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Old 12-13-2012, 07:34 AM  
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In defense of unions.

The goings on in Michigan have taken some time for me to process, what with a lame duck majority of Michigan Republicans busting the only real leverage unions had in one of the biggest union states in America. There's been a heated debate over it the past couple weeks, albeit not on this forum, and tempers have flown off the handle as fistfights have broken out on the steps of the capital in Lansing.

Makes sense, it's a really heated issue, and I see both sides of it. One one hand you have people whose wellbeing has been supported and improved by unions -- those people are going to be intensely passionate about what happens. On the other hand, you have people who believe unions are unfairly leveraged bully organizations attempting to soak a company's profits dry.

I see both sides of the issue, but I'm pro-union. I see how they are often derided and dismissed on this forum so I think it's time to take at least one post to properly characterize what unions are all about and to flesh out why they are such a positive thing.

There are many different kinds of unions, so I am not offering a defense of any one particular union, but I think all unions benefit from the below arguments:

1. A union is democratic capitalism at work.

Our capitalist society encourages everybody to work hard, earn skills, and maximize those skills for your own personal gain. That harnessing this capacity to improve your life will drive progress in society, spark innovation and improve overall quality of life.

Well, that's what every union under the sun is. A group of people have acquired a set of skills, be it to build something, teach something or serve something, and they've decided to maximize their gain from those skills by banding together and negotiating with those who employ them.

Conservatives typically argue that the wealthy are virtuous, because they are able to find advantages in the market that play to their favor. They often argue in favor of huge bonuses that are frequently untied to any accomplishments for people who run companies, because that's what the free market has designated as their worth. That's exactly what unions are all about. They find an advantage in their market that plays to their favor, and attempt to maximize their benefit.

2. They fight inequality.

Now, whether you like the result or not of those negotiations, as an outside observer, is irrelevent to capitalism. What matters is that a worker should earn his or her leverage and then play it in the market for their advantage. Busting unions is an affirmative action to keep the masses of middle class workers from exploiting the advantages of capitalism, while further enabling the wealthy to benefit. Which brings me to my next point.

Inequality is not inherently bad, but there is an inequality epidemic in this country. We are at a historic point of inequality where, primarily though tax policy, the wealthy retain more and more of their wealth leaving the rest of pie in smaller and smaller slices to be divided up amongst a growing population of middle- and lower-class folks.

Unions were an effective check on this trend for large swaths of society, but they've been systematically busted in about half the country's states in various ways, leaving employees only able to negotiate in small packs or individually -- which, as if I need to tell you, is almost always a negatory position. Busting unions hurts the middle class, and further entrenches more wealth at the top.

3. They are the lone agency for middle class workers.

And that's my next point, really. Even if you dislike unions, you can agree with me on two things:

(a.) The wealthier you are, the better represented you are in terms of lobbying and interest groups. There are any number of interest groups that fight specifically on the behalf of people who have more resources, run businesses, are wealthy. The poor have always been underrepresented, there is no Big Poverty influencing the actions of Washington, DC, or any statehouse for that matter.

If there were ever a Big Middle Class, however, it's unions. That's Point (b.).

(b.) There is no more effective organization specifically geared at representing the interests of middle and lower class workers than unions. Which of course is the real reason why employers, who otherwise would face only nominal opposition in their ability to raise money and influence politics, despise them so much.

Unions are incredibly effective at raising funds and turning out political participation among their members. If they were to be wiped from existence -- what existing organization could possibly take their place?

America is America because of middle class workers. Broader than that: a healthy middle class is critical to any society's ability to thrive. Take unions away, or at least largely defang them, and you risk a political system with hardly any serious support for the most important element of society.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:03 PM   #46
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Seems more like a protection racket than anything else.

"That's a nice job you have. We would hate for something bad to happen to it. For a few bucks we can make sure nobody messes with you"
Meh.

It's more to fight for wages and benefits, as well as protection to a certain degree.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:10 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Meh.

It's more to fight for wages and benefits, as well as protection to a certain degree.
Supply and demand of labor should determine wages and benefits.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:12 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by DementedLogic View Post
Supply and demand of labor should determine wages and benefits.
Unions don't stop that from happening.

