Saturday, December 17, 2011

Right to -- Uh-Oh!

Looks like Indiana may become the next "Right To Work" battleground. While I dislike being made to join an organization with political goals very different to my own, sometimes I'm greatly tempted by Enrico Fermi's deeply-held belief at all change was for the worse; the amount of bad blood, grotesque posturing and pointless protests these kinds of fights create may be worse than the ills of old-time unions. Public-employee union fights are the worst -- perhaps they have too much free time? -- but I believe membership in them is voluntary in Indiana; we'll see more UAW types, I'll bet.

--But I talk about that, in part, as a long-time member of one of the weakest skilled-trade union locals on the planet, so don't for a minute assume I'm not mostly concerned it will make my life more complicated. (Mind you, there's no exclusive jurisdiction left for my shop -- meaning most anyone can do our work, the problem being if they'd work for less than we're paid, they aren't going to be very good at it. And, in fact, the non-union shops around here pull down about the same wages and benefits, some a little better, some a little worse. I might not like the price but it's approximately what the market supports. Still would be nice to get a raise -- we volunteered to not take one that would have happened in 2008 and haven't had one since.)

There's yet another way, though; even in a no-right-to-work state, you're not obliged to pony up for the political activities of a union you had to join if you wanted the work: you can opt out of the fluff and pay only the financial core, the costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment, and not bear the burden of helping to stuff cash into Senator Pork's slush-fund or bus ijits to jam up the Statehouse halls. There is a downside: if you go fi-core, you can't hold a union office and you can't even vote on contracts; whatever the boys and girls paying for the full ride want will have to do you.

--But when the blowhards go on TV and say there's only their way or hell-on-earth, or wax magnanimous and "admit" the only-only choices are mandatory membership, rah-rah rallies an' all or right-to-work under the grinding heel of capitalist oppressors or the outstretched hand of a modern-day Hank Reardon, understand they're blowing smoke. They don't know what they're talking about -- or they don't want you to know.

I'd kinda bet on the latter.

And remember -- "You can't get blood from a turnip," but while "gold won't always get you good mercenaries, once you get good mercenaries, they can always get you gold." It cuts both ways.

Update: Speaking of unions -- and I believe they're an open shop -- the Star's newsroom's own Newspaper Guild staged a little rally across the street from The Building That Still Looks Like A Newspaper (ignore the aching void where presses once roared and rumbled). Ah, there's a quandary for the modern, Left-leaning Editor! Some of Ruth's commenters trot out predictable 1930's sloganeering, but this animal is starting to show signs of slightly different stripes. Anyway, it's an "I'll pop popcorn" moment for me, no matter who wins. (I still think the Guild otta just cut out the middlemen and go into the news biz themselves. Ghu knows, the Star appears to be getting right out of it.)


Tango Juliet said...

I despise the AFL/CIO. There is no more corrupt force on the face of the earth save for Congress.

karrde said...

Don't know what to say.

Is this one of those issues where the devil is in the details? Or are right-to-work laws hemmed in by the Feds in such a way that they are pretty much all the same?

I don't live in a right-to-work state, either. And my job isn't a standard Union job. (Though I may hang a sign for the United Code-Monkeys and Desk Geeks on my cubicle wall, and petition for members...)

This is another member of that long list of issues where the proponents shout Freedom for all while the opponents should Blood in the streets. Because stating the issue accurately would likely bore everyone to tears.

Bubblehead Les. said...

I think Guido and Vinnie from the Local want to talk to you about why you aren't paying the Full amount of Dues. It's an Election Year, you know. And EVERYONE has to pay their Share so as to Re-elect Obama, understand?

Karl said...

Good luck in the coming labor war. Sounds like you're planning to ride it out and take what comes, which is quite a mature thing to do for such a young gal like yourself!

Old Grouch said...

Ah yes, good old Governor Mitch: "Right to work," but no "right" to smoke.

Demonstrating again that RINOS are statists, just like Democrats.

Don said...

I thought we had already started. My un-representative and a lot of his pals hauled it for Illinois when the subject came up. That was about the same time Wisconsin's legislature shut down for the same reason.

Ed Rasimus said...

I've never figured out the reason for a public employees union. The justification for unions was as a counter to oppressive capitalist profit-seekers. That rationale has largely gone away with the emergence of enlightened management that values trained, experienced and happy workers attracted through reasonable benefit.

But that doesn't fit government employees. Since government has no profit motive therefore no reason to oppress the workers who are actually organizing against their employer which is...we, the people.

I've been fortunate, since the days of my youth to ALWAYS live in a right-to-work state and those states are the most attractive to new businesses and job-seekers both.

Panamared said...

Ideally we would all live in a meritocracy and a worker would be paid according to the worth of his work. While a business owner may run his business differently it only effects the people willing to work for him.

When the State give exclusive right to a group of people to negotiate for everyone working in a specific trade they create a monopoly that is every bit as corrupt as any business monopoly ever could be.

When that monopoly is held by public workers there isn't even a fair negotiation since the Union is negotiating with bureaucrats that typically doesn't have the same concern for controlling costs as a business owner.

But the worst problem of all is that as an honest worker if I join a Union I give up my right to negotiate with my employer for what I believe is my true worth.

Roberta X said...

Don: we started once. Now we're starting again, and it's possibly more sweeping this time.

As for me, I'm essentially sidelined on the issue already, other than via my blog. I went from being a semi-active member in a small shop (4 techs) that had excellent relations with management, to being the only card-carryin' techie at a bigger place (but fewer and more focused Engineering staff), where the lowest tech was stuck with an ancient contact and got paid far above it (PR, I'll get back to that)...and I climbed the ladder there until I was management myself. After that place was taken over by new owners, things were restructured and we ended up with two techs, both "management." A few years and career changes later, I was back to punching a clock (for more than I made as a boss, having moved to a better-paying branch of the biz) back in the very same local. After a history like that, one is better off standing back.

It's very nearly moot for me, as I noted in my post; the problem is that any change in the status quo inevitably steps on toes and shakes things up. Me, I am not so very fond of that.

Footnotely, and for PR, most union (and other) contracts only specify a lower limit on your pay (etc.). There's usually nothing keeping your employer from paying you more -- if they think you are worth it and feel generous. More often, contracts are used on the Company side as an excuse to not do that and to save the employer having to take time to dicker with employees one-on-one, especially for skilled-trade labor. Fair, unfair? I don't know.

Stranger said...

For general info - the economic data says employees in "right to work" states take home more than workers in unionized states. That is a 180 from the situation ten presidents ago.

A part of that is in not paying dues; most is in being able to ask for another ten bucks a week when you feel you are worth it.