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August 01, 2008

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Shocker! People tend to vote in their economic self-interest, and big-wigs in management and union organizers try to sway votes. Here's the UAW prez telling everyone in the union to vote Obama:

Barack Obama is a progressive leader who supports the UAW agenda: quality affordable health care for all, the right to join a union without employer interference and a renewal of American manufacturing.

I don't understand why this is anything new and warranting of a post. As the self-appointed leader of The Union of ObWi Commenters/Lurkers, we demand more Iraq posts, Eric! =)

Splendid opportunity to link to Kathy G.'s paean to labor lawyer Tom Geoghegan, who recently proposed extending the protections of the civil rights act to the right to join a union.

Steve Perlstein nominates him for Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration. If only!

I'm passing this along because unless there's self-confident agitatiion to their left, the cautious centrists will never make even the minimum move toward justice (which the EFCA is, being decades overdue).

Further back than Reagan.

There has been a full out war on unions since Taft-Hartley.

"Just one example: unions used to provide an effective check on out of control executive pay. Unions would rightly demand a cut of the pie when executives tried to give themselves out of proportion pay raises. It was exceedingly difficult for executives to argue that they deserved multi-million dollar raises, but that there was no money to offer a modest raise for the average company worker."

Did this really happen all that often in the pre-Reagan years? Specifically which companies are we talking about?

It strikes me that some of the most prominent companies with strong unions today that were also prominent during that period (auto companies) did not have particularly low compensation at any time. The other prominent example I can think of (airlines) also did not generally have low executive compensation.

"To simplify matters: economies are stronger, and societies healthier, when the middle class is thriving. Unions can help to create a larger, more robust middle class."

Your first sentence is fine, but your second is pretty much unsupported. The studies on union effects on growth are decidedly mixed and even when they show a positive difference (which isn't always) it is incredibly small.

My reading on unions would tend to be that they were much more important for workplace safety issues pre-OSHA than they were for general economic growth. They were also much more responsive to their actual workers before they gained the government-backed ability in many states to force workers to associate with them.

Not news? Take it up with Reuters.

Labor issues, and union-busting, is undercovered in the media and at ObWi. Go for it, Eric. (@LT: appointing yourself leader pretty much invites competitive organizing in the ObWi shop... just sayin'.)

Wal-Mart = Devil

(@LT: appointing yourself leader pretty much invites competitive organizing in the ObWi shop... just sayin'.)

Sorry, it's Friday, and a perfect time for me to be a jackass before I kill more brain cells over the weekend.

People tend to vote in their economic self-interest, and big-wigs in management and union organizers try to sway votes.

Of course, union organizers don't have the power to fire the people they're trying to sway. Not even the president of the UAW.

"I don't understand why this is anything new and warranting of a post."

Interesting that you find moral equivalency between quality affordable health care for all and defending the rights of ordinary and low-income workers, on the one hand, and executives opposing that while seeking and taking multi-million dollar payouts. Why do you favor ever-increasing income disparity, and the extremely rich over the middle class and poor, Lt. Nixon?

Why does this warrant a comment?

Facts.

Don't you know that income equality is real? Why do you hate democracy and working people?

My reading on unions would tend to be that they were much more important for workplace safety issues pre-OSHA than they were for general economic growth.

Still are.

My brother in law is a union electrician in AZ, which is a right-to-work state.

On union job sites, the union helps make sure occupational safety rules are observed and enforced.

On non-union sites, not so, or at least far less so.

Anecdota, but real anecdota.

Thanks -

Of course, union organizers don't have the power to fire the people they're trying to sway. Not even the president of the UAW.

But they do have the power to coerce employees into joining the union, extorting fees, and spending that money on lobbying for Democrats to win local elections. As an example, I worked part-time for the university during college, and every paycheck I took a hit on money that I could've used to spend on beer for God's sakes. It's not like they were working on increasing hourly wages either. It was mostly fighting for better pensions, which isn't really a big concern when you're some young punk in school just trying to get by.

Did this really happen all that often in the pre-Reagan years? Specifically which companies are we talking about?

Sebastian, executive pay in proportion to the average worker's pay has increased astronomically since even the 1960s and 1970s. That is a fact.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, C.E.O.’s of the largest firms were paid, on average, about 40 times as much as the average worker. Nowadays, it's closer to 350 times the average worker.

Labor unions were able to use big executive salaries as evidence that money was there for worker pay increases. Just revisit any of the labor negotiations that took place during the boom years of the 50s and 60s, and later in the 70s.

This kept executives within reasonable boundaries - and it had an effect even on non-unionized companies due to the prevalent marketplace norms. BTW: that's also how unions increase wages even for non-union members. That is, when they are a large enough presence to effect prevailing compensation rates.

My reading on unions would tend to be that they were much more important for workplace safety issues pre-OSHA than they were for general economic growth.

This is one of the Bush-era mistakes in diagnosing economic health. Growth is great, but its effects are limited if the lion's share of the revenue generated by that growth only goes to a small set of the population. As in the Bush years. This creates great economic disparity which creates its own very serious social and, eventually, economic woes.

FWIW, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121755649066303381.html>here's the WSJ's version of the story.

Executive excess 2003.

Income gap. CEO pay rose 571 percent from 1990 to 2000.

[...] If the pay of production workers had risen proportionately to that of CEOs in the '90s, their average income would now be $120,491 instead of $24,688. The minimum wage would have risen to $25.20 an hour, not its current $5.15 (well below the poverty level).
More.

Facts:

The top one percent of households received 21.8 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (The top one percent's share of total income bottomed out at 8.9 percent in 1976.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1928, when 23.9 percent of all income went to the richest one percent.

[...]

Between 1979 and 2005, the top five percent of American families saw their real incomes increase 81 percent. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth saw their real incomes decline 1 percent. (Census Bureau)

In 1979, the average income of the top 5 percent of families was 11.4 times as large as the average income of the bottom 20 percent. In 2005, the ratio was 20.9 times. (EPI, State of Working America 2006-07, Figure 1J)

All of the income gains in 2005 went to the top 10 percent of households, while the bottom 90 percent of households saw income declines.

Is this a good thing, Lt. Nixon?

So to sum it up:

I didn't say unions were great in terms of generating growth. They're more or less neutral on this front. But they do an excellent job of improving the lot of working Americans and keeping disparaties of wealth in check.

Of course, unions alone can't achieve that. You can still enact policies like doing away with estate taxes on multi-million dollar estates and lowering upper tax rates that will shift wealth upward and increase the gaps.

Don't you know that income equality is real? Why do you hate democracy and working people?

I just like Eric's posts about Iraq, as they are sharp, not what the administration is putting out, and it's good to read an alternate perspective from my own. The income disparity is nothing new and has been harped on since Upton Sinclair. You're boring everybody, Gary, stop being so boring. Why don't you want to hear about Iraq? Do you not support the 140K troops in Iraq? =)

"As an example, I worked part-time for the university during college, and every paycheck I took a hit on money that I could've used to spend on beer for God's sakes."

