Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Using Government to Do What Unions Can’t

Public employee unions have long accomplished through legislation what they could not achieve at the bargaining table.

Think teacher pension increases.

And union organizing used to involve actually talking to workers.

But, Democrats like Governor Rod Blagojevich allowed unionization of, what, 49,000 day care workers by executive order. No messy contested vote once the state employees’ union, AFSCME, pulled out of the election against Service Employees International Union—not coincidentally, Blagojevich’s biggest campaign contributor.

Now unions like the SIEU want hospital employers like Advocate Health Care to just sign over their employees.

That’s right.

No messy democratic election supervised by federal authorities.

Just the signature of the CEO on a piece of paper and all of the designated health care employees would be dues paying members…and getting more dues is what union’s are all about, right? Who wouldn’t want to avoid the difficult job of organizing, if one could?

Tom Balanoff, the SIEU’s Illinois president was even appointed to Blagojevich’s original Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. He didn’t stay long, but wasn’t that part of the SEIU’s stategy to put pressure on Advocate from every direction possible?

Evoking the Governor’s name as a way to induce hospitals to organize is certainly not beyond the SIEU’s pale.

Just picket the homes of the hospital presidents.

And sic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn on organizing targets Advocate and Resurrection Health Care Corporation for charging poor patients to much.

Its called a corporate campaign and it consists of a systematic assault on the reputation of a corporation designed to undermine its relationships with such key stakeholders as its customers, shareholders, regulators, bankers and the general public. For details, click here.

I was reminded of how unions and the SEIU specifically use their allies in government to do their dirty organizing work for them by the Chicago City Council’s vote today to impose salary and benefit minimums on so-called “big box” stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target.

I saw the SEIU tee shirts in the audience.

Why wait for the super stores to enter the market place with new employees to try to organize and, again, not a coincidence, provide competition for the unionized Jewel and Dominick’s stores whose employees already pay dues?

Just get your minions on the city council to make it tough on the folks you want to organize.

36 of the alderpersons do not hold outside jobs in private enterprise or anywhere else.. They are full-timers (like I used to be as a state representative). Being government employees—even elected ones--does not yield a particularly representative group of citizens, even in Chicago.

Besides the relative few jobs per store, don’t what one former Democratic state representative called “alderthings” think their constituents might like to be able to walk to a place where they can buy groceries, soft and hard goods cheaper than elsewhere in Chicago?

Guess not.

And, if you don't know what a "Donkephant" is, go to McHenry County Blog.


bored now,  9:06 PM  

that pesky constitution just keeps getting in the way of your free-market ideals, doesn't it?

John Ruberry 9:37 PM  

The same constitution that got in the way of the Maryland Wal-Mart health care law, I presume.

As for SEIU, they're the primary funder of the Wal-Mart Watch, although it's pretty hard to find any SEIU tie-in on that site.

The United Food & Commericial Workers, whose membership is shrinking, is a little more upfront with their Wake Up Wal-Mart site.

Lovie's Leather,  10:02 PM  

I love how the dopes come out and say things like... "that pesky constitution just keeps getting in the way of your free-market ideals, doesn't it?" Stop with this buzz-word bull crap and talk issues. If there is something in the constitution that says that I have to make $10 an hour plus $3 an hour in benefits, please Bored Now, let me know!!!

Dave 10:20 PM  

If government hadn't stepped in, slavery, child labor and worse would still be part of America's workplace. With some enlightened exceptions, why would we expect most companies to do anything more for their employees other than that required by law or forced upon them by the competition with other businesses? After all, unbridled capitalism which is all the rage today makes the stockholders a company's number one priority leaving employees far behind in importance. Added to this is how outsourcing, illegal immigration and the moving of industries to other nations has removed much of the leverage employees and unions could once bring to bear on businesses. And so, if government doesn't do something, things are going to continue go to somewhere in a handbasket for the worker bees in the workplace.

As an illustration, a good friend of mine was told a few months ago that he was being let go because they could have someone from overseas do his job for less money. However, before he left, would he mind training his replacement? It's shameful how people are treated in too many companies like an expendable cog. And so, I'm cheering the vote in Chicago's City Council.

John Ruberry 10:47 PM  

And GM & Ford are getting their behinds kicked by the Japanese, partly because the co.s can't afford to pay the union-mandated benefits to its workers. And the Japanese don't have 10 year-olds building cars.

Bill Baar 6:56 AM  

Retailers were finally recognizing there's some money in the neigborhoods. (Check the stores by the old car barn at North and Cicero.) It will be a crime if this persaudes them the threat of meddling by local gov is enough to offset the return on their investment in the city.

It's a pain in the tail trying to do business Chicago, just as it is. Try driving a semi to make a delivery. They're too big for most city viaducts.

My friend worked at Lake and California and this becomes a complicated mapping problem you have to relay to a driver over a cell phone.

Chicago's never looked better to me but you look at the real estate and how many of those condos are being purchased as second homes, and you wonder if we aren't headed towards becoming another San Francisco. A tourist town with a great divide between wealthy and poor. Nice place to visit but no place to raise kids.

This kind of regulation is just going to accelerate that trend. Daley knows it and it's a sad day for Chicago that he couldn't carry this through...

