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December 09, 2008

Comments

Coal miners should change industries. Our president elect has said he plans to bankrupt the industry.

Everyone here should read Thomas Geoghegan, author of "The Law In Shambles", and "Whose Side Are You On?", two brilliant books. His proposal?

"Amend the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination "on the basis of union membership"?

I agree with this simple and effective policy to "level the playing field", a goal advocated by most commenters here who pretty much agree the playing field is currently tilted way in favor of employors.

So what's not to like? Discuss.

fledermaus, I have worked in a factory union shop. I have seen and heard about such incidents. (They've also been in the news over the years.)

I have seen co-workers that won't speak to someone designated as a SCAB years before, even if it is required as part of their job. I've seen people reduced to tears over their name being posted (anonymously) as a SCAB. I wasn't there for the time union pickets scattered nails on the road to keep workers (even non-union) from crossing the picket line, but I knew people who were required to report (salaried) that got flat tires.

I agree that in the history of unionization companies have done a lot of bad things, but that doesn't mean the unions and/or their members/supporters have been saints.

I HAVE seen cases where the union overpromised what they could deliver in a campaign. I HAVE seen a man's job saved by the union even though he had smuggled a mattress into an air duct and spent most of his shift there.

Part of the problem with this discussion seems to be the COMPANIES ARE EVIL/UNIONS ARE EVIL dichotomy. Neither one is always EVIL, neither one is all good. Neither one is always acting in the interest of the individual worker. (See my first post where I mention the workers with seniority draining the SUB fund voluntarily so there was nothing left for those actually laid off.)

To me the right of a secret ballot protects the rights OF THE INDIVIDUAL WORKER, not either of the corporate entities.

Following is one of those cite thingies folks around here seem so fond of:

http://thegspot.typepad.com/blog/2008/07/tom-geoghegan-m.html

A brief intro into Tom G. and his work.

"Amend the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination "on the basis of union membership"?

I agree with this simple and effective policy to "level the playing field", a goal advocated by most commenters here who pretty much agree the playing field is currently tilted way in favor of employors.

If you want to level the playing field, legalize and institutionalize the sympathy strike, repeal Taft-Hartley.

Until then, capital f*cks over labor and that's the way it's going to be.

United we stand, that's always the fear of corporatists and their lesser-paid sycophants.

"That's the very reason I left a job i'd held for 5 years and struck out on my own . . ."

We can assume (or at least hope) that you either succeeded or managed to avoid catastrophic failure. Of course, entrepreneurship is a very, very tricky business - while estimates seem to vary (and there are differences across various sectors), we can toss out, as a ballpark figure, a four year survival rate for new small businesses of slightly <50%, dropping to about a third by seven years. (source). So in the rather short run, 'striking out on one's own' is a gamble with slightly worse odds than wagering one's future on a coin toss. Additionally, one might assume that we're talking about significant self-selection going on, with some percentage correctly judging themselves to be above average in whatever skills - drive, experience, connections, intelligence, education, ~ frontal lobe function - would at least give them a chance, with luck, to make a reasonable go of it. (Not even getting into how the criterion here isn't just non-failure, but doing better than one's previous employment.)

" Political action is not the best way forward. Finding another job is the best way forward."

And surely in some cases this is, on an individual level, true. And in many cases it really obviously isn't - and then there are the folks in the first group who lack the knowledge, skill, or judgement to recognize the opportunity, for an effective no. So the question becomes, should we base a major component of our economic system on the (atypical) experience of an individual blessed with some happy mix of innate potentials, fortunate life experiences & social matrix, and unpredictable opportunities, in a complex mosaic of fate and chance? Or should we consider overall reality, including both everybody's else's hope that by working hard they might make a relatively decent living with reasonable dignity, and the fact that a consumer-based democracy is doubly in need of a large, stable middle class?

Or, concretely: Mrs. S. is an elementary school teacher, a rather good one to the degree we can measure such things. She's very much an 110 - make that 120- percenter. Some of this goes towards trainings and curriculum development and etc., and it's possible that if that was her true passion, it just might make sense to try striking out as a ed. consultant. But it's not; elementary teaching is. Should she aim for precious special snowflake status when it comes to earning-power; does this make sense given how opportunities are currently structured? (Perhaps she could join one of the bands of wandering teachers that stop in isolated villages to barter lessons for wrinkly turnips - I mean, if we might be ignoring actual reality, we could at least get some kickass little blue men in the bargain . . . ). To be fair, once or twice, in badly dysfunctional situations, she desperately resorted to raw individual bargaining power with mild success; necessary, imo, because idiosyncratic local conditions limit union action, & mildly successful because between the small staff, enormous recruitment/retention issues, and, ie, the year she had all but a few of the kids reach proficient or better, flipping the school - and iirc, district - averages, they were willing to go an extra couple millimeters to hang on to her. But all the atypicalness that made that both necessary and at all possible aside, note that this itself is atypical, a rare one or two time thing. Thanks to the union, there isn't a potential need to go nuclear on every bloody, exhausting little issue (or to keep one's powder dry and suck up endless no-prep days, lost lunches, countless petty abuses, etc.); there's - despite aforementioned limitations - a contract to point to and union officials to get one's back (and know the fine details), so administrators aren't going to dump 45 kids into a classroom; finally, there's no need to individually navigate the madness-inducing maze of health and other benefits (at, one would add, a potentially immense disadvantage), along with the ability to earn a reasonably middle-class salary. Etc. (And remember, this is a specific example that one might think would be a pretty-good-case scenario for strict specialsnowflakeness.

Coal miners should change industries.

Well, clearly, that solves that.

Who is going to hire, either as an employee or as a contractor, all of the people who currently work mines, are home health aides, hotel maids, work in cafeterias, mow lawns, pick fruit, or nursing home attendants?

Etc.

Do they all hang out their shingle as independent contractors in their former fields?

If not, what industry do they change to?

How do they acquire whatever skills they might need to make that change?

How do they afford health care for themselves and their families when they embark on this bold new adventure?

Not everyone is an entrepreneur. The market for goods and services can only support so many entrepreneurs.

At some point, somebody has to make the damned donuts. Somebody has to empty the trash, mop the floor, drive the truck, pick the apple, and wipe the nursing home patient's behind.

There are some industries where no reasonable substitute exists, or can exist, for hands-on labor.

It's wonderful that you've found a way to break out of plain old working for a wage. That doesn't work for everyone. If for no other reason than most people who end up starting their own thing have to work for somebody else first to acquire the capital to do so.

Absent something like a union, those folks operate at a disadvantage. There is no good reason on earth why they should not organize themselves to improve their bargaining position.

Personally, I don't really give a damn whether we go with a card check system or a secret ballot one. Each one obviously has its advantages and its flaws. Historically, our own national elections have operated more or less effectively using both.

The bottom line is that working people -- people who work for a wage -- have damned few advantages. If you've found a better way, great, but it's not practical for everyone to quit their day job. The folks who do hands-on labor deserve the right to make the best deal they can for themselves.

Thanks -

And what russell said back around 9:30ish, too.

Anyway - personally, I'd kinda like to see unionization as the automatic default setting in a reasonably wide range of circumstances, with the option of voting for a non-union shop. But that aside, the way I'm looking at card check - well, I'm assuming we're going to keep a recognizably similar political/ideological situation for a while re: labor issues. That is, relatively limited support at best, and powerful interests that simply don't accept unions as legitimate ( not just workaday structural opposition, but Walmartism) and are well-represented in and by the GOP. Who, sooner or later will be right back in power (or at least that faction will regain full influence with whoever). So we need something that can function even if rules & regulations are being ignored or gutted or corrupted or etc. - at least up to the point anything's going to reliably work under such circumstances. Card check seems like one of the least of such things.