"If the pay of production workers had risen proportionately to that of CEOs in the '90s, their average income would now be $120,491 instead of $24,688."

$120,491 would buy you a lot more beer. Even $60,000, a good union wage, would. Even $30,000 would.

And someday you'll want a pension. And health care.

"The income disparity is nothing new"

Yes, the level is, as I've just proven. Why do you find getting thousands of dollars worth of more beer boring? Wouldn't you like all that beer? Think of all the extra money for hookers and porn you could have with stronger unions.

Why do you find getting thousands of dollars worth of more beer boring? Wouldn't you like all that beer? Think of all the extra money for hookers and porn you could have with stronger unions.

That is the single greatest argument I have ever heard.

I agree with Russell.

Anyone who doesn't think unions are relevant in today's corporations-first, workers-last world is simply not living in the same world I am.

By the way, how much did Exxon/Mobil make last quarter?

Gary,

Is this a good thing, Lt. Nixon? Uh, I don't think so. But some unions (e.g. the Teamsters) don't have a very good track record for managing money for the people they supposedly represent. If I was a long-haul trucker, I'd be pretty upset when my paycheck was funding mob-backed casinos.

but if the hookers and pornographees unionize, the prices for their services and products would go up! tit-for-tat price/wage increases! inflation! tumescence!

Also, for the record, I didn't post this as anything "new" per se. I didn't make any such claim or suggestion.

But the subject matter is important, and I found the story to provide a suitable segue.

Back to Iraq soon. I just wanted to take a break for a few moments.

But some unions (e.g. the Teamsters) don't have a very good track record for managing money for the people they supposedly represent.

Quite true. But is that an argument against all unions? Wouldn't it be better to focus on measures that punish bad unions and leave good ones alone? Or are you arguing that unions' good points are not outweighed by the bad ones?

But they do have the power to coerce employees into joining the union, extorting fees,

ITYM that by law unions get to collect operating funds even from people who would prefer to be free riders on the union's efforts. Last time I checked, the difference between wages in union and non-union settings more than made up for the dues paid, and that's not counting job security and other benefits.

and spending that money on lobbying for Democrats to win local elections.

Unions aren't allowed to use dues money for political activity. Let me repeat that, because it's widely misunderstood: unions aren't allowed to use dues money for political activity. (If you are aware of a union doing that, contact your local Republican US attorney's office; I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.) My union maintains a PAC funded by contributions from members, and based on the rate of participation in my local, I can assure you that contributions are entirely voluntary.

Part-timers often get the shaft when they're in the same bargaining unit as full-timers, although I'd be suspicious of any claim that part-timers in unions get a rawer deal overall than part-timers without unions. But the time may come when that pension-for-more-beer tradeoff will look better than it did then.

Cheers.

I should add that given the state of my S&P 500-indexed retirement account, mob-backed casinos are starting to look really really good to me.

My questions of the day:

Why should working people give a crap about growth if they don't see the fruit of it?

What's in it for them?

If unions don't affect growth one way or the other, but make the lives and well-being of working people better, how is that not a good thing, from their point of view?

And, why isn't their point of view relevant to the discussion?

Thanks -

Why do you find getting thousands of dollars worth of more beer boring? Wouldn't you like all that beer? Think of all the extra money for hookers and porn you could have with stronger unions.

That is the single greatest argument I have ever heard.

But if the hookers and porn industry workers unionize then their wages will go up, your costs will rise, and then we’re back to the status-quo ante.

More seriously, are weak unions a cause or a symptom of the lack of bargaining power that labor current enjoys (vs. 40-50 years ago)?

I was under the impression that global wage arbitrage was undercutting our unions in the US as effectively as anything done domestically in the way of union busting tactics. It’s not that corporate management in the 1950’s liked labor unions more than they do now, or didn’t want to engage in union busting. They just lacked the highly effective weapon of “give us what we want, or watch your jobs move to lower wage zones in Mexico/China/India/Vietnam/etc..”.

I don’t see how a strong labor movement can be rebuilt in this country without putting tariff barriers back in place to give domestic labor an advantage vs. foreign competition.

"But some unions (e.g. the Teamsters) don't have a very good track record for managing money for the people they supposedly represent."

Some people in the military are rapists. What kind of argument is "some X are bad, therefore Xs are bad"?

Do you have any statistics, or cites, on how many unions are bad versus useful/good? If not, you're boring me, with a boring and unsupported bad argument.

And do you seriously find persuasive arguments that go "some X are bad, therefore that proves Xs are bad"?

Because that would be pretty stupid, wouldn't it?

So I assume you don't believe that, but are simply engaging in a dumb argument for some other reason, but, really, it's very boring.

If only we had an open thread to talk about more entertaining things....

I'm up for ranting about unbelievably messy and thoughtless people, myself.

I have mixed feelings about unions. (So what? Who cares how I feel?) Living in the Philadlphia area, and, thereby, not so far from the NYC area, I see that bad side of unions quite a bit. The unions and their membership around here tend toward overt thuggery and, in my opinion, engage in behaviour that isn't in their own self-interest over the long-term, even if it makes them a few bucks in hte next few months. Ridiculous territorialism and work-rules make getting even small public construction projects difficult and costly.

The Philadelphia-located Pennsylvania Convention Center's recent history is instructive. Laborers, electricians and carpenters get into fist-fights over minute bits of work, which, of course, makes convention organizers really want to come back for their next convention. I can never figure out why a guy is willing to fight over an hour's worth of work when it's likely to prevent years of work in the future.

And local elections are real hoot when a union guy is running. Bricks go through the windows of opponents' campaign offices, campaign workers are harrassed and sometime beaten, voters are intimidated. It's pretty bad.

"But is that an argument against all unions? Wouldn't it be better to focus on measures that punish bad unions and leave good ones alone? Or are you arguing that unions' good points are not outweighed by the bad ones?"

No. Yes. No - at least I don't think so.


Why should working people give a crap about growth if they don't see the fruit of it?

Since their defined benefit plan has probably been replaced with a defined contribution plan, their retirement income depends on growth to some extent.

If unions don't affect growth one way or the other, but make the lives and well-being of working people better, how is that not a good thing, from their point of view?

Even if unions didn't make life better for working people, I think they'd still be good. You see, I have this theory that says that competition is needed to foster excellence. By increasing the ability of workers to compete with top management for a share of the profits, unions should force the whole system to become more efficient. You know, in the same way that divided government is better.

"...that bad side of unions..." should be "...the bad side of unions...."

I just had to correct that. It was purely typographical and made the sentence very corny, at least to me.

How many people engaging on this thread are actually a member of a union?

