If you haven’t figured it out yet, it has to do with competition in one area and none in the other.
How so? James Taranto sums it up pretty nicely on the private union side of things:
The trouble for private-sector unions is that the global economy vastly increases the supply of labor, diminishing their bargaining power. If it’s too expensive to run a factory in the U.S., companies can simply move their facilities to other countries.
Or, labor isn’t worth what it once was thanks to globalization. We call that “economic reality”. Back in the good old days for unions, they were getting wonderful pensions, outrageous benefits and $20 bucks an hour for a guy to open and close a blast furnace door. Now they can make and ship steel across the Pacific Ocean and truck it to its destination in the US cheaper than we can make it. Thus the shift of the industry from here.
The bonus for these companies? No labor negotiation hassles, lower wages to pay (comparatively) and the option to move again if the costs again become onerous (and the steel industry has done that a couple of times).
However labor hasn’t yet allowed that lesson to sink in – well, at least unions haven’t.
Taranto points to a very recent example of the point as well as some union members who “get it”:
Last May, after contract negotiations stalled, nearly 800 IAM-represented employees walked off the job at Caterpillar’s hydraulic-parts factory. After a few weeks, more than 100 returned to work, fed up over the lack of progress in the talks and pinched by the union’s $150-a-week strike pay, some workers say.
When an agreement was reached in mid-August, the contract provided less than the one before it: The IAM gave in to an hourly pay freeze for veteran employees, an end to pensions, a doubling of health care premiums and a one-time ratification bonus of $3,100 instead of $5,000 under the previously proposed pact. The terms were almost identical to a Cat contract ratified by the UAW [United Auto Workers] a year earlier.
Doug Oberhelman, chairman and chief executive of the Peoria-based heavy-equipment maker, acknowledges that the givebacks hurt employees. But, in a recent speech in Chicago, he explained that management compared compensation to factory hands across Illinois and around the world and concluded that to be “market competitive,” Caterpillar had to insist on the concessions.
100 of the members of the International Association of Machinists apparently saw the handwriting on the wall, figured their family came first and returned to work.
So much for solidarity.
Hostess is another example of out of touch private sector unions. When the Teamster’s union confronted Hostess over its claims it couldn’t afford their demands and giving into them would cause the company to have to liquidate, the Teamsters examined Hostess’s books and agreed. They backed off. Not the Baker’s union though. Apparently their union chief never bothered to examine the books or negotiate. He just advised his union to strike. The result is well known and, by the way, the Teamsters were livid – not at Hostess, but at the Baker’s union.
Meanwhile a few facts have surfaced about the Baker’s union boss that should make members of unions everywhere recognize at least this guy for what he is:
BCTGM boss Frank Hurt encouraged the strike (knowing it could shut down the company).
As BCTGM membership has fallen 30% since 2000, Hurt’s salary has gone up nearly 45% to over $260,000
The bakery industry union pension fund is less than 50% funded ($10 billion in liabilities), yet bakery union bosses have their own fully-funded (100%) pension plan — funded by members.
Bakery union bosses Hurt and the Sec.-Treasurer both have their kids on union payroll.
We often hear complaints about CEOs who get pay raises while their companies go down the tubes. I wonder if the left is willing to apply the same criticism to a guy who raises his own pay 45% while losing 30% of the membership and funds his own pension 100% while shorting the union member’s fund by over 50%?
Unions also tend to play at stupid games that simply frustrate people trying to run a business and make a profit. In this case it is two different unions fighting about who gets to plug in and unplug refrigerated containers.
A federal judge has been forced to intervene in a dispute between two unions over who is in charge of plugging and unplugging refrigerated shipping containers at the Port of Portland.
Oregon district court judge Michael H. Simon ordered the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to abandon its efforts to snatch the responsibility of manning the outlets from the rival International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
“[The ruling] simply means that the same people who have been doing the work since 1974 will continue to do it,” said IBEW spokesman Norman Malbin.
The ILWU’s reaction? It said the contract with the electrical workers represented a “lost work opportunity” for members. Of course it was a job they’d never had nor had when they tried to take it over. But these are the sorts of things private unions are reduced too these days. Stealing each other’s jobs.
As we’ve covered here, the great Wal-Mart walkout wasn’t a spontaneous event or even an event demanded by the workers of Wal-Mart. In fact, as mentioned, only 50 of 1.4 million Wal-Mart workers even walked out.