Of course, that assumption might be completely off, but . . ..

"Anyway - personally, I'd kinda like to see unionization as the automatic default setting in a reasonably wide range of circumstances, with the option of voting for a non-union shop."

The problem with this is how can you 'default' to a union? Which union?

Exactly. So why wouldn't that person recognize that it's best shot at fair compensation is to be a free agent cleaning hotel rooms as a subcontractor?

That sound you hear is the sound of a million hotel maids smacking their heads with their palms. "Why didn't *I* think of that!"

"Anyway - personally, I'd kinda like to see unionization as the automatic default setting in a reasonably wide range of circumstances, with the option of voting for a non-union shop.

Yes. Exactly. And I think this is one of the lenses you have to look at card check through.

The anti-union folks would obviously prefer that the initial union formation process in a workplace involve some kind of Socratically pure election. (Or at to imagine that's how it should work,)

But in real life, that's just really not possible. And there's no fundamental philosophical reason the initial union formation process needs to be an "election" of any kind. Majority sign-up means a majority of workers say they want a union. So form one. Once you, you have real elections for officers, you have a constitution. There's nothing about the union that's going to automatically bankrupt a company - it's up to everyone to negotiate a reasonable contract.

Then, once everyone's seen it in action, it's always possible for workers to decide to disband it.

Or they can just leave and find a new job - after all, that is *usually* what a right-winger would say, no?

"Yes. Exactly. And I think this is one of the lenses you have to look at card check through."

Right, I do understand that because you really really want unions that you are willing to abandon normal procedural protections. And the fact that I want normal procedural protections means that calling me anti-union is apparently a great defense.

You don't accept that as a good argument in the 'you want procedural protections therefore you must be pro-terrorist' discussion and I'm not accepting it here.

I really would like one of the pro-card check people here to explain what they think secret ballot is good for, why we normally use it, and why all these arguments about company wrong doing mean that we have to screw the worker out of the protection.

It seems to me that you are doing exactly what you accuse the company of doing--seeing the worker and his desires as merely in the way of what your ultimate aims are.

You allegedly are doing it for his own good. Funny how you have to strip away his protections to do it.

"Or they can just leave and find a new job - after all, that is *usually* what a right-winger would say, no?"

You seem to think this is funny. But perhaps it is just as revealing of your real attitude toward the worker: screw him unless he does what I want.

Is that the left-wing thing?

Right, I do understand that because you really really want unions that you are willing to abandon normal procedural protections. And the fact that I want normal procedural protections means that calling me anti-union is apparently a great defense.

I don't really accept that there is any such thing as "normal procedural protections" in this case.

For an election, with two competing candidates for Senate or what have you, a secret ballot is a perfectly reasonable idea. But it would be a stupid way to make every decision in, say, a staff meeting. "Teh Secret Ballot" is not the holy grail of democratic decision making, or "procedural protections".

Your view is, I think it's fair to say, that non-union is the default state, and it should therefore be relatively difficult to move to a unionized state. So you're coming at this from the perspective that union formation is an "election", with all of the "protections" that entails. And that's fine, but it's not at all self evident that this is the way it should be.

We could also decide that unions should be very easy to form, with democratic decision making by workers (including the decision to dissolve the union) taking place within the framework of the union once it's formed.

"Or they can just leave and find a new job - after all, that is *usually* what a right-winger would say, no?"

You seem to think this is funny. But perhaps it is just as revealing of your real attitude toward the worker: screw him unless he does what I want.

Is that the left-wing thing?

The left-wing thing is that unions and the better power dynamic they enable are good for workers, good for the middle class, and good for the country.

The above was vaguely directed in the direction of Dave, and his comments about hotel workers somehow striking out on their own as "subcontractors".

Ok, lets examine unions as the non-default position.

It sounds nice, like "lights off at night" might be the default position for an unoccupied building at night compared to "lights on at night" if we were talking about saving electricity.

The problem is that there isn't such a thing as a lower case non-specific 'union' to which you can default.

You are talking about forcing workers in a workplace to submit by default to a specific union's political structure and bargaining units. You are talking about forcing workers to submit by default to a specific union's baggage and poor leadership. You are talking about forcing workers to submit by default to a specific union's power hierarchy and decision making.

Now you don't identify WHICH union you are forcing them to deal with by default because you haven't thought that far ahead. I presume you have some notions of a 'good union' that you want to default to.

But the whole discussion here is about workers choosing to select a particular union. Not a non-specific 'union'. Something specific like the United Auto Workers, or the Teamsters.

In THAT selection process, you want to take away secret ballot.

In practice, there aren't all that many unions to choose from and it's probably not an issue most of the time.

But it'd be pretty easy to just allow multiple unions to be formed (each with a majority signup process), then either have a a more detailed procedure to select which one, or work out a cooperative arrangement to share dues, let workers choose which union they prefer, bargain jointly, etc.

"In practice, there aren't all that many unions to choose from and it's probably not an issue most of the time."

I'm afraid you fell into my trap. ;)

You're quite right.

So the choice then is: "Do I want to be bound to the Teamsters, or not?"

And that choice is the choice you don't want to be secret ballot.

Umm. Yes. I think that's more or less an accurate statement of my position.

So...?

"Do I want to be bound to the Teamsters, or not?"

Probably neither here nor there, but this is fairly curious phrasing.

Glad you are willing to admit it.

So your scheme is to protect the Teamsters, not the workers who may or may not want the Teamsters.

That is a perfectly coherent position if you want it.

No. That doesn't make any sense.

The "scheme" is to allow workers to join a union (the Teamsters, the Machinists, SEIU, a combination, whatever) by signing up a majority who wish to do so.

As I said, in most cases the choice of which union to affiliate with is probably pretty obvious based on the company or the type of work being done - maybe one or two choices. And if someone would prefer a different union, it would be trivial to allow more than one union to be formed, and then resolve any conflict.

I fail to see how any of that is "protecting" the Teamsters.

'Signing up' and 'wishing to do so' are separate categories, which is the whole point.

Huh?

@jack lecou:

What's confusing you is Sebastian's assumption, which you may not share, that the Teamsters are a union in which intimidation plays a big role. He appears to believe that in an era of card check that they would sweep all before them because thugs would intimidate workers into signing Teamster cards.

Facts that might cloud the handy Teamsters = thug union stereotype include he actual recent history of the Teamsters union, the range of degree of internal democracy among actually existing unions, which unions organize which workplaces, how that's negotiated among unions, etc.

Nell-

That does cast some light on the recent exchange. The focus on specific unions is otherwise something of a non-sequitur.

I'm still trying to give him the benefit of the doubt though. His language really suggests to me that his background assumptions include the idea that unions are predators or parasites, with workers and employers their hapless victims.

I have seen co-workers that won't speak to someone designated as a SCAB years before, even if it is required as part of their job. I've seen people reduced to tears over their name being posted (anonymously) as a SCAB.

dnfree,

That's just my point - co-workers not talking to you, oh heavens that's just so awful and wrong and evil. But your employer fires you for cause, with no unemployment benefits and no notice. Eh no biggie, toughen up, serf!

"He appears to believe that in an era of card check that they would sweep all before them because thugs would intimidate workers into signing Teamster cards."

