What Anti-Union Workers Should Know

For decades the top 0.01% (and their political allies) have been winning the war on working-class Americans (meaning, about 92.2% of the labor force). One particular political party always wants to cut government agencies and programs that protect workers' health, safety and welfare — such as workers' wages, workers' pensions, workers' voting rights and workers' labor unions (like they do with their so-called "Right to Work" laws).

They would like to defund or eliminate government agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and even the Department of Labor — so that the "job creators" can misclassify workers as "independent contractors", engage in wage theft, dodge payroll taxes, skirt environmental and safety laws, and cut worker compensation benefits when workers are injured on the job.

So whenever you hear one of these politicians expressing concern about the middle-class and poor, one has to be very misinformed to actually believe them (and if you have a very good sense of humor, you may feel compelled to laugh out loud). Forward Progressives says it best: "What I don’t get are poor and middle-class Americans who call themselves Republicans ... but I guess if you holster a gun, hold a Bible and wave a flag, that’s all it takes to fool millions of Americans into thinking you’re on their side — even if almost nothing you support as a political party actually benefits them in any way."

Watch Bill Maher slam these politicos for their sudden faux concern for the middle-class.

But oddly, average working people have continued to vote against their own best economic interests. While it's understandable that many voters have a difficult time voting because of voter suppression laws — and that many times, when they do vote, their vote doesn't count because of gerrymandered districts. But even so, many others continue to vote for those who oppress their wages and worker rights — even after tons of evidence over the years should have convinced them to vote otherwise. Why is that?

The anti-union crusade has been in full swing for many years now, and today it continues. From the New York Times, Unions Suffer Latest Defeat in Midwest With Signing of Wisconsin Measure (March 2015):

"For decades, states across the South, Great Plains and Rocky Mountains enacted policies that prevented organized labor from forcing all workers to pay union dues or fees. But the industrial Midwest resisted. Those days are gone. After a wave of Republican victories across the region in 2010, Indiana and then Michigan enacted so-called right-to-work laws that supporters said strengthened those states economically, but that labor leaders asserted left behind a trail of weakened unions. Now it is Wisconsin’s turn. On Monday, Gov. Scott Walker — who in 2011 succeeded in slashing collective bargaining rights for most public sector workers — signed a bill that makes his state the 25th to adopt the policy and has given new momentum to the business-led movement."

Note: Only about half of the jobs that Gov. Walker had once promised were ever created. The good news is, the Obama administration won't allow Gov. Walker to drug test the unemployed anytime soon. The bad news is, people in Wisconsin keep voting for Scott Walker. But why?

And this is from the Economic Policy Institute (March 2015):

"Republicans in Congress are trying to pass a joint resolution of disapproval to prevent the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from updating the rules that govern union elections. Republicans used fast track procedures to pass the resolution in the Senate, and held a hearing on Wednesday to begin moving the resolution through the House. If it were to pass, it would repeal the NLRB’s updates and prevent the agency from ever issuing a similar rule."

Here is some sage advice to all anti-union and/or non-union workers from someone who has been in a labor union (in the private sector) all of their working life...

Some State governors and members of Congress like to hold up public sector unions — with their higher-than-average wages and generous union benefits — as a prime example of "big government" and "out of control" government spending and budget-busting pensions, because these union workers tend to have better wages and benefits than those who work in the private sector in non-union houses. But it's not because government workers have been paid too much, but because private sector employees (in non-union houses) have been getting paid too little.

These politicians use this "divide-and-conquer" strategy to get low-paid non-union workers to turn against government employees because union workers have been getting cost-of-living raises over the years with union contracts. Whereas, non-union workers have not, and have seen their wages stagnant (or declining), while also losing any benefits that they may have once had.

