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[P]
What's the deal with the Taft-Hartley Act?

By Otto Surly in News
Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:02:29 PM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

Ports on the West Coast of the US have been closed for a week or so due to a conflict between dockworkers and management, which culminated in the ports locking out their workers. (Google News for those who have missed it. This is big news in the US.) I've read a sheet or so of New York Times coverage and bits and pieces from other papers and web sites. They all contain three pieces of information:

  • The employers were locking out their workers and accusing them of working too slowly.
  • President Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act to suspend the lockout for an 80-day "cooling off period".
  • The employers are happy about this and the workers are not.

What the hell?


It's clear that my understanding of what's going on is overly simplistic. I've looked hard for any useful bit of information in mainstream news sources and been stymied by a total lack of useful reporting: even half-page articles reduce to those three points above, without even spending a paragraph explaining what the relevant provision of the Taft-Hartley Act is or how it affects each of the parties. So I have a bundle of questions for K5:

If the employers were trying to punish workers by locking them out, and they were compelled not to do that, why are they happy and the workers not? Are the workers being compelled by force not to work to rule or whatever else it is they're doing? I have difficulty believing that the workers are required by law to go back to their jobs, since that would be overt slavery, but I don't see any other government intervention that would make the employers happy.

Google turns up this as the actual text of the act. The relevant text, near [Page 281], is completely uninformative: the President is authorized to do what the newspapers say he did, which is talk to a court and get an injunction ending the strike or lockout. But how does the injunction end the strike or lockout? The government enforces laws and court rulings with fines, imprisonment, and other forms of violence. Who is being compelled to do what, and how?

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What's the deal with the Taft-Hartley Act? | 185 comments (180 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Information (4.00 / 2) (#5)
by Craevenwulfe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:11:32 AM EST

The employers were locking out their workers and accusing them of working too slowly.

I think they accused them of illegally(?) 'Working to rule' (ie what spanish luggage handlers do every summer holiday when they want a pay rise).

The Taft-Hartley act allows the Government to force a labour force back to work for a maximum of 80(?)days when the country is at risk (i can't remember the specifics of 'at risk') and when losing $1,000,000,000 per day they may want to kick it in.

This information i garnered from a brief news article last week. The information _is_ out there.

Slavery? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:15:55 AM EST

I'm asking what the actual, physical actions that are authorized are. Can workers be sent to jail for not going to work? I thought that was illegal. This is the main source of my confusion.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
Wierd (4.66 / 3) (#9)
by Craevenwulfe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:25:53 AM EST

My reply seems to have disappeared, unless it's some sort of anti-spam thing.

Anyway, from a British perspective what i think this means is that the workers cannot legally strike. That is, if the workers were to 'go slow'/strike/ whatever then it would be illegal and they could be sacked by the shipyard and replaced.

If they didn't declare the strike illegal then the shipyard could not sack the strikers and replace them.

[ Parent ]
Ah. (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:28:09 AM EST

So an "illegal strike" is actually just a "strike without special legal protection". The libertarian in me is now satisfied. Thanks.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
They can quit <nt> (none / 0) (#13)
by bobpence on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:37:24 AM EST


"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
It's possible (none / 0) (#48)
by leviramsey on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 01:02:01 PM EST

Though not necessarily part of the Taft-Hartley Act, there is something of a precedent in history. In the Truman Administration, there was a large, national railroad strike, which resulted in a total impasse between labor and management.

After a few weeks of a crippled nation (this being before the Interstates and air travel), Truman essentially threatened to resolve the strike by nationalizing all US railroads into the US Army, thus making the striking employees enlisted men or officers in the military. If they continued the strike, they would be considered deserters and subject to court-martial. In court-martials for desertion, there is essentially a presumption of guilt (ie it's up to you to prove that you didn't desert). Within a few days, a deal had been worked out, as neither side wanted to be nationalized.



[ Parent ]
If it was during wartime (none / 0) (#62)
by buck on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:20:04 PM EST

I can see where that was doable. Oops, shouldn't be giving Dubya any ideas! :)

-----
“You, on the other hand, just spew forth your mental phlegmwads all over the place and don't have the goddamned courtesy to throw us a tissue afterwards.” -- kitten
[ Parent ]
Peacetime (none / 0) (#79)
by leviramsey on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:28:48 PM EST

It was a couple years after WWII



[ Parent ]
Further information (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by Craevenwulfe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:19:02 AM EST

BBC News.

The shipyard wants to introduce new technology which the workers fear will cost jobs.

The workers are "working to rule", going-slow - whatever, in protest at this, they can't strike because you can see the response they get, it would be like fireman striking - not very popular. In response the shipyard has locked them out of the yard in order to force the issue.
Being forced back to work I believe means they can no longer do the "go slow" strike for 80 days.

The shipyard stops the 'go-slow', work carries on and they can introduce new technology with least hassle.

[ Parent ]
"Work to rule" (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:26:56 AM EST

I'm also confused about that. My understanding was that, in this case, it mostly meant strictly following safety regulations. While I can see how that would result in a slowdown relative to the normal pace of work, I'd be horrified if it were made illegal (or even an acceptable condition for firing). If the rules are untenable, you don't force people to work around them, you change them.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
If teachers were to work to rule (none / 0) (#19)
by Craevenwulfe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:06:03 AM EST

There would be no after school chess club, etc. Basically it's not strictly written in the contract that they need to run the chess club, it's voluntary and helps the cogs of the school go round and round.

You work to rule and the wheels stop going round and round quite so well.

[ Parent ]
Then the rules ought to be fixed. (none / 0) (#59)
by Perianwyr on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:55:10 PM EST

Remember that you're damned no matter what way you go.

The rules are made to be generally out of touch with the way the job is done. This is done with the aim of directing any failures straight on the head of the employee who isn't normally expected to follow the rules exactly in the course of his employment.


[ Parent ]

Why (4.20 / 5) (#12)
by bobpence on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:34:52 AM EST

The longshoremen staged a slowdown. They showed up for work, but purposely put in less-than-full effort (e.g. spending the day reading K5). They are concerned that automation will both reduce the number of dockworker jobs and introduce new employees - automation engineers and technicians - that are not traditionally unionized. Of course, slowing down manual work underlines the appeal of automation.

Why not just strike? Look at how much guff $40k per year teachers get. The longshoremen pull down $80k to $120k per year. Schoolteachers get razzed simply for striking before or during the school year (ever hear the one about the teachers that went on strike during the summer break? Neither has anyone else, that's why they strike when people will pay attention). On the other hand, the longshoremen, by their slowdown, compelled their employer to initiate a lockout just when retail inventories are being built up for Christmas. They get the benefit of people and businesses that rely heavily on imports and exports paying a lot of attention while their employer who locked them out gets the bad press.

Is it the "wrong time" to do this? That's usually a lame argument. But I'm mostly pro-labor, pro-union, and I was upset to hear about all West Coast ports being shut down because my first thought was that there was a terror threat. I think that both sides should go back to the bargaining table and avoid embarrassing themselves by not having an agreement when the 80 days ends in late December.


"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender

It's Technology Stupid! (5.00 / 3) (#44)
by Genady on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 12:13:04 PM EST

What this really comes down to is preservation of Union jobs. The employeers have said that no union worker will loose their job (until they retire) because of technology, but the jobs created by technology will not be Union jobs? While it is indeed odd to see an American corporation think in the long term, this is what is happening. The corporations want to bring in technology that will eventually displace the Union.

The Union, to it's credit, sees this, and wants any job created by technology to fall under the Union. This way, while membership may dip as technology takes over the power that the Union has over shipping will not.

Both sides are using the busy pre-christmas shipping season and the JIT inventory strategies to press their case (Support us the for benefit of the Nation!).

Personally I'm all for setting the precedent that technology workers are unionized. As a technology worker I'd be more than happy to be guarenteed extra pay for being on-call, carrying a pager, fixing a system that's supposidly 8-5 on a weekend, or any of the other abuses that Corporate America has used in the last decade to pump up it's productivity numbers.

The simple fact is that SysAdmins, desktop support, and other non-management type technology possitions should be wage and not salary. We're no more professional than a Plumber or an Electrician these days. And let me tell you I'd be more than happy to see a few more journeyman SysAdmins, and a few less MCSE's that have no clue.

--
Turtles all the way down.
[ Parent ]

As a Sysadmin I DO NOT want to work as a Union (4.66 / 3) (#51)
by Janir on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 01:50:03 PM EST

Speak for yourself, but I woudl rather NOT be unionised. I am doing more than just monkey wrenching systems and networks. I woudl much rather have control of my pay, benifits and such, by exceling at my job then then getting negotiated pay raises and benifits. I do much better controling my career's future by my work performance. If I'm not being paid what I should be or work conditions change then I look for a new job with someone that will give me what I want.

[ Parent ]
Common union misconceptions (5.00 / 2) (#56)
by lb008d on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:45:32 PM EST

1. I woudl much rather have control of my pay, benifits and such
There is no reason why individuals can't negotiate for higher wages individually with their employer. Many members of the union orchestra that I play in have negotiated a higher salary and/or better benefits. While it may appear that negotiated pay increases would reduce employer incentive to go above the base pay scale, personal performance can always help individual bargaining. Plus, as you yourself say, "I look for a new job with someone that will give me what I want."
2. I do much better controling my career's future by my work performance
How would this be any different if you were in a union?

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero
[ Parent ]

Nice to see you taking the long view (3.25 / 4) (#63)
by Genady on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:22:58 PM EST

And what happens to you in 20 years, when you're as anacronistic as the Mainframe people are now? What happens when you fall behind the technology curve, due to family concerns, the realization that there's a life beyond work, or just general malaize? What happens when you are tied to a home with children in school and a wife with a job and a reluctance to move? When you can't just pick up and move and job prospects in your hometown are scarce?

The really scary thing is I was just like you, moving from job to job, bouncing around doing new and interesting things, you know what, it gets old after a while. It would be nice to know that there is someone on my side when the axe comes down and they retire the system that I know.

--
Turtles all the way down.
[ Parent ]

Generation X and the Future of America (5.00 / 4) (#69)
by ubu on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:28:04 PM EST

when you're as anacronistic as the Mainframe people are now?

I believe his point was that by keeping his skills up-to-date he would be personally responsible for avoiding obsolescence. In any case, mainframe developers do not suffer.

What happens when you fall behind the technology curve, due to family concerns, the realization that there's a life beyond work, or just general malaize?

Well, we all have priorities to keep, don't we? I certainly don't think I deserve to get anything for free, either in the "long view" or the "short view". If I spend more time and effort on my family and consequently less of both on my job, am I still entitled to my former compensation? Good grief, of course not. If I'm stricken with malaise and consequently less motivated to perform, am I still as valuable to my employer? Of course not.

I'm a depression-sufferer. There are all sorts of awful outgrowths from that, one of which is chronic unemployment, which itself results in financial pressures, anxiety, and inability to put down roots and start a family at the present time. No matter how brilliant, skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced I am as a designer and developer, I'm flat-out less valuable to most employers than a cheerful, energetic, and motivated professional of lesser technical proficiency. That's a fact, and while it may be sad it's true, nonetheless.

The really scary thing is I was just like you, moving from job to job, bouncing around doing new and interesting things, you know what, it gets old after a while. It would be nice to know that there is someone on my side when the axe comes down and they retire the system that I know.

That's really sickening. Seriously, I think you should be ashamed of yourself.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Here have a strawman. (3.33 / 3) (#99)
by Genady on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:21:51 PM EST

Good grief, of course not. If I'm stricken with malaise and consequently less motivated to perform, am I still as valuable to my employer? Of course not.

Manager: "We're sorry Jim, but Bert here get's the big promotion. You see, while you're both about equal on a skills level Bert here doesn't have a family that calls him on company time, doesn't have kids that get sick, or require us to offer family medical insurance, and he works 60 hours a week on salary and carries a pager, cell phone, and laptop 7x24 to support us. Hell, he once stopped fucking his now ex-girlfriend mid stroke to answer the pager. You just don't do that anymore Jim, now that you've got 2.1 children and cart them around to soccer practice. By the way Ed from security will be up later to help you clean out your desk, we're downsizing."

How's that for a strawman?

--
Turtles all the way down.
[ Parent ]
While this sucks for Jim (3.00 / 1) (#110)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:50:18 AM EST

it isn't unfair. If for some reason there's only room for one employee in a given post, you'd best be the most valuable employee in that post, or you've got no reasonable expectation of having it.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

Hm. (3.00 / 1) (#129)
by ubu on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 07:47:38 AM EST

You idiot. I lost the best job of my life, a little over a year ago, because of the emotional pressures of a sick girlfriend and her fucked-up family. While carrying a 24x7 pager, no less. Unlike you, again, I can actually claim to have suffered the situations about which you so piteously moan. But unlike you, I can say I've still got my balls attached.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Cry me a river (4.00 / 2) (#135)
by Genady on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:11:28 AM EST

And if you'd been in a Union shop you'd probably still have that job. But hey, you're bright, motivated and young. I'm sure WalMart's hiring. Go clank your balls together at $7/hr.