But when unions are able to get a reasonable maximum of people on board, it (mostly) changes the dynamics of supply and demand in ways that benefit workers.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:14 PM   #49
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You understand those union folks are freaked the **** out. They honestly think their benefits, pay, and maybe even rights could start dwindling as the power of unions subside in Michigan. And with rare exceptions, these folks weren't exactly living high on the hog to begin with.

It's a legitimate fear, sparking of course really irrational behavior. But we're talking about blue collar folks concerned, to varying extents, over their livelihoods. Grace and consistency is not typically what happens in these circumstances...
The EXACT same argument used by anti abortion activists. Nice job.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:16 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Do we agree on these two things:

1. Middle- and lower-class workers are underrepresented, politically, compared to their CEO and employer counterparts.

2. There is no more effective organization specifically geared at representing the interests of middle and lower class workers than unions.

If we do agree on those points, then the goal should honestly be finding more effective ways for them to function, not to merely defang them.
1. Yes
2. Not any more. Unions are political machines just like the two major parties.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:17 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Meh.

It's more to fight for wages and benefits, as well as protection to a certain degree.
Worked great for Hostess
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:17 PM   #52
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Are you aware of how the free rider problem is a legit back breaker for unions?
Everyone understands this. Nobody cares. That is the union's problem, not mine.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:20 PM   #53
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Actually "free loader problem" is common parlance describing the same dynamic with most interest groups. You can find it in Political Science 101 textbooks.

So you can kindly get down from the cross.



Yet another shit analogy by Saul Good.

I really wanted to engage you on this subject, too, since you clearly have a personal angle on the whole issue.

I'm still very much interested, if you've got some arguments that don't rely on your analogies, which are and have been historically terrible.
Whew. There's still an opportunity for me to converse with a condescending little shit? Thank God. That was a close one.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:26 PM   #54
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Unions don't stop that from happening.

But when unions are able to get a reasonable maximum of people on board, it (mostly) changes the dynamics of supply and demand in ways that benefit workers.
At the expense of the consumer, which in turn decreases the demand for the product, therefore decreasing the demand for labor. If you let the market work, it will balance out. However, when you change the dynamics of supply and demand artificially, GM goes bankrupt.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:28 PM   #55
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The goings on in Michigan have taken some time for me to process, what with a lame duck majority of Michigan Republicans busting the only real leverage unions had in one of the biggest union states in America. There's been a heated debate over it the past couple weeks, albeit not on this forum, and tempers have flown off the handle as fistfights have broken out on the steps of the capital in Lansing.

Makes sense, it's a really heated issue, and I see both sides of it. One one hand you have people whose wellbeing has been supported and improved by unions -- those people are going to be intensely passionate about what happens. On the other hand, you have people who believe unions are unfairly leveraged bully organizations attempting to soak a company's profits dry.

I see both sides of the issue, but I'm pro-union. I see how they are often derided and dismissed on this forum so I think it's time to take at least one post to properly characterize what unions are all about and to flesh out why they are such a positive thing.

There are many different kinds of unions, so I am not offering a defense of any one particular union, but I think all unions benefit from the below arguments:

1. A union is democratic capitalism at work.

Our capitalist society encourages everybody to work hard, earn skills, and maximize those skills for your own personal gain. That harnessing this capacity to improve your life will drive progress in society, spark innovation and improve overall quality of life.

Well, that's what every union under the sun is. A group of people have acquired a set of skills, be it to build something, teach something or serve something, and they've decided to maximize their gain from those skills by banding together and negotiating with those who employ them.

Conservatives typically argue that the wealthy are virtuous, because they are able to find advantages in the market that play to their favor. They often argue in favor of huge bonuses that are frequently untied to any accomplishments for people who run companies, because that's what the free market has designated as their worth. That's exactly what unions are all about. They find an advantage in their market that plays to their favor, and attempt to maximize their benefit.

2. They fight inequality.

Now, whether you like the result or not of those negotiations, as an outside observer, is irrelevent to capitalism. What matters is that a worker should earn his or her leverage and then play it in the market for their advantage. Busting unions is an affirmative action to keep the masses of middle class workers from exploiting the advantages of capitalism, while further enabling the wealthy to benefit. Which brings me to my next point.

Inequality is not inherently bad, but there is an inequality epidemic in this country. We are at a historic point of inequality where, primarily though tax policy, the wealthy retain more and more of their wealth leaving the rest of pie in smaller and smaller slices to be divided up amongst a growing population of middle- and lower-class folks.