The *very* recent era of unions hasn't had much violence, but one could argue that it is because of worries about the Bush administration anti-union focus.

But step back just to the 1990s and you can find union violence including murder around organizing and strikes.

You are essentially in the position of the newspaper headlines which always state confusedly: "Crime down but prison population up" as if that created an inexplicable mystery.

Fledermaus: "That's just my point - co-workers not talking to you, oh heavens that's just so awful and wrong and evil. But your employer fires you for cause, with no unemployment benefits and no notice. Eh no biggie, toughen up, serf!"

I presume you are against hostile work environment lawsuits, or do you reserve this opinion ONLY for people who don't like their union?

Jack, "His language really suggests to me that his background assumptions include the idea that unions are predators or parasites, with workers and employers their hapless victims."

Human institutions often abuse on individuals who disagree with them. That is true of unions, employers, clubs, gangs, and churches.

I prefer setting up political structures which make it easy to avoid the institutions who are likely to abuse you. Check card is bad because it sets up a forced association (that is the nature of unions in the workplace) and makes it easy to either A) identify those who disagree with you or B) force them to VOTE in your favor in order to avoid being identified.

In an emotional situation like that which almost always surrounds a contested union organization drive (if it isn't contested they don't care about secret ballot as they will easily win) card check sets up an employee for abuse if he doesn't sign. That abuse may range from social shunning (which would be decried by you if the shunning was based on say being Jewish or a woman or gay) to sabotage, to murder. The entire range has been seen as recently as 10 years ago.

All of the things complained about thus far can be addressed through means other than purposely subjecting a workers to the potential for abuse.

I'm not at all suggesting that unions are unique in their desire to punish and abuse dissenters. I've seen it in churches and companies and political parties and informal clubs. I'm saying that there is no reason to make it so easy in an already emotionally charged situation.

"That's just my point - co-workers not talking to you, oh heavens that's just so awful and wrong and evil. But your employer fires you for cause, with no unemployment benefits and no notice."

I just don't understand this point of view.

Problem: Companies can hurt workers unfairly.

Solution: Make it easier for other organizations to hurt workers unfairly???

I prefer setting up political structures which make it easy to avoid the institutions who are likely to abuse you. Check card is bad because it sets up a forced association (that is the nature of unions in the workplace) and makes it easy to either A) identify those who disagree with you or B) force them to VOTE in your favor in order to avoid being identified.

In an emotional situation like that which almost always surrounds a contested union organization drive (if it isn't contested they don't care about secret ballot as they will easily win) card check sets up an employee for abuse if he doesn't sign. That abuse may range from social shunning (which would be decried by you if the shunning was based on say being Jewish or a woman or gay) to sabotage, to murder. The entire range has been seen as recently as 10 years ago.

...

I'm not at all suggesting that unions are unique in their desire to punish and abuse dissenters. I've seen it in churches and companies and political parties and informal clubs. I'm saying that there is no reason to make it so easy in an already emotionally charged situation.

But that argument has to be predicated on the idea that unionization is not (on average) going to make workers much better off. That's an assumption that I don't really see being supported by the facts.

If unionization DOES make workers better off, it's an issue of tradeoffs. Violence or physical threats are obviously never excusable, but even at their worst they're relatively rare. And they're much more easily discoverable and prosecutable than punitive firings, so I don't think they're inevitable. (Also, I'm guessing the murders and incidents of violence have a little more story behind them then just somebody politely declining to sign the card when an organizer knocks on the door...)

Stuff along the lines of silent treatment for "scabs" don't bother me that much. For one, because these individuals have in fact committed a "crime" against their coworkers (which is not analogous to a situation with racists or what have you).

For another, in a unionization drive, either a majority of workers are "truly" pro, or a majority are against. If the former, the union will be formed and the winners are unlikely to feel much need to ostracize or abuse the losers. If the latter, the supposed victims are in the majority.

If you look at actual union locals, there's obviously plenty of grumpiness about things like dues increases or percieved inattention from HQ, and, occasionally, fights over things like officer positions, contract details, or constitutional amendments. What you DON'T see much of are strong movements to disband the union and lose all the contract and benefits, or any general impulse to stick it to the grouchy minority who would really rather not have the union.

I'd also note that in many ways the motives for abuse could go down in an era of strengthened labor. For example, strong national unions with deep strike funds would help keep any individual workers from needing to risk crossing a picket line. More widespread unionization also would expose more people to the benefits, and immunize them against many of the arguments from businesses.

All of the things complained about thus far can be addressed through means other than purposely subjecting a workers to the potential for abuse.

This is obviously the point under contention.

I'd also note that majority sign up is already the norm in a variety of places (including at major employers like AT&T), and seems to work very smoothly.

The vicious conflict you're envisioning just isn't widespread enough to justify the supposed necessity of "secret ballots".

I just don't understand this point of view.

Problem: Companies can hurt workers unfairly.

Solution: Make it easier for other organizations to hurt workers unfairly???

The argument is that there is a difference of quantity, not of kind. All hurt is not equal.

"But that argument has to be predicated on the idea that unionization is not (on average) going to make workers much better off. That's an assumption that I don't really see being supported by the facts."

That assumes that it is impossible to form a union if you have a secret ballot, but not if you have them sign cards.

Why are they signing cards but not voting for the union?

"(Also, I'm guessing the murders and incidents of violence have a little more story behind them then just somebody politely declining to sign the card when an organizer knocks on the door...)"

You don't have to guess, you can read. I linked some cases. And frankly I find this nudge and wink a little disturbing.

"Stuff along the lines of silent treatment for "scabs" don't bother me that much. For one, because these individuals have in fact committed a "crime" against their coworkers (which is not analogous to a situation with racists or what have you)."

Nice. Perhaps you want card check BECAUSE it allows hurt to be visited upon workers who don't like the union.

Do other liberal readers agree with this?

"I'd also note that in many ways the motives for abuse could go down in an era of strengthened labor. For example, strong national unions with deep strike funds would help keep any individual workers from needing to risk crossing a picket line. More widespread unionization also would expose more people to the benefits, and immunize them against many of the arguments from businesses."

That is an interesting claim. It seems precisely opposite real history in the United States. Union violence down in 2000s higher in 1990s and higher still in the 1980s. Is it your contention that unions are stronger now than they were in 1980?

"For another, in a unionization drive, either a majority of workers are "truly" pro, or a majority are against. If the former, the union will be formed and the winners are unlikely to feel much need to ostracize or abuse the losers. If the latter, the supposed victims are in the majority."

"The vicious conflict you're envisioning just isn't widespread enough to justify the supposed necessity of "secret ballots".

If this were really true, they will win a secret ballot.

The problem I have with a huge number of your arguments is that if they were really true, the union would win in a secret ballot.

Why are you continually providing arguments which are either false, or which prove that card check shouldn't be necessary?

That assumes that it is impossible to form a union if you have a secret ballot, but not if you have them sign cards.

Why are they signing cards but not voting for the union?

No, not impossible, just far more difficult. If unions are desirable, they should be easy to form. Arguments against ease of formation are predicated on the idea that they are either undesirable, or at least less desirable than necessary to balance the side effects of the formation mechanism.

I'd also note here that the lack of majority sign up does not eliminate nastiness, so the incremental difference in nastiness, if any, is strictly marginal - you can't use ALL incidence of union-formation related violence as arguments against majority signup.

Nice. Perhaps you want card check BECAUSE it allows hurt to be visited upon workers who don't like the union.