Puts hand up

I don’t see how a strong labor movement can be rebuilt in this country without putting tariff barriers back in place to give domestic labor an advantage vs. foreign competition.

There's still a lot of labor that can't be sent offshore, and most of that labor is non-union. That's pretty much the opportunity that SEIU is pursuing in its organizing: janitors and home healthcare workers, for example, low-wage work that has to be done in country.

"Globalization" has certainly put a lot of pressure on wages in manufacturing, which was the labor aristocracy of the '40s and '50s; but that process started long before, when textile manufacturers started closing plants in northeastern and midwestern cities and moved them to the non-union Sun Belt. Unions (with some exceptions, mostly in the public sector)didn't do themselves any favors in that period by neglecting to expand their base, and by getting used to employment-based benefits rather than pursuing a higher social wage. The erosion of their organizing capacity was partly self-chosen.

"Sebastian, executive pay in proportion to the average worker's pay has increased astronomically since even the 1960s and 1970s. That is a fact."

Ok. We have also seen enormous increases in mechanization improvements in efficiency which don't have much to do with increased line worker efficiency which means that even though then number of steel workers since the 1970s has decreased dramatically, the actual steel production has increased dramatically. That is a fact. Whether or not either of the facts mentioned (yours or mine) have anything whatsoever to do with unions is very much not a settled question.

"Labor unions were able to use big executive salaries as evidence that money was there for worker pay increases. Just revisit any of the labor negotiations that took place during the boom years of the 50s and 60s, and later in the 70s.

This kept executives within reasonable boundaries - and it had an effect even on non-unionized companies due to the prevalent marketplace norms."

Yes they used that rhetoric so your first sentence about union rhetoric is correct. They continued using that rhetoric later and it wasn't as effective because the companies weren't (for various reasons, many of them perhaps related to unions) doing as well. The first part of the next sentence looks like unsupported conjecture and the second part even more so.

How might you try to support that conjecture? You might point to companies that retained unions and didn't have high paid CEOs and show that such a correlation generally bucked the trend. But for the large companies with strong unions that I can think of, that most certainly did not happen. Do you think GM or Chrysler were significantly underpaying their CEOs? Do you think AmericanAirlines or Delta significantly underpaid their CEOs?

Which companies are you talking about?

Living in the Philadlphia area, and, thereby, not so far from the NYC area, I see that bad side of unions quite a bit. The unions and their membership around here tend toward overt thuggery and, in my opinion, engage in behaviour that isn't in their own self-interest over the long-term, even if it makes them a few bucks in hte next few months.

You might not know it from the local news outlets, but "the building trade unions" are not "the unions." Otherwise I agree entirely.

How many people engaging on this thread are actually a member of a union?

Yo. Shop steward and member of local executive board.

Here's a good Philadlphia union story.

[…]

But about those special toilets.

They’re flushless urinals that require no water; gravity does the work, pulling the waste through a filter and then down a pipe and into the sewage system. It’s clean and efficient, and in the Comcast building alone, it would save the city 1.6 million gallons of water each year.

Not so fast, the city’s plumbers union said. Less water means fewer pipes. Fewer pipes mean less work. And so the union blocked the job, threatening the completion of the building, and in turn delaying all the business that would happen inside it.

[…]

In a stunning testament to the power of Philadelphia’s unions, the city twaddled in the face of the obvious choice: “We’re still looking into this,” the top building code official told the Inquirer at the time. “I want to make sure they’re safe.”

Sounds prudent, except that flushless toilets have long been installed at elementary schools elsewhere in the state, as well as in state government offices. And so far, both children and bureaucrats have remained intact.

One clue to Philadelphia’s paralysis lies in the city’s building code: Philadelphia is, for example, said to be the only large city in America that doesn’t call for PVC pipe as the standard plumbing material. It still calls for cast iron. PVC is cheaper, lighter and longer lasting. But one plumber can carry 10 lengths of PVC pipe; it takes 10 plumbers to carry a length of cast iron.

[…]

Knowing the power of the trade unions, the developers of the “green” Comcast tower had little option but to strike an absurd deal: The Comcast tower got its new toilets. But only because it also got a full set of old-fashioned pipes, installed by union plumbers. The pipes run throughout all 58 floors, just like in any other skyscraper.

Except in the Comcast tower, they’re not connected to anything.

bedtimeforbonzo: how much did Exxon/Mobil make last quarter?

$1500 per second

"I didn't say unions were great in terms of generating growth. They're more or less neutral on this front. But they do an excellent job of improving the lot of working Americans and keeping disparaties of wealth in check."

Again, completey unsupported that they do much of anything to keep disparaties of wealth in check.

And I'm not even sure they help 'working Americans' all that much once you factor in the disemployment effect of price supports combined with the push toward mechanization (and away from overpriced unionized labor) that follows in its wake.

The post sounds to me like an excellent description of the current liberal world-view with respect to unions. Its actual correspondence with the real world is perhaps more tenuous.

Preventive anti-pedant clarification:
Nearly $1500. a second.

$11.68 billion on revenue of $138 billion in the second quarter. Do the math if you care how nearly $1500/sec.

Ok. We have also seen enormous increases in mechanization improvements in efficiency which don't have much to do with increased line worker efficiency which means that even though then number of steel workers since the 1970s has decreased dramatically, the actual steel production has increased dramatically. That is a fact. Whether or not either of the facts mentioned (yours or mine) have anything whatsoever to do with unions is very much not a settled question.

Yeah, but in other technologically advanced western economies that still have strong unions, they are not experiencing the same disparaties of wealth as the US. Nor the same disparaties of pay on average between execs and workers.

Technological advancement fails as an explanation.

How might you try to support that conjecture? You might point to companies that retained unions and didn't have high paid CEOs and show that such a correlation generally bucked the trend. But for the large companies with strong unions that I can think of, that most certainly did not happen. Do you think GM or Chrysler were significantly underpaying their CEOs? Do you think AmericanAirlines or Delta significantly underpaid their CEOs?

Which companies are you talking about?

At a certain point, there is a market effect that can inflate wages regardless of the fact that there are some unions around. Currently, the US is the least unionized western industrialized nation.

Further, it's not only about the presence of a union, but what unions are able to achieve through the collective bargaining and use of stoppages.

If you look at writers' and athletes' unions, they've done quite well in terms of securing ever more equitable portions of their respective industries' revenues.

Air traffic controllers, on the other hand, were broken by governmental action and thus, not so much.

Let's put it this way: Wal-Mart execs sure are scared to let unions in because they know that the unions will get bigger benefits from their workers. This will work, indirectly, to rein in exec pay - unless they want to shrink the business to accommodate. Which is a possibility, but a short sighted and greedy one.

"The unions and their membership around here tend toward overt thuggery and, in my opinion, engage in behaviour that isn't in their own self-interest over the long-term, even if it makes them a few bucks in hte next few months."