It was a union event using the front group “OUR Wal-Mart (Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart)”, it was all set up by the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union. And if flopped, hideously. In fact, the real reason the UFCWU tried to make this happen is because their stores are uncompetitive with Wal-Mart grocery stores. If you can drive up salaries and benefits, you’ll eventually drive up prices. You? They couldn’t care less about you, Mr. and Ms. Consumer.
Those examples all deal with private unions. Competition and the cost of labor are driving the reality of today’s wages. Unions can’t deliver on the big promises anymore. Many have not done a good job of managing their members benefits either. Smart companies make it clear that they will willingly provide good wages and benefits without unions. Tack on tough economic times and the need for a union becomes even less apparent. At one point paying union dues was considered to be a positive thing. Workers got something for the dues that they felt was greater than the cost of the dues. Today? More and more are seeing those same dues as a liability.
Finally, government unions. They remain strong because there is no competition. And, their bosses are in bed with them, negotiating with your money, not theirs. Government’s don’t have to make a profit to stay in business, do they?
But perhaps even their act is wearing a little thin. Take the LAX protests by the SEIU:
So troubled were the airport workers by the Thanksgiving Day protest, the Associated Press reports that according to a press release from former union members, “a majority had signed petitions to leave the union and called upon the SEIU to cancel the demonstration.” One former union member Fred McNeill admitted to CBS LA that it had gotten “personal” for the leadership of the SEIU, “And that’s just not right.”
Another woman, who CBS LA interviewed through her car window at the airport, said she she was a union member (she did not specify which union she belonged to), but even she didn’t agree with the way the union was blocking traffic on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Unions on both sides have become short-sighted and petulant because their golden age is demonstrably dead. Economic reality and a changing world have dealt them severe blows and instead of looking at ways to shore up their base and maintain their presence, they’re reduced to throwing tantrums and thumbing their noses at the very people they need to suppor their cause.
Government unions can still get away with that. Private unions can’t. And the only reason that difference is made is because competition and economic reality rule one side and monopoly and government protection rule the other.
Employees at Los Angeles International Airport were considering plans Friday to walk off the job ahead on what is traditionally the busiest traveling day of the year.
A coalition of Southland labor and community leaders are calling for the protest of alleged violations by LAX contractor Aviation Safeguards (AVSG) after breaking their contract with the airport earlier this year.
Andrew Gross-Gaitan, the director of the Southern California Airports Division of SEIU, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that AVSG left more than 400 LAX workers without affordable family health care when it failed to comply with the city’s Living Wage Ordinance.
I’ve honestly never understood the mentality that says “if I can make your planned day as miserable as possible, maybe you’ll look upon my cause favorably”. Some Wal-Mart employees are considering the same sort of action and, I assume, think that those they inconvenience will then support them? Really?
Oh, and the bottom line here, which you’re likely not going to see included in many stories? The employees of AVSG voted to de-certify the SEIU. That’s right. This isn’t really about “living wages” or “affordable family health care”. This is another union, just like in the case of Hostess, throwing a collective tantrum because a company decided it didn’t want to play their silly and explensive games any more. It is another in a long line of examples of how unions have outlived their usefullness.
Company officials said their employees voted in December to reject or decertify their collective bargaining agreement with the SEIU before its expiration date. Since then, hourly wages have improved for the vast majority of employees, they said, and workers can choose the type of healthcare plan they want.
Goodness, higher wages (so much for the non compliance with the “living wage ordinance) and a choice of health care without having to pay union dues? Sounds like a win-win to me.
But the SEIU can’t imagine anyone rejecting them and they’re perfectly fine with trashing the holiday plans of others to throw their tantrum. Brilliant.
It may have begun as a genuine grassroots movement (and a rather lame one too boot) but the professional left is now taking it over and it is a true Astro-turf movement now.
Don’t believe me? Listen and learn:
Yes friends, that’s the SEIU’s Stephen Lerner telling you what the plans are for the rest of the week. For instance, notice that the Chicago protest is a planned protest ginned up by the SEIU (most likely with bussed in protesters). Notice too that the visits to millionaire’s homes in NY City isn’t a “Occupy Wall Street” event per se, but one planned by the SEIU.
That’s Astro-turf in the political sense.