--
Turtles all the way down.
[ Parent ]
Yup (2.00 / 1) (#142)
by ubu on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:48:02 AM EST

Working on it.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
I see (4.00 / 3) (#75)
by theElectron on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:52:01 PM EST

You should be paid wages for services for which there is no market demand. You should suck the life out of a company, suck money out of the economy, and, by using a union's ability to create an artificial scarcity of labor, force a company to support your lazy ass while you are no longer providing useful services to a company?

--
Join the NRA!
[ Parent ]
Ha. (4.50 / 2) (#96)
by tzanger on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:04:18 PM EST

And what happens to you in 20 years, when you're as anacronistic as the Mainframe people are now? What happens when you fall behind the technology curve, due to family concerns, the realization that there's a life beyond work, or just general malaize? What happens when you are tied to a home with children in school and a wife with a job and a reluctance to move? When you can't just pick up and move and job prospects in your hometown are scarce?

Nice. Join the union so you can rest on your laurels!

FYI: I am one of those people who has a wife and three kids, a mortgage and two car loans. I am one of those people who needs to work hard to keep up on the tech to keep myself current. And yes, I am anti-union.

You just put forth one of the best arguments I've ever heard for employers to not hire union and to shut down and reopen if a union were to be forced on the company. Do you think I want my employer to keep me around if I don't keep myself current or fall to "general malaize"? Would you like it if you couldn't get any car other than Brand X even though they were good at one time, but now just seem to slap half-assed fixes on the vehicle when it's in need of repair? How the hell can you remain competitive as a company when you're forced to support a bunch of archaic geeks who couldn't be bothered? Jesus Christ a job is not a right. You need to keep yourself employable in order to keep a job.

You do make one very good point: life is about (much) more than work. However that means that if you want to keep your edge, you tend to specialize. Can't keep up with C++, Java, XML, Python, Perl, Ruby, Linux, WinXP, networking and quake? Specialize. Hell I bet you don't need to be an expert half of it. Support your fellow employees by specializing in different areas: you'll be better off and so will the company. By the time most people have got the family and other reasons to do things other than work 60+ hours a week they should also have gained significant experience and wisdom that they can use to specialize and command even higher income. Were you spending too much time in the tech that you didn't bother to learn about the real world?

The really scary thing is I was just like you, moving from job to job, bouncing around doing new and interesting things, you know what, it gets old after a while. It would be nice to know that there is someone on my side when the axe comes down and they retire the system that I know.

Sounds just like what I was like. But you know, I don't expect someone to prop me up if I become lazy or can't figure out how to live and hold a job.



[ Parent ]
Specialize? (4.00 / 1) (#103)
by Genady on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:42:22 PM EST

So you specialize in what, say DB2? You spend a few years working your way up in a company eventually becoming a DBA making decent money, holding some power, and a new CIO comes in, gets a sales pitch from Oracle and you know what? You're out on your ass. Yes there's the chance you'd get to convert, but the new CIO runs the numbers and shows that it's easier and cheaper to contract with Oracle to do the deployment and all of the customization. Of course it wouldn't be, but the CIO can justify it because in doing so he's lowering head count and *gasp* it's just before the company's quarterly report.

So you're out on the street after 5 years. Yes you're a pretty good DB2 DBA, but most of the jobs out there are for entry to mid level DBA possitions and you have to compete with guys just out of college, who have been using DB2 XP or whatever not the antiquated system that you were using because you couldn't upgrade as fast as the industry, after all your system was stable and upgrades require huge amounts of testing before deployment.

But you know, I don't expect someone to prop me up if I become lazy or can't figure out how to live and hold a job.

Here tuck this away, you might need it in a few years.

--
Turtles all the way down.
[ Parent ]
Specialization (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by tzanger on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:03:21 AM EST

So you specialize in what, say DB2? You spend a few years working your way up in a company eventually becoming a DBA making decent money, holding some power, and a new CIO comes in, gets a sales pitch from Oracle and you know what? You're out on your ass.

And in the OP's world, you'd have kept the job knowing next to nothing. I see nothing wrong with what I said about specializing. Sure, you're out on your ass at this company. There are plenty of others, and I bet it doesn't take you long to use your experience and wisdom from years of DB2 to apply them to another DB system. The basics are all the same, after all. Learn some syntax, learn the idiosyncrasies of the new system and you're off to the races, likely with a far better footing than the college/uni grads you mention next.

Yes there's the chance you'd get to convert, but the new CIO runs the numbers and shows that it's easier and cheaper to contract with Oracle to do the deployment and all of the customization.

What's stopping you from doing the same in the first place? I bet it would be cheaper for a lot of companies to outsource. Running your own business isn't for everyone, but it's the only way to contract. So now instead of one 80k/a job, you've got four or five 30-50k/a service/admin contracts. Especially for DB, this shouldn't be difficult to pull off if you know your stuff and didn't stagnate on a particular DB system when the market was moving elsewhere. You do realize that specializing means keeping a pulse on the market, right?

So you're out on the street after 5 years. Yes you're a pretty good DB2 DBA, but most of the jobs out there are for entry to mid level DBA possitions and you have to compete with guys just out of college, who have been using DB2 XP or whatever not the antiquated system that you were using because you couldn't upgrade as fast as the industry, after all your system was stable and upgrades require huge amounts of testing before deployment.

Now I haven't hit offical Old Fart status yet but I know from my experience that things simply do not change that fast -- if the new DB2 XP was so radically different then all the software using it would also have to have been upgraded, which costs a fortune to the businesses who were running the original DB2 you know. Guess what? You're still in demand!

Here tuck this away, you might need it in a few years.

Please, spare me. I know a half dozen 60-75 year old people who are making excellent money doing ~10-20 hours a week contracting out their experience. And probably close to 10 times that in the 45-55 age group. In particular, one 70+ year old is working on the new jet launching systems for the US Naval carriers (I don't know the proper term, they are currently steam powered which makes them big and heavy) -- another is helping out a company doing new power semiconductor research. Highly highly special work, and stuff that the guys out of uni haven't got much of a clue on, because they're the ones who sought out the old guy for his experience!

'Sides... if you can be replaced that easily, it seems that you weren't as experienced or specialized in the first place. You may have had a sweet spot with a great income but you'd have known that it isn't like that everywhere. Everyone gets lucky sometimes. Unions try to perpetuate the myth that everyone can be lucky all the time. It just doesn't work that way.



[ Parent ]
One of a very few heinlein quotes I like: (4.00 / 2) (#109)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:46:10 AM EST

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for ants.

Being highly skilled at the specific tasks your job involves is important, but to the exclusion of all other knowledge and skill? I doubt that the overlap between people capable of becoming a senior systems person and people capable of completely failing to absorb anything outside their narrow field has to be pretty small.

We need a new term for Renaissance Men, since it so many people seem to feel that having a breadth of knowledge is something that went out of style four centuries ago.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

Learning curve (3.00 / 1) (#126)
by Boing on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 05:27:57 AM EST

Problem is, because many people do specialize to such a great extent, it's extraordinarily difficult to stay competitive without specializing yourself. Lets say you go to college and minor in chemistry, music, architecture, and computer science, with no major (assuming you could find a college that would allow you to do that). You would be very hard-pressed to land any sort of solid job in any of those fields, and there are few times outside of those specific fields where the knowledge provides a significant advantage. In contrast, going to college and majoring in chemistry without taking any other classes will allow you to get a decent job in the field of chemistry, and even more important, a decent career in chemistry.

Being well-rounded arguably makes you a better human being. These days, though, it is likely to make you a better, poorer, human being.

[ Parent ]

Teachers are not on the job during the summer (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 01:56:10 PM EST

It is not a vacation. The pay they receive is for the nine months that school is in session.

[ Parent ]
They're not? (4.00 / 1) (#97)
by tzanger on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:06:31 PM EST

It is not a vacation. The pay they receive is for the nine months that school is in session.

Then what the hell are they doing spending the summer months preparing for the next term? Sounds like a pretty fucking raw deal to me.



[ Parent ]
Why do you think that (2.50 / 2) (#108)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:36:27 AM EST

no one wants to do it? Teaching has to be one of the worst professions.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

Yeah I guess (3.00 / 1) (#145)
by Fon2d2 on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 10:44:43 AM EST

but that's what my piano teacher told me. And her husband and most of her adult students are teachers.

[ Parent ]
Why are these managers smiling? (4.33 / 6) (#14)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:49:45 AM EST

...but I don't see any other government intervention that would make the employers happy.

Okay, it went something like this:

Both sides have been at the bargaining table since early this year. Iicr, the current contract ran out in July.

Labor was unable to strike (possibly without formal notice) according to their contract, so instead they staged a slowdown, in some cases by switching skilled & unskilled laborers around. This caused a backlog of ships & cargo and angered managememnt. Who in turn, locked the workers out, thereby causing a *real* backlog.

As strange as it sounds, the management sought to strengthen their position (think 'leverage' here) at the bargaining table, by weakening the union through the shutout. Their thinking likely goes along the lines, that workers who don't work, will pressure the union to settle the current contract (which, btw, was quite generous, but provided a number of management-freindly loopholes, of course). The union has funds set aside, to pay striking workers, but I'm not at all certain who's supposed to pay in the cases where the management (who'd normally want the workers on the job), tells everybody to go home.

Management sees government intervention as further strengthening their position (even though it means putting the workers back on the job) and apparently the labor union agrees -- they see this act as weakening theirs.

Even I don't get this part either.

R

R

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!

Tacky reply to own post. (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:15:53 AM EST

A coworker (& fellow K5er) explained it as,
  1. the union stages a slowdown because they can't strike.
  2. management responds by a lockout, to force things into a more drastic situation, either leveraging the union or causing the government to step in.
  3. government steps in, which causes
    1. workers go back to fully productive work.
    2. this lends an "aire of illegality" to slowdowns & lockouts, thereby allowing the management to fire workers (should any further actions occur).
    3. if the negotiations continue to stall, management will have the government on their side.
Okay?

R

R

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!
[ Parent ]

So it's just a PR thing? (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:19:29 AM EST

The government is saying "get back to work, you" and if the workers don't, they won't have public support?

"...if negotiations continue to stall, management will have the government on their side." What exactly is the government able to do, beyond saying "please do this"?



--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
what government can do (3.33 / 3) (#80)
by winthrop on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 07:59:52 PM EST

According to this story, Bush has been considering providing the military to supply scab labor.

[ Parent ]
Why was this comment rated a "1"? (3.00 / 1) (#162)
by broken77 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:33:39 PM EST

It made me curious to research it. Is it rated a 1 just because it points to indymedia.org? So what? It turns out the story is actually true. Do a google search on "west coast waterfront coalition" and see what you turn up. I turned up many things, including this. Very interesting.

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

Glad you found it interesting [n/t] (none / 0) (#164)
by winthrop on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:45:50 PM EST

.

[ Parent ]
more on what the government can do (none / 0) (#181)
by bolthole on Fri Nov 01, 2002 at 05:48:40 PM EST

There is some labour law that says that companies HAVE to deal with a 'recognized' union. There are various criteria for being officially recognized.

I'm guessing that in theory, under some situations where the "union" is being really bad, the government can revoke that status.

At that point, the company will be free to fire the lot of them and hire non-union workers. Whereas curently, it is LEGALLY bound not to do that, becaues there is a recognized union.

[ Parent ]

It's called "slavery" (2.42 / 14) (#15)
by theboz on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:50:01 AM EST

The Taft-Hartley Act is little more than state-sanctioned slavery, much like the draft when it was in place. Taft-Hartley is one of those laws that are technically illegal, but a corrupt person like Bush is happy to abuse it because he only cares about rich businessmen, not "normal" people. He probably could have just as easily fell on the side of the dock workers and required the employers to sign the contract as it is, which would be wrong as well. Perhaps Bush should take his lazy ass and volunteer to do work there instead of forcing the other people to.

In any case, I would expect sabotage of something in the docks on the west coast because of the disgruntled dock workers who have to work because Bush says so.

Stuff.

Explain? (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:04:49 AM EST

Please describe what actual acts of oppression the Taft-Hartley Act (or the injunction it permits, rather) authorizes. If it's quasi-slavery, how is it enforced? If it's not, why is it interesting?

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
It is defacto slavery (2.25 / 4) (#28)
by theboz on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:19:47 AM EST

Although the lives of the people involved are not at risk, Bush has used it to force these people to return to work. If they refuse to do so, they face potential fines and jail time. Forcing people to work out of fear of imprisonment and other punishment sounds a lot like slavery to me.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

It sure does, but... (none / 0) (#29)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:22:20 AM EST

Can you point me to documentation that that is actually what is authorized? I haven't been able to find a good answer either way, which is why I posted this and why I keep repeating the question in all these comments.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
Good point (2.00 / 4) (#34)
by theboz on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:30:23 AM EST

I've heard them talk about it on the news (mostly unreliable), and using simple logic (not valid in government.) So they've talked about it on CNN, and it seems logical that they would have to use threats of fines or jail time for this act to have any power or authority whatsoever. Still, whether or not that would actually be used, I don't know.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

crapola (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by Craevenwulfe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:07:46 AM EST

you're making major statements about slavery and then confess you haven't a fucking clue, BRILLIANT!