Please forgive me for any inappropriate skepticism, but do you really have good info on the distribution of useful versus thuggish behavior by unions in your area?

Or are you going by press reports on a couple of bad unions -- and bad unions most certainly do exist, and get press, just like bad people do -- and thus generalizing from a couple of bad unions to all unions in your area?

Do you have any facts or cites to bring to bear on this question, or are you using anecdotes to smear and misjudge good unions along with bad ones?

I have no idea what the answer to this question is: maybe most unions in your area are indeed bad; if so, that would make interesting reading. Do you have any to demonstrate that? Specifically, mind, establishing the facts about unions overall in your area -- not stories about specific bad unions, which I repeat again, of course exist.

There are certainly, as well as outright criminal unions at times, endless numbers of unions that do annoying things I disagree with, or whose interests for their members are short-sighted, or which happen to run contrary to mine as a non-union member. These facts are not in dispute. Whether they overall do more good for society, and workers, and their members, or not, is. That seems to me to be the only interesting question.

Bad people also exist in profusion, but we don't try to stamp out people because of that fact. Most of us don't, anyway.

Thanks for your answers to the previously posed questions, hairshirthedonist.

I'm not presently a member of a union, incidentally, but my parents were, and my one-time sweetie was extremely active in 1199, NYC. I think unions are, per se, generally, a good thing, which like every entity, can and sometimes do do bad and/or stupid things, and sometimes become corrupt entities. But overall they clearly seem to be beneficial and desirable to me, while, of course, like anything and everything, their bad tendencies need to be watched over and guarded against.

One might view them, at the least, as no less beneficial or different than corporations in this regard.

"Again, completey unsupported that they do much of anything to keep disparaties of wealth in check."

Unsupported? You're arguing that unions don't bring up the pay of their members, and of workers in general in their line of work?

Really? You really need a cite on that? Really?

Nell:

Ouch!

Again, completey unsupported that they do much of anything to keep disparaties of wealth in check.

Sebastian, where, pray tell, do you think all of those worker benefit programs came from? Do you think they came from the magnanimity of management?

Do you not think that unions fought long and hard (with members often sacrificing their lives) to attain these?

And when workers get benefits and increased wages, and wealth transfers (to some still limited extent) from management to workers, yes, those workers are made better off. Disparaties are softened.

Again: If unions don't deliver higher wages and better benefits for workers, what the hell is Wal-Mart so worried about?

Talk about tenuous grasp of reality. I mean Seb, if unions don't really achieve those things for their workers, why would Wal-Mart be spending all that money trying to block them?

"Yeah, but in other technologically advanced western economies that still have strong unions, they are not experiencing the same disparaties of wealth as the US. Nor the same disparaties of pay on average between execs and workers."

Which doesn't show that unions are the deciding factor either. European countries also conduct business in other languages, but I wouldn't assert that conducting business in French limits disparities in wealth. There are also countries with rather large disparities in wealth that have much stronger unions than the US (see Brazil for example).

You posit that unions are an important factor in the disparity issue. That is fine as long as you identify it as a conjecture. But it isn't supported (much less well supported, much less accepted).

"Let's put it this way: Wal-Mart execs sure are scared to let unions in because they know that the unions will get bigger benefits from their workers. This will work, indirectly, to rein in exec pay - unless they want to shrink the business to accommodate."

That is whay *you* claim. I would tend to argue that WalMart fears that unions will force them into a bad position of killing their major differentiation point--low price, and thus dramatically hurting their long term viability. Which by the way would destroy on of the easier methods of having low-skilled people enter the marketplace and gain skills.

Please forgive me for any inappropriate skepticism, but do you really have good info on the distribution of useful versus thuggish behavior by unions in your area?

No.

Or are you going by press reports on a couple of bad unions -- and bad unions most certainly do exist, and get press, just like bad people do -- and thus generalizing from a couple of bad unions to all unions in your area?

It's not my intent to generalize about all unions in my area, but I can see why you might think it is. I made an overstatement, given what I know. The statement may very well be true, but I don't have sufficient information to know that it is. Please replace "The unions and their membership around here..." with "Some unions and some of their membership around here..." That I know. It's a significant problem, but I can't say what the proportionality of it is in relation to local unions in general.

Do you have any facts or cites to bring to bear on this question, or are you using anecdotes to smear and misjudge good unions along with bad ones?

I do not wish to smear or misjudge good unions.


I would tend to argue that WalMart fears that unions will force them into a bad position of killing their major differentiation point--low price, and thus dramatically hurting their long term viability.

Hmmm. Why would unions force Wal-Mart to raise their prices?

You seem to be arguing my point here:

Unions make Wal-Mart raise wages and benefits for workers. Wal-Mart passes on costs to consumers.

Step one is my entire point!

You posit that unions are an important factor in the disparity issue. That is fine as long as you identify it as a conjecture. But it isn't supported (much less well supported, much less accepted).

Check out Krugman's book, Conscience of a Liberal, and the lengthy bibliography at the end of that book. For starters. It is a theory that is, in fact, well supported.

PS: I would argue that place like Canada and Britain are closer analogues to the US economy than Brazil, but YMMV

I would tend to argue that WalMart fears that unions will force them into a bad position of killing their major differentiation point--low price, and thus dramatically hurting their long term viability.

Given that WalMart's profits are partly built on ensuring that the taxpayer pays for their employees health care, I'm surprised you're so supportive of WalMart's employment practices, Sebastian.

WalMart is a leech: it pays so little that many of its employees can't afford to shop there even with employee discount - and many more may only be able to afford to shop at WalMart. WalMart pushes the costs of running WalMart off on to the taxpayers, who pay for WalMart employees to get health care and food stamps; on to other employers (who end up paying for WalMart employee health care if their employees are married to someone who works for WalMart - and of course on to WalMart's suppliers, who must continue to supply WalMart with the same kind of goods at ever-decreasing prices. Which in turn shoves their profits down and means they may not be able to pay their employees enough which in turn shoves more costs onto the taxpayer... and by the way, how much does WalMart outsource to China, etc?

Wasn't it Ford's dictum that employees had to be paid enough to be able to afford to buy a Model T Ford? Now that's good capitalist thinking...

And do you seriously find persuasive arguments that go "some X are bad, therefore that proves Xs are bad"?

The Teamsters are a pretty big and powerful union. Isn't that a good example? I can never live up to the Gary Farber standard.

Wasn't it Ford's dictum that employees had to be paid enough to be able to afford to buy a Model T Ford? Now that's good capitalist thinking...

He did, but he also thought Unions were a Zionist conspiracy, and I think he beat up his employees in the 30s.

If only we had an open thread to talk about more entertaining things....

I'm up for ranting about unbelievably messy and thoughtless people, myself.