Scabs are not workers who merely passively "don't like" the union. Scabs are actively undermining the welfare of their fellows, and this is categorically different from a situation where one group punishes another for merely being different. And I'd prefer suffering not be visited up anyone, even social shunning, I'm just hard-pressed to view this as any kind of particularly egregious human rights violation. Certainly not one equivalent to punitive firing...

You don't have to guess, you can read. I linked some cases. And frankly I find this nudge and wink a little disturbing.

There is no nudge nudge here, Mr. Mindreader. And I don't really appreciate your implication. I'm just pointing out that union fights can be nasty - something that a lack of majority sign-up obviously can't solve. If you'd like to point cases that are related to majority sign up particularly, be my guest.

That is an interesting claim. It seems precisely opposite real history in the United States. Union violence down in 2000s higher in 1990s and higher still in the 1980s. Is it your contention that unions are stronger now than they were in 1980?

I think the union movement in the 80's was weak as well, though possibly in different ways. I'd be more interested in a comparison with countries with genuinely strong labor movements.

If this were really true, they will win a secret ballot.

The problem I have with a huge number of your arguments is that if they were really true, the union would win in a secret ballot.

This is obviously not true. In any work setting where a unionization drive might be successful, there's at least SOME workers who feel they are being treated unfairly. There will also be some who are ambivalent, and some who feel well treated. I'd hazard to say that if there are SOME workers who feel mistreated, MOST workers probably feel at least somewhat mistreated, at least if they thought about it.

But even if MOST workers feel mistreated, and are pro-union in the abstract, there's a large block that'll be weaker, and fearful of how the employer might react. That's the block employers seek to split off with intimidation, punishment, and lies. The fact that that those tactics often work isn't actually evidence that the workers were anti union...

I'm having visions of Sebastian, like, sitting in his office, and a bunch of his colleagues asking where he wants to go to lunch, and him being all like SECRET BALLOT GUYS WHY DO YOU HATE DEMOCRACY???

Do votes at board of directors meetings occur by secret ballot? If not, why is Sebastian not out fighting this horrible injustice?

Votes for representatives of the shareholders (which is to say the board of directors) are almost never traceable back to the shareholders.

You are confusing the votes of a deliberative body (the board) with votes to elect the deliberative body.

It is like arguing that votes are disclosed IN the Senate as an argument against votes FOR Senators.

Whoops dropped a crucial word. It is like arguing that votes are disclosed IN the Senate as an argument against secret ballot in votes FOR Senators.

I'd point out that in fact the magical "secret ballot" is routinely violated in Senate elections.

In Oregon, for example, all votes are by mail-in ballot. That means that if George McMoneybags, or Johnny Wiseguy wants to run for Senator, he can send someone to my house to offer $500 or a pair of broken legs, respectively, if I fill out my ballot in their presence and seal it up. But that sort of thing is illegal, and Oregon has decided that the benefits of its system outweigh the risk of it happening.

jack lecou: I think the union movement in the 80's was weak as well, though possibly in different ways. I'd be more interested in a comparison with countries with genuinely strong labor movements.

As I think I noted somewhere upthread, where you get violence committed by union members on union-related issues in the UK, it seems to be strongly correlated to trades where, without a strong union enforcing safety measures, workers tend to get killed or maimed. A lot. Miners; steelworkers; the shipbuilding unions. Sebastian mentioned the Teamsters - isn't that a truck drivers' union? Similiar thing.

When a person knows their life is on the line if their employer doesn't enforce the safety regulations rigorously, and when they see their union as their safeguard against their employer for their lives - not "just" their wages, but their health, wellbeing, and their life - then you can get, and did get in the coal mining communities in the UK until Thatcher broke the NUM and destroyed the coalmining industry in the 1980s, a very strong sense of comradeship with your fellow workers/union members, and a very strong sense that people who take advantage of the union's benefits without being willing to join the union, are betraying their fellow workers. For their lives. I'm going by what I've read and what I've heard, not from first-hand or even direct second-hand experience. This doesn't justify violence, but I am prepared to bet that the number of workers killed each year by "industrial accident" in any of the industries whose unions Sebastian named, exceeds the total number of union-related murders that Sebastian has referenced. That is, in any one industry, more people have died because of their job in any one year than the total number Sebastian can find of people killed by union workers.

But remember, it's only class warfare when the workers fight back: it's never called class warfare when ordinary working people get killed because their employers want higher profits.

Union violence down in 2000s higher in 1990s and higher still in the 1980s.

Hmmm. If there had been some sort of historic reversal or transformation of US labor policy in the early 1980s then that might explain it. Heck it might even have something to do with Iron Maggie backing down in '81 and standing firm in '84.

But since nothing like that happened, this is clearly just one of those mysteries of nature.

Sebastian, I generally agree with others here that union violence, deplorable tho it is, is not as big a problem as the sweatshop and coalmine labor conditions that were the norm in the West before unions, and is the norm in the Third World and our own Marianas Islands, and still turns up in our mainland in non-unionized industries such as slaughterhouses, agriculture, prostitution, etc. And I have zero sympathy for scabs who block a union or cross picket lines and then whine because their friends shun them. They took bread out of those friends' children's mouths, or worse, they can put up with social disapproval.

The union-as-default position also deserves more consideration than you're giving it. It need not be the Teamsters. Forex, a business could be required, when it hires its 50th non-management employee, to hold an election for union leadership, give the union members a standardized rulebook with built-in amendment procedures, and the fledgling union could then take bids from national unions and join whichever one it wanted -- or none at all. A union can be a one-company entity, you know. They could even decide to disband themselves, though I doubt many would.

d3dave's independent-contractor-maid concept is ironic. One of the big issues for unions in the last 20 years is that companies began to force their janitorial employees into "independent contractor" status precisely so they could treat them worse. These "independent contractors," you see, were not covered by laws protecting employees -- laws that were either obtained by unions or instituted to match reforms in unionized industries.

d3dave also expresses doubt that unions could have "held back the tide" of competition with cheap outside labor. Yet somehow, our executives, who have bargaining power, manage to keep forcing better salaries out of our companies, despite all the competition. And had unions been stronger, they might have gotten meaningful labor protections put into NAFTA and other free-trade pacts. As it was, they tried, but failed. Had they succeeded, our own workers and other countries' workers might have been a lot better off today.

Radish, I can never tell if you are being sarcastic. But it seems as if unions have gotten weaker over the past 30 years (at least lots of progressives say that all the time). Union violence in the US appears to be down over the same time period, though I'm not sure if we have definitive numbers somewhere. That correlation may not have a causation inside it, but it might.

Jack, I see now that you arguing that regular elections in the United States aren't secret ballot. I won't make the mistake of thinking you are arguing in good faith again. My fault for wasting time on the posts with you.

"Sebastian, I generally agree with others here that union violence, deplorable tho it is, is not as big a problem as the sweatshop and coalmine labor conditions that were the norm in the West before unions, and is the norm in the Third World and our own Marianas Islands, and still turns up in our mainland in non-unionized industries such as slaughterhouses, agriculture, prostitution, etc."

Again, arguing that 'unions' are a good thing in that way is like arguing that 'security' is a good thing. It doesn't justify all manner of destroying basic normal procedures.

"And I have zero sympathy for scabs who block a union or cross picket lines and then whine because their friends shun them. They took bread out of those friends' children's mouths, or worse, they can put up with social disapproval."