[ Parent ]
Nope (2.00 / 1) (#43)
by theboz on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:31:14 AM EST

I have as much of a clue as anyone else, probably including Bush. I'm just citing my sources.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

I'm under the impression... (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:50:25 PM EST

that while the union members cannot strike, they can quit. Do you have any evidence that this is not the case?

While I certainly agree it's a shitty law, I think calling it slavery goes a little too far. Slaves can't quit.



[ Parent ]
you have funny ideas (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by khallow on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:06:29 AM EST

Why is this "slavery" when these workers earn on average $100K a year and can leave the job any time they want to?

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

So they <em>can</em> leave? (2.00 / 1) (#25)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:15:58 AM EST

Does the injunction require them to work or not? If it does, how is it not slavery? If it doesn't, how does it profit the employers?

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
leave not strike (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by khallow on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:32:08 AM EST

They can always get jobs somewhere else. That's what I mean by "leave". The presidential injunction doesn't change that.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Good point! (3.00 / 3) (#55)
by Ludwig on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:38:43 PM EST

And it's okay to refuse to sell houses in white neighborhoods to black families, because... they can always live someplace else! The cable company can demand your firstborn in their TOS and still not allow you to run a server, because... You can always get cable service from someone else!

[ Parent ]
your point is? (none / 0) (#168)
by khallow on Tue Oct 22, 2002 at 12:18:17 PM EST

And it's okay to refuse to sell houses in white neighborhoods to black families, because... they can always live someplace else! The cable company can demand your firstborn in their TOS and still not allow you to run a server, because... You can always get cable service from someone else!

Let's cut out the brainnoise here. I don't see how my statements can be construed as racist or as supporting a monopolistic, rent-seeking situation since neither holds in the case I mentioned (cable isn't a proper monopoly anyway since you can chose satellite TV or no TV). Sorry for not replying earlier, but I was away for a week.

In other words, the longshoremen in question can work elsewhere since a) they will get hired no matter what race they happen to be, and b) because their employers don't have a monopoly (monopsony?) on employing people.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#45)
by aphrael on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 12:13:33 PM EST

In *this* case, the injunction orders management to allow the workers to go back to work. The official position of management is that they locked the workers out for doing bad things; the official position of the union is that management locked them out for no good reason and they want to work.

This is the first time taft-hartley has been used in this manner.

[ Parent ]

So you advocate scab labour? (none / 0) (#22)
by Craevenwulfe on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:09:08 AM EST

Perhaps Bush should take his lazy ass and volunteer to do work there instead of forcing the other people to.

[ Parent ]
Actually sort of (2.00 / 2) (#32)
by theboz on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:27:25 AM EST

I do believe that capitalism can be good, and that in certain times unions can be too greedy or in the wrong. I don't really know about this case though. Still, this is just further sign that Bush only knows how to send others to do his dirty deeds and thinks that the presidency is the same as being a king or dictator.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

"Rich businessmen" (4.00 / 1) (#85)
by ekips on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:33:08 PM EST

I live about 100 miles from a major West Coast port; "big business" here hardly felt it, because they have the bucks to bring their stuff in by air and through east-coast ports.  What really suffered was the small business that can't afford to ship things the long way.  Bush, for once, made the smart move, which he should've made a while ago.  Losing upwards of US$1bn per day is more than enough reason to force a cooling-off period.


-----------------

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. If this had been an actual emergency, do you really think we'd stick around to tell you?
[ Parent ]
A Better Solution (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by j1mmy on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:57:59 AM EST

Robots and lots of them. I was listening to a report on NPR yesterday evening that labor unions are the main reason why U.S. ports aren't automated. The report focused on the port in Rotterdam, the Netherlands -- they went fully automated almost a decade ago, cutting out manual labor but creating tons of new white-collar jobs for management and IT. If I was one of the west-coast port operators, I would have made the change years ago. This is just more proof that unions do more harm than good.

The unions were important once... (none / 0) (#40)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:17:06 AM EST

And the absence of worker-advocates can still undermine a whole class of people - look at what's happened to US janitors - the collapse of their unions means that wages have been stagnant for 20 years now, and they've lost health benefits.

But I agree that the "big" unions seem to have little relevence in the work place.


--
Once one sock is sucked, the other sock will remain forever unsucked.


[ Parent ]

Localized Unions (none / 0) (#105)
by j1mmy on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:13:09 AM EST

Exactly. I have no problem with small, localized groups banding together to guarantee insurance, minimum wages, etc. It's when these unions extends to tens of thousands of workers spanning a whole industry that problems arise. I can't imagine that the needs of a worker in a Seattle port are identical to those of a worker in Los Angeles port.

Your example of janitors has the same problem as that of almost any manual laborer: mechanized systems are slowly becoming capable of doing their jobs. Blue-collar workers should be more worried about their relevance than their wages.


[ Parent ]

The problem with localized unions (none / 0) (#158)
by a humble lich on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 06:51:55 PM EST

In the US at least, the industries are no longer localized. If the unions were, and the longshoremen in San Diego decided to strike, the port owners could decide to just close the San Diego port. They would lose money, but most of the traffic could be sent through LA and it would send quite a message to the other unions.

I agree that big unions cause problems, but it is necessary in a world where the industries are so large. (Of course, I realize that there is a chicken and egg problem here, but I don't think large powerful unions are the main reason for large manufacturers.)

[ Parent ]

More harm than good to whom? (1.50 / 2) (#41)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:20:25 AM EST

They are clearly protecting the interest of their affiliates. They are not there to protect the interests of IT workers.

0wr F4th3R, wh0 0wnz h34\/3n, j00 r0x0rs!
M4y 4|| 0wr b4s3 s0m3d4y Bl0ng t0 j00!
M4y j00 0wn 34rth juss |1|3 j00 0wn h34\/3n.
G1v3 us th1s
[ Parent ]
More harm than good to whom? (3.50 / 2) (#42)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:21:42 AM EST

They are clearly protecting the interest of their affiliates. They are not there to protect the interests of IT workers.

0wr F4th3R, wh0 0wnz h34\/3n, j00 r0x0rs!
M4y 4|| 0wr b4s3 s0m3d4y Bl0ng t0 j00!
M4y j00 0wn 34rth juss |1|3 j00 0wn h34\/3n.
G1v3 us th1s
[ Parent ]
IT workers (none / 0) (#106)
by j1mmy on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:16:29 AM EST

IT workers can look out for their own interests. Why can't blue-collar types do the same?

[ Parent ]
Looking out for our own interests? (none / 0) (#159)
by Luke Francl on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 07:27:58 PM EST

Is that why so many of us are unemployed, then?

[ Parent ]
An answer (4.57 / 7) (#17)
by baberg on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:04:05 AM EST

Here's my shot at an answer to your question, "Why is management happy but labor is not?" Let's do a bullet-list of facts, like a logical argument.
  • Management wants labor to work for as little money as possible, while labor wants more money from management.
  • Management and labor cannot agree on the best resolution of this dispute
  • Labor causes a work slow-down, where they adhere to every safety standard possible, giving a 90% drop in productivity
  • Management gives labor a "time-out" to let tempers cool down
  • President Bush orders the workers to work again, at full productivity
  • Management receives full labor without being forced to give up anything at the negotiating table, while labor is forbidden from putting any pressure on management by slowing down, going on strike, or any of the other things unions usually do.
So, in summary, the slow-down is stopped, which makes the management happy and labor unhappy. It's not that tough to figure out.

The second to last step is what puzzles me (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:08:29 AM EST

I don't understand how "order[ing] the workers to work again" can be legal, yet I don't understand what else could make management happy. This comment comes the closest to a convincing explanation that I've seen.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
I may be talking out of my arse (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by ScuzzMonkey on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 01:32:50 PM EST

But I think that what actually occurs is that the union is ordered to put people back onto the job, or face losing it's protection of those jobs as union jobs. In other words, it's not so much the individuals are being ordered to return to work; rather it's the union being required to provide people for those positions if they want to retain their authority to negotiate for them.

That sounds convoluted; let me try again.

The jobs in question are union jobs--under the existing agreement, the shipping companies cannot hire any non-union member to fill those positions. What the order does, basically, is say to the union, "Hey, you not only have the right to fill these positions, but the responsibility to do so right now, or you can no longer require the shipping company to hire your members for them."

Better?


No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
[ Parent ]

Sure, I like it. (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:31:12 PM EST

That's why I cited the post I cited, which says about the same thing, as the best explanation I'd seen so far. Of course, I haven't yet seen a single paragraph in an "official" news source that says anything like that, so I'm still pissed off at the poor coverage and still missing an authoritative answer. But well-reasoned Wild Ass Guesses are about the best one can expect on K5, so thank you.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
A legal injunction allows for coercion (4.50 / 4) (#33)
by HidingMyName on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:28:36 AM EST

First of all, the president did not require a return to work, the courts did (at the President's request). In the U.S. this probably means a number of things if the workers do not return to their jobs and work at normal speeds.
  • If they don't their union protections may fail and they could be replaced. This happened to the air traffic controllers in the United States.
  • They could be imprisoned and/or fined for contempt of court (refusal to comply with a court order has a cost).


[ Parent ]
Actually, it was more like (4.20 / 5) (#36)
by Quila on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:35:27 AM EST

  • Workers are already earning loads of money, nothing related to that is in dispute
  • New technologies will make hundreds of workers obsolete, but management has agreed to kill positions only by attrition so that's not in dispute.
  • Management wants flexibility to have new (never before existing in this environment) jobs created by the technology be either union or non-union.
  • The union demands that all new jobs also be union because they don't want their powerbase eroded. Management disagrees, hence the impasse.
  • The union tells all workers to basically do no work on the job under the guise of adhering to safety regulations.
  • Management's tired of paying people to do nothing, hence the lockout.
  • President Bush orders the 80-day cool-down period under the aforementioned act.
  • Management and the economy are still screwed due to millions of dollars of ruined merchandise, empty retail pipelines and a six-week backlog on the ships even if the workers do work at 100% capacity.
The greedy schemes of the top people in the union were thwarted at least temporarily. Of course the union isn't happy.

[ Parent ]
Oh please... (3.00 / 1) (#94)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:54:11 PM EST

spin it whatever way you want, but baberg was more accurate. The shareholders want to pay the union members as little as possible for doing as much work as possible. The union members want to do a little work as possible and get paid as much as possible. The shareholders hire management to negotiate for them. The union members hire the union leaders to negotiate for them.

Call it greed, but greed is the American way. Anything less would be stupid.



[ Parent ]
Read it again (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 02:59:36 AM EST

Pay and benefits for union workers are not in dispute. The greed in both directions has already been settled. Whether or not future created jobs will fall under the union's power is the only thing in dispute.

It's about the future size of the union (by only a small percentage), and how many union dues go into the coffers.

I generally like unions, and at a former job definitely wished we had a union to stop management abuses, but this one is abusing its power.

[ Parent ]

blah subject again (3.00 / 1) (#152)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:39:47 PM EST

Pay and benefits for union workers are not in dispute. The greed in both directions has already been settled. Whether or not future created jobs will fall under the union's power is the only thing in dispute.


And that directly affects the union members.  Again, that's capitalism.  Union members want one thing, shareholders want something else.  They fight, they argue, they threaten, etc.


It's about the future size of the union (by only a small percentage), and how many union dues go into the coffers.


The percentage is irrelevant.  If it's only a small percentage, then you could argue that the company should give in as easily as that the union should.


I generally like unions, and at a former job definitely wished we had a union to stop management abuses, but this one is abusing its power.


It seems to me that if the majority of the union is willing to go on strike and stop getting paid in order obtain what they want, and the rest of the union is willing to agree to go with the majority decision, then there isn't any abuse of power.  Perhaps the union members don't deserve what they're getting, but personally I care about who deserves what as much as I care about who deserves to win the World Series.  I mean it's not like anyone is dying because of this.  It's just two big babies crying about how much cash they're going to steal from the other.



[ Parent ]
Subtleties of life (3.44 / 9) (#23)
by bobpence on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:09:55 AM EST

The longshoremen who forced the lockout through their go-slow behavior are not the only workers who do things in an indirect way. You have likely heard of the "blue flu." In many cities police are not permitted to go on strike, but in the midst of a labor dispute, a municipality may find a significant number of its cops phoning in sick. This is an asymmetric approach to dealing with a lack of power. It is also useful in avoiding bad publicity; the longshoremen don't want to go on strike and be blamed for $1B per day of economic loss to the economy, and cops don't want to go on strike, even where legal, and be blamed for every crime that occurs while they picket.

People will argue over whether the union is really responsible for the work stoppage, since it is a fact that the owners locked them out. This is important, but this sort of subtle defining and determining also takes place on a larger stage.

In 1967, Israel's Arab neighbors attacked. Well, not really. They were massing to attack when Israel acted preemptively. This was legal in light of a clear and immediate threat; Israel was not the aggressor, even in the eyes of those of us who are less than fond of past and present Israeli administrations. But anti-Semites will point to the fact that Israel fired first.