I'm a glutton for punishment! Let's hope the they do an open thread.

LT,

You know the odd thing, the Teamsters have had a track record of supporting Republican candidates and other dubious dealings. They have been corrupt in many ways for a long time, but Gary's point still stands:

It's just one example.

So if I proposed that we should abolish corporations and then pointed to, say, Enron, as proof that corporations are bad, that wouldn't be the most persuasive evidence.

Similarly, regarding the tale of wasteful union spending in Philly (good story btw). Should I point to Ted Stevens' infamous bridge to nowhere to support an argument that we should abolish the Senate?

Accepting that some of you might find that last proposition appealing.

And do you seriously find persuasive arguments that go "some X are bad, therefore that proves Xs are bad"?

The Teamsters are a pretty big and powerful union. Isn't that a good example?

Do you seriously not understand the question?

You don't understand the fallacy of generalizing from anecdotes?

Here is a prominent military rape. Therefore, military personnel are rapists. Isn't that a good example?

Incidentally, are you unaware that the Teamsters has generally been a rock-solid Republican union?

[...] The Teamsters has been one of the few unions to support Republican candidates, backing Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. [...] Massive IBT contributions to President Richard Nixon's reelection committee led to Hoffa's release in 1971.
Do you not know this?

my one-time sweetie was extremely active in 1199, NYC

Dang! Either you are she is quite the old-timer! Was she a Viking or native?

Oh, you mean Local 1199? [Emily Latella]Never mind[/EL]

The Teamsters are a pretty big and powerful union. Isn't that a good example?

It's everyone's example, largely based on things that happened forty to fifty years ago. The Teamsters are big (because they've been poaching on and merging with other unions), but they're not powerful. They organize in pretty much every sector, which diffuses their strength, and they've lost most of the jobs in their core industry (long-haul trucking) since the Carter deregulation. I mean, they're famous, but that's mostly because every time unions are praised or defended, someone says, "What about the Teamsters?"

"Either you are she is quite the old-timer!"

She's dead.

Hmmm. Why would unions force Wal-Mart to raise their prices?

You seem to be arguing my point here:

Unions make Wal-Mart raise wages and benefits for workers. Wal-Mart passes on costs to consumers.

Step one is my entire point!

And that kind of "don't look past the first step" thinking is why liberals have a long track record of very serious problems with unintended consequences. Because if step 2 is that Ford and GM can't effectively compete with Toyota and Honda without erecting enormous step 3 tariffs causing step 4 economic problems that hit a much larger section of the economy than the few tens of thousands of people that may be getting somewhat better pay, that isn't good. (I say may, because it is not at all clear that many of the better workers in that group would be unable to get good pay). Or if alternatively step 2 is that GM goes under, that doesn't help the workers a whole lot.

Of course that can be stopped if you enlist the government to make sure that GM doesn't go under, often by making sure that effective competitors are not permitted to succeed, but then we are getting into a whole other area of problems--and I suspect you won't explicitly advocate in that direction.

"Check out Krugman's book, Conscience of a Liberal, and the lengthy bibliography at the end of that book. For starters. It is a theory that is, in fact, well supported."

The problem is I don't think you are putting forth any of the theories that are actually well supported. I'm sure there are *some* theories in the book that are well supported, but I'm skeptical of A) the idea that Krugman posits what you seem to think, and B) if he does so that it is in the core area of agreement among economists.

I do not believe that the proposition that unions are the thing (or a particularly noticeable thing) that differentiates between having or not having high CEO pay is correct, much less well supported. Your generalized appeal to authority without even quoting Krugman, much less pointing me toward a specific chapter, much less pointing me toward a specific study doesn't fill me with any more confidence in your bald assertion.

I think it is false, and thus far you haven't given me much confidence that you have any non-ideological reason to believe that the statement is true.

"PS: I would argue that place like Canada and Britain are closer analogues to the US economy than Brazil, but YMMV"

This kind of snark would be better if you weren't pretty studiously trying to avoid the point. Yes they are closer analogues to the US. Which perhaps should suggest that unionization levels aren't the defining factor in class stratification, right?

Incidentally, are you unaware that the Teamsters has generally been a rock-solid Republican union?

I did not know that, Gary. It's now my official fact of the day that I shall bother my co-workers with.

Everyone seems to be assuming that favouring easy unionisation is generally good for unions and workers and vice versa. I'm not sure this is true ...

I think there may be an outdated assumption that when people choose to sign a union card they are making a courageous decision to pursue their own economic interests, but if they vote differently its due to management intimidation.

In the only case I've actually witnessed, which concerned a non-profit organisation that actually works FOR unions, people signed union cards and even voted for reasons that had nothing to do with anything the union could reasonably help change - dislike of the management, resentment of federal and state policy changes, unrealistic expectations regarding individual pay and promotion, because of peer pressure etc.

All a union can actually do is negotiate pay and conditions, and they often don't help much with that, leaving it to untrained shop stewards. What is more, unions tend to restructure contracts to make negotiation en mass easier - all staff end up non-exempt, merit pay disappears, working conditions are based solely on seniority. This structure does not suit all businesses, let alone all organisations that are vulnerable. In the case I'm thinking of, the majority of ordinary employees probably lost out, and it did not help resolve any of the underlying issues.

I realise this is an anecdote, however, I think its worth giving some careful though to the idea that things that promote unionisation necessarily promote the good of workers.

Sebastian: If there's some reason why GM or Wal-Mart can't reduce their costs by cutting executive compensation, I'd like to hear it. You keep arguing that if a company raises the pay of its production workers, it simply *must* raise its prices. There may be workable alternatives, whose workability won't be explored in the absence of pressure from something very much like a union. But CEO salaries aren't a mathematical constant, as I understand it.

It's just one example.

So if I proposed that we should abolish corporations and then pointed to, say, Enron, as proof that corporations are bad, that wouldn't be the most persuasive evidence.

Enron's shenanigans and the resulting media certainly shined a light on the abuse of power in the corporate world to an average schmoe like myself. So I think it's a good example of "corporate greed". Should we abolish corporations? I don't think so, personally, but I don't think we should abolish unions either. I'm just skeptical of their effectiveness.

Here is a prominent military rape. Therefore, military personnel are rapists. Isn't that a good example?

Gary, I understand your point, but I disagree. That rape case is just one person. A union is a collective group of people and their dubious behavior can can often lead to legitamate concerns about unions as a whole. Just like Tailhook led the public to question Navy culture as a whole back in 1991 (which was a very appropriate concern from the public).

Gary,

I actually didn't know that the Teamsters were pro-Republican. So you taught me something, thanks. But if your comment is an attempt to zing me, I should probably let you know that I hate the GOP.

It's worth noting that today's Teamsters are not a rock-solid Republican union. Nor are they mobbed up. Justice Department receivership will do that for you. They're also considerably more internally small-d democratic than they used to be, though the bar was set pretty low. A friend in TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) was nearly killed by goons at a convention in the late 1970s.