Ahh so even blocking a union (which implies a majority against the guild) is deserving of contempt (and we should enable them to be publically identified so they have to brave more than just 'disapproval'.

It is sounding a lot like being able to identify exactly how people voted is the whole point...

But step back just to the 1990s and you can find union violence including murder around organizing and strikes.

Go back to the 1890's and you'll find open warfare.

A brief excerpt from Kasdan's "Grand Canyon":

You ain't got the gun, we ain't having this conversation.

That's what I thought: no gun, no respect. That's why I always got the gun.

The reason we have unions at all is because, absent unions, labor is the prey of management and capital. It sucks that that is true, it really does.

But it's freaking true. And it ain't labor that makes it true.

I actually have mixed feelings about unions. They definitely have their warts.

But no unions, and wage labor eats shit.

No gun, no respect. That's why they bring the gun. Historically, that's been literal, because labor has, in turn, faced literal guns. Lately, not so much, but it's still necessary to bring a relative hard-assed attitude to the table if you want to get anyone's attention.

Eliminate the need for unions and they'll go away. Short of that, we're going to live with them, like we live with every other less-than-optimal solution to real life problems.

Card check is an attempt at a solution to a problem. The problem is the number of impediments that corporate management puts in the way of unionization.

Unions, in turn, are an attempt at a solution to a problem. That problem is the reluctance of management and capital investors to share the wealth created by the enterprises that all three groups -- capital, management, and labor -- contribute to.

I'm not making this stuff up, it's a plain matter of fact.

Don't like the solution? Remove the problem, and it won't be an issue.

Thanks -

Sebastian, I was indeed being sarcastic. Reagan firing PATCO. Dotson at NLRB. It was in the papers and everything.

Reagan openly, suddenly, and dramatically reversed the tradition of at-least-lukewarm protections for labor. The hypothesis is that this caused union members to feel threatened, and resulted in a rise in violence, which has since decayed as people adjusted.

Jack, I see now that you arguing that regular elections in the United States aren't secret ballot. I won't make the mistake of thinking you are arguing in good faith again. My fault for wasting time on the posts with you.

Do you have some actual fact that contradicts my description of Oregon's elections? I'd be happy to hear it.

"The hypothesis is that this caused union members to feel threatened, and resulted in a rise in violence, which has since decayed as people adjusted."

So your hypothesis is what about a new resurgent round of union activity over the next few years? How do you think dissenters will be treated by unions if they see a long denied opportunity potentially thwarted?

You are confusing the votes of a deliberative body (the board) with votes to elect the deliberative body.

No, I am making fun of you.

Again, arguing that 'unions' are a good thing in that way is like arguing that 'security' is a good thing. It doesn't justify all manner of destroying basic normal procedures.

You've yet to firmly establish that secret ballots should, in fact, be "basic normal procedures" vis a vis forming unions.

No, I am making fun of you.

Always effective and persuasive, that.

Jack, I see now that you arguing that regular elections in the United States aren't secret ballot. I won't make the mistake of thinking you are arguing in good faith again. My fault for wasting time on the posts with you.

Do you have some actual fact that contradicts my description of Oregon's elections? I'd be happy to hear it.

Anything?

You've accused me of arguing in bad faith. Care to actually back that up?

"You are confusing the votes of a deliberative body (the board) with votes to elect the deliberative body.

No, I am making fun of you."

Well, there is nothing like a good joke. And that, my dear, was nothing like a good joke.

My bad for forgetting about you, Phil.

And jack, you are taking a secret ballot election and arguing that it isn't a secret ballot election based on.... umm I would try to figure it out except I'm pretty sure you're just making fun of me too.

Jesus, why do I take people as arguing in good faith around here! It wastes time and just irritates the crap out of me.


Maybe because most of them are?

Honestly, I'm baffled by your reaction.

In what way do you think I'm incorrect about the way Oregon's mail-in system weakens the secret ballot? It's just too outrageous to believe? I don't get it.

Slarti: Always effective and persuasive, that.

*shrug* I'm not seeing any evidence, throughout this thread, that Sebastian is open to persuasion or that he's willing to think about the ideas presented.

I admit the broken-thread format makes it difficult to be sure, but I don't think Sebastian even responded to my asking him, early on, if he objects to card check, what method would he support so that employees can safely organize unions without employers firing them or harassing them or otherwise trying to prevent their employees unionizing?

And jack, you are taking a secret ballot election and arguing that it isn't a secret ballot election based on.... umm I would try to figure it out except I'm pretty sure you're just making fun of me too.

Based on the fact that key secret ballot provisions are substantially weakened.

Obviously the ballot is still nominally secret, there's a double envelope and everything, and the secretary of state doesn't keep a list of names and votes or anything.

But, as I pointed out, it's entirely possible for votes to be influenced by intimidation or bribery and verified.

The point is that "the secret ballot" is not some sacred thing that needs to be fetishized. In fact, it's not even an either/or quantity. It exists on a continuum: Oregon is less secret than DC is less secret than filling out your ballot in a booth with a curtain.

And while card check is less secret than any of them, that's not actually an argument.

You actually have to make a case against it: You have to tell us why union formation needs to be an "election" at all. Why the secret ballot needs to apply. Why an increased risk of violence not only would exist, but would also actually outweigh the benefits of increased unionization. Or suggest alternative measures which would actually solve the problems with the current system as well as majority sign up would. Etc.

I'm not seeing any evidence, throughout this thread, that Sebastian is open to persuasion or that he's willing to think about the ideas presented.

Thanks for sharing. Probably, Sebastian's just drinking the Kool-Aid, or eating the cookies, or whatever other euphemism you can come up with for mindless agreement with teh evil right-wing noise machine. Because no rightly thinking person could possibly hold opinions that disagree with yours.

Sebastian: How do you think dissenters will be treated by unions if they see a long denied opportunity potentially thwarted?

Surely a good number of people reading and commenting here have at some point or other had the experience of persuading people one-on-one -- fundraising, or election campaigning, or signature-gathering for a cause?

If you have, you've probably learned that an important skill in the process is not wasting much time or energy with the unpersuadables.

The goal in a card-check campaign, or in a campaign leading up to a secret-ballot election, is to get 51% of the employees voting your way. In both methods, just as in political elections and board meeting votes, you start with the group that are most committed, who need no persuasion, and involve them in the process of persuading those who lean your way but haven't committed, then moving as necessary to persuade those who are undecided.

There's no percentage at all in being ugly or intimidating to people who aren't going to vote for the union. People who oppose unions assume that workers would only choose unions because they're under negative pressure -- because it's the only way they would.

Thanks for sharing. Probably, Sebastian's just drinking the Kool-Aid, or eating the cookies, or whatever other euphemism you can come up with for mindless agreement with teh evil right-wing noise machine. Because no rightly thinking person could possibly hold opinions that disagree with yours.

I think I understand Sebastian's position well enough, and I can see where reasonable people could disagree - although I'm not sure Sebastian's necessarily made a very good case.

What I don't see is any evidence that he's really made an effort to understand the arguments from the other side. (And he has in fact intimated a couple times that we are evil, and that the "real" purpose of card check is an elaborate scheme to do violence to people who oppose unions.)

"There's no percentage at all in being ugly or intimidating to people who aren't going to vote for the union."

That isn't true if you can be ugly and intimidating to people to get them to vote for the union. Now, only works if you can verify that they are actually voting for the union. You can with card check. You can't with secret ballot.