In 1998, Saddam Hussein ejected UN weapons inspectors. Well, not really. His many obstructions made their work ineffective, so they left rather than cooperate in his charade of compliance. This too was appropriate, even if all of the activities of the inspectors had not been. But critics of the United States will point to the fact that the inspectors left of their own accord.

The current American administration has accused Iraq of harboring members of Al Qaeda. But the accusations deal with Qaeda terrorists hiding in the northern region, de facto Kurdistan, outside Saddam's control; or with giving medical in Baghdad treatment to a senior Qaeda member, something that the country that hosted the tyrannical Shah of Iran in his final months of life ought not criticize. (Tongue in cheek, though, one wonders why anyone would go to Iraq for medical treatment when the sanctions are supposedly so harmful).

We should not engage in such intellectual dishonesty. Saddam needs to be out of power, but the key to doing so is not to spin facts out of context.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender

Also... (none / 0) (#64)
by buck on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:24:16 PM EST

>> The longshoremen who forced the lockout through their go-slow behavior are not the only workers who do things in an indirect way.

Airline pilots did the same thing. Instead of going on strike, they would go through their pre-flight checks "by the book" (similar to what the longshoremen did prior to the lockout). Departures would take forever and an hour to happen.

-----
“You, on the other hand, just spew forth your mental phlegmwads all over the place and don't have the goddamned courtesy to throw us a tissue afterwards.” -- kitten
[ Parent ]

Israel (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by Merk00 on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:09:36 PM EST

In 1967, Israel's Arab neighbors attacked. Well, not really. They were massing to attack when Israel acted preemptively. This was legal in light of a clear and immediate threat; Israel was not the aggressor, even in the eyes of those of us who are less than fond of past and present Israeli administrations. But anti-Semites will point to the fact that Israel fired first.
Actually, the preemptive attack by Israel probably wasn't legal. Under international law, preemptive strikes aren't legal. This is why there was such a big issue when Bush declared that the US would preemptively strike threatening countries. It's a fundemental change in international law. The reason that preemptive attacks are illegal it is very hard to set criteria that designate a threat. The simple existance of Arab countries could be a threat to Israel but that doesn't give them the right to attack. While Israel was probably morally in the right for preemptively attacking the Arab countries in the 1967 War, they legally were in the wrong (which is one of the reasons that there are UN Security Counsel Resolutions ordering Israel out of Gaza and the West Bank).

Also, don't refer to those who are against Israel as anti-Semites. An anti-Semites is against Jews. Someone who doesn't approve of the state of Israel is anti-Zionist. There is a difference and being an anti-Semite is much more distatesful than being an anti-Zionist.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

So what does someone who doesn't object to (none / 0) (#114)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:14:34 AM EST

Israel's existence, but doesn't particularly like the way they conduct their affairs call themselves?

Also, on the pre-emptive strike thing, see my sig.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

Taft-Hartley Act ? (2.00 / 1) (#26)
by anothertom on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:17:44 AM EST

Taft-Hartley Act ?
I am not American, I have never heard it before, and I fscking want to know about!
What's the use of the news section of a very interactive and communicative site as K5, if not to bring in its readers collective knowledge?
So +1FP and don't let me die stupid.


AP history (none / 0) (#30)
by bobpence on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:22:53 AM EST

In today's Boston Globe.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
The wrong info (none / 0) (#31)
by Otto Surly on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:24:55 AM EST

I found that earlier. (The Globe is my local paper.) It talks about when the act was used, but not what it actually does.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
OK (4.66 / 3) (#37)
by bobpence on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:38:29 AM EST

You can read the legalese for yourself; or the Naderese, or some guys report.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
not up on my history (4.16 / 6) (#39)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:11:47 AM EST

but the Taft Hartley act doesn't end negotiations between labor and management; it does authorize the President to tell the workers to get back to work. The interesting aspect here is that the workers will go back to work but in fact, there's little compelling them other than the President's order. From my memory, there is no way to really enforce it.

If you read the Constitution, the power of the President is generally that of a clerk. In the early history, the President was required to physically sign the authorizations for every employee of the executive branch, including every post office worker. Over time, though, the presidency realized that it held a ceremonial position that gave them a power unique to the office: the bully pulpit. People listen to the President even when he has--at best--a limited ability to back up his words. As a result, people generally think he has more power than he really has. When Truman seized the steel mills back in 1952, he was not acting under the Taft-Hartley act. There was no fact-finding. He didn't have the right to "seize" them, per se. Taft-Hartley was more of a smoke screen, and the Supreme Court even ordered that the President exceeded his authority. And yet, the workers returned to work, likely because they believed that Truman had the authority to command them to do so.

For those interested, there is a classic book called Presidential Power by Richard Neustadt that goes into greater detail about all of this.

-Soc
I drank what?


I am (5.00 / 1) (#125)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:26:21 AM EST

there's little compelling them other than the President's order.

There's a court order.

President was required to physically sign the authorizations for every employee of the executive branch

Article II, Section 2: "...but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments."

But, yes, the rest of the powers such as executive orders have been pretty much grabbed. The constitutionality of this was a big debate between Hamilton and Madison way back when Washing was president, and the Supreme Court has tended to take Hamilton's view (more power).

[ Parent ]

Why are unions useful? (3.66 / 3) (#46)
by X3nocide on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 12:15:19 PM EST

Maybe a little economics is a bad thing, but why are unions even useful anymore? From a national economic standpoint, replacing people with machines raises the capacity of the ports and frees up people to do something less automatable. I don't want to seem snobby, but it sounds like the union is designed to insulate people from having to learn, adapt and improve themselves. Collective bargaining is one thing but near-instant tenure is kinda bad.

It makes me wonder how one would feel to be replaced by a machine. It takes a long round of meditation in the forest to realize that your value to others no longer lies in a specific set of skills like button pushing but in your ability to learn new tasks. I say this from my pulpit as a master of automated machinery, but I wonder what will be said when machines are built that will replace us programmers.

Well, probably "In 2041 the machine became sentient" or some other lame Terminator quote. But maybe human production value lies in creativity not level pulling. Or maybe the answer for the meantime is collegiate education; I sure hope there aren't any machines in my graduating class.

pwnguin.net

It DOES, doesn't it. (4.00 / 2) (#47)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 12:39:51 PM EST

...it sounds like the union is designed to insulate people from having to learn, adapt and improve themselves.

IMntbHO, unions cease to be useful when they stop focusing on the working class and exist only to perpetuate unions. Apparently they view errosion of their power base (read: "lack of need") as a bad thing.

But this is true of many large for-the-benefit-of-the-downtrodden organizations...like, the Rainbow Coalitian or the Kentucky State Dept. of Social Services (where they actually discourage recipients from opting-out of welfare!). Their very existance depends upon having a ready supply of perpetually huddled masses, and not on success stories.

R

R

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!
[ Parent ]

They're not the only ones (none / 0) (#113)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:10:55 AM EST

The same can be said of police forces, military, or intelligence agencies. Its a common feature of any organization that comes into existence for a specific purpose; what to do with all the specialized employees when the organizations goals have been met (or even where the magnitude of the goals is reduced)?

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

Job security. Blue collar jobs. (5.00 / 7) (#60)
by lb008d on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:59:56 PM EST

How much do you value job security?

maybe the answer for the meantime is collegiate education

You are lucky to be intelligent and/or skilled enough to have a "professional" job. Just remember that many people lack the intelligence, drive, or financial resources to pursue higher education. These are the people who need blue-collar work to be available.

Yes the union insulates people, but try to look at the situation from the worker's point of view. My dad is a steelworker and has been his entire life - he supported a family on his blue-collar income. Should he lose his job of 25 years due to an automation improvement, what would you suggest he do? Just go back to school or get new training in something else - with a mortgage still on his hands? Try imagining having to do that after that many years of work in the same industry.

It is easy for young people to imagine themselves as gallant self-serving crusaders in the free market - they rarely have a family or a mortgage (that's why you see so many "Just get a new job" posts on K5). Re-examine your views after starting a family and buying a house, and you'll find a more realistic view towards job security.

"Kuro5hin: politics and pretension, from the $3,000 leather recliners on the hill overlooking the trenches."DarkZero
[ Parent ]

Jobs would only be lost through attrition. (none / 0) (#87)
by ColeH on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:29:28 PM EST

The union is trying to perpuate overpaid positions. They are even objectiong to the use of scanners replacing hand-written invoices.

The case of your father here doesn't apply at all. No one is saying 'just get a new job'. This is about union security - not individual job security.

[ Parent ]

Fairly easy (3.66 / 3) (#50)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 01:36:24 PM EST

The longshoremen work slowly to exert pressure on the owners over a contract dispute. The owners respond by locking them out, which prevents them from working, which prevents them from being paid.

Bush forced that lockout to come to an end temporarily. The result is simple: the longshoremen must work, but can do so at any old pace, as they face no legal repercussions whatsoever. The owners must let them work and must pay them, or they face legal repercussions. The longshoremen are happy because it is better to be paid than not, and the owners are unhappy because this means that they're unlikely to get their way in the long run; their trump card has been overruled.

Of course, the president really has no business meddling in private business, but unions have no business having federal protection that makes it illegal to fire their workers, and owners have no business shutting down international trade over what amounts to pennies or nickels an hour, so all around everyone involved is getting a big fat pimpsmack upside the head for being really dumb. Bush will get his when a bunch of wealthy businessmen who used to support him decide that he can fuck off and die in the next election, and I get to laugh all the way home watching everyone on every side of the thing take it right in the ass for being dumb.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

federal protection (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by Ludwig on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:47:04 PM EST

It's not illegal to fire union workers, it's illegal to fire them for going on strike. In any case involving even semi-skilled labor, it's a moot point, because it's usually not in the employer's interest to replace all the people who know what they're doing with a bunch of poorly-compensated newbies. The lost productivity will wipe out whatever money they're saving on wages, and as soon as the replacements find their groove and learn the craft, they'll be in a position to organize themselves and the employer is back where it started.

[ Parent ]
It's illegal to fire someone for going on strike? (none / 0) (#92)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:36:09 PM EST

Are you sure? That's pretty stupid, if so. I can understand if they're under contract, and I can understand why it would be illegal to fire someone for joining a union, but if you're an at will employee and you stop working you can't be fired? Again, are you sure?

[ Parent ]
Yup. (4.00 / 1) (#101)
by Ludwig on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:23:32 PM EST

Without the right to strike, the right of collective bargaining is toothless. Two important laws establishing this were the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which limited federal courts' ability to order unions to stop a strike or slowdown, and the Wagner Act (Here's a more *ahem* "business-friendly" take...)

If this sounds like an unbelievable sweetheart deal for labor, bear in mind that going on strike is not a vacation. The popular image of the lazy beer-bellied Teamster notwithstanding, no one wants to go on strike. You don't get paid while you're on strike. They don't save up your paychecks for you and hand 'em out when you go back to work. I don't think you can even get unemployment in most states.

Also, union workers are generally working under contract. I'm sure there's all sorts of language in those concerning negotiations for renewal -- affirming that striking shall not be deemed an invalidating breach of contract, that sort of thing.

[ Parent ]

subject (none / 0) (#150)
by dipierro on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:25:56 PM EST

Without the right to strike, the right of collective bargaining is toothless.


I didn't deny that they had the right to strike.  What I denied was that the company didn't have a right to fire them for striking.  Your links don't address that.


You don't get paid while you're on strike. They don't save up your paychecks for you and hand 'em out when you go back to work. I don't think you can even get unemployment in most states.


So in effect it's a moot point, because you might as well be fired.


Also, union workers are generally working under contract. I'm sure there's all sorts of language in those concerning negotiations for renewal -- affirming that striking shall not be deemed an invalidating breach of contract, that sort of thing.


But that's a contractual thing.  If the law already protects union members from being fired for striking, then the contract clause would be unnecessary.  I have a feeling the "can't be fired" thing is a combination of contractual agreements as well as the understanding that if one person is fired the whole union is going to strike until that person is reinstated.


As your link says, Norris-LaGuardia "denied injunction relief on the grounds that strikers, union members or their supporters constitute(d) or are engaged in an unlawful combination or conspiracy."



[ Parent ]
Replacement Workers and Seniority (none / 0) (#177)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 02:46:52 AM EST

I realize the rules vary by state, but here is the aftermath of a strike in middle America.

The company collected evidence of misbehavior during the strike (throwing molotov cocktails, and other naughtyness) to try to use at what NLRB calls a court system to adjudicate alleged violations of the rules.

During the strike, replacement workers were hired.  A lot of people did not want to cross the picket line, so the company made arrangements with the local prison to have people on work release ... they left prison in morning, traveled to the company, got paid for doing the striker jobs, returned to jail for the evening.

Because of the damage done by the strike (power line chopped down, phone lines chopped down, delivery trucks ambushed), the company lost a lot of business.  The union went to unemployment compensation court to argue that because of loss of company business, their jobs were now lost, so they should get unemployment compensation for the lost jobs.

When the strike was over, the replacement workers initially kept their jobs, but the business fluctuated - people let go, they replacement workers, need to hire someone, the unionized people had seniority in being hired.