In fact, to drive Gary's point home about not generalizing from a few examples, I'd encourage LT to reflect on the sobering stats wrt sexual assault and rape in the military, and on the DoD's evident determination to keep them quiet:

The Pentagon defied a Congressional subpoena yesterday by refusing to let the head of its sexual assault program testify at an oversight hearing about sexual assault in the military.

I'm not saying all men in the military are rapists, or a majority. But it's a big, big problem, and the longer the DoD takes the fingers-in-ears-hands-over-eyes approach, the worse it's going to get.

What I will say right now that a higher percentage of men in the military are rapists than the percentage of unions that are corrupt/mobbed-up.

Workers are one hell of a lot better off joining a union than women are to sign up for the military.

Here are some simple points.

Corporations generally view workers as a more or less fungible resource. If they will make a larger profit by firing people, they will. If they will make a larger profit by moving jobs offshore, they will.

We can complain about that not being a good thing, about it being short-sighted or hard-hearted, but there is no positive incentive provided to corporate managers to do anything but that. None. Their own jobs, and I believe their legal fiduciary responsibilites, require them to maximize return to shareholders, period.

So that is what they will do.

This may result in large scale disruptions to local economies, a decline in the real average working wage, etc etc etc. It's not the job of corporate managers to worry about that, and in fact they may be heavily penalized if they worry about that.

So they won't. That is the way the beast is wired.

If working people -- people who primarily live on wage income -- want to have their interests looked out for, they need to do it themselves.

Individually, they don't have a lot of clout. Collectively, they might.

So, that's why we have unions.

If you don't like unions, you need to restructure the game. You need to create positive incentives for corporate managers to actively watch out for the interests of the folks who work for them.

If you don't want to do that, then unions have to be in the mix.

It is, in fact, a pretty adversarial way to arrange things, and is prone to all of the inefficiencies that adversarial ways of solving problems fall prey to.

If you want to fix it, we need to fix the rules of the game. If you don't want to do that, hating on unions is just handing the game to management.

If you want to play the game of "this union rule is foolish", or "that union are thugs", trust me when I say they have nothing on corporate management.

If you want a non-adversarial way to organize the relationship between workers and their employers, you need to change the incentives that make the game the way it is.

Thanks -

I'm not saying all men in the military are rapists, or a majority. But it's a big, big problem, and the longer the DoD takes the fingers-in-ears-hands-over-eyes approach, the worse it's going to get.

I agree sexual assault is a problem in the military. But it's a problem with society as whole too (particularly male-on-female sexual violence, which is the most occuring), but it's not limited to the military, and it's definitely not encouraged (see UCMJ).

I actually didn't know that the Teamsters were pro-Republican. So you taught me something, thanks. But if your comment is an attempt to zing me, I should probably let you know that I hate the GOP.

But they do have the power to coerce employees into joining the union, extorting fees, and spending that money on lobbying for Democrats to win local elections.

I expect that was the relevant bit...

it's definitely not encouraged (see UCMJ).

Having rules on the books isn't really enough. In addition, you need active investigation and enforcement and you also need an institutional culture that values those rules. In order to assess those things, you'd need to compare prosecution rates and maybe look at how likely it is for other male soldiers to testify or otherwise support their fellow female soldiers when these things happen. You might also look to see how often superiors tried to hush up or downplay these incidents.

I think most rapists aren't stupid and it seems like they would hesitate a great deal more if they though that the community would react negatively to their actions, but it seems that most of these women have no one watching their back except other women. I'm rather shocked when I read stories about women who suffer medical problems because they can't pee because going off to use a latrine in an American military camp is too dangerous.

I expect that was the relevant bit...

Up there I was talking about the UAW president supporting Obama.

"Sebastian: If there's some reason why GM or Wal-Mart can't reduce their costs by cutting executive compensation, I'd like to hear it. You keep arguing that if a company raises the pay of its production workers, it simply *must* raise its prices."

Sure, it is easy. Except for the very most egregious cases (interestingly enough I'm thinking GM as an excellent example of a really bad case--which should problematize Eric's idea that firms with unions control executive pay) there just isn't enough executive compensation to go around.

You're having a scale problem with big numbers:

Let's take this stat from Eric at 100% face value:

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, C.E.O.’s of the largest firms were paid, on average, about 40 times as much as the average worker. Nowadays, it's closer to 350 times the average worker.

For ease of math let's peg the average worker at $100. That means the average CEO made $4000 under the old concept but now makes $35000. To get him back to the good-ole-day's scale we confiscate $31000. Now lets spread that across Walmart's 1,000,000 employees. They now get a 0.03% raise (not a 3% raise, a raise expressed as a decimal of 0.003.

And don't even start about how really most of the compensation is paid in equity anyway--a move that was heralded in the 1970s and 1980s as more properly aligning the CEO with the health of the company. That is one of the "in the first place" liberal reforms that had interesting consequences.

All a union can actually do is negotiate pay and conditions

And benefits.

Anecdotally speaking...in 2007 I went through a 3 month strike. It was the first strike at my organization - ever - in 77 years of unionized history. And to digress, this is a point of note: 98% of management-labour negotiations are resolved without any labour action (this is a Canadian statistic, but I assume it's very similar to the U.S.)

There were a lot of local political reasons for this, a civic workers strike, for which our mayor has paid the price by being booted by his own party, and which I won't bore you with.

But this is basically how our system works, and I apologize if this is simply restating what is already well understood by readers here: in the year before the contract is up, the union formally polls the workforce to rate which issues are important. This poll forms the core of the bargaining stance on the union's side. Management of course has it's positions. Items of agreement are checked off as resolved. Items of contention are then discussed, and if compromise is not arrived at, each side has the option to request various levels of arbitration. The bargaining committee can go to the membership to request a mandate for strike action. Contracts are offered, contracts are accepted or rejected, and things proceed. Etc.

It's adversarial by design, like the court system.

Inexperienced members elected to the bargaining committee can be a problem. Our own union has the support of the national union and it's professional staff for advice (they are allowed to sit at the table).

What is more, unions tend to restructure contracts to make negotiation en mass easier - all staff end up non-exempt, merit pay disappears, working conditions are based solely on seniority.

Not in our case. In the latest round, the union agreed that senior managers could be made exempt (it was left to the individual to decide). In the past we've also accepted pay increases of 0%. Merit pay doesn't really fit with our line of work, and seniority has always been the tie-breaker in a job competition.

The system is imperfect and sometimes extremely painful. But it is democratic.

Just want to point out that, on a blog in which we recently had a business owner, not two weeks ago, state flat out that if the top marginal personal income tax rate is raised 4%, he is going to fire half of his workers, russell's comment above is right the hell on point. Ain't nobody but workers going to look out for their own interests, and they have as much right to do so collectively as any corporate board of directors does.