They like to characterize union members as mafia thugs, the same way some Hollywood movies sometimes depict them. They call union leaders "bosses", even though the days of Jimmy Hoffa are long gone. They use their scare tactics to equate organized labor to communism and socialism. They use these type of tactics all the time to make labor organizations look shady and evil. And despite what Governor Scott Walker implied, union members aren't at all like blood-thirsty terrorists.

Union thugs? Ha- ha- ha- ha!!!!

The real evil people (the real economic terrorists) are the political and corporate bosses that have been oppressing American workers for the past 30 years by using lies, fear and propaganda to achieve their desired goal — making the poor poorer, just to make the rich richer.

But if a private sector employee chooses NOT to belong to a union, or can't find work in a union house, they shouldn't begrudge others that do. Instead, they should support all labor unions (in the public and private sector), unionize their own workplace if they can, and only vote for pro-union politicians.

Higher union wages, just like federal and state minimum wage laws, puts wage pressures on other employers to raise their wages as well. Instead of bashing government employees and unions, the anti-union voters have not only been shooting themselves in the foot, but they have been taking aim.

"Right-to-work" laws guarantee lower wages, not a right to work at a job of your choosing (let alone, for better wages). Doesn't anyone find it odd that, most of these anti-union states not only have lower wages than other states, but they also use more federal aid — and most of that federal aid (such as food stamps, etc.) comes from revenues mostly generated in pro-union states.

Econbrowser -- Some Empirics Regarding Right to Work Laws: "From a state’s economic standpoint, being right-to-work yields little or no gain in employment and real economic growth. Wages and personal income are both lower in right-to-work states, yet proprietors’ income is higher, ceteris paribus. As a result, while right-to-work states may maintain a somewhat better business environment relative to non-right-to-work states, these benefits do not necessarily translate into increased economic verve for the right-to-work states as a whole—there appears to be little “trickle-down” to the largely non-unionized workforce in these states."

Social Science Research Network (from abstract of study): "A state’s right to prohibit unions from compelling employees to pay dues even when they are covered by a collective bargaining agreement has its basis in the 1947 Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act (1935) ... Employment, wages, and per-capita personal income are all lower on average in right-to-work states."

Best advice? Join a labor union. Besides the immediate benefits of belonging to a union, over the long run, after busting your butt for 40 or 50 years, you'll also do much better in retirement as well — because increased wages during your working years will raise your Social Security benefit as well — and you might even have a union pension too!

But with one political party, you might not even have Social Security: “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.” That’s pulled directly from David Koch’s platform back when he ran for President, and little has changed 35 years later. The Kochs stand to pad their billions substantially from the privatization and defunding of Social Security. That’s why they spent so many millions buying a new Congress in 2014.

Whereas others, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, rather than cut this program, has a plan to expand it. If you've worked in a non-union house all your life (and especially if you have no other pension plan), then every penny of Social Security you qualify for becomes even more vital in your retirement years. Some politicians, despite what they always say, would rather you have lower wages, no union pension and no Social Security. They believe that only the job creators need "certainty" — while the rest of us should have no certainty at all if we lose our jobs, get seriously ill, become disabled, or get too old to work any longer.

The meager union dues that one pays (to politically support those that advocates for labor AND Social Security) is a very small price to pay for their "certainty": living wages, better benefits, better job security, a better retirement and a much better life in general. Say for example, if you'd be earning $500 a month more in a union house — wouldn't $50 a month in union dues be worth the investment? Oh, and if you itemize on your tax returns, union dues can also be tax deductible.

But now Kansas might pass a law allowing employers to not deduct union dues from workers' paychecks — because some politicians will stop at nothing to make being part of a labor union as onerous as possible for regular working people. And this comes after another Kansas bill would eliminate mediation in labor disputes.

Now pay very close attention: Right-to-work states are also "right-to-fire" states. Employers have a higher bar to meet in a union house: you can be represented in a hearing by a union rep and the employer needs (at the very least) reasonable grounds to terminate you (rather than just waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or deciding to hire his nephew to replace you for less money). If you're fired for "willful misconduct" (which can be for almost anything the boss says violates company rules), then almost every time you'll also be denied an unemployment check if you're wrongfully terminated.