They were called in, given a list of the bad stuff they were seen to do during the strike, and fired because of it, to get them off the seniority rolls.  This then went to labor management arbitration.  Some of them got to keep their jobs.  Some lost their jobs.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/
[ Parent ]

It depends (none / 0) (#176)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 02:39:24 AM EST

It depends on the laws for each state, because they start with the Federal NLRB, then have exceptions for that state of the USA.

It depends on the union contract, because they start with what the rules are for that state of the USA (in this case several western states), then they negotiate a contract with the employer and both sides sign it, after months or years of fighting over what will be in the contract, not unlike a husband and wife divorce "agreement", except who gets to pay for the lawyers.

It depends on the collective bargaining, because no matter what the company does, the union will accuse them of violating the contract, and no matter what the union does, the company will accuse them of violating the contract, and these accusations need to be resolved.

Like I said in another post here, labor management is like a war zone.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/
[ Parent ]

Try again... (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by opendna on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:05:46 PM EST

The union is upset, the employers are happy.

Now explain that.



[ Parent ]

Heh (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:14:47 PM EST

The union may be upset, but the workers aren't. As for the employers, they may be happy the ports are running, but they're not happy about their negotiating position, which frankly sucks at this point. Between the two of those things, I'm sure they're putting on their happy patriotic face right now for most public interviews, but remember, they're the ones who closed the ports, and refused an updated agreement from the union simply because they were afraid the work slowdown would continue if they opened them.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Self-regulation (2.00 / 3) (#53)
by marx on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:14:14 PM EST

It's just the free market and self-regulation at work. Go back to watching TV and stop worrying.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.

Wrong (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by theElectron on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:45:02 PM EST

As well all know, capitalism only works in the presence of a free market. Monopolies take the free out of the market and this is when self-regulation breaks down. The government is forced to intervene in this case since the union has a monopoly on labor. In the twentieth century America became familiar with the perils that industry monopoly imposes capitalism. I believe that the twenty-first century will identify, by logical extension, the danger with which unions place a similar monopoly on labor.

--
Join the NRA!
[ Parent ]
Monopolies (2.50 / 2) (#91)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:33:42 PM EST

So how come it's so easy for unions to be declared monopolies unilaterally by the President in a 30 minute speech but declaring Microsoft to be a monopoly takes a half decade long court case?

[ Parent ]
Who? (none / 0) (#95)
by theElectron on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:01:56 PM EST

Who the heck said anything about Microsoft? Stop beating that dead horse and move on with your life.

--
Join the NRA!
[ Parent ]
Me (1.00 / 1) (#98)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:12:00 PM EST

I'm the one who said something about Microsoft.  And it's not just Microsoft.  No company can be declared a monopoly unilaterally by the President.


Besides, the purpose of unions is merely to even the playing field.  Corporations get to have a single negotiator represent the interests of thousands of shareholders.  Shouldn't the employees get the same benefit?


Take your libertarian nonsense somewhere else.



[ Parent ]
Me too (3.00 / 2) (#100)
by theElectron on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:22:34 PM EST

No company can be declared a monopoly unilaterally by the President since creating and maintaining a monopoly is a crime; it requires judicial process. The power of the Taft-Hartley Act aside, so too should creating and maintaining a monopoly of labor be a crime. In this case you are correct in that President ought not have as his exclusive right the power to judge an institution (corporate or union) as a monopoly.

Now, you claim that the purpose of the union is to provide a single negotiator to represent common interests. Bullcrap. The purpose of unions is to provide the infrastructure and support necessary to foster a monopoly of labor. Any ad hoc organization can be formed to represent workers in negotiations, unions exist for the purpose of creating and enforcing an artificial scarcity (read monopoly) of labor in order to coerce (read blackmail) business owners into actions not otherwise supported or justified in a free, demand-driven market.

--
Join the NRA!
[ Parent ]

Yet ... (5.00 / 1) (#128)
by craigtubby on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 06:50:38 AM EST

When it comes down to it the only thing us "workers" have is time.  That Time is irreplaceable and it cannot be stored, and is not infinate.  It can be used to create or do things, but once it is gone it is never coming back.

Business owners know that Time is used up whatever (you don't have a job - you still use time at the same rate) and in the end they profit from Time and the things that Time creates.

So why shouldn't people get together and use the only resource they have to say "We will only give you our time if you give us what we want"

Its the only bargining chip an person has.

try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *
[ Parent ]

Actually the union isn't a monopoly... (none / 0) (#166)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:50:01 PM EST

It is arguably an oligopoly engaging in collusive practices.  But depending on the percentage of available workers who are part of the union, it's probably not even that.

In order for collective bargaining to work, there has to be an agreement of some sort between the workers.  When people make such an agreement they are considered to have joined a union.  A union is nothing more than a particular form of non-profit corporation, really.  You don't want to ban all non-profits, do you?  If so perhaps the RIAA should be the first to go.

[ Parent ]

Union against the Union (none / 0) (#175)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 02:34:11 AM EST

Workers, who disagree with the Union are not allowed to form a Union # 2 to protect them from perceived abuses from Union # 1, so in that sense the first Union is like a monopoly.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/
[ Parent ]
Monopoly (none / 0) (#146)
by marx on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:02:48 AM EST

If the union is a monopoly, then this situation is treated with anti-trust law, which deals with illegal monopolies.

Since the anti-trust legislation was not used here, then we can assume that the union is not an illegal monopoly.

So you have to come up with some other excuse.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Bravo!! (5.00 / 1) (#156)
by theElectron on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 06:02:24 PM EST

An astounding piece of logic.

Man dials 911.

Man: Help!! My house is on fire! Send somebody--quick!

Operator: Sir, calm down. Is the fire department there?

Man: NO! That's why I'm calling! My house is on fire!!

Operator: Well sir that's just not possible. If your house were on fire then there would be fire fighters there.

--
Join the NRA!
[ Parent ]

Idiot (none / 0) (#157)
by marx on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 06:13:26 PM EST

You see a house. There are policemen outside and inside. There are no firemen around. What is most probable?
  1. The house is on fire.
  2. A crime has been committed in the house.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

The Constitution as Toilet Paper (2.00 / 1) (#54)
by K5 Demon on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:16:37 PM EST

Too bad the Taft-Hartley act gives the President power that that he isn't legally allowed to have by the Constitution. But then, many laws passed around the same time as the Taft-Hartley Act blatantly ignored it. (See Social Security and similar programs for other examples.)

Bush is simply further mocking the Constitution by doing this. (What a surprise.)

Huh? (5.00 / 2) (#61)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:10:36 PM EST

This seems a fairly minor extension of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Congress passed the law, the executive branch directs its enforcement, and a federal court judge approves the order.

There's plenty of ways the Bush administration has mocked the Constitution, but this isn't one of them.

[ Parent ]

Definitely (4.00 / 1) (#124)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:12:23 AM EST

It's a lot less of a minor Commerce Clause extension than, say, busting some lady for growing pot in her back yard for her own use. This is having nationwide impact, and it is directly affecting trade with foreign nations (same clause as Commerce). So Congress has authority to make the law.

Article II, Section 3, makes the President enforce Congress' laws, and the law said for him to ask the judicial branch for a court order.

[ Parent ]

Key point (3.00 / 1) (#58)
by ucblockhead on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 02:49:42 PM EST

A key part in Taft-Hartly is that it is a temporary order. The idea is to give everybody time to cool down. I believe that it is only good for ninety days, and is not "renewable".
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
80, actually. (none / 0) (#66)
by aphrael on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 03:37:41 PM EST

And the order yesterday was for a week while the judge has a hearing to determine if it should be a full 80-day order.

[ Parent ]
Pacific Maritime Association, A trust? (4.60 / 5) (#67)
by jester69 on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:14:59 PM EST

Okay,

Since we are talking about acts named after people, what about the Sherman Anti-Trust act?

Here we have a bunch of independent harbor owners up and down the west coast of the united states apparently colluding and conspiring to act in concert.

If one person owned all of those ports, wouldn't it be an illegal monopoply?

Well, by the same rationale isn't their locking out all workers sort of a dead giveaway that these supposedly independent harbors are in collusion & a trust?

here is a link, reading the act, one sees all kinds of language that if interpreted in the light of their recent action, clearly brands the Pacific Maritime Association an illegal Entity.

http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/foia/divisionmanual/ch2.htm

thanks,

Jester
Its a lemming thing, Jeep owners would understand.

Duh (3.33 / 3) (#73)
by theElectron on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:32:54 PM EST

Well, by the same rationale isn't their locking out all workers sort of a dead giveaway that these supposedly independent harbors are in collusion & a trust?

It's the workers who have a monopoly on labor. If the union strikes/slows-down (same thing) en-masse then ports are forced to bargain collectively.

--
Join the NRA!
[ Parent ]

Bzzt... wrong! (4.33 / 3) (#82)
by marinel on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:14:01 PM EST

PMA controls the trade into the ports and, now that the union contract expired, they have the option to hire anyone they want INCLUDING non-union workers. The union can only control their members and can't block PMA from hiring non-members. So, once again, who's blocking trade here?
--
Proud supporter of Students for an Orwellian Society
[ Parent ]
And why *DO* they have a monopoly... (2.00 / 2) (#83)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:17:09 PM EST

... in the first place???

> It's the workers who have a monopoly on labor.

We're talking about, mostly, unskilled grunt work.  And of the more skilled jobs, they could probably be replaced, with a bit of training, by any competent heavy-equipment operator (I'm thinking of construction... how different IS a dock crane from a construction crane, after all?).

Many of these guys clear six-digits (average is $85K-ish), and they think they're being treated unfairly???  And, as the news reports it, the whole POINT of this closure is that the unions want to keep skilled professional workers *OUT* of the ports!?!?!?

Taking cues from the baseball players' union, they appear to be.  

And our european friends WONDER why so many in the US are disillusioned with, and contemptuous of, unions.

cya,
john

Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

ugh (3.50 / 2) (#154)
by rhyax on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 12:31:21 AM EST

Yea, those damn unions, making people get paid enough to raise a family, and send kids to college. Fuck that, I'm glad I get paid market-driven wages so I can bask in the knowledge that the investors in the company I work for are getting rich. I mean, hell, they do all the work anyway, why should I expect to get paid that much?

[ Parent ]
That's something that's annoyed me about unions... (2.50 / 2) (#81)
by SvnLyrBrto on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:08:59 PM EST

Well... the whole union vs. "association" bit, actually.

Why the hell does the union expect ONE contract to cover relations between it, and ALL potential employers of its members.  Or ARE all the ports REALLY owned by one authority?

Seems to me that if the ports ARE independently owned/operated, there should a seperate contract between the union and EACH port.

If, for example, the Port of Los Angeles decides to start treating its dockworkers like crap, they bloody well should NOT be staging a slowdown or stike up here in San Francsico (well, the port of Oakland, actually).

To attack (economicly, in this case) an unrelated third party is, IMO, thuroughly contemptable.

Yes, if the port authorities are proven to be colluding, break out the Sherman act and bust them up (Ha!  Like that'll happen with son-of-bush as peaz., but still...).  But the union SHOULD bloody well be dealing with each port individually in the first place.  Seems to me that they need to be broken up as well.

(Likewise with that janitors' strike that's brewing in Boston.  Sure, if you've got a problem with one employer, put the screws to that ONE employer.  Don't affect third parties, and turn all of downtown into a landfill.)

cya,
john

Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

It's only a monopoly (4.00 / 2) (#123)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 04:01:30 AM EST

If it starts acting like one, at least as far as DOJ is concerned. Microsoft didn't have a monopoly on operating systems (others were available), but it used its immense marketshare to engage in monopolistic practices.

I don't know if PMA has been engaging in monopolistic practices or not, and I wouldn't put it past them, but just controlling all the ports wouldn't make them illegal.

[ Parent ]

No, that's wrong... (4.50 / 2) (#139)
by SPYvSPY on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:34:21 AM EST

...I disagree. You are confusing 'monopoly' with 'anti-competitive'. A monopoly can exist in the presence of competition. What defines a monopoly is its dominance of the relevant market(s). However, a monopoly is benevolent under the antitrust laws unless and until it execises its dominance in an anti-competitive manner (e.g., through price fixing, predatory pricing, etc.)
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

Semantics, but we agree on principle (n/t) (1.50 / 2) (#144)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 10:10:16 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Then the same would be true of the unions, no? (2.00 / 2) (#134)
by delmoi on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:52:07 AM EST

Two monopolies arguing with eachother.  Oh no.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Unions are a form of collusion. (4.00 / 1) (#185)
by vectro on Mon Nov 04, 2002 at 02:18:00 AM EST

That's how they work. The theory is well-understood and acknowledged by anyone not in denial about the situation.

The idea is that workers are generally at a disadvantage in their negoations with employers, because while employers have many employees, and employee generally only has one or two employers; thus preservation of the contract is substantially more important to the employee than the employer.

