Friday, March 18, 2011

The Month's Upheavals

Helloooo, I'm baaaack! I was away in California, attending two conventions and a couple weeks of studio work (putting down all the guitar-tracks for the remake of "Firestorm"), where I caught a nasty cold that wiped out my upper vocal range, so it'll be awhile before I go back to cut the vocal tracks. After that, I spent nearly a week catching up on the backlogged email. So anyway, I'm back.

And quite a bit has happened while I was gone.

First off, there's the govt. workers' revolt in Wisconsin. Heheheheh. There's nothing like a good noisy strike to separate the sheep from the goats -- or, in this case, the Conservatives from the Libertarians.

Note that troglodyte-Conservatives, who howl that govt. workers shouldn't have unions at all, always seem to think that govt. workers are only clerks and schoolteachers; they don't seem to think about cops, firemen, sewer-workers, garbage-men, bus-drivers, janitors, or other blue-collar types. That's why so many of them (including Gov. Walker himself) were so dismayed and amazed when the Gov. ordered the local cops to haul union demonstrators out of the civic square, and the cops instead joined the protesters. Of course, the Conservatives always howl that Unions Are Evil -- "outdated", "unnecessary", "corrupt", "invented by Lenin", etc. -- with a blithe disregard for facts or history. It's also amusing to note that Conservatives -- after years of howling about how distant the govt. has grown from the people -- are willing to turn around and claim that govt. workers shouldn't have unions or strike against the govt. because the govt. is us. Their real complaint is all too obvious; most of them are bosses, and unions put a check on bosses' power (and, of course, cut into their income).

Libertarians, on the other hand, bother to do their homework and look at the facts -- such as the fact that unions existed in the Middle Ages (when they were called "guilds"), in ancient Rome, in ancient Egypt, and in fact just about everywhere in the western world where the rich and powerful lorded it totally over the poor and (otherwise) powerless. Libertarians will also point out that freedom includes freedom of association, and that it's perfectly natural for people with similar problems and similar goals to organize into groups in order to further their own goals: sewer-workers no different from the AMA, and factory-hands no different from the GOP. They'll also note that societies with lots of unions tend to have better economic, educational and political systems than countries where unions are illegal and persecuted. They'll also note that the labor union (and the consumers' union) -- not the govt. -- is the naturally-evolved check and balance on the boss, whether company or corporation.

As a result, I think we'll be seeing a serious split in America's political Right over the Wisconsin strike.


TJIC said...

I have no problem with unions competing for customers (i.e. employees to represent).

What I have a HUGE problem with is (a) NLRB and other gov intervention that enforces monopoly unions and uses the threat of state force, (b) union use of violence.

As long as we have both of those things, talking about modern unions as if they are genial associations of like minded folks is a bit like talking about the Krup armament firm in 1942 Nazi Germany as a free competitive played, using Jewish slave labor to produce weapons sold to the Nazi government in return for wealth stolen from the citizens.

(Did I violate Godwin's law there? Sue me. My point is not that modern unions are as bad as Nazis, but to show that in both cases we have the semblence of a reasonable thing distorted via the use of force and gov intervention.

Aya Katz said...

Hi, Leslie. Glad you are back. We missed your posts. I hope you get your full vocal range back very soon!

As to the question of unions, I agree with TJIC. Everybody-- including government workers -- should be free to form associations of like minded people who can work toward a common goal. But nobody should be forced to join those associations, or kept from working if they are not a member. Because then these are not free associations any longer.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of association should work both ways. My wife got a nice part-time job at a Macy's in Washington state which is not a right to work state. She found out a month later she would have to pay union dues effectively lowering her wage to below minimum wage or be fired.

Tom Dickson-Hunt said...

I have to say I disagree here. The issue that conservatives tend to have with public sector unions is not that, quote, "the government is US", but that the people in charge of negotiating the wages and benefits of public sector employees have no incentive to keep costs to the government down, whereas those in charge of similar negotiations at private companies face the real threat of being fired if they cave too much--which in turn is a result of the threat to the company if it becomes unprofitable as a result of giving too much to the workers. In the private sector, unions form a beneficial counterforce to the tendency of the owners to reduce wages and benefits; in the public sector, they are not really a counterforce to anything, and no one at the negotiating tables is really speaking for those who will bear the costs--the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

If you're remaking "Firestorm", put me down for a pre-order.