For ease of math let's peg the average worker at $100. That means the average CEO made $4000 under the old concept but now makes $35000. To get him back to the good-ole-day's scale we confiscate $31000. Now lets spread that across Walmart's 1,000,000 employees. They now get a 0.03% raise (not a 3% raise, a raise expressed as a decimal of 0.003.

A raise of $.03 on $100 is 'a decimal of 0.0003, but that's just a nitpick.

Here's an actual question: if you make $30K by stealing 3 cents from each of a million people, have you committed grand larceny, or larceny so petty it's not worth arguing about? That's a real question. I am NOT equating CEO pay with larceny.

-- TP

Here's my analysis of the situation.

Corporations exist to allow for relatively low-risk accumulation of capital. Folks who invest their money in corporations can't have their personal assets seized or attached if the corporation incurs some kind of legal or financial liability. The money they invest can be forfeit, but only that money. There other assets are immune.

Corporations command enormous resources, and have very large impacts on nearly every area of modern life. There are lots and lots and lots of people and other actors who have a significant stake in what corporations do. The people who work for them, the people who live near them, the towns, counties, states, and countries that they pay taxes to, the businesses that trade with the corporation.

The people who make the strategic and operational decisions about what the corporation will do -- its management -- are bound, legally if I'm not mistaken, to consider one and only one of the many stakeholders when making their decisions. That would be the shareholders, the folks who invest their money in the corporation.

The shareholders are also the people who are immune from any negative consequences that flow from the decisions that the management makes. Other, of course, than possibly losing their money. But they won't be personally sued, won't lose their house or property, and won't go to jail.

So -- the only folks who the management is really allowed to consider in making decisions are the folks who are immune from the consequences of those decisions.

I don't know about anyone else, but this seems like a fundamentally broken situation.

IMVHO, all of the issues that have to do with the relationship between pretty much anyone affected by the actions of corporations and the corporations end up boiling down to this.

Labor issues, environmental issues, tax issues, industrial regulation, you name it. The managers must consider shareholders first and foremost, and the shareholders have no risk other than their capital. Which might be a lot of money, but it's not the same kind of risk as jail, or lawsuits, or any of the very many kinds of recourse that folks have when dealing with other kinds of actors.

I think the whole labor issue is just one of many forms of this.

Thanks -

russell,

That was a good summary. The shorter version that I remind myself of from time to time, is that in our legal system corporations enjoy the rights of a person, but if an actual individual behaved in a manner similar to how some ill-behaved corporations do, we would call them a sociopath.

"A raise of $.03 on $100 is 'a decimal of 0.0003, but that's just a nitpick."

Quite right, and it makes my point even more forcefully. :)

"That rape case is just one person."

No, there were plenty of rape cases in Okinawa by U.S. military personnel.

But it's not just Okinawa:

[...] Thirty-seven women who have served in Iraq and Kuwait in recent months have reported to a civilian group that they were sexually assaulted by fellow troops or superiors during their assignments overseas.
In fact:
The author of For Love of Country: Confronting Rape and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military, Nelson documents a problem that ought to give pause to women considering a military career.

"It is estimated that two-thirds of female service members experience unwanted, uninvited sexual behavior in the military," she writes.

[...]

A 1995 study by the Defense Department found 47 percent of women had received "unwanted sexual attention."

[...]

"Specifically, 9 percent of women in the Marines, 8 percent of women in the Army, 6 percent of women in the Navy and 4 percent of women in the Air Force and Coast Guard were victims of rape or attempted rape in one year alone," Nelson writes.

There you have it: military people are rapists. Just like unions are abusive.

If you believe "some X are bad, therefore that proves Xs are bad," which you appear to not understand is a logical fallacy.

"A union is a collective group of people and their dubious behavior can can often lead to legitamate concerns about unions as a whole."

So is and can the military. If one has no understanding of logic and illogic.

"I actually didn't know that the Teamsters were pro-Republican."

Not all locals everywhere, and not nationally at every moment in recent years; merely historically, particularly under Nixon and Reagan. Currently the national Teamsters have endorsed Obama.

They're also far less corrupt now. Funny how those two things go together.

Whoops, I accidentally commented with five links. Oh noes!

"Let's take this stat from Eric at 100% face value"

Gee, why not use the actual figures and documents I linked to, Sebastian?

Data. More. More.

It doesn't change my point at all, so.....

Sebastian, could you please release my aging comment from the spam queue, as per my email to you, and mention here? Thanks.

Sebastian, could you please release my aging comment from the [forbidden word] queue, as per my email to you, and mention here? Thanks.

It's really weird how one of the quirks of the s p a m filter is that once it thinks you've tried a you know, you can't use That Word That Starts WithS And Ends With M for several hours, or all such messages are also rejected. What a hell of a stupid system.

"A raise of $.03 on $100 is 'a decimal of 0.0003, but that's just a nitpick."

Quite right, and it makes my point even more forcefully. :)

Sebastian, your point was that redistributing 'excessive' CEO pay to the 'workers' would spread the money so thin it's not worth arguing about. My question back at you was whether the reverse redistribution (one guy getting thirty grand by stealing three cents from each of a million people) would be any more worth arguing about. Evidently, you think it's not :-)

-- TP

in our legal system corporations enjoy the rights of a person, but if an actual individual behaved in a manner similar to how some ill-behaved corporations do, we would call them a sociopath.

I agree with this. Corporations frequently act in fundamentally anti-social ways, and unless their action is specifically against the law, there's no lever to make them change their behavior.

I guess there are things like boycotts, but many corporations don't really traffic in broadly based consumer goods. Go ahead and try to boycott ADM, or Halliburton.

The thing is, not to be too dramatic, but at a certain point folks start blowing stuff up and shooting at each other. It's not my cup of tea, but it happens. And it's happened here before. It's not like it's unimaginable.

Anti-social corporate behavior needs to be kept on a very short leash, for all of our best interests.

Thanks -

There you have it: military people are rapists. Just like unions are abusive.

Fair enough. You cited legitimate evidence. I always enjoy defending the military as an institution in the comments section of liberal blogs, even though this specific thread is about unions and management. Maybe I'll go drink some more now.

"I always enjoy defending the military as an institution in the comments section of liberal blogs,"

I'm not sure what that has to do with anything, since there's no defense needed against an insanely illogical "charge" that makes no sense. You really seem to be missing the point, over and over and over again.

Gary: Currently the national Teamsters have endorsed Obama.

They're also far less corrupt now. Funny how those two things go together.

Might that have something to do with his telling them that he supports ending the federal oversight of the union? Isn’t that decision best left to Justice and the independent review board?

I’m inclined to believe that they learned their lesson and it probably is time to lift that oversight, but I don’t think that the president should be involved in the decision.