Unions are supposed to be one of the ways to compensate for this imbalance. By allowing workers to collude in their negotiations with employers, a many-to-many relationship can be established, resetting the power imbalance. The problem is that while unions do tend to have the desired effect, they come with a whole realm of undesired side effects, such as this one.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Bad Reporting (4.00 / 4) (#68)
by Sloppy on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:20:55 PM EST

I agree: the reporting on this story has been particularly bad.

My impression is that it really was virtually a strike by the employees, but implemented in such a way (showing up for work and then slacking) as to incite a lockout by the employers.

The news stories I've seen don't mention what reason the employers had for not just firing everyone and getting new employees to operate the terrible job-threatening un-American barcode readers. I'm guessing there's some contract that prevents it, but sheesh, why am I guessing? I paid for that newspaper, dammit.

I think it's pretty serious when the President of the USA gets involved in private disputes. This ought to be deeply-covered front page stuff.
"RSA, 2048, seeks sexy young entropic lover, for several clock cycles of prime passion..."

exactly (4.66 / 3) (#70)
by SocratesGhost on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 04:40:16 PM EST

"I think it's pretty serious when the President of the USA gets involved in private disputes"

The Taft-Hartley act was drafted as a reaction to fears that unionization would impact America's ability to defend itself. It's hard to build guns, tanks, and bullets when steel workers are on strike. T-H basically gives notice to both sides that the problems are bigger than merely the two parties to the issue. In this case, we have the U.S. and Asian economies being impacted by whether future jobs will be union jobs.

Indeed, the government does have an interest here.

Also, there are laws against wrongful termination. Collective bargaining is no longer legitimate grounds for termination and haven't been since the first half of last century.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Collective Bargaining (3.00 / 1) (#112)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:04:32 AM EST

is saying "Hey Bob, me, Steve, and Sally were thinking that we'd all like raises. And since you're better spoken than us, and get on pretty good with the foreman, we were thinking that we'd all ask at once, except we get you to do the talking."

Whereas this is more like "You know Bob, some of the workers are grumbling about having to pay dues to keep the union management in new german cars; we haven't been causing enough problems for the companies lately. I think we should convince the workers to fuck around all day for a while and see what we can extort out of the bosses."

My point is, negotiation is bargaining, agreeing to fuck around and not do the job is not doing the job. If you want to strike, then strike; it isn't like strikers are still at risk of police beatings and Pinkerton bullets - there's no need for this sneaky crap beyond trying to convince the public that they're the victims when the companies lock them out for being lazy pricks.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

no (3.66 / 3) (#116)
by SocratesGhost on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 02:30:38 AM EST

it's more like, "Hey Manager, you're asking us to accept a new contract which will eventually put us out of a job. In return for doing this, we'd like to make sure that any new jobs that would replace us also be completed through our established collective bargaining position so they don't get screwed over in the future."

I think you're having a knee-jerk reaction to what is otherwise an easily understood complaint.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
no (4.50 / 4) (#122)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:58:35 AM EST

"Hey Manager, you're asking us to accept a new contract which will eventually put us out of a job [not replace a small percentage of union members as they voluntarily leave or retire]. In return for doing this [keeping personnel on the payroll even though they don't have anything to do], we'd like to make sure that any new [mostly white-collar] jobs that would replace us [fill new positions] also be completed through our established collective bargaining position so they don't get screwed over in the future [we maintain fat union dues and power]."

[ Parent ]
Just one quibble... (4.00 / 1) (#90)
by dipierro on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:27:44 PM EST

Their contract has expired. The reason the employers aren't going to fire everyone and get new employees likely has more to do with supply and demand. I doubt you could find enough skilled workers willing to work harder than the old employees at a lower wage.

[ Parent ]
Longshoremen aren't skilled workers (3.00 / 1) (#111)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:56:04 AM EST

Given a few days experience, and maybe a short safety training session, pretty much anyone able to lift more than ten pounds could handle the position.

And I, for one, would do their job for half what they make. I suppose I may be something of an aberration in north american society, but I don't think that I should be making white collar money if I'm doing blue collar work.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

skilled longshoreman (none / 0) (#167)
by bored on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 07:00:53 PM EST

I think that it more complex than simply driving a forklift around everyday. Modern docks are almost exclusivly crane operated. Crane operation is a very skilled profession. Miss calculation of mass or trajectory with a few tons of material in a crate can result in quite a mess.

[ Parent ]
a brief background on the T-H Act (2.00 / 1) (#72)
by tweetsygalore on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 05:21:56 PM EST

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/4236353.htm
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
Easy (2.00 / 3) (#77)
by medham on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 06:12:39 PM EST

The Taft-Hartley Act was created by President Taft and Joseph Hartley (great-grandfather of noted indie filmmaker Hal Hartley) to lock out the Haymakers strike of 1896. This incident radicalized both Casey Jones and Joe Hill.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

Except not (none / 0) (#155)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Fri Oct 11, 2002 at 02:53:32 AM EST

The Taft-Hartley act was passed in 1947. The Haymaker Riot was in 1886. Joe Hill didn't join the wobblies until 1910.

[ Parent ]
So, here's the scoop: (3.00 / 1) (#84)
by ekips on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:25:08 PM EST

Union boys get pissed off because they aren't getting what they want, so they start randomising post assignments, and people who are usually fork-lift operators are instead assigned for the day to inventory computers.  This pretty much takes things to a stand-still (the Union boys are pissed off over computerisation and advancement, which is a mite stupid).

So, port operators lock them out, because they don't like what the Union boys are doing.  Both sides get angry over eachother, and the whole thing turns into a pissing contest.

So now Bush comes in with the T-H act, and, during this "cooling off" period, the Union boys have stopped randomising post assignments, which makes the port people happy.  The Union boys are pissed off because they're not getting what they want.

-----------------

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. If this had been an actual emergency, do you really think we'd stick around to tell you?

I forgot about that little gem (none / 0) (#121)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:51:00 AM EST

To all who think the work slowdown was only due to them working safely, remember the reassignment of most people to jobs they don't know how to do.

It was purely a sit-in in disguise.

The union got everything in this contract, things such as high pay and non-firing of the personnel displaced by technology. But they're greedy, they want it all, even the union dues of people who don't yet work there, in jobs that don't yet exist.

[ Parent ]

Taft-Hartley? (2.00 / 1) (#86)
by allied on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 08:34:14 PM EST

Taft-Hartley Act? More like Tough-Heartless. I don't know the exact details on this particular dispute, and from figures on CNN it does seem like the dockworkers are pretty well paid, but in general I think that labor in this country tends to get the greasy end of the pole, and that the President should let the market run its course.

Why the union is upset, in a nutshell (3.00 / 1) (#88)
by Demiurge on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 09:51:58 PM EST

Management had agreed not to lay anyone off as a result of automation.  The clerks who kept paper records on everything would not be fired just because they were ridiculously obsolete.


However, the unions would not have controlled the new jobs created by automation, as they would have been mostly been white-collar IT workers.


So, in short, the companies promised not to can anyone off as a result of becoming more efficient.  The unions got angry because they didn't want their strangle-hold on the shipping business to slip.


There are occupations and situations in which unions are essential to protect the rights of workers.  This is most certainly not one of them.  However, I don't think management is completely blameless either.

retrain people. its called loyalty (4.50 / 2) (#89)
by turmeric on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 10:02:16 PM EST

someone sweats and bleeds for you for 20 years and you live in a mansion, i believe it would be wise to give them schooling for the upgrades you give to your plant. human beings are not old coax cable u can toss when you get new stuff.

[ Parent ]
It's called "business" (none / 0) (#102)
by mercutio on Wed Oct 09, 2002 at 11:25:42 PM EST

Would they rather that the employers stay in the stone age so someone can have job security?  What happens when other ports, not restricted by unions, do upgrade and have increased effiency?  At lot more jobs are going to be lost when a company goes out of business.

It's kind of interesting actually.  It's been happening in Canada but with the auto industry.  Since the CAW (Candian Auto Workers) have a strike everytime the plants try to become more efficient, they end up losing all kinds of money at these plants and I can think of a few times where they had to close the plants down.

So people keep their jobs for like 5 more years, then EVERYONE loses their job.

It's a sweet deal.  

If employers are allowed to hire whoever they want, why can't they fire whoever they want?  As long as they have a severence package, I think it's fair since it's THEIR COMPANY.

Just my 2.0 x 10^-2 cents.

[ Parent ]

Well, if one union (none / 0) (#107)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:33:55 AM EST

has control over all of the ports in a given country, they don't have to worry about killing off the one that their people work for thanks to more efficient ones just up the street.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

because of NAFTA (none / 0) (#133)
by delmoi on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:44:10 AM EST

People can just import stuff in canada and mexico.  Or even haul it to the other side of the US if they really want.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Yeah, cause (5.00 / 1) (#148)
by ZanThrax on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:45:49 AM EST

trucking is free, time isn't money, and the borders can handle having billions of dollars worth of extra goods going through them every day.

If Bush can attack Iraq because they might do something to Americans someday, can I attack Bush because he might invade Canada someday? I figure I'm as entit
[ Parent ]

No need to retrain (none / 0) (#120)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:47:08 AM EST

The redundant people will go through attrition, not firing. That's already been agreed.

Why do people keep bringing up non-existant issues in this case?

[ Parent ]

As I understand it.... (4.80 / 5) (#115)
by radicalsubversiv on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 01:59:17 AM EST

I've been following this story pretty closely for a while now, and here's how I understand it. (And yes, I am openly pro-union. Everyone has biases, and I prefer mine to be on the side of a large body of working people, rather than a small cabal of management.)

The ILWU is a rather militant, rank-and-file union with a proud history, including being desegregated essentially since its founding. ILWU members operate under one contract negotiated with the Port Management Association, to cover all of the ports on the West Coast. The reason for this is that otherwise, importers could easily avoid ports with striking workers, weakening the union's bargaining position.

The ILWU's contract has now expired, which means a new round of negotiation over the central issue of implementation of new technology. The ILWU has not opposed the introduction of new technology, only demanded that any new jobs created also be union jobs, preserving the proud legacy of union labor for pacific coast ports. The Port Management Assocation has not agreed to this demand.

Now, that would be a fairly standard labor dispute, except that the Bush administration has seen fit to interfere. Almost before negotiations even began in earnest, the Bush administration was threatening to interfere, holding secret meetings with leaders of the PMA, and not the ILWU. This lead to, a few months ago, the Bush administration threatening the ILWU with the possibility not only of invoking Taft-Hartley (to impose an 80-day cooling-off period), but also using the armed forces to operate the ports. With the PMA knowing that the administration has its back, it has no real incentive to engage in good-faith collective bargaining.

Now, with labor troubles looming, the PMA began a work speed-up in attempt to stockpile goods before a possible work stoppage. Such a speed-up was dangerous for the workers, and has resulted in the <i>deaths</i> of multiple longshoremen in the past few months. The reaction of the union was to initiate a "work-safe campaign," instructing all of its members to obey all workplace safety rules.

For this, the Port Management Association locked out the workers. As negotations continued, the Bush administration considered invoking Taft-Hartley. On Tuesday, the administration asked the union to agree to go back to work under a 30-day contract extension while negotations continue. The union agreed, but the Port Management Association (again, knowing that the administration could invoke Taft-Hartley) did not. The result was that Bush went to court to initiate a cooling-off period.

Now, the union has been placed in a very dangerous position. Having been ordered to go back to work, they could face legal consequences for continuing their work-safe campaign, which management has labeled a slowdown. If they do not, they run the risk of further injuries and deaths. Not a pretty scenario.

The solution, in my book -- the Bush administration needs to stop interfering, and let the collective bargaining process work. If you care about a fair and equitable resolution of this dispute, contact the White House and tell them to cease their threats and interference.

Oh yes, that was a definite spin (4.00 / 2) (#118)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:11:57 AM EST

If they've been working fine all these years under the safety regulations, why did work practically stop under the "work safe" campaign? I would understand stopping the unsafe hurried work caused by the recent speed-up ordered by management -- returning work levels to normal -- but these people basically stopped working.

Their work safe campaign was a sham, essentially a cloak for a sit-in because they didn't want to get blamed for harming the economy with a strike.

Not that I trust the management, and I definitely don't trust Bush to do the right thing as opposed to what his rich business partners want, but this 10,000+ member union is doing all of this over the union status of a couple hundred future white-collar jobs.

[ Parent ]

Thin end of the wedge (4.00 / 2) (#131)
by greenrd on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 07:55:54 AM EST

but this 10,000+ member union is doing all of this over the union status of a couple hundred future white-collar jobs.

It's about one for all and all for one - and about the thin end of the wedge. If some jobs are un-unionised this sets a precedent for further erosion of the union's influence.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

White collar (3.50 / 2) (#136)
by Quila on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:21:43 AM EST

These are professional jobs, probably mostly white collar, this is not the people out on the docks who are the usual union members. But at least we agree that this isn't about the welfare of the workers, but about the union powerbase.

[ Parent ]
Fat end of the wedge... (1.50 / 2) (#138)
by SPYvSPY on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:29:37 AM EST

...if everyone gangs together, even the useless, irrelevant fatties can keep their jobs, and even improve their pay and benefits.
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

Intresting logic. (1.11 / 9) (#132)
by delmoi on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 08:30:33 AM EST

I've been following this story pretty closely for a while now, and here's how I understand it. (And yes, I am openly pro-union. Everyone has biases, and I prefer mine to be on the side of a large body of working people, rather than a small cabal of management.)...