Anonymous said...

So you're remaking Firestorm? Coolness! I wanna pre-order too!

I would have to concur with my learned friend, Mr. Dickson-Hunt, on the advisability of government workers being allowed to unionize, though. The deal used to be that in gov't service, you weren't going to get rich, but weren't going to get fired for anything but a really egregrious screw-up. And this is by no means a "conservative" position exclusively...Franklin D. Roosevelt, no conservative (my mother's family mostly referred to him as the Antichrist, except for those who really didn't like him, and would have called him "The Anti-Elvis" had Elvis been around then) was against government workers' unions.

I will grant that unions can do good, but they can also be a force for great evil, particularly when you get people whose main job is the union.

Mark Horning said...

I don't have a problem with Unions per se . I have a serious problem with closed shop states like WI. That's not freedom of association, that's thugery at it's finest.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, TJ and Mark. Actually, govt. or not, unions don't have any kind of monopoly on labor. Have you ever heard the word "decertify"? It means that if the union members decide they don't like their current union, they can file a complaint with the NLRB, which will then hold an election whereby the members can vote to boot out their old union and put in one (or none) that they like better. Before there was an NLRB, the workers would decide the question in private and then spring the surprise on their local union rep, whereupon things could get rather lively.

Union violence was a direct outgrowth of bosses' violence, which reached amazing levels in the not-so-distant past and still exists today. Remember that the stereotypical "union goon" is drawn from the membership. So what happens if the membership decides it doesn't like the leadership? Guess who has more goons?

Right-to-work laws are no problem for any lean, clean and efficient union (I could describe the tactics at great length); it's only the fat and lazy ones that complain about them. Remember that in the beginning of the labor movement all states were right-to-work states, unions were illegal in most of them, and bosses' goons shot to kill -- with the govt.'s blessing. Smart unions still remember those days.

And no, there's nothing "genial" about a labor union, any more than there is to the military -- and for similar reasons. A union is a protective organization whose purpose is to defend the income, livelihood, health and safety of its members. That's not a congenial job.

Hi, Anti. If your wife's union reduced her pay to less than minimum wage, she has grounds for a juicy lawsuit -- in federal court, yet. That union deserves to be stripped naked in public. Heh! And I'll bet that a lot of decertifications follow.

Hi, Tom. Bear in mind that when govt. unions dicker with govt. bureaucrats over what share of the budget each side gets, the size of the pie that they're fighting over is determined by the relevant legislature. This is essentially no different from one govt. bureau jockeying with another for funding (and I could tell you horror-stories about tricks the FBI has pulled to make sure its funding stays high). The only solution to this is political (and I'd suggest Anarchism).

Hi, Raven. For 99% of all govt. workers today, that deal still holds. In fact, there are still govt. workers who have no union art all, despite the brags of the SEIU and AFSCME. Heheheheh. I should know; I used to be one.

As for excessive union bureaucracy, guess what? The membership usually doesn't care for it either. For one thing, such bureaucracy tends to get expensive, and the membership pays the tab. For another, said bureaucrats have a nasty history of playing fast and loose with the pension funds. For a third, bureaucracy tends to clog the system. Most union members prefer a union with as few bureaucrats as possible. In the union I used to work for, the only paid official was the president -- who wasn't even called a "president" but the "general secretary", and was required by the union constitution to be paid no more than the average wage for a common clerk.

For all the rest of you guys, yes, I'll be going back to CA to cut the vocal tracks on "Firestorm" as soon as I've got the upper register of my voice back. Patience!

--Leslie <;)))><

Mark Horning said...

Les, where you recording the tracks? Sandy and Gerry's place?

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Mark. Right, at Gerry and Sandy's place in Lancaster. They've got two new Great Danes, BTW. If you hear Gerry chuckling about "two big black sons of bitches" living in his house, you'll know what he means. Heheheh.

--Leslie <;)))><