Look it up.
You’ve heard all the whining by Democrats about “outside spending” on election campaigns and the lecture of the members of the Supreme Court by President Obama during the last State of the Union address because they overturned the unconstitutional campaign finance law? Their concerns, as they stated them, were about “outside spending” on campaigns. That’s a Dem code phrase for “corporate spending”. But as this election cycle is demonstrating, most of the “outside spending” for the mid-terms isn’t coming from corporations per se – it’s coming from public employee unions.
Of the top five “outside sources” of spending, three are pubic employee unions. The top spender is The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at 87.5 million dollars. The next two are the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads (Karl Rove). Numbers four and five are the SEIU and NEA. Of those five the two supporting Republicans has spent 140 million. The public sector unions, committed to Democrats, have spent 171.5 million.
Asked about this here’s the White House response:
When asked about AFSCME’s ramped up campaign efforts following the court’s decision, the White House focused on largely anonymous campaign spending by what it termed "special interests."
"The president has been crystal clear that third-party groups which spend tens of millions of dollars from anonymous sources are a threat to our democracy—regardless of which candidates they support," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. He said these groups are disproportionately backing Republican candidates.
Yeah, not so much Josh. And you have to wonder why “anonymous” sources are somehow more of a “threat to our democracy” than known sources like the AFSCME, SEIU and NEA? And since when haven’t they been as much “special interests” for Democrats as they claim Big Business is for the GOP?
By the way, you’ll love this:
Previously, most labor-sponsored campaign ads had to be funded by volunteer donations. Now, however, AFSCME can pay for ads using annual dues from members, which amount to about $390 per person. AFSCME said it will tap membership dues to pay for $17 million of ads backing Democrats this election.
Nice. Any guess as to whether union dues will rise next year since much of them are now being spent on political lobbying/campaigning/advertising? And how does it feel to have your tax dollars indirectly supporting political advertising with which you don’t agree (and for those in the unions who don’t agree, their dues are directly supporting such efforts).
Back to the point of the title though – given these numbers, one wonders how much continued caterwauling we’ll hear from Obama and the Democrats with 2012 looming?
Yeah, not much.
Charles Lane hits at least part of the Democrats problem with voters right on the head.
Public sector unions are not just the base of the party — they’re the base of the base.
But in an era of increasing discontent over taxes, government spending and the perks of government employees, these are not necessarily the allies you want to have. A party that depends on the public employees to get elected will have trouble reaching out to the wider electorate — i.e., the people who pay the taxes that support public employee salaries and pensions.
Bingo. The supposed strength of the Democratic party was its support of the common man – the blue collar worker. The middle class family. I’ve always thought such a characterization was nonsense, however, that was the narrative they successfully embedded for years.
That is now visibly changing. And I think it is apparent that the new narrative isn’t a particularly good one politically speaking. They’re now the party of big government and government unions. In an era of financial difficulty that’s not exactly the constituency you want to be identified with – especially when it is becoming common knowledge that government workers now earn more than private sector employees doing comparable jobs.
And that’s especially true now that the woefully underfunded public pension plans are coming to light and Democrats are casting around for a solution to include considering ideas such as using 401(k) funds to rescue them.
This new constituency is not a particularly popular one and even more damaging is they’re a very visible one. Think of all the incidents that reflect badly on government unions which have involved the SEIU lately.
When the majority of the country is oriented toward smaller government, less spending and less intrusion, working to satisfy a constituency whose entire existence demands precisely the opposite approach is not the best place to be at election time.
It is getting to be fun now. Tea Parties to the right of us, union parties to the left …
The SEIU (Service Employees International Union), often seen at Tea Party rallies trying to introduce a little violence, has decided that NC would be a good state to test out their promise to Blue Dogs that they’d go after them if they didn’t support the agenda the SEIU Democrats wanted.
Wow, Blue Dogs and Dem lap dogs going after each other. You have to like it.
The SEIU says it will do so via a third party – North Carolina First – which, of course, bypasses the whole primary gig. That means those Blue Dogs they’ve targeted (Dem. Reps Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre, and Larry Kissell) will face the SEIU candidates in the general elections in traditionally red districts, thereby reliably splitting whatever blue vote there might be and ensuring a GOP victory.