Whereas, in a union house, generally speaking, you go through a process when reprimanded for a company violation, such as tardiness, etc. — and then an employee is subjected to a verbal warning for a first offense, a written warning for a second offense, a day's suspension without pay for a third offense, and then finally a termination (That was just an example, as various union bylaws within labor contracts and various offenses are treated differently.)

Being a union worker also usually means you have better benefits, such as paid vacation days and sick days, paid holidays, pension contributions, guaranteed hours, time-and-a-half (overtime pay) after 8 hours work within a 24 hour period (or over 40 hours in a week), in-house seniority for job bids and layoffs, healthcare insurance, and many others not mentioned here.

When I once worked in a union Las Vegas hotel, we also got a free meal every day (and non-union houses generally offer the same benefits and pay to be competitive with union houses). And guess what? Not a single one of my ex-employers ever went bankrupt because they over-paid anyone. Instead, they prospered and expanded, and built billion-dollar hotels in China.

So instead of complaining that union workers (public or private) have it better than you, try becoming a union worker yourself so that YOU TOO will earn better wages, have better benefits and better job security — rather than wishing others had it just as bad as you.

It should also be noted that, because non-union workers usually earn less than union workers, non-union workers also contribute much less to the tax base. Meanwhile, this anti-union and anti-worker political party wants to provide tax cuts for their rich friends; but they also say we need to balance the budget. So to accomplish this, they want to cut the safety net and steal workers' pensions (while allowing the job creators to over-work and under-pay them — both union and non-union alike). From the Washington Post: "The new Republican tax plan is just the Bush tax cuts on steroids":

The Marco Rubio and Mike Lee tax plan would cut capital gains taxes from 23.8 percent to zero, dividend taxes from 23.8 percent to zero, and the estate tax from 40 percent to zero. That's a lot of zeroes. Not only that, but it would also cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent, stop taxing overseas earnings, and allow businesses to deduct all their expenses at once. Nobody's run the numbers yet, but it's more than safe to say that most of these new tax cuts would go to the top 1 percent. Just think about this. The Tax Policy Center says that getting rid of all investment taxes would, on average, give someone in the middle 40 to 60 percent a $66 tax cut—don't spend it all in one place!—while the top 1 percent would get $61,891 and the top 0.1 percent would get $401,554. (link to bill)

Sadly, these politicians are fed huge campaign contributions, which are now unlimited, from the top 0.01%. Their only goal is to make sure the wealthy have more while the poor and middle-class have less; they feed their wealthy overlords by starving everyone else. It’s been their economic policy for at least 30 years, and regardless of it’s obvious failures, it’s the only plan they continue to put forward. Guess what? Trickle-down doesn't.

As it is now, only 20% of American workers earn a middle-class wage — almost everyone else earns a lower-middle-class or a lower-class wage (or is one of the working poor). If the new tax plan were ever passed, America will become another third world nation with only extremely wealthy people and the destitute poor. The middle-class would become non-existent. And the attacks on labor unions is a very big part of the shrinking middle-class's demise.

Right-to-work laws only guarantees you a right to poverty. So if you vote for this political party, you only have yourself to blame, not labor unions. But it's unforgivable that you feel that you have to take the rest of us down with you.



pitbulls for hire

That slip of the tongue from Walker is no slip. As far as I know, he's destroyed the WI economy, had even more mass exodus of manufacturing jobs, decimating the area, hasn't lowered taxes in that state (they tax everywhere), and people are absolutely desperate. Might even do a WI economic showcase to show the impact of tea party politics.

Well Said.

