring, firing, and pay are determined solely by seniority.

With everything determined by seniority, there's no rational reason for any employee to do more than the absolute minimum. After all, doing more won't increase your pay or protect you against layoffs- but it will make you subject to some fierce social pressure to stop working faster or harder or better than anyone else.

All too often, union work rules create a work envoronment that simply stifles employee innovation, energy, and motivation. And therefore RTW is valuable simply because it provides the individual with an escape from that stifling environment.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Balfegor, the obvious solution is that unions should only negotiate for union members. Non-union members are on their own."

-- The problem is that non-union workers could just undersell the union, peeling off people from the union who might prefer to work to strike. Which is not a problem for most people, but the union, probably, thinks it is bad that they are so easily (and obviously) outflanked by non-union members.

garage mahal said...

Here comes the pepper spray. Smells like freedom to me!

Balfegor said...

Re: Bob Ellison:

Balfegor, the obvious solution is that unions should only negotiate for union members. Non-union members are on their own.

Quoting myself from earlier in the thread:

The obvious solution -- don't cover non-union employees with your union deal -- can lead to a price differential between union and non-union labour, to the longer-term detriment of union members if they don't also offer higher performance along some metric.

gsgodfrey said...

Bob Ellison: Balfegor, the obvious solution is that unions should only negotiate for union members. Non-union members are on their own.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) states that certified unions, by law, represent all workers in a bargaining unit ("exclusive representation"). Here is a good writeup of the various issues:

http://www.cbe.csueastbay.edu/~sbesc/Jan_FebColumn.pdf

Tim said...

"You also must pair this with near-sighted and shit-for-brains management to get to General Motors-level dysfunctionality."

Oh, agreed, absolutely. Their biggest mistake was thinking they could compete with an uncompetitive work-force.

Their second biggest mistake was designing shit cars.

Third biggest mistake was selling the same shit car under five different brands.

But those unworkable, unsustainable labor contracts are at the top of the list.

Tim said...

It's nice the trolls out themselves so readily with non-sequiturs.

Matthew Sablan said...

And, here in ends any attempt at peaceful protest. Break the occupying groups, disperse them and tell them they can come back with proper paperwork later.

Peter said...

Ann Althouse said, "If the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union [and forced to work and be compensated under union work rules]"

If business owners within an industry have voted for the right to form a cartel to fix the price of their goods and services, so that all within the industry benefit, why is it obviously wrong to force all businesses within that to operate within rules set by the cartel?

The whole point of a union is to fix the price of labor- within the bargaining unit, no one is permitted to sell his or her labor for less (or more) than the union rate.

Why is it more acceptable for labor organizations to fix the price of labor than for business organizations to fix the price of their goods and services?

For that matter, if it's OK for unions to attempt to fix the price of labor, should it not be equally acceptable for companies to form cartels for the purpose of fixing pay scales?

Bob Ellison said...

gsgodfrey, that's edifying, truly. It shows how the government supports union monopolies. We don't usually like unnatural monopolies when they hurt consumers and traders.

damikesc said...

Keep in mind that Obama has, literally, no economics understanding whatsoever.

He meets with tax cheats like Sharpton to discuss tax rates and appoints tax cheats like Geithner to collect them.

We need to back off and analyze the right-to-work issue without their help.

So... can anyone help here, without the usual party bullshit?


I still have yet to see how being forced to join a union doesn't violate Free Assembly rights.

I think the reasoning: it's a free rider problem.

But how is that the STATE'S problem?

Seems like a union problem specifically.

If the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union?

Because ALL of the workers didn't vote for it. No union wins 100% of the vote. Why should I have to pay money for a group I vigorously oppose as a requirement to keep my job?

1.Overhead of the whole union infrastructure. All the money that goes toward operating the unions, including the employees, comes out of the money available to pay the workers.

And, apparently, they spend way more on overhead than in union organizing.

We all pay taxes, even if our party didn't win and the legislature is spending money for the projects it likes?

You don't get to opt out of paying your share just because you don't like that party.


Unions ain't the government.

Bruce Hayden said...

Why is it more acceptable for labor organizations to fix the price of labor than for business organizations to fix the price of their goods and services?

For that matter, if it's OK for unions to attempt to fix the price of labor, should it not be equally acceptable for companies to form cartels for the purpose of fixing pay scales?


And, I think that the auto industry is a good example of this problem. While there theoretically shouldn't be a connection between what one car company pays and the others do, there actually is, at least with the UAW and the Big 3 (formerly) U.S. auto makers. The UAW would pick one of the three to start with, and then would threaten to shut it down if they didn't agree to their demands, letting their competition reap the benefits. Then, with that contract in hand, they would go to the other two companies and usually get something comparable, by again threatening a strike. It was always interesting seeing the logic of why and how they picked the order in which they would go after the three companies, having to do with finances, history, etc.

It was really this ability of one union to whip saw the three auto makers against each other that allowed their wages, benefits, pensions, and work rules to get so out of hand, that two of them were forced into reorganization bankruptcy a couple of years ago (and are likely to go back in, once the federal money is completely gone).

Seeing Red said...

The links at Insty......

Seeing Red said...

Unions tore down AFP tent at MI capitol, with elderly trapped underneath, while chanting "This is what democracy looks like." #thankaunion!

Seeing Red said...

I just love this photo of a Michigan teacher proudly protesting in front of a misspelled sign. Since it's important to know the name of the evil Republican who's supposedly taking away your God-given rights, we'll let her in on a little secret.

It’s not “Gov. Synder” that she so despises, it’s Governor Rick “Snyder.”

Matthew Sablan said...

I remember when political violence caused by grass roots movements was a thing to be feared and checked by government power. Ah, the Tea Party. how ironic you make every "mostly peaceful" protest.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

BDNYC said...