And that is precisely why secret ballot helps to minimize the effectiveness and therefore the likelyhood of intimidation, while card check increases the effectiveness and therefore the likelyhood of intimidation.

Again, if it is just about persuading, why are they so worried about stopping people from voting in secret? If it is just about persuading, they will do their job and the worker will vote for them in secret.

Why is it so necessary that the union representative gets to know for certain exactly which workers did not vote for the union?

jack, I don't see it so much that Sebastian is posing anyone as evil, so much as that he's rejecting your [apparent] default assumption of goodness.

In any event, it's probably more useful to respond to Sebastian's actual statements than it is to try and psychoanalyze him.

Jack, if that remains your impression I suspect you just aren't reading what I'm writing. But to clarify for other readers, my comment of yesterday (5:02):

Jack, "His language really suggests to me that his background assumptions include the idea that unions are predators or parasites, with workers and employers their hapless victims."

Human institutions often abuse on individuals who disagree with them. That is true of unions, employers, clubs, gangs, and churches.

I prefer setting up political structures which make it easy to avoid the institutions who are likely to abuse you. Check card is bad because it sets up a forced association (that is the nature of unions in the workplace) and makes it easy to either A) identify those who disagree with you or B) force them to VOTE in your favor in order to avoid being identified.

In an emotional situation like that which almost always surrounds a contested union organization drive (if it isn't contested they don't care about secret ballot as they will easily win) card check sets up an employee for abuse if he doesn't sign. That abuse may range from social shunning (which would be decried by you if the shunning was based on say being Jewish or a woman or gay) to sabotage, to murder. The entire range has been seen as recently as 10 years ago.

All of the things complained about thus far can be addressed through means other than purposely subjecting a workers to the potential for abuse.

I'm not at all suggesting that unions are unique in their desire to punish and abuse dissenters. I've seen it in churches and companies and political parties and informal clubs. I'm saying that there is no reason to make it so easy in an already emotionally charged situation.

That is my view on the *normal* state of how human institutions treat people who don't agree with them. That is not a comment on unions particularly except so much as they are human institutions. So I am not saying that 'you' in the sense of unions or unions supporters are evil. If claimed I was saying that 'we' in the sense of human beings are evil you would at least be in the ballpark, but it still would be an unfair simplification.

Slarti-

I think statements like this,

Nice. Perhaps you want card check BECAUSE it allows hurt to be visited upon workers who don't like the union.

come pretty close to crossing a line.

And I've yet to see any much sign that Sebastian accepts the idea (even in principle) that card check might be good for something other than just collecting the names of dissenters.

Slarti, if my goal were to be effective or persuasive, I suppose I might feel properly chastened. I feel, though, that Sebastian is not in much of a position to be persuaded of anything at all re: unions, thus I get my LOLs where I can.

Sorry it bothered you enough to comment on it, though.

I understand your view of human nature.

And yes, institutions of all kinds can do evil.

Making policy is largely a matter of trying to find a set of institutions that will do the least evil.

In this case, we are trying to remedy an imbalance of power between employers and workers.

The current system allows that imbalance to persist DURING long, bitter election process, to the employers great advantage. The proposed reform is to replace the election with a simple majority sign up procedure, after which democratic governance would take place within a union on more equal footing.

It's true that the reformed system has potential for abuse, but it's also true that the current system is widely abused, and causes harm.

Pointing out the possibility of a marginal difference in the potential for intimidation is, at best, only half the argument.

I've repeatedly asked some very specific questions which haven't been even mildly addressed by any of the supporters of card check.

What precisely is so awful about having a secret ballot that it has to be removed?

What precisely is the worry that you have about companies influencing elections *that is solved* by eliminating secret ballot?

Note for example that Nell's concerns about 'spies' telling the company what is going on isn't helped by eliminating secret ballot. A 'spy' can inform on union organization tactics under card check as well.

The only thing I've heard that even tries to answer my question was that the election period takes too long (6-9 months) which allows the company too much time for unfair pressure. But that seems like something that can be remedied without card check. One could easily imagine shortening the period to a much more manageable one month. Or perhaps even a few weeks.

There has been talk about the unfairness of firing union organizers, but not a single word of how removing secret ballot stops the firing of union organizers in a way that can't be dealt with by say shortening the organization time. (It is already illegal of course, but the objection is that companies ignore that law. If so, I want to know why you think removing secret ballot helps in THOSE cases).

My huge problem in this discussion is that the proponents of card check raise lots of naughty things that companies do, none of which are remedied by removing secret ballot. I'm willing to stipulate that some companies do nasty things to avoid unionization.

Not once have I seen how removing the secret ballot from WORKERS fixes that.

What precisely is so awful about having a secret ballot that it has to be removed?

What precisely is the worry that you have about companies influencing elections *that is solved* by eliminating secret ballot?

Note for example that Nell's concerns about 'spies' telling the company what is going on isn't helped by eliminating secret ballot. A 'spy' can inform on union organization tactics under card check as well.

There's nothing wrong with a "secret ballot" per se. It's just that it's not necessary, and certainly can't be looked at in isolation. Its benefits and costs have to be balanced against the alternatives.

An election involves a campaign period (no matter how short or long) in which the employer has an (unfair) ability to thwart workers' desires for a union - an overwhelming advantage in terms of power, communications, and ability to intimidate.

Majority sign up is a less formal, less contentious process. It makes it easier for workers who want a union to form one, by requiring employers to recognize the union as soon as a majority have signed on. And the tens of thousands of workers who have organized with majority sign up report far less pressure from both employers and fellow workers.

"An election involves a campaign period (no matter how short or long) in which the employer has an (unfair) ability to thwart workers' desires for a union - an overwhelming advantage in terms of power, communications, and ability to intimidate."

This is all very general. Much of it isn't illegal. Some of it probably shouldn't even be discouraged. So if you are going to open up whole new areas of ability to intimidate and you are additionaly going to close down avenues of communication (card check doesn't even really facilitate communicate among employees except as controlled by the not-ratified union) you are going to have to be more specific than "companies are powerful and I don't like that".

"Majority sign up is a less formal, less contentious process."

Less formal? Certainly, but less formal isn't always an advantage. What proper advantage to you believe you are getting out of less formal. The dangers I see of less formal are less oversight, more ability for intimidation, more ability to cheat, and less dissemination of information. The advantages are?

Less contentious? I suspect not. It just moves the contentious period from 'surrounding an election' to 'always'. That might not be an improvement for workers.

"And the tens of thousands of workers who have organized with majority sign up report far less pressure from both employers and fellow workers."

The are far more than a hundred million workers in the United States so that fact (if true, so far as I can see "less pressure from both employers and fellow workers" is rather speculative, especially since under current rules pure card check is only likely to occur when the situation is already less contentious) that a small fraction of 1 per cent of those went through card check isn't impressive.

This is all very general. Much of it isn't illegal. Some of it probably shouldn't even be discouraged. So if you are going to open up whole new areas of ability to intimidate and you are additionaly going to close down avenues of communication (card check doesn't even really facilitate communicate among employees except as controlled by the not-ratified union) you are going to have to be more specific than "companies are powerful and I don't like that".

Since you stipulate to the existence of employer abuses I'm assuming we don't need to go into a great deal of detail on the various means at their disposal to influence the process. If you really want detail I'm sure we can get into it, but that seems like a distraction to me.

And as someone else pointed out, the employer may have a stake in the question of union formation, but there doesn't seem to be any compelling reason to give them a strong influence on the workers' decision here. To the extent that it's both practical and compatible with the First Amendment, I think all efforts by employers to influence the process should be discouraged.