"I've been following this story pretty closely for a while now, and here's how I understand it. (And yes, I am openly pro-nazi. Everyone has biases, and I prefer mine to be on the side of a large body of working people, rather than a small cabal of jews.)..."




Yeah, if more people like something, it must be moraly right!
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]

Godwin's law (3.50 / 4) (#140)
by p3d0 on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:42:51 AM EST

You lose.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Um, ok (4.33 / 3) (#149)
by p3d0 on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:45:51 AM EST

I got modded down for my comment. I thought it was self-explanatory, but perhaps I need to be perfectly clear.

Simply rewording someone's argument so it refers to Nazis is a low blow, and has been recognized as such for decades. Hence Godwin's Law. A well-reasoned comparison with Nazis or Hitler is one thing; a simple search-and-replace is another.

The article to which I replied was ad-hominem expletive flamebait devoid of content or imagination, and the link I provided explains why.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]

explanation (3.50 / 2) (#151)
by speek on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:39:06 PM EST

I didn't mod you, but I'd've given you a 1 too. Here's the explanation: You replied to a worthless comment, thus, unless you introduce something unexpectedly in your comment that's particularly worth reading, it gets a 1 as well. It's more a reflection of the value of the whole thread (ie: none), than a reflection of the value of your expressed opinion.

--
Perhaps the State of Hawaii could countersue the woman that gave birth to and raised a
[
Parent ]

Thanks (3.50 / 2) (#161)
by p3d0 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:18:58 PM EST

Well, I don't think that's fair, but I appreciate your taking the time to let me know what's going on.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Or, to cut to the chase... (1.40 / 5) (#137)
by SPYvSPY on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:27:43 AM EST

...the longshoremen are pissed because robots will make them irrelevant soon. They are ganging together to protect their local interests at the expense of the national and world economy (i.e., everyone else). Their efforts to obtain an extension of their 20th century lifestyle were curtailed by the President, who invoked a peice of law designed to circumvent the harmful exercise of mob leverage. The outcome: longshoremen, having established themselves as irrelevant *and* irritatingly self-serving, will be replaced ASAP.
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

As I understand it... (4.33 / 3) (#141)
by p3d0 on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:45:14 AM EST

As I understand it, they just want the people who run the robots to belong to the union.
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Not quite... (none / 0) (#184)
by vectro on Mon Nov 04, 2002 at 02:12:51 AM EST

They also want the new technology to have no reduction in the total number of workers; that is, productivity increases are allowed, but not if it means layoffs or other reductions in staff.

Not to mention that the people who run the robots, being white-collar workers, almost certainly do not need union protection.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

so, which part was the harmful mob leverage? (4.66 / 3) (#153)
by ethereal on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 12:45:57 PM EST

Was it the "obey all safety rules" part? It would be one thing if they were sabotaging the machinery or went out on strike, but following existing safety regulations seems to be a form of protest that's pretty hard to complain about.

I guess it may be leverage, and it may be harmful (to management interests) and it may be a group of people that you refer to as a mob, but the negative connotation there is really uncalled-for.

It's like when a pilot's union attains leverage by refusing to fly overtime for a few weeks. You can't really force someone to do something that they were just doing for you as a favor in the past. Management really doesn't have a leg to stand on here.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Harmful... (2.00 / 2) (#163)
by SPYvSPY on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:43:43 AM EST

...not just to management interests, but also to the world economy. The problem I have is with people that think their meat-and-potato lifestyle is a God-given right, at the expense of every other hard-working, non-unionized professional in this world.
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

labor strife is a legitimate business risk (4.00 / 1) (#165)
by ethereal on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:43:17 PM EST

I'm sorry but I can't cry too much for the world economy.

Those other industries should have planned around this and not put all their eggs in one basket. Just 'cause arranging transport through big West Coast ports is the cheapest way today doesn't mean that it will always be cheapest, or even available at all. Businesses need to factor contingency planning into their budgets, rather than waiting until an unplanned-for crisis and then demanding a government bailout.

This is the free market at work; the government should quit acting to preserve an unstable economic balance and let things fall out 'til they are stable. Equilibrium cannot be avoided, just delayed.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Blame the victim. (none / 0) (#182)
by vectro on Mon Nov 04, 2002 at 02:09:45 AM EST

In other words, if you crash into a UPS truck and make deliveries late, it's not your fault -- whoever was accepting the deliveries should have diversified their carries.

Actions have consequences, and while you could argue that it is irresponsible for companies to rely only on west-coast ports, the fact of the matter is that the strike has had an effect. One might also point out that there is essentially no other cost-effective option in existence, and that the only way all this infrastructure would be affected simultaneously is due to actions such as this one.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Free markets and monopolies (none / 0) (#183)
by vectro on Mon Nov 04, 2002 at 02:10:56 AM EST

This is just as much the free market at work as was Standard Oil or AT&T. Unions are a form of collusion, and classic capatalist doctrine simply does not apply in the case of monopolies and polygopolies.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
safety rules (4.66 / 3) (#119)
by mediajunkie on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 03:42:18 AM EST

aren't the rules they're working to safety rules? weren't there something like 10-20 deaths on the docks in the past year? apparently if the workers do not cut safety corners to maintain "standard" production levels, the unions can be fined and the union leaders can eventually be jailed. robots don't have to worry about safety.

My spin- and it is spin (2.50 / 4) (#127)
by Myxx on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 06:43:40 AM EST

I will not hide behind "the truth" and just admit right out that I am anti-union. I was not always so, but have become so after having been on both ends of the stick. Unions served their purpose once, but if I can climb the ranks so can anyone else.

Unions protect good workers from being fired. Unions protect bad workers from being fired. Unions provide more money for the workers. Unions cost businesses profit. Unions provide many work benefits for workers. Unions muscle businesses into spending money to keep employees whom they cannot fire to begin with.

The list goes on. Believe me, I see many benefits to unions and I see many detractions. The issues here are plain and simple.

The union there makes good money. Very good money. In fact, the average seems to have been good enough to place them in that mythical upper 1%. Yet no one cries over this?

Everyone on K5 says "let the market run its course on this one." How hypocritical. Capitalism is bad, but not when it benefits the worker, eh? If the market runs its course then these whiners should be fired! Oh yeah, they can't do that.

Companies are in business to make money, pure and simple. People work to make money. In order for this system to work the workers must make enough money for the company to keep the investors happy. When investors aren't happy they sell stock, which makes the company fold. Or if the business can't sell enough to make a profit the company folds. This is pure and simple. Modernizing would make more money for the company and if the company had agreed to modernize without firing people, what was the problem? Safety, Myxx! Funny how safety wasn't the problem the first go round.

This is about money, but this time it is about money for the people. Funny how if it is money for the people that is ok. If it is money for the company it is bad. I get so sick of people who feel that the President should always step in to help the people, but somehow companies are not run by people. But when the company failing affects the people, shouldn't he step in?

If this president represents business interests, what of it? Do they not vote? Did they not vote him in? Aren't we a representative republic? What if the President only did things for the people who voted him in? Why, that would be wrong! He should represent all people, but not those icky business people.

The Taft act is part of what we call the "checks and balances" part of the Constitution. And for those who say it is unlawful, remember that it is a LAW! Therefore it cannot be unlawful. Pass a law removing it and it will be unlawful.

When your Christmas costs too much because there aren't enough goods on the shelf you'll be upset then too.

In the end the workers are back to work making money, they are working slower than ever to "stick it to the man," and everyone is upset? When I was a teacher making $20k a year I cried out "tax the rich more." When I said to hell with this and got into corporate America I saw myself getting taxed more and said "Why am I being penalized for making a change in my life?" These people make more money than me even now. So I say "Those who make more money then me should help me more."

Heinlein said it best; everything went to hell when the people realized they could vote themselves bread and circuses.

We the people (4.00 / 1) (#130)
by greenrd on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 07:52:18 AM EST

Unions served their purpose once, but if I can climb the ranks so can anyone else.

Ah, I just hate this type of false modesty. Look at a picture of a hierarchy. What do you notice? Less people at the top, more people at the base, right? What does this tell you?

Unions protect bad workers from being fired.

I can believe this - but how does it work exactly? Can't people be fired for incompetence or doing no work?

Funny how if it is money for the people that is ok. If it is money for the company it is bad. I get so sick of people who feel that the President should always step in to help the people, but somehow companies are not run by people.

Well, this is why saying "the people" is too vague. Socialists like me tend to divide the population into the working class, the controller class, the capitalist class, etc., which is far from perfect (especially when people in the working class are now sometimes investors, directly or indirectly through their pension funds!) but at least doesn't ignore imbalances in wealth and power.

Subsidies and other government interventions into the market are not inherently bad, but we have to ask, who benefits?

If this president represents business interests, what of it? Do they not vote?

Whether capitalists vote or not is of little importance. The point is, they exert undue influence on the administration to the detriment of the poorer.

When I was a teacher making $20k a year I cried out "tax the rich more." When I said to hell with this and got into corporate America I saw myself getting taxed more and said "Why am I being penalized for making a change in my life?"

So what's your alternative - a flat tax? Please.

Heinlein said it best; everything went to hell when the people realized they could vote themselves bread and circuses.

Actually the situation is somewhat different. Millions of Americans believe that neither of the main parties represents them, which is why they don't vote. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the RIAA/MPAA basically buying laws like the DMCA. It's important to distinguish between capitalists and the disenfranchised, and not lump everyone together into the same homogenous pot.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Protecting bad workers... (5.00 / 1) (#160)
by kfoss on Sat Oct 12, 2002 at 06:19:19 PM EST

> Unions protect bad workers from being fired.

I can believe this - but how does it work exactly? Can't people be fired for incompetence or doing no work?

Quite often collective bargaining contracts have very carefully laid out rules about discpline procedures, and naturally, provisions for filing grievances.

The contracts often are so byzantine that they make it too difficult to comply with. Say a supervisors talks to an employee for coming in late, and then warns them again later in the week, and after it happens say 5 times, fires them. The union might grieve because no written warning was given which is stipulated in the contract must occur x number of days after an offense that was previously subject to an oral warning. Union members will got off because of technicalities like this, because management fears the grievance process.

The problem with grievances centers around the fact that they may be filed regardless of merit, and must be responded to in kind. Where I work there are 4 steps to the grievance process, before it potentially could go to an external arbitrator or a court case. (This could take well over a year or more.) The union can also 1) flood the HR department with meaningless grievances, or 2) unnaturally prolong 'lost causes' with multiple grievances. The theory is that the employer will only worry about the big fish and won't go through the time and expense to properly discipline (up to firing) lesser offenders, thus protecting the jobs of poor employees -- but not 'bad' employees like someone who embezzled or were violent.

That being said, I'm a fan of second chances, and progressive discipline is there for a reason -- but legalese sometimes seems to win out over common sense. Likewise, without a grievance process, workers would have no protection from management that was vindictive or just plain moronic in its discipline practices.

Unfortunately, some unions (not all) will do anything they can to try and protect their members -- because they are dues paying union members, not because they are actually innocent -- it is like watching the mainstream (American) legal process work.



[ Parent ]
There are reasons for that (none / 0) (#169)
by duffbeer703 on Tue Oct 22, 2002 at 12:47:39 PM EST

Around the turn of the century, railroads confronted striking workers by having them imprisoned by judicial injunction, then dismissing them for being in jail. This led to the kinds of collective bargaining agreements that you are alluding to.

In reality, those kinds of agreements are not commonly found, and when they exist they are equally the fault of management -- they had to sign the agreement!

Unions give workers the same kind of power that employers have over the workplace and protects them from the blatant abuses that corporations inflict on employees. Despite the oft-quoted notion that dissatisfied workers should "leave if you don't like it", the nature of our society makes job mobility impossible or a very high risk.

[ Parent ]

extension (none / 0) (#171)
by vinay on Tue Oct 29, 2002 at 11:44:39 AM EST

I was recently at a tradeshow in a union-run town.

One thing that repeatedly came up was that union workers had a "right to work." According to union deals with the convention hall, any booths 40ftx40ft or larger had to be setup by the unions. It didn't matter if the majority of your booth was your own (expensive) equipment and some tables and chairs. They insisted on setting it up. It didn't matter if they had no idea how to setup your product, they have a right to work.

The idea behind unions is a good one. I believe that history has shown us that workers do need protections from unscrupulous employers. At the same time, it's just plain not right to strongarm someone into employing you. If I don't need your services, I just plain don't need them.

So, while I agree that unions have (had?) their place, I also feel that they've grown to be as bad as the employers they were created to combat.

-\/


[ Parent ]
How bad workers protected from being fired (none / 0) (#174)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 02:23:42 AM EST

Unions protect bad workers from being fired.

I can believe this - but how does it work exactly? Can't people be fired for incompetence or doing no work?

Here is how it works.

The management person thinks a worker should be fired for incompetence or not properly working. The union contract permits the union to veto this. So they go to arbitration.