Too bad that the right wing media won't promote it. The 0.01 have that covered too.
The only tax plan worth discussing is to restore the pre-Reagan tax structure. Paying 50% on tens of millions of obscene profit isn't too much to ask in support of the society that the filthy rich exploit. And for the knucklehead Senator from Florida- why in the world should capital gains be taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income? After all, most capital gains tend to be the result of good fortune, rather than hard work.

illinois governor

bruce rauner is a walker puppet to the max and at new governor he is pushing all the Right to work for less walker propaganda,and then touts he came from a union background,the only background he is from is a bankrupt business agenda that he has eartned millions of dollars from the ole rob the taxman to pay the richman behind laws that were passed by his republican fellowship for years,right to work is just what it means right to work for less all the way around,money benefits and prosperity,wake up

Union Update...

March 17, 2015 -- Economic Policy Institute:

“Right-to-work” laws deny unions the money they need to help employees bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits and working conditions. So it’s not surprising that research shows that workers in “right-to-work” states have lower wages and fewer benefits, on average, than workers in other states ... As compared with non-right-to-work states, wages in right-to-work states are 3.2 percent lower on average, or about $1,500 less a year. Workers in right-to-work states were less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance and pension coverage ... Where unions are strong, compensation increases — even for workers not covered by any union contract, as nonunion employers face competitive pressure to match union standards. Likewise, when unions are weakened by right-to-work laws, all of a state’s workers feel the impact.


Understanding people who are different from you...

I understand the author's frustration at people who from his perspective just don't get it. But from my perspective, neither does he. I don't mean this pejoratively, as it is often difficult for people to understand the perspectives of others. It is easier to believe they think like us, but are just really stupid. Or are completely blinded by the propaganda. (and that is true in some cases).

There are several reasons why people do not support the union movement. (Ordinary working people, who in some sense would benefit from it.) The main reason is that there is something they value more than money or prosperity. Let me give you an example.

I know a woman who is a Wisconsin teacher. She strongly supported Scott Walker's initiative to dethrone the teachers union in Wisconsin. The primary reason for this is that the teachers union supports political candidates who aggressively advocate for the killing of children and the normalization of sexual practices she views as disordered. And they would require her to fund their efforts to advance these policies. This is very offensive to her. She considers these issues more significant than mere financial matters.

Now it is true these are divisive and controversial issues, and if you were to ask her, she would likely dissemble, but those are her reasons for being 100% behind Scott Walker.

In this, the unions have badly misplayed their hand. If they had used their funds to support politicians on both sides of the aisle, they would not have alienated those who consider it better to be poor and righteous than rich and wicked. (That is how they see it, and whether you agree with the categorizations, that is the view of reality many people have.)

The National Chamber of Commerce was a lot smarter. By funding politicians of both parties, they effectively got control of the entire government. In order to get their money, you need to help advance their agenda. Not so with the unions, If you are a democrat, you can count on the Union money even if you support "free" trade, unlimited immigration, and other policies that debase the value of labor. Likewise if you are a republican, you can count on union opposition even if you favor raising minimum wage, etc. The objection that there are no republicans who support raising the minimum wage misses the point. If it would help them win an election they would. But no union will support a republican even if he is aligned to their goals, so why would a republican alienate others in his support base by espousing a cause like minimum wage?

So there is no motivation for either party to support the union cause, since there are no benefits for such support and no consequences for not supporting or even opposing it.

Lack of political sophistication is the primary reason that the union movement has failed.

Their support of the party of the left (rather than supporting anyone who would advance their agenda) has made them irrelevant politically, and also made them offensive to many people who would rather starve than support the party of the left.

There are of course other factors. Having at times received literature from various union organizations, I have noted the socialist class warfare tone, with its exaggerated style. They portray themselves badly. A little money spent on style coaches would go a long way toward earning respect.

In addition to these things ,there remains a strong independent streak in Americans. Many of them (myself included) consider union membership distasteful, as they can no longer deal as independent agents, exchanging their labor for a compensation which they negotiate. I understand that the average worker does not negotiate in any meaningful sense. I also understand that the power imbalance between employer and employee make such negotiations pretty one-sided in most cases. But to give up the right to negotiate is a blow to self-image.