...and that he couldn't carry is the first sign that Chicago and Democratic politics are starting to crack up.

That's long over due too, but recalling the council wars, doesn't bode well for Chicago.

Skeeter 8:58 AM  

You are right that Japanese companies do not have the benefits burden.
In Japan, healthcare is publicly funded so employers don't have to worry about it.
The companies there don't have to pay health care benefits.
Would you prefer that system?

bored now,  9:06 AM  

have you read the first amendment? you know, the right to assembly? obviously, john has a problem with the freedom of assembly, presumably because it interfers with his idea that the market should dominate. do you object to that as well, lovie? that's the issue. we all know where john stands. you can try to prevaricate like john, that's up to you!

Bill Baar 9:06 AM  


I would prefer something along the lines of what Romney is doing in Mass.

Walmart is right when they say they don't want to be a benefits company.

It's a mess our health care financing is coupled to employment.

I'd take Mass one step further and make it illegal for employers to offer a health care benefit. (if we can do that legally).

They'd have to give you the cash and people then required to purchase the plan that suits their needs.

We got into this whole mess with the wage/price controls during WW2 when business evaded them by giving workers insurance instead.

steve schnorf 9:08 AM  

Ah, the healthcare benefits in Japan are free, huh? That's good. How can I get some of those? Oh, pay more taxes so government can pay for "free" health care. Sounds kinda circular to me.

Skeeter 1:20 PM  

Did I use the word "free." You might want to respond to what is written.

Answering further, please provide a real response, or keep quiet.

Ford cannot compete on price with Toyota because Ford must pay health insurance costs. Toyota does not.

Apparently you are happy with that result.

Anonymous,  4:52 PM  

And why does Ford have to pay health insurance costs? Because its mandated in the union contracts!

Skeeter 4:56 PM  

Anon 4:52,

That doesn't answer the question.
If Ford doesn't supply the health insurance and the government doesn't, who will?

Is your solution to deny the worker's health insurance or make them pay for it themselves?

Do you have any idea what it would cost for health insurance if you are not obtaining it through a group plan that employers have?

At least Baar offered some reasonable solution. The rest of you seem intent on just denying health care to most Americans.

Carlos,  4:58 PM  

Cal, you're being misleading here:

"Just the signature of the CEO on a piece of paper and all of the designated health care employees would be dues paying members."

In both of the cases of child care workers and hospital workers, the unions still have to get a majority of the workers to agree to be represented by them.

The only thing the "signature" does is agree that whoever gets the majority of cards will be recognized as the bargaining representative.

In the case of a private employer like a hospital, it can also mean that the employer agrees to remain nuetral and not interfere in employees' choice, something that too often means harassment and illegal firing (i'm link straight to afl-cio because i don't think there's bias-free view on this).

This is a longer argument, but the short response to your claim that unions are using government, is that unions are trying to get government to do what they've failed to do: protect workers' rights to associate and negotiate collectively.

Anonymous,  8:48 PM  

so, when unions use political pressure to get things for workers, that's evil? but when corporations use lobbyists to get protective tariffs, tax breaks, relocation incentives, "liability reforms", etc., to benefit their shareholders, that's just peachy? why the double standard?

steve schnorf 10:20 PM  

If economic theory is correct, the wages Toyota pays in Japan reflect the taxes the employees and/or employers have to pay government so government can pay for health care for the workers. Tax the employee less, they don't demand wages so high. Tax the employer less, they have more profit to devote to wages. I do agree that, done right, publically funded health care probably distibutes the costs differently than our current system. That's why all but the lowest earners in this country pay taxes to help pay for medicaid.

Dignan,  11:51 PM  

Jon Burge is doing security consulting for Walmart.
Shoplifting is down and so is employee theft.

JB Powers 6:54 AM  

Anon 6:48

When unions use political pressure to get things for workers, it creates inefficiencies in the market.

When corporations use lobbyists to get protective tariffs, tax breaks, relocation incentives, to benefit their shareholders, it adds inefficiency to the market.

Neither of them are very helpful to the consumer. When people are denied the ability to spend their money as they choose, benefits are given to a politically protected group, be it business or workers vs. the whole of society. Bad decisions tend to be made, and the link is broken between legitimate work, competition, and financial success.

bored now,  7:21 AM  

jb: you write as if there are no existing inefficiencies in the market! don't be silly. even if markets could theoretically be efficient, reality is that very, very few are. yes, the constitutional protections add to the inefficiencies of the market, but so what? corporations that do not want to do business under our constitution are free to conduct their business elsewhere. corporations already have huge advantages in the marketplace and the political system which they exploit; it's kind of silly to get upset about the small number of advantages their employees might try to exploit...

Anonymous,  7:54 AM  

It seems that we've forgotten that the economy is not an end in itself. We don't work to create a rational or efficient economy according to the theoretical dictates of economists. Instead, we work to make a living and to provide for ourselves and our families. If the economy fails to do this, then we need to rethink the rules. As an illustration, companies are now encouraged to pay their employees as little as possible so that they can provide the maximum return to stockholders. Are we really better off as a society or nation when stockholders are king and their interests trump everyone else's? I don't think so. We rejected the divine right of kings politcally a long time ago and it's time to do the same in economics. We have to decide whether Wall Street or Main Street runs this country.

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