Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Free choice! (unless you're a senator)

Unions are once again turning up the heat to try to win passage of a sorry piece of legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, and misinformation, obfuscation and intimidation appear to be the unholy trinity of their efforts. To those not familiar, the Employee Free Choice Act is an effort by organized labor and its supporters (primarily Democrats) in Congress to kill the secret-ballot system of deciding whether employees wish to be represented by a union. Instead, a union would be considered approved once more than 50 percent of the members of a particular workforce signed union cards. Proponents of the act claim that many workers currently are harassed and intimidated if they try to form a union. Would ending secret-ballot elections and allowing union proponents to browbeat potential members into signing cards be an improvement? Of course, unions would never resort to strong-arm tactics. Right? What sort of twisted logic is required to argue against allowing a worker to privately decide whether he or she wants to be represented by a union? The legislation, at least in its original form, also would require binding arbitration when a company and newly formed union negotiate their first contract, which means a company could be forced to accept a labor deal that it can't afford. If this bill passes, it would serve union members right if companies that are the victims of these crammed-down contracts just close their doors and tell the workers to get lost. U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., had a good take on the bill: "It is beyond me how once can possibly claim that a system whereby everyone – your employer, your union organizer and your co-workers – knows exactly how you vote on the issue of unionization gives an employee 'free choice.' ... I cannot fathom how we are about to sit there today and debate a proposal to take away a worker's democratic right to vote in a secret-ballot election and call it 'Employee Free Choice.'" And now, as the pressure ramps up on lawmakers to take action on the measure, our own Sen. Arlen Specter, a key vote on the legislation, is in the cross-hairs of its proponents. A lobbying group is running television ads asking whether Specter will side "with President Obama, Vice President Biden and the working families of Pennsylvania" or with "greedy CEOs and big-business lobbyists." So what we really have there are lobbyists ripping on lobbyists. If you're a union lobbyist, that's OK, but if you represent America's businesses - you know, the people who create jobs - you're some sort of scum in their eyes. The ad says Specter "usually does the right thing," but it implores those who see the ads to "call and tell Specter that Pennsylvania is for him as long as he's for the Employee Free Choice Act." So, we have a lawmaker who "usually does the right thing," but if he votes no on this bill, he's a no-good bastard. That sounds a lot like the tactics that supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act accuse business owners of using. It would appear that the backers of the pro-union legislation would be OK with it if Specter voted to put roasted babies on the menu of the Senate Dining Room, just as long as he votes the right way on the union bill. These people have no shame.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, the value of unions are so underrated these days. Look what they did for Chrysler and General Motors. Especially at GM, where the union's deal allowed workers to be paid whether they worked or not. And all for a cost of about $1,500 per car. And when you retire, you still made as much as when you worked. And even if you were the worst worker in the plant, a complete and utter screw-up, you couldn't get fired.

Now that's a situation I could live with.

Of course, there is that little problem with bankruptcy, financial ruin and probable liquidation of the entire company in the near future. But hey, you take your chances, right?

June 10, 2009 at 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As if things were not bad enough for the economy the Obama administration wtih its labor allies are making it far worse for those that own companies in America. Increased capital gains are promised, Trumka is promising to be more militant, more regulation, cap n trade to increase energy costs, governmental control of salaries and banking. If this continues it is hard to see how the economy could ever recover, without even discussing the overwhelming debt that we are facing. Whether people personally like Obama or not, if he continues down this road there is one sure outcome, economic disaster. The result will be a wholesale rejection of the Democratic party.
This is one reason that the moderates in the Democratic party are holding so many of these bad ideas up. It is a shame that the press (not you Brant or the OR) are not focusing on the opposition to Obama's moves by his own party. Evan Bayh, Landreu from LA and others are fighting to stop the more insane economic ideas.
If you watch business news channels where the political garbage is toned down and where the news is actually reported (versus which entertainer did what last night) there is a growing anger at Obama's administration. It is truly scary to watch his plans for the economic future of this nation.

June 10, 2009 at 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Joe Tuscano said...

Brant, my father worked as a boilermaker in a Youngstown steel mill in the 1960s and 70s. His union managed to negotiate a 13-week vacation for him every six years.

That's right, 13 weeks.

My father got a part-time job for the three months off. One day, he said to me "This is nice but I wonder how they can pay for it."

They couldn't. We all know what happened to the steel industry, and union deals played a major role in it. Now, we are seeing the marks of a union run amok in the GM mess.

I am for representation. Union's responsibilities should be to make sure wages are fair, conditions are safe and companies don't fire you without cause. Contracts that had such things as 13 weeks of vacation are lethal to companies and threaten your job.

My father lost his job in his late 50s and went through a succession of part-time or low-paying jobs after that. His union was just as responsible for the death of the steel industry as the dumping of steel by foreign countries at the time but no one even talked about it.

That showed me belonging to a union might not be the best way to save my job.

June 10, 2009 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

You're pro-union but realize that they've killed a lot of major industries in this country.
Union leaders, like government officials, are in place to make sure of one thing - that they stay in power.
This bill is just one way for them to do that with Uncle Sam backing them with a loaded gun to put at the heads of the business owners.

June 10, 2009 at 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Joe.

I'm part of a union, and my family also owns a business, so I see both sides of this.

Out-of-control unions, like GM and some teachers' unions, give all bargaining units a bad name. But Unions are needed - please believe me. The only reason your company treats you with any respect is the fear that you will unionize.

Greedy unions ruin industry, cause tax increases, and are amazingly short-sighted in their demands.

Yet, sometimes companies can be worse. Case in point:

The company I work for asked us for wage cutbacks during our last contract. We agreed, because they were losing quite a bit of money. They turned around and gave huge raises to executives.

See what I mean?

Now that the economy TRULY sucks, they will surely ask for more concessions in our next contract, but how can the union trust them?

June 10, 2009 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger L.C. said...

Arlen will do what's best for Arlen.He has already proven that by his "party" switch.And unions are thr same way they do what is best for them,not the worker.At my companies last contract negotiations,our union "rep" stood up there used fear and company propoganda to scare employees into voting for the contract.That's how the USW works in my eyes..

June 10, 2009 at 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a union member and those of you who hate unions want the greedy CEO's to make all the money! Unions help the economy along!
And, If you think you can perform union labor then let us see!!!

June 11, 2009 at 1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about that 25 foot triple?

June 11, 2009 at 6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am a union member and those of you who hate unions want the greedy CEO's to make all the money! Unions help the economy along!"

Joking right?

June 11, 2009 at 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can perform union labor its easy. Pa turnpike for example $18 an hour to say "that will be $3.50 please have a nice day" Or after you installed one car door the next 10,000 are easy...

June 11, 2009 at 3:40 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Or how about at the state liquor store. All that's required is having virtually no knowledge of the product you're selling and a bare minimum of "people skills." I understand they've now been trained to say "thank you."

June 11, 2009 at 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah trained to say thank you but then renegotiated a $5.00 an hour raise

June 11, 2009 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Joe Tuscano said...

The key is balance. The money the company spent paying my dad, and other workers, for 13 vacation weeks could have gone into modernizing a plant or two. Instead, it went into pay, good for my dad but bad for the company's future.

At the same time, I am sure my father was thankful that he did not have to worry about walking into work one day to find he was fired because the boss's son needed a job.

Union battles are epic in our history but it also shows that greed and corruption exist on both sides.

The starting points should be a fair wage for the job, job security for competent and dedicated workers, and a strong and honest relationship between company and union.

Businesses that have that thrive.

June 12, 2009 at 12:46 PM  

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