Unions were an effective check on this trend for large swaths of society, but they've been systematically busted in about half the country's states in various ways, leaving employees only able to negotiate in small packs or individually -- which, as if I need to tell you, is almost always a negatory position. Busting unions hurts the middle class, and further entrenches more wealth at the top.

3. They are the lone agency for middle class workers.

And that's my next point, really. Even if you dislike unions, you can agree with me on two things:

(a.) The wealthier you are, the better represented you are in terms of lobbying and interest groups. There are any number of interest groups that fight specifically on the behalf of people who have more resources, run businesses, are wealthy. The poor have always been underrepresented, there is no Big Poverty influencing the actions of Washington, DC, or any statehouse for that matter.

If there were ever a Big Middle Class, however, it's unions. That's Point (b.).

(b.) There is no more effective organization specifically geared at representing the interests of middle and lower class workers than unions. Which of course is the real reason why employers, who otherwise would face only nominal opposition in their ability to raise money and influence politics, despise them so much.

Unions are incredibly effective at raising funds and turning out political participation among their members. If they were to be wiped from existence -- what existing organization could possibly take their place?

America is America because of middle class workers. Broader than that: a healthy middle class is critical to any society's ability to thrive. Take unions away, or at least largely defang them, and you risk a political system with hardly any serious support for the most important element of society.
To your latter points... do unions fight inequality? Yes. They serve an important element in today's society. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and we don't want to go back to the days where corporate barons were stripping workers of their basic rights.

Here's where you're wrong. Private sectors have functioned fine without unions. You are overstating the problem. Every corporation I have worked for offers a great benefits package and it's more difficult to get fired than you think because of all the paperwork/procedures. Most importantly, most corporations know that the cost to hire a new worker is a shitload more expensive than the cost to keep one. So most companies invest in people, whether that's training, morale events, engagement studies, etc.... The problem in the private sector isn't about the middle class or poor being unhappy, it's that there aren't enough jobs. Arguably, that means the same people are being bogged down with more work, but what I've found is that in most cases, the motivated ones are the ones who pick up that work while the less motivated ones clock in/clock out as if nothing has changed. Which is fine, because the motivated ones are the ones who get rewarded with promotions and bonuses.

Your first point couldn't be more wrong. I don't know how you could possibly make the argument that unions promote harder work and innovation. I would never work for the public sector. I am a hard worker and don't want to hear people bitch about me working beyond a 40 hour work week. Sorry. If I need to work 60-80 hour work weeks, I will. Also, I worked for a brief period in the public sector and consulted with their employees. They are unbelievably unmotivated because there's no career advancement and no reward for good work. Why? Because the unions fight for shitty workers to get disproportionate raises (and useless workers to get paid for doing nothing), which means there's less bonus money for the good ones. Because there's no advancement because are a bunch of shitty workers who are levels above you simply because they have tenure. In the private sector, when I work hard, I'm rewarded with promotions and bonuses. Those are both linked to my performance, which is measured quarterly and yearly ad nauseum. I have a career track where I can move around the company. Just because 1% of executives have compensation that's not always well aligned with performance doesn't mean that the other 99% aren't. And talk to any teacher and ask them how they feel innovation. HOw in the world can you innovate when you get yelled at if you go off a specifically designed curriculum designed by the union?
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:31 PM   #56
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The EXACT same argument used by anti abortion activists. Nice job.
That exact argument is used by a lot of people, including people fighting for civil rights.

Your point?
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:32 PM   #57
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1. Yes
2. Not any more. Unions are political machines just like the two major parties.
1. Good.

2. By all means, name another organization more effective at fighting for middle class workers.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:33 PM   #58
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Worked great for Hostess
Hostess failed for a multitude of reasons, up to and including exorbitant CEO pay.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:34 PM   #59
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Everyone understands this. Nobody cares. That is the union's problem, not mine.
It's the problem of people the unions represent.

If that's not you, hooray. But I'm guessing you have quite a few political stances that don't deal with you directly.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:35 PM   #60
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At the expense of the consumer, which in turn decreases the demand for the product, therefore decreasing the demand for labor.
In some situations, I can see this being the case.
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