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Daily Archives: August 22, 2011

The burdens of voluntary association

Since the passage of the public employee union reforms in Wisconsin the past year, things have changed for the public unions. They have to recertify by member vote every year, and they can no longer collect dues directly from members’ paychecks. The response of one union has now been to decertify itself, as reported by Inside Higher Ed.

The Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin at Madison dates to 1966. In 1970, following a four-week strike, the graduate students at Madison became the first T.A. union to win a contract. Over the years, the union — affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers — has been a leader in the drive to promote collective bargaining for graduate student workers.

Last week, after hours of debate, the union’s members voted not to seek state certification to continue to act as a collective bargaining agent…

Union leaders said that they couldn’t function well if they had to effectively be in a perpetual organizing drive for the annual union votes, and also if they had to pay annual fees to be certified…

Seeking certification year after year, [Adrienne Pagac, co-president of the union,] said, "would have meant diverting resources and neglecting all of the other things we do for members – representing them at the work site, being advocates for them, engaging our community." Pagac added that "being a union member is not just about sitting across the table from management and hammering out a contract. It’s about democracy in the workplace.”

…The union faces challenges as it adjusts to the limits imposed by the state law. Under the old contract, union dues were automatically deducted from the paychecks of the 2,700-2,800 graduate teaching assistants at Madison. Now the Teaching Assistants’ Association must seek dues from members by itself.

Quite apart from the idea that the workplace is a fairly inopportune place for "democracy"—at least if the cold wind echoing hollowly through the empty streets of Detroit is any indication—it clearly isn’t about democracy. If it was about democracy, then an annual recertification vote would be viewed as a plus, not an obstacle. I mean, regular elections are something we associate with democracy, as I understand it. The practice in the past was to have the certification vote taken once, after which the union is perpetually certified. That’s nothing more than a version of "one man, one vote, one time" that we associate with various "democratic" revolutions in the Third World. But for this union, at least, having democracy in the workplace by holding a certification vote every year is too much of a burden.

No, this has almost nothing to do about democracy in the workplace and everything about the gravy train pulling into the station at the end of the line. It was a great gig while it lasted. As soon as you could get a majority of employees to certify your organization, you were certified forever.  The state collected your dues money without fail every paycheck, and if any of the employees ever got dissatisfied, you had the resources to slap them down.

Now, all of the sudden, you have to convince the rank and file to send you their dues payments voluntarily. And every year, you have to convince them to voluntarily recertify you. The rank and file now have both purse power and democratic power to punish you, rather than the reverse. It seems that a voluntary association is inconvenient. You have to make members happy. Listen to them. Perhaps, even, respond to their concerns in a timely and effective manner. Voluntary association imposes a web of mutual obligation, unlike a top-down command system.

Now, the union just isn’t as fun. And it isn’t certified any more, either.

~
Dale Franks
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The growth of the regulatory state

While President Obama vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, he is supposedly committing to paper a plan to boost employment.  During the recession unemployment has remained high, near 10%, and with the economy slowing again, that number is likely to go higher.

One area that hasn’t suffered jobs losses during Obama’s time in office is the government regulatory regime.  In fact, it has managed to add a significant number of jobs, all, unfortunately, at the expense of business.  While most Americans feel some level of regulation is necessary by the Federal government, over-regulation is always a danger.  When that danger is realized, it is businesses who bear the brunt of the cost of compliance.  And, of course, businesses pass their costs on to consumers in the price of their goods.   So regulation compliance costs drive the price of goods up.

In the past three years of the Obama administration we’ve seen an explosion of regulations.  Investors Business Daily brings you the gory details:

Regulatory agencies have seen their combined budgets grow a healthy 16% since 2008, topping $54 billion, according to the annual "Regulator’s Budget," compiled by George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis.

That’s at a time when the overall economy grew a paltry 5%.

Meanwhile, employment at these agencies has climbed 13% since Obama took office to more than 281,000, while private-sector jobs shrank by 5.6%.

Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute, found that between March 2010 and March 2011 federal regulatory jobs climbed faster than either private jobs or overall government jobs.

Those agencies have churned out new regulations and rules at an amazing rate:

The Obama administration imposed 75 new major rules in its first 26 months, costing the private sector more than $40 billion, according to a Heritage Foundation study. "No other president has imposed as high a number or cost in a comparable time period," noted the study’s author, James Gattuso.

The number of pages in the Federal Register — where all new rules must be published and which serves as proxy of regulatory activity — jumped 18% in 2010.