In neither case is there any mechanisms for facilitating communication AMONG employees, so I'm not sure how that's relevant. Employees are as free to talk to each other about unions during a sign up process as any other time. If there were a group vocally opposed to the union formation, I concede that the organizers would have something of a head start over them. But again, this is about changing the defaults - make it easy to form a union, and once it's formed, if people are receptive to a case against it and decide they made a mistake, it can be dissolved.

The bottom line is not that I don't like it, it's that companies are powerful and use that power to extract more than is fair from their workers. Workers deserve a fair chance to organize and push back.

So your hypothesis is what about a new resurgent round of union activity over the next few years? How do you think dissenters will be treated by unions if they see a long denied opportunity potentially thwarted?

It's not really my department, but the general idea is that the spike in violence would have reflected individual attempts to reinstate a previously reliable social norm which was no longer in effect. It didn't work, obviously. Since EFCA and card check reverse (or at least attempt to reverse) the advantage which employers currently have, we should expect them to trigger more dramatic forms of coercion (like violence) on the part of employers, and less dramatic forms of coercion on the part of unions. Basically the inverse of the 80s, and presumably with a similar decay curve.

So at a guess, union dissenters are more likely to be shunned and less likely to be beaten up, because shunning will be both easier and more effective under card check. On the flip side I would expect expansion of the "union avoidance" industry as a whole, particularly workplace security and surveillance. But considering that the entire global economy is about to be radically transformed anyway these aren't the kind of predictions I'd want to bet on.

Not once have I seen how removing the secret ballot from WORKERS fixes that.

I don't see anybody saying that it would. That initial secret ballot is just a baby that's getting thrown out with the bathwater, because once the bathwater gets bad enough people give up on the baby. As a matter of public health if nothing else.

Heck, the card-check argument is just the right-to-work argument pointing the other way. Is it more traumatic to quit your job in order to avoid joining a union than it is to quit your job because it doesn't pay enough? If you're comfortable offering people the latter as a binary "take it or leave it" option, you can hardly complain that the unions have decided to use the same approach.

At the end of the day it's what russell says. If you don't want people to form unions then you have to make sure they won't get screwed as individuals.

Less contentious? I suspect not. It just moves the contentious period from 'surrounding an election' to 'always'. That might not be an improvement for workers.

"And the tens of thousands of workers who have organized with majority sign up report far less pressure from both employers and fellow workers."

The are far more than a hundred million workers in the United States so that fact (if true, so far as I can see "less pressure from both employers and fellow workers" is rather speculative, especially since under current rules pure card check is only likely to occur when the situation is already less contentious) that a small fraction of 1 per cent of those went through card check isn't impressive.

I don't think I have a cite handy, but something like half a million workers have organized (or are at least allowed to organize) with majority sign up in the US.

I can see how employer intimation is probably less likely in most of these case (the employers are voluntarily waiving their right to ask for elections), but research also shows a marked reduction in workplace tension and pressure from coworkers.

This casts serious doubt on your contention that the lack of a secret ballot will majority sign up organizing more ugly than NLRB elections.

Then there's Ontario...

s/intimation/intimidation

"I can see how employer intimation is probably less likely in most of these case (the employers are voluntarily waiving their right to ask for elections), but research also shows a marked reduction in workplace tension and pressure from coworkers."

This makes very little sense to me. If the employer is waiving the election you are clearly dealing with a case where the formation of a union is not contentious. If it was contentious, they would almost certainly have To then act as if card check was what made it non-contentious is to reverse apparent cause and effect. Calling that a 'reduction' in tension seems confused.

That would be better labelled an expression of already reduced tension.

Radish,

"Heck, the card-check argument is just the right-to-work argument pointing the other way. Is it more traumatic to quit your job in order to avoid joining a union than it is to quit your job because it doesn't pay enough? If you're comfortable offering people the latter as a binary "take it or leave it" option, you can hardly complain that the unions have decided to use the same approach."

The problem is that you can't really be reflexive in the argumentation. If you want to claim that forcing people into such choices is a bad thing, you don't add additional bad choices of the same type on top to 'remedy' it.

The problem, and I know I keep restating it, is that the argument for unions revolves around the unfairness of employers treating their employees like mere instrumentalities to be used for the employer's ends. So to counteract that, you argue that we *must* let unions treat employees as mere instrumentalities when organizing.

They are individual people in BOTH cases. You don't remedy the employer case by merely reassigning the name of the master.

This makes very little sense to me. If the employer is waiving the election you are clearly dealing with a case where the formation of a union is not contentious. If it was contentious, they would almost certainly have To then act as if card check was what made it non-contentious is to reverse apparent cause and effect. Calling that a 'reduction' in tension seems confused.

No. The fact that an employer has agreed to respect the workers' petition for a union, and not exercise its right to demand an NLRB election, is obviously evidence of at least some good faith on the part of the employer. So we'd expect that those employers will probably refrain from at least the dirtiest tactics, and thus few reports of workers feeling pressured by their employer.

But "workplace tension" refers to bad feelings or pressure exchanged between coworkers.

The problem, and I know I keep restating it, is that the argument for unions revolves around the unfairness of employers treating their employees like mere instrumentalities to be used for the employer's ends. So to counteract that, you argue that we *must* let unions treat employees as mere instrumentalities when organizing.

This incorrectly treats "unions" as a sinister external entity, rather than a communal organization consisting of one's fellow coworkers.

Angels would fear to tread, much less me, but I'm going to point it out anyhow: Humans being human, I don't see that characterizing something as "a communal organization consisting of one's fellow coworkers" absolves it from the possibility of being sinister.

Well, no. But the point is it's more difficult to insinuate that it is an outside entity with suspect motives that is somehow using ("treating as mere instrumentalities") its members against their own best interests. It is its members, a majority of whom, at least, prefer to be a part of it.

"This incorrectly treats "unions" as a sinister external entity, rather than a communal organization consisting of one's fellow coworkers."

No.

It correctly treats "unions" like every other human institution.

The problem here is that you seem to want to define "employers" as bad institutions which always want to take advantage of workers and "unions" as good institutions which always have the worker's interests at heart.

I define "employers" as institutions which are sometimes in line with the individual needs of the individual workers and "unions" as institutions which are sometimes in line with the individual needs of the individual workers.

The idea that unions are always in line with the needs of workers is union propaganda. If that were actually true, there would rarely be a conflict in outcomes between card check and secret ballot elections because the worker would so clearly see that the union was well in line with his interests.

In a broad theoretical sense, unions are supposed to advance the worker's interests. In actuality, like any human institution, that may not be the case. In some instances, like most human institutions, the opposite may be true.

You continually set up the clash between these institutions as requiring a reduction in normal procedural protections for the WORKER in order to set up your personal view of the just outcome. But you don't justify that. Your evidence is always about the coercive power (against the WORKER) of the corporation institution and you want to 'remedy' that by adding additional coercive power to the union (against the WORKER).

Now I will freely admit that my view of the just outcome is somewhat (though not as dramatically as you seem to believe) different from yours.

But I really do see a lot of value in established procedural protections for individuals. Just as I don't believe that 9/11 justifies the curtailing of regular police protections as applied to individuals, I also don't believe that corporate power justifies the curtailing of regular election protections as applied to individuals.