The idea that if you are capable and hard working you can rise to the top is also something you have to surrender if you join a union, where your compensation is negotiated and depends only on seniority. Now really, the idea you can rise to the top is a bad idea. The union workers in one local facility earn in excess of $100K/year, while other workers in similar jobs locally which are non-union earn about $30K/year. But someone making $35K in a non-union shop where everyone else earns $25K knows he is special. Someone earning $100K at a union shop where everyone earns $100K knows he isn't. And being special is more important in people's minds than being wealthy. People are funny that way.

If it is true that right to work laws guarantee poverty, they do so in exchange for freedom of conscience and independence. This is an exchange which many people are happy to make. Personally, I find this admirable.

It is true that in guaranteeing this freedom to themselves, they also guarantee it to others who would rather not have it. But it is equally true that if things went the other way, in surrendering this freedom in exchange for the financial benefits such surrender provided, the union forces would also deprive everyone of these same freedoms.

All of American social and political life can be viewed as a struggle between those forces which lead to freedom, and those which lead to bondage. In making that observation, I do need to clarify that not everything about freedom is pleasant or virtuous, as freedom of action allows the powerful to take advantage of the weak - this is the motivation for the union movement.

That is a topic for a different discourse.



Better to be poor and righteous?

You say labor unions "alienate those who consider it better to be poor and righteous than rich and wicked"? Does earning a living wage make someone rich and wicked?

You say, "The idea that if you are capable and hard working you can rise to the top is also something you have to surrender if you join a union". In a non-union house, the boss's idiot nephew can rise to the top, so what's the difference, except that the idiot nephew doesn't need any seniority at all.

You say, "Being special is more important in people's minds than being wealthy." I'd like a definition of "special", then I'd like to see the poll you must have referred to. You believe that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and the Koch brothers would rather be "special" than uber-rich --- and that they can't be both special AND rich? (And besides, earning a living union wage is a far cry from being "rich".)

And let's be honest: Getting labor unions to support politicians on both sides of the aisle (meaning, the anti-union GOP) is totally ludicrous — and getting labor unions to agree with business lobbyists (like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) seems equally ludicrous. Even though, there are some Democrats who do get support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — such as " New" Democrats, or "Moderate" Democrats or " Third Way" Democrats; but they (like Hillary Clinton) are really Republican-Lites". Or as President Harry Truman had called them, "Phony Democrats." They are not "Progressive" pro-labor Democrats (those who the conservatives and the media like to define as "far left" — just as in the eyes of Fox News, FDR must have also been "a far left loon").

You say you "consider union membership distasteful, as workers can no longer deal as independent agents, exchanging their labor for a compensation which they negotiate". I think McDonald's and Wal-Mart workers can debate that issue with you far better than I could. IMHO: To think that these workers can be "free" and "independent" to "negotiate" with their bosses for living wages and better benefits also seems absurd — unless you consider mass protests, sit-ins, petitions, walk-outs (etc.) a certain form of "negotiation". Because just to "ask" the boss for a raise, doesn't usually get anyone anywhere. Can you imagine 1.3 million Wal-Mart workers each sending a letter to the CEO's secretary to politely ask for meeting with the boss so they can ask for a raise?

You say, "If it is true that right to work laws guarantee poverty, they do so in exchange for freedom of conscience and independence. This is an exchange which many people are happy to make. Personally, I find this admirable." I'd argue that most people can't afford to be Martyrs, Saints, heroes, "special" or "admirable" — because they're just trying to "survive". Why are you mixing morals with living wages? Isn't under-paying someone immoral? And wouldn't paying someone a fair and living wage also make them more "independent"? Would you rather they be a slave to the boss earning slave wages? How is that being "free" and "independent"? (Janice