Of course, that’s if the Tea Party (TP) isn’t running a candidate of its own in the general election (although indications are TP candidates are more likely to challenge in the GOP primary vs. a general election).
The SEIU is teaming up with State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) to try and stand the party up and field candidates for the fall election. Anyone who wants those 3 seats to go to the GOP is most likely wishing the SEIU and SEANC a lot of luck in doing just that.
Greg Sargent thinks this is a “a serious experiment in reshaping the landscape of Democratic politics, and it bears watching” implying could be a template for similar attempts in other states. I sure hope so. And if so, coupled with the TP, it would be an attempt on both sides of the political spectrum to move the primary party in that part of the spectrum more to the left or right respectively. You have to wonder how independents would react to success in such attempts and then which way they’d tend to go to lend their support.
Talk about whatever strikes your fancy.
Some things that have caught my eye:
Is the Obama administration trying to unionize the government procurement process?
Speaking of unions, what is SEIU’s president, Andy Stern, doing on a Obama’s “deficit reduction” panel. Does that say “I’m serious about this” to you?
Anyone else see the irony in the Hillary Clinton claim that domestic political infighting is hurting America’s image abroad?
Brits aren’t buying the “January was the warmest month ever” nonsense.
Speaking of the Brits, is there a reason we won’t back their claim to the Falklands in a drilling-rights dispute?
Apparently some Dems are calling for Charles Rangel to step down from his House committee chairmanship because of ethics violations. Why isn’t Nancy “the most ethical Congress in history” Pelosi doing the same?
Paul Ryan was the rock star in the health care summit. To date no one has refuted his fiscal points.
The Obama administration has consistently talked about the Bush administration not counting the cost of war in its deficits. Well, it isn’t a war, but the Obama administration continues to nrefuse to cout the hundreds of billions going to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – primarily because it would bump this year’s 1.4 trillion deficit by another 300 billion.
And finally there’s some relatively good news. Jeremy Lott says there have been quite a few “quiet libertarian victories” here lately.
First we have the “car czar” threatening investors with audits and vilification, and now we have a report that a union was inappropriately involved in matters in which it should not have been included:
Officials in the governor’s office say a politically powerful union may have had inappropriate influence over the Obama administration’s decision to withhold billions of dollars in federal stimulus money from California if the state does not reverse a scheduled wage cut for the labor group’s workers.
The officials say they are particularly troubled that the Service Employees International Union, which lobbied the federal government to step in, was included in a conference call in which state and federal officials reviewed the wage cut and the terms of the stimulus package.
The SEIU is of the opinion the state is “breaking the law” as it concerns the use of “stimulus” funds. The state sees it otherwise. But that doesn’t explain the inclusion of the union on the call. Said state officials:
During the conference call, state officials say, they were asked to defend the $74-million cut scheduled to take effect July 1. The cut lowers the state’s maximum contribution to home health workers’ pay from $12.10 per hour to $10.10.
The California officials on the call, who requested anonymity for fear of antagonizing the Obama administration, said they needed the savings to help balance the state budget.
Most know that California is a budgetary basket case, but they should also know that SEIU members are the one’s effected by the cut. The phrase which is most chilling in the last cite is that which indicates a fear of “antagonizing the Obama administration” among state workers.
Is that really the atmosphere that should exist between the states and the feds? And, given their inclusion in the call, isn’t it fair to claim that the SEIU has had “undue” influence with the administration?
So how is this different than the alleged inappropriate lobbyist influence the left liked to holler about during the Bush years?
I‘m sure some will find this surprising. Others will say, “yeah, baby!” It certainly is the logical extension of what happened to GM’s CEO. I, for one, still find it to be very disturbing:
On the heels of the resignation of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, the Service Employees International Union is urging President Barack Obama to oust Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.
“It defies logic, common-sense, and responsible governance to punish the auto industry while letting financial institutions off the hook,” SEIU President Andy Stern said, announcing his call for Lewis’s job Tuesday.
The same could be said for letting the union leadership off the hook.
Aren’t they responsible for declining membership? Aren’t they as much a part of the problem as the management of the auto industry? Why isn’t the SEIU calling for union heads as well?
Of course I ask that facetiously. Obviously we’re now going to hear every whiner and complainer in the world will demand the government fire their boss. Hey, the precedent has been set with one of the worst decisions I’ve seen in a while. Now we begin to see the results of such a blatantly dumb move.