This July, regulators imposed a total of 379 new rules that will cost more than $9.5 billion, according to an analysis by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

And much more is on the way. The Federal Register notes that more than 4,200 regulations are in the pipeline. That doesn’t count impending clean air rules from the EPA, new derivative rules, or the FCC’s net neutrality rule. Nor does that include recently announced fuel economy mandates or eventual ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank regulations.

As mentioned above, regulations and rules impose a significant cost on businesses which must comply with them.  In a time when the economy is staggering, these increases in costs delivers another body blow to any recovery.  And most of them have been imposed via the Executive Branch through its various Departments and not Congress.  The agenda brought to the White House by Barack Obama is being serviced by regulators and the legislators are being left out

"Our economy is continuing to sink," Sen. Barrasso said, "and it’s being weighed down by regulations coming out of this administration."

By 2008, the cost of complying with federal rules and regulations already exceeded $1.75 trillion a year, according to a 2010 study issued by the Small Business Administration.

Worse, the SBA found that small companies — which account for most of America’s new jobs — spend 36% more per employee to comply with these rules than larger firms.

Of course the administration flatly denies what the reports above tell us is happening:

Cass Sunstein, who runs the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, denies the regulatory upsurge, writing recently that "there has been no increase in rule making in this administration." He also notes Obama ordered a comprehensive regulatory review in January that uncovered $1 billion worth of needless red tape.

As is always the case, never believe what the administration tells you, always look behind the curtain at the facts.   And the facts are that 379 new rules have been imposed under this administration and it has 4,200 new regulations “in the pipeline” not counting the exceptions to that count noted in the IBD article.  So, as usual, the numbers tell a different story.

If President Obama is serious about creating job opportunities, this is an area in which he obviously exercises direct control via the federal government and the executive branch.  Rolling back the regulator regime, suspending all new rules until a comprehensive study can be made of their economic impact and generally getting regulators out of the way of businesses would be a very good start.

Somehow I doubt any of that will find its way into the jobs plan Mr. Obama presents after his vacation.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Libya – Now what?

After months, not weeks, of a NATO bombing campaign, it appears that the regime of Libyan strong-man Moammar Gaddafi is about to end.  Rebels have advanced into Tripoli, the capital, and Gaddafi is said to be cornered in his compound.  When last heard from his advice to his remaining supporters was to take to the streets:

In a brief broadcast on state television, Gaddafi made what came across as a desperate plea for support. “Go out and take your weapons,” the Libyan leader said. “All of you, there should be no fear.”

But the opposite seems to be what his loyalists are doing:

But reporters traveling with rebel forces said Gaddafi’s defenses were melting away faster than had been expected. There were reports of entire units fleeing as rebels entered the capital from the south, east and west, and his supporters inside the city tearing off their uniforms, throwing down their weapons and attempting to blend into the population.

A Tripoli-based activist said the rebels had secured the seaport, where several hundred reinforcements for the opposition had arrived by boat, and were in the process of evicting Gaddafi loyalists from the Mitiga air base on the eastern edge of the city.

There are also reports that a safe haven is or is still being negotiated for Gaddafi.  South Africa has been identified as a participant in those negotiations with Zimbabwe and the Congo as two possible destinations.

Obviously Gadaffi’s reign is within hours, if not days of ending.

The question then becomes, “now what”?  While this is supposedly a flowering of the Arab spring, there have been disturbing reports of Islamist radicals in leadership positions within the Rebel alliance.   Additionally, there have been various councils and groups claiming leadership.   Once Gadaffi is ousted and the capitol taken, the hard part begins – governing.   Who or what band or group is likely to emerge as the leadership group.   While there is a lot of talk about “revolutionary youth”, etc.,  in cases like this the most ruthless and best organized group usually take charge.

The “Twitter revolution” started by “revolutionary youth” in Egypt has since yielded to the Muslim Brotherhood – a well organized Islamist group which has seemingly reached an accommodation with the army and will apparently take power there after the next election.  The secular and democratic activists have been pushed to the side.

There’s also the question of “now what” for the West.   Does NATO tip its hat to the rebels and wish them good luck, or does it plan on some sort of post-Gaddafi role?   France has a historic interest in Libya.   Will European nations simply walk away or will they attempt to help craft a solution in Libya?

Finally, is the collapse of the Gadaffi regime a vindication of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy?  It certainly forced NATO to do more than has in quite some time and the campaign got the desired result.   Does that make it a good strategy for the future, or a one-of-a-kind campaign that got lucky given the weakness of the target and the geography of the nation?

All of these questions and more will be answered in the next few weeks.  One has to wonder how many of the answers will come as a surprise.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO