Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What The Hunh? New Jersey Deputy Attorneys General Organize As IBEW

     I admit it, I have a little bit of a soft spot in my heart for the idea of skilled-trades unions.  There was a day -- on the far side of the Great Depression -- when skilled workers organized and shared their skills, producing a pool of, yes, organized labor, but organized labor that arrived with the knowledge and training to do the job.  The various trades had their various AF of L unions; each one had their patch and they stuck to it -- electricians didn't plaster walls, steamfitters didn't crowd out machinists, and so on.  Unlike the later CIO unions, they didn't organize outside their trade: their deal was they delivered the skills and the employer paid 'em union scale.

     All that is history.  The rewrote the rules back when my parents were starting elementary school.  The traditional skilled-trade unions more-or-less stayed inside their own lines (and some of them, notably IBEW, ran training and apprenticeship programs) but it was largely a matter of habit.

     Over in the suit and tie world, lawyering has long been (or at least considered itself) a profession.  In the U.S., persons called to the bar can be (and often are) handed the courtesy title "Esquire" to waggle after their names.  (You can use it, too; it has no legal standing -- but use it to pass yourself off as an attorney and you'll soon feel their official wrath and that of the .gov so many of 'em work for.)

     So, on the one hand, we have the skilled-trade laborer, inheritor of a justifiably-proud tradition.  You may not like his union's politics -- he might not, either -- but it does stand for more than picket lines and hard-fought contracts.  He (or she) works with hands and brain.   On the other, professionals with post-graduate degrees.  They may labor in genteel poverty (law school isn't cheap and the vast majority of legal work doesn't pay all that well; the rich lawyer is a real thing but he rests upon a vast pool of J.D.'d scriveners who make less than a journeyman plumber) but it is indeed genteel.  The heaviest tool an attorney lifts is a pen.  They couldn't be more different, could they?

     Not in New Jersey!  Deputy ADAs there have, after a long fight, got themselves a union.  Not the Teamsters (amazing, really -- this is New Jersey we're talking about), not some "Worshipful Guild of Barristers," conjured from whole cloth to serve their special needs, nope, they've joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers!

     'Scuse me, what?  Yep.  The same organization that spent a lot of time and effort as the 19th Century became the 20th, leaning on Power & Light companies to provide linesmen with insulated pliers (and convincing the linesmen to use 'em) is repping a bunch of State-employed attorneys. And don't ask me what's going to happen the next time some union pension turns out to have been mismanaged and the union get hauled before the court; a whole lot of recusing, I'd suppose.

     Whatever became of, "Cobbler, stick to thy last?"  And whatever became of the legal profession? 

     Well, it is New Jersey.




SJ said...

I had the choice of joining the IBEW once.

(The choice of not joining was described to me as a choice to have my car tires slashed while I was inside the building working...I still don't know if the guy was joking or not.)

That was a summer job assembling metal boxes full of electronics, to be installed in various factories.

At least the "IBEW" moniker seemed accurate for that job.

But this?

Are these lawyers any more "electrical workers" than the average cubicle-farm desk jockey?

I admit, they probably use a keyboard more often than a pen, but so do most other desk workers.

Comrade Misfit said...

Fuhgetaboudit, Roberta, it's Joisey.

rickn8or said...

"Unionized Lawyers" = "Sharks with lasers"

AndyN said...

"IBEW rep Wyatt Earp"? Really? This has to be a joke.

Anonymous said...

Not just N.J. City workers in Anderson, IN and a few other cities are members of United Auto Workers. They're the only remaining UAW members in Anderson, far as I can tell.

LCB said...

The union I used to belong to, UPIU, had its HQ across the street from the HQ of International Papers, the company I worked for. The union head was golfing buddies with the CEO of the company. And all I got for my dues was a union card. BLECH

R said...

Unions are in an industry onto themselves. The United Auto Workers now represents grad student TA's at the Univ. of Washington.

Borepatch said...


And +1 to Rickn8or

Joseph said...

Since lawyers frequently run for office, we might finally get a political class that knows a capacitor from a resistor.

Or is that too much to hope for?

rickn8or said...

Joseph, more like "You don't pull no wires, I don't write no amicus briefs. Got it? Or does the shop steward gotta explain it to youse?"

Windy Wilson said...

I forget where I read it recently, but it was in regard to the teachers' union; You can be a professional or you can be in a union, but not both.

Joseph said...

The Popehat blog frequently covers legal briefs written by thugs. There's a violation on one side.