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/
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