Milton Friedman opposed right-to-work laws. It's clear that right-to-work laws represent, in some sense, an interference into freedom of contract or association.

But imagine the converse of a closed shop: an employee at a non-union company negotiates terms of employment saying that the company may not hire any union employees, and must fire any employees that join a union.

This would clearly be illegal under current labor law. A right-to-work law just provides for the same sort of non-discrimination protection that union employees already have.

If you really want to avoid interfering with freedom of contract/association, then you need to roll back current labor law and allow employers to fire/not hire union members.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Balfegor said...

Similar with unions negotiating contracts that affect non-union workers.

I'd be fine with that, as long as non-union workers could also negotiate to exclude union workers. They can't under current labor laws.

Portia said...

[i]Republicans come up with the most awesome sounding names for their most wretched legislation.

Right to Work!
Clear Skies Act!

[/i]

Yes, and who named the 'Affordable Care Act', hmmm.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Balfegor,

The obvious solution -- don't cover non-union employees with your union deal -- can lead to a price differential between union and non-union labour, to the longer-term detriment of union members if they don't also offer higher performance along some metric.

I once played in an orchestra that started as a "community orchestra" (meaning that pay was nominal, if indeed there was pay at all -- I wasn't there then) a few decades ago. Then there was a drive to get better players. This meant negotiations with the musicians' Local, because you can get booted from all union gigs if you agree to play for under scale.

Result: A two-tier pay scale where everyone in the Local got something under scale, but not by much, and everyone not in the Local got just about enough to pay for gas. And this is when gas was cheap. I think the union players made about four times what the non-union players did.

The big dust-up about the Musicians' Local in the Bay Area just now is over video game score recordings. Some members of the Local have apparently been playing sessions that don't pay scale. You're not supposed to do that, and if caught you can lose all closed-shop work (of which there is a lot). But people keep doing it anyway, because the money is decent if not brilliant, and people need all the work they can get.

Hagar said...

There is also the factor to consider that our cars were more expensive for us to buy and less well designed and made than they could have been, due to the protections given to the auto industry unions by the government in return for their campaign contributions.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

If the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union?

Well, several things here.

First, if the workers voted, how was the vote conducted? There is a big difference between a "vote" in which one of your co-workers comes round and asks you to sign off on something one the one hand, and a secret ballot on the other, and you don't have to guess which unions prefer. It can be difficult to work with people who know you don't share their idea of what's best for you.

Second and related, unions have a positive interest in being needed, which means that they're especially protective of workers who are not terribly good at what they do. Again, this can lead to animosity from the workers who actually do do their jobs well, as they see their mandatory dues spent to defend against demotion or dismissal the workers who do their jobs poorly.

Third, most dues money goes not even to defending cases of wrongful dismissal, but instead towards lobbying efforts and direct political contributions. I think some "closed shop" arrangements allow people to avoid the union if they pony up that fraction of the union's dues that goes to actually improving workplace conditions and defending wrongfully-punished employees. The counter-argument, of course, is that buying politicians and lobbying nonstop is all good for you, the worker; and

(Fourth) we must make management take this necessary money out of your paycheck before you ever see it, because if they don't there's some chance that you might not pay up. And we can't have that.

Marshal said...

Ann Althouse said, "If the workers have the right to vote and have chosen the union and the union has bargained for pay and benefits that go to all the workers at the place, so that all benefit, why is it obviously wrong to make all the workers contribute to that union

Unions function to support the mediocre to poor employees. Good and great employees earn leverage with performance, but see their compensation reduced because it's based on trivialities like seniority. Many employees are hurt by union compensation plans, plus have to pay for the privilege.

furious_a said...

Presidents, governors, and mayors may come or go...

...but the conduit for laundering taxpayer dollars into political contributions and in-kind activities -- dues withheld from unionized civil service workers' paychecks -- abides.

At some point, as in California or Illinois now, the public sector union negotiators are on both sides of the bargaining table.

Protesters damage property and sympathetic legislators go AWOL (while still drawing pay, natch) over the state line because the rollback side is stepping on their air hose.

Thorley Winston said...

But imagine the converse of a closed shop: an employee at a non-union company negotiates terms of employment saying that the company may not hire any union employees, and must fire any employees that join a union.

This would clearly be illegal under current labor law. A right-to-work law just provides for the same sort of non-discrimination protection that union employees already have.

If you really want to avoid interfering with freedom of contract/association, then you need to roll back current labor law and allow employers to fire/not hire union members.


Agreed and that’s what Milton Friedman advocated. However since repealing the NLRA isn’t on the table, the next best thing is to at least protect those workers who don’t want to join a union with right to work legislation.

Broomhandle said...

"Good and great employees earn leverage with performance"

Exactly.

EMD said...

"Good and great employees earn leverage with performance"

Can't outshine the union boys though.

Better to keep your widget-making to x/hour.

Or else you'll get you a visit from their 'leverage.'

Unfortunate, but true.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Professor Althouse:

The problem with your comparison of union dues to taxes is that the union isn't government. That it has been imposed as a quasi government doesn't make it right.

Second, not all workers consider the contracts and work rules negotiated by union representatives a "benefit."

Third, as you likely know, unions are able to negotiate "members only" contracts, in which they have no responsibility for acting in behalf of non-members. Why don't they opt for that in the 23 Right to Work laws?

In fact, the "burden" they complain of also gives them many advantages. Even without legally enforceable compulsory dues, they can still use these (and other) advantages to persuade non-members to pay anyway. And of course, they likely hold out hope of gaining forced dues back.

Imagine the union hierarchy became convinced that they would never get out from the Right to Work laws where they now have them. In that scenario, would they proceed to shed their "free riders"?