It's really weird how one of the quirks of the s p a m filter is that once it thinks you've tried a you know, you can't use That Word That Starts WithS And Ends With M for several hours, or all such messages are also rejected. What a hell of a stupid system.

I agree. It seems to think that spammers announce in their spam that it’s, you know, spam.

Gary: Currently the national Teamsters have endorsed Obama.

They're also far less corrupt now. Funny how those two things go together.

Might that have something to do with his telling them that he supports ending the federal oversight of the union? Isn’t that decision best left to Justice and the independent review board?

I’m inclined to believe that they learned their lesson and it probably is time to lift that oversight, but I don’t think that the president should be involved in the decision.


It's really weird how one of the quirks of the s p a m filter is that once it thinks you've tried a you know, you can't use That Word That Starts WithS And Ends With M for several hours, or all such messages are also rejected. What a hell of a stupid system.

I agree. I tried to respond in detail, but I said the S-word. You can guess the rest.

It's really weird how one of the quirks of the s p a m filter is that once it thinks you've tried a you know, you can't use That Word That Starts WithS And Ends With M for several hours, or all such messages are also rejected.

It's an occupational hazard. Software engineers often take things extremely literally.

"But you said you wanted to filter out sp*m".

Thanks -

Hmm, Gray, you're holding hairshirthedonist, who's only crime it was to have mixed feelings about unions, to an impossibly high standard here, demanding that he/she provide verifiable evidence regarding the effect unions have on socioeconomic developments. And then you make your own pro-union case saying:

I think unions are, per se, generally, a good thing, which like every entity, can and sometimes do do bad and/or stupid things, and sometimes become corrupt entities. But overall they clearly seem to be beneficial and desirable to me, while, of course, like anything and everything, their bad tendencies need to be watched over and guarded against.

This is all incredibly vague and contains way too many caveats to be informative. Maybe having mixed feelings about unions isn't such a preposterous stance after all, especially when they are being discussed on such a macro-level.

oops, I meant Gary

For ease of math let's peg the average worker at $100. That means the average CEO made $4000 under the old concept but now makes $35000. To get him back to the good-ole-day's scale we confiscate $31000. Now lets spread that across Walmart's 1,000,000 employees. They now get a 0.03% raise (not a 3% raise, a raise expressed as a decimal of 0.003.

This would be a very good point but for one thing: It's not just the CEO's salary. The entire executive class has outsized salaries, and if you moderated that echelon's compensation, you could actually improve the lot of workers.

Further, that is but one manifestation of union's working to fix vast disparity. It is not the only one by any stretch.

"This would be a very good point but for one thing: It's not just the CEO's salary. The entire executive class has outsized salaries, and if you moderated that echelon's compensation, you could actually improve the lot of workers."

What do you think the ratio of executives to non-executives is to defeat my point? 1:1? 5:1? Because unless you think there are at least a 1:10 ratio of executives paid *high enough to count as CEOs* in that kind of equation you just aren't understanding the magnitude of the math.

Or put it another way: to get from the 0.0003 increase to something meaningful(like may 2 which would be 2% and therefore not a whole lot) you would have to believe that there are enough executive salaries to make up 6500X the CEO's salary.

Which I hope you realize is completely ridiculous.

"Further, that is but one manifestation of union's working to fix vast disparity. It is not the only one by any stretch."

You haven't even demonstrated THIS 'manifestation' even in gross outline, much less some other manifestation so completely vague that you can't even name it.

Is it that you just don't understand the math?

Basically, whatever your beef about executive salaries actually is, the idea that it is particularly tied to worker salaries in some general way such that you could reduce executive salaries to make a meaningful change in worker salaries only makes sense if you don't bother with actual numbers. Your statement that "if you moderated that echelon's compensation, you could actually improve the lot of workers" is just flat out wrong.

Or put it another way: to get from the 0.0003 increase to something meaningful(like may 2 which would be 2% and therefore not a whole lot) you would have to believe that there are enough executive salaries to make up 6500X the CEO's salary.

Say what? In your original example, the factor of .0003 means a 0.03% raise per worker. A 2% raise is thus a factor of .02, not 2. The ratio is then 65x, not 6500x. If you're going to commit arithmetic, try to keep track of your own orders of magnitude.

-- TP

"Hmm, Gray, you're holding hairshirthedonist"

You seem to have not noticed the difference between claiming something as a fact, and stating a personal opinion. Yeah, there's a difference in applicable standards. "The unions and their membership around here tend toward overt thuggery" is a claim of fact. I made no claim of fact when I stated my bias, any more than hairshirthedonist did when stating "I have mixed feelings about unions," which I, of course, had no argument with.

"Say what? In your original example, the factor of .0003 means a 0.03% raise per worker. A 2% raise is thus a factor of .02, not 2. The ratio is then 65x, not 6500x. If you're going to commit arithmetic, try to keep track of your own orders of magnitude."

No.

In my original example the base is $100 so 2% of that is 2.0. That is exactly 100X off which is exactly what you think the order of magnitude error is, so I suspect that is the cause of confusion.


You seem to have not noticed the difference between claiming something as a fact, and stating a personal opinion.

Well, you implied that hairshirthedonist was trying to smear unions in general, yet the only thing he/she can be accused of is having overgeneralized a little. Yet, we make such generalizations all the time despite the fact that there are always exceptions, so I don't think your attack was justfied.

Seb:
In your original example each worker gets a $0.03 raise. You now seem to claim that to make the raise $2.00, we have to scale up the raise by a factor of 6500. Do you see the problem?

Look, keep it simple: if you have an executive earning the same pay as 310 workers, then just 3500 such executives would be earning pay equal to the pay of a million workers. Spread that executive pay out, and you DOUBLE the pay of each worker. DOUBLE = factor of 2, not 2%.

-- TP

"Look, keep it simple: if you have an executive earning the same pay as 310 workers, then just 3500 such executives would be earning pay equal to the pay of a million workers. Spread that executive pay out, and you DOUBLE the pay of each worker. DOUBLE = factor of 2, not 2%."

A .03 raise on a $100 base isn't 3%.

There isn't a typical group of companies with 3500 executives making 310 times the workers on a base of a million workers so I have no idea why you think your numbers shed any light whatsoever on the topic. The fact that you would try to use such a set of numbers suggests you just aren't getting the scale at all.

1 million / 3500 is about one CEO or CEO level of pay administrator per 285 workers. And that is CEO at 310 times the worker's base which isn't the typical company at all. Companies with 285 workers aren't paying their CEO 310 times the average worker's salary unless it is a fluke like Google. You aren't talking about reality here. On any average base of a million workers you don't have anywhere near 3500 'such executives'. There are probably less than 5,000 'such executives' in the entire country. That is on a worker base of approximately 170 million.

You aren't looking at the scale.

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