You can pile on and on about how bad corporations are, but you have done pretty much nothing to explain how removing secret ballot elections decreases coercive power as applied to WORKERS. At best it redistributes the coercive power so that a different institution has some of it. At worst it compounds the problem by failing to reduce the coercive power of the corporation (they can still have Nell's spies, you haven't strengthened anti-firing policies by eliminating secret ballot, etc.) while increasing the power of the unions over employees who don't necessarily want that.

"It is its members, a majority of whom, at least, prefer to be a part of it."

If that is the case, they are very likely to win in a secret ballot.

If that is not the case, please quit using it as an excuse.

If that might be the case there is a long history of elections which allow us to find out.

The problem, and I know I keep restating it, is that the argument for unions revolves around the unfairness of employers treating their employees like mere instrumentalities to be used for the employer's ends. So to counteract that, you argue that we *must* let unions treat employees as mere instrumentalities when organizing.

There's more wrong with this as well, of course. It's setting up a false equivalence between 1) ongoing mistreatments visited by the employer qua employer on its workers (that, presumably, motivates the unionization effort in the first place), 2) abuses of workers by the employer conducted for the purpose of quashing an organization drive, and 3) abuses of workers by coworkers and/or outside organizers in the course of that drive.

To Sebastian these are all just equivalent examples of treating workers as "instrumentalities".

The difference is that the first type affects ALL workers, and, uncorrected, goes on FOREVER. The other two affect only a minority of workers and last only about as long as the unionization process does.

"Well, no. But the point is it's more difficult to insinuate that it is an outside entity with suspect motives that is somehow using ("treating as mere instrumentalities") its members against their own best interests."

Again, the problem is that you are defining unions as an 'inside' entity and corporations as an 'outside' entity. You don't seem to understand that it is possible that the union might be an 'outside' entity too.

And *especially* when you are organizing the union, you don't really have a right to treat it as anything other than an 'outside' entity. It has not yet been established that it is an 'inside' entity.

In fact how can you talk about "somehow using ("treating as mere instrumentalities") its members against their own best interests"?

It is not a union at that company at that point. It does not have members in that company. Before the vote, of course it could be suspect as against workers. Their interests are not yet imputed to it. In a card check world people who don't want to sign are in fact adverse to an outside union influence which has every incentive to marginalize their concerns if their concerns include the question of whether or not they actually want to have a union.

The problem here is that you seem to want to define "employers" as bad institutions which always want to take advantage of workers and "unions" as good institutions which always have the worker's interests at heart.

No. But I do assume that in a unionization campaign, (pro) workers perceive some injustices on the part of that particular employer and believe that organizing will help correct them.

Majority sign up is about making it easier for such workers, when they are in the majority, to create a union in the face of employer opposition.

"The other two affect only a minority of workers and last only about as long as the unionization process does."

Oh really? It ends once the unionization succeeds? Is this a change of heart? I would have sworn we talked about punishing people who didn't work in union interests for years later AND that they deserved it!

You wrote: "Stuff along the lines of silent treatment for "scabs" don't bother me that much. For one, because these individuals have in fact committed a "crime" against their coworkers (which is not analogous to a situation with racists or what have you)."

You wrote "Scabs are not workers who merely passively "don't like" the union. Scabs are actively undermining the welfare of their fellows, and this is categorically different from a situation where one group punishes another for merely being different. And I'd prefer suffering not be visited up anyone, even social shunning, I'm just hard-pressed to view this as any kind of particularly egregious human rights violation."

Is refusing to sign the card "actively undermining the welfare of their fellows"?

Is publically arguing against signing the card "actively undermining the welfare of their fellows"?

Is urging other employees not to sign the card "actively undermining the welfare of their fellows?"

It sounds to me that some employees would have an excellent reason to treat you as an 'outsider' if you were involved.

You continually set up the clash between these institutions as requiring a reduction in normal procedural protections for the WORKER

As I have pointed out repeatedly, I do not at all agree that we are talking about reducing procedural protections for the worker. On the contrary, it is increasing them.

As it stands, the option of demanding an NLRB election is a privilege enjoyed by the EMPLOYER.

It is already possible for an employer to recognize a union if it is presented with signed cards from 51% of its employees, if it chooses. What EFCA is about is forcing the employer to recognize the union in that case.

Meanwhile WORKERS would have the right to a full election, if they so choose.

"Meanwhile WORKERS would have the right to a full election, if they so choose."

That does not seem to be the case. I've already talked about that.

As I wrote two days ago:

Actually I'm not convinced that the 30% rule is as you have stated it at all unless there is ALJ rulings or something that interpret the text beyond what it seems to be. The text of Section 159(e) is:

(1) Upon the filing with the Board, by 30 per centum or more of the employees in a bargaining unit covered by an agreement between their employer and a labor organization made pursuant to section 158 (a)(3) of this title, of a petition alleging they desire that such authority be rescinded, the Board shall take a secret ballot of the employees in such unit and certify the results thereof to such labor organization and to the employer.

(2) No election shall be conducted pursuant to this subsection in any bargaining unit or any subdivision within which, in the preceding twelve-month period, a valid election shall have been held.

It looks to me like this would play out as follows:

1) Union gets card check. It may or may not have been candid in the process, you don't seem worried about it. You also don't seem worried about a lack of even minor discussions by empoloyers. Dissenting workers have no say at this point.

2) Union has mandatory first contract negotiations under Section 3 of the EFCA. At this point there is no right under Section 159(e) because there is no "bargaining unit covered by an agreement between their employer and a labor organization"

Dissenting workers have still not had a chance for input.

3) Contract is completed within 90 days (unless it goes to arbitration, if it goes to arbitration dissenting employees STILL have no input). Dissenting employees are bound under the contract.

4) only now can they request a secret ballot. And they are going to have to do it publically and immediately after what may have been very nasty initial contract negotiations with a newly formed union bargaining unit.

"It is its members, a majority of whom, at least, prefer to be a part of it."

If that is the case, they are very likely to win in a secret ballot.

If that is not the case, please quit using it as an excuse.

If that might be the case there is a long history of elections which allow us to find out.

First of all, not all NLRB elections are lost. Many (most? I don't have figures), are obviously won. But even when a clear majority exists, they are used by antagonistic employers to draw the process out and generate unnecessary bitterness, tension, and delay. That's leaving aside the matter of how an employer might unduly intimidate or influence workers in the lag between the time when a majority of workers present cards asking for a union, and the time the election is held.

Majority sign up avoids that. And your only objection is that it removes a supposed procedural protection, and might lead to increased tension or intimidation by organizers. A claim that is controverted by the available evidence.

That does not seem to be the case. I've already talked about that.

I am not qualified to interpret the legalese, and offhand I can't see anything wrong with your interpretation.

I think it's a red herring though - the fact remains that rights are being revoked from employers, not workers.

If you want to claim that forcing people into such choices is a bad thing, you don't add additional bad choices of the same type on top to 'remedy' it.

That's a far broader and vaguer claim than I would be willing to make. All I'm pointing out is that it doesn't make sense to simultaneously endorse a right-to-work position and oppose a right-to-unionize position, because the right-to-work position assumes that forcing people into such choices is not a bad thing.

If there's no harm in your employer offering you-plus-your-colleagues new non-negotiable terms of collective employment then how can there possibly be any harm in your colleagues collectively offering you-plus-your-employer the same thing?

Conversely, if there is a harm associated with such offers then there's also something seriously wrong with the whole right-to-work argument, the central premise of which is that it's just as easy (on average) to find a new job as it is to hire a new employee.

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