Some third party independent person, usually a college professor who wants to supplement income by doing this on the side, gets to listen to the arguements made by the employer and by the union as to whether or not this person should be fired.

No matter what the professor rules, either side can appeal the results to a higher court, and yet a higher, and generally it drags on until one side or the other cries uncle.

Both the company and the union have an army of clerks and lawyers dealing with this stuff.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/
[ Parent ]

I disagree. (2.00 / 1) (#143)
by claudius on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 09:51:07 AM EST

Unions served their purpose once, but if I can climb the ranks so can anyone else.

This is a selfish sentiment.  Apparently the  purpose of unions is to help you out when you need help, but now they "serve no purpose" because you yourself have "climbed the ranks," i.e., given up your slum job of a schoolteacher for a suit and tie?   Please.

Unions do more than just protect people's jobs and bargain for higher salaries.  Union pressure is to thank for workers' health benefits, for overtime after 40 hours, for having the right to reasonable standards of safety while on the job, for pensions and retirement benefits, for compensation when the bandsaw takes off their fingers.  None of these would likely have been accomplished had the laborers not been able to unionize.

The union there makes good money. Very good money. In fact, the average seems to have been good enough to place them in that mythical upper 1%. Yet no one cries over this?

I doubt seriously that union dockworkers rank in the top 1% of wage earners in the USA.  Can you provide a source for this statistic, or is it just hyperbole spouted by your favorite conservative talk radio host.  The lower limit of the top 5% of households in the USA gets over $150k/year according to the U.S. Census, and the lower limit for the top 1% bracket is quite a bit higher than that (more than twice as much as that if my memory of the number is accurate).

When I was a teacher making $20k a year I cried out "tax the rich more." When I said to hell with this and got into corporate America I saw myself getting taxed more and said "Why am I being penalized for making a change in my life?" These people make more money than me even now. So I say "Those who make more money then me should help me more."

Personally, I'd prefer see my tax dollars go to helping improve conditions for schoolteachers--they matter more to the well-being of the country than corporate suits who whine because their taxes can't be used to buy a BMW.  Despite paying a higher rate of taxes, the wealthy (and I fall in that category) can take advantage of many more tax shelters than the poor, and as a consequence their tax burden is lower.  

If your experience as an upper-class wage earner does not support this, then I would have to conclude that you are a short-sighted idiot who can't figure out how to make the most of a good thing.  As a banal example of what even upper-middle-class wage earners can do to avoid taxes, consider the following:  I bought an expensive house.  I recently refinanced the 30 year mortgage into a low rate, and I deduct the interest from my income, so the effective rate of interest I pay is well below 3.5 percent.  Tell me where a "working poor" can go borrow half a million dollars at 3.5% interest.  Sure, I could pay off the loan early, but why not invest the money aggressively?  I've "earned" it, right?  We deduct property taxes on the house we purchased; those who live in rental properties are effectively taxed twice:  First they pay the property taxes (the cost of taxes is passed on to the renter as higher rents), yet they do not, in general, get to deduct this from their income tax, so they are taxed again on the same money.  My son will be going to college in 17 years.  I just dropped a bunch of cash into a 529 IRA for him (tax free growth provided the money is used for education expenses).  Now my family gets to save tax-free for college for our kids or grandkids (anything he doesn't spend continues to grow tax free to support grandkids' college expenses).  Oh, my wife and I both work, but fortunately we can deduct up to $5k of our daycare costs too.  This eases the financial "burden" of placing our child into the highest quality daycare facility we can find, thereby freeing us up to earn even more yet.  Yes, we pay, as a percentage, more of our income than those schoolteachers, but I guarantee that our tax burden is far, far less.  

I have no need for this tax cut, and I strongly urged my congressmen to vote against the GOP version of the bill.  Unlike you, I remember when I had to actually work for a living--I remember how difficult it was to make ends meet, and I remember the cynical rhetoric of how Trickle-Down Economics would cure all of my ills.  The average U.S. household will pay a large portion of their tax break as interest to service their $8000 credit card debt, this while the wealthiest 1% will each receive tax credits that surpass the median salary for a household in the U.S.  I'd much rather see people who work full-time be able to afford food, housing, and basic health care at the very least.  They cannot now in the U.S., yet someone has to teach your kids, police your neighborhood, stock your shelves.  These "someones" deserve sufficient compensation to lead a dignified existence.  They've earned it.

Heinlein said it best; everything went to hell when the people realized they could vote themselves bread and circuses.

If by "people" he meant "corporations and other moneyed interests," then I agree completely.  $25 billion to bail out the airlines?  This is generous payola to a niche group when you stop and consider that the entire budget for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services is only $460 billion, out of which everything from medicare to meat inspection to child welfare to medical research is funded.

[ Parent ]

My sister the School Teacher (none / 0) (#173)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 02:17:32 AM EST

I am a computer programmer.  I was making just under $50k a year until I got downsized.  My savings for retirement split between stock market, bank IRA, insurance, diversified to different kinds of financial objects, managed by several different financial institutions (I once had several thousand dollars in a mutual fund that was lost because the institution managing the money went crooked) ... all of it sagging thanks to recent economy, which is a bad time for this since I am almost age 60.  I am just holding onto my investments, and hoping for the best, but a bit depressed, mind numbed.

She teaches Calculus in High School.   She was making around $40k a year.  Her retirement was going to be 1/2 her pay rate until the teacher pension fund was Enronized.  She also eligible for part time work just across state line from another school system without it dinging her retirement.

There are lots of people who paid money into retirement plans for several decades, then as their retirement loomed, the plans got wiped out.  This is not a new problem.  It has been happening all through the last 100 years, or so long as there have been retirement plans.

We compared pay check stubs ... even though I making a good bit more than her, she paying more in taxes.  It is the different rates between different cities and states.

There is an Atlas on best places in America to live.  There is a place in New Jersey where a home owner pays for their home, in taxes, every 29 years.  There is a place in Louisianna where it takes several hundred years for the annual taxes to add up to the total value of your property.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/
[ Parent ]

Retirement plans and Enron. (none / 0) (#178)
by claudius on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 07:33:44 AM EST

I'm afraid I know all too well about Enronization of retirement plans--I work for the Univ. of California at the moment, and our pension fund was diminished significantly this last year in large part because of the corporate accounting fiascos.  

I have to admit that for all our whining my generation is lucky in many ways. (I'm in my early 30s). Though the future of the Social Security program is questionable, we do get the benefit of IRAs and tax-sheltered retirement savings plans (e.g., 401k, 403b) throughout most of our working lives, and we have the time before retirement to actually take advantage of the programs.  Unlike you, we have only had to deal with a couple of modest market corrections and a bear market, and not a decade of stagflation with double-digit inflation to decimate annually any savings one may have accumulated.  Those of us fortunate enough to have a steady job and are not crushed by credit card burden are in great shape for the long-term.

I wish you the best of luck in waiting out this bear market.  To the extent that misery loves company, I'll share with you the bitter consolation that you're not alone--my father is in an almost identical financial situation.  Instead of losing money to a fraudulent fund company, he had a failed farming business that wiped out his assets at age 48.  He's now near enough to retirement to realize that with the recent market downturn he cannot afford to retire.  

[ Parent ]

Voting (none / 0) (#179)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 02:44:41 PM EST

I was not very impressed with the original essay, which basically sounded like a person reading the news and expecting journalists to provide links to education about all topics that come up in the news.

I have been impressed with the discussion that it provoked, about a broad range of issues related to the work place, the work ethic, fairness, opportunities, expectations, risks.

Thus my vote for this is based more on the discussion than on the original essay.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/
[ Parent ]

When I got downsized (none / 0) (#180)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 03:49:32 PM EST

What happened was that I was offered a nice severance package of several months pay, or HALF my job (40 hours a week pay rate to 20 hours a week).  Since I almost age 60 and the job market in very bad shape, I took the 20 hours a week option.  Now I not heavily looking for the work, but I did have a part time position for half the year, and I open to more.

I just wanted to clarify this because the downsizing that happened to me I think is a bit non-standard and someone might get confused with what I wrote in this thread as opposed to my comments in other threads.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/
[ Parent ]

Heinlein? (none / 0) (#147)
by verb on Thu Oct 10, 2002 at 11:25:00 AM EST

I find it difficult to take someone's views on politics, democracy, and the economy seriously when they attribute the insights of Alex Tocqueville to a schlocky scifi writer.

--the verb

[ Parent ]
WTF? (none / 0) (#170)
by Egant on Wed Oct 23, 2002 at 10:05:46 PM EST

(Quote) When investors aren't happy they sell stock, which makes the company fold. You sure about that?

[ Parent ]
Background on labor management war zone (5.00 / 2) (#172)
by Al Macintyre on Wed Oct 30, 2002 at 02:02:07 AM EST

Did you see the news on the effect of this conflict before the President invoked the intervention?  The west coast ports are a bottleneck in which imports and exports could not get to their destinations.  Many many many businesses were about to lose their shirts because they could not export their products.  Lots of imports could not get here, will adversely effect this Christmas consumer market - some toys you just cannot buy.  The number of companies adversely affected by this is astronomical compared to the capitalists involved in shutting down the ports.

The President was not able to wave a magic wand to invoke the intervention.  He and other members of his Cabinet signed a petition to the courts declaring that this was a National Emergency, then a judge got to invoke the intervention.

When a work force is locked out, the people are not getting wages.  The union has something like an unemployment compensation plan to pay the workers, not to sit home, but to be on picket line duty, and other duties, that I allude to later in this post.  When people are accustomed to a certain income, and that income dips, they and their families are a bit more willing to give in to the demands of whoever cut their income.

Apparently you must not have seen much news before on this general topic, since most people in the work place are familiar with Unions and Union Legislation ... strikes, lockouts, union contracts, right to work, National Labor Relations Board and so forth.  It is a topic that affects blue collar workers more than white collar, because basically if the workers are treated professionally, there is little incentive for them to form a union, but in the capitalist world there is a class system in which the moneyed interests often mistreat the poorer work forces who need to unionize for their protection.

Who enforces safety of the workers?  Government inspectors who are totally underfunded, and react via random inspections and to complaints.  Who makes the complaints?  Often disgruntled employees who cannot get satisfaction through channels, and as a result of injuries on the job.

Are complaints legitimate?  No, the unions often make unfounded complaints as a form of harrassment for management when there is poor labor management relationship.

I think the last big news event like this was when President Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controller's Union.  They were bitching about Air Safety, so the President fired the lot of them, and got a whole bunch of replacement workers.  Air Safety was not important enough to the government until the aftermath of 9/11 to seriously analyse what the union was bitching about.

There are many jobs which are not inherently safe.  Coal Miners, Construction Workers, People in Railroad Yards.  Military.  We accept this reality and ought to pay the people sufficient benefits so they willing to accept the risks.

Newspapers assume most of their readers are working adults familiar with this kind of background, but there is also a conflict because many reporters are members of a union of journalists, while the editors are management, so it is difficult for them to write impartially about labor management topics.

I used to be pro union.

I figured that if a company treated its workers right, there would be no union, but then I happened to be in the white collar work force of a company whose blue collar work force went on strike, and I was educated as to the level of violence that goes with a strike.

Attempts to kill people, car wars, snipers, arson, night raids on residences, public utilities disrupted, a judicial system totally unable to deal with it.  A group of union members tried to get an injunction against their own union to have the violence stopped.  The result was that the union put the peacenikss on picket duty 2-3 days a week, and the union army on picket duty 4-5 days a week.  This went on for 3 years.  Millions of dollars in damages to our company, I do not have the total on area businesses damage, such as an international airport shut down because the power and phone lines for the county were chopped down, numerous farmers had to leave fields fallow because their combines would get road killed by the car war ambushes.

Now I believe that some unions behave irresponsibly and some are good guys, just as I believe that some companies mistreat their workers and some are good guys.

The laws on this are different in every state of the USA.  Basically they start with the US NLRB then have their own exceptions.

Can people be on the picket line who do not work at the company where there is this dispute?

Can the company lock out the union and hire other people to do that work?

Can people who are expert trained at job-A be assigned to job-B for which they have zero training, and if so, who decides to do this - the employer, the union, seniority?

Suppose due to extra work the people are told they have to do a bunch of overtime the same day after their regular shift.  Are some people allowed to beg off and say - I have a family that is expecting me home at a particular time - I have kids in day care and I have to pick them up before the place closes ... usually they not have that choice, nor do they have the right to make a phone call to tell the family that they will be late and to get someone else to pick up the kids.

If someone quits their job, can they be blacklisted from doing any other similar work for other companies?

Can an injunction stop the strike or lockout for all time, or is there some time period after which it expires?

If you want to work some place but not join the union, is that allowed?  In some states yes, in some no.  If it is allowed, can you be forced to pay the amount of money that would be the union dues to some worthwhile charity instead?  In some states yes.
- Al's weblog: http://radio.weblogs.com/0107846/ donate your unused PC resources (only when you not using them) to cure cancer http://members.ud.com/about/

What's the deal with the Taft-Hartley Act? | 185 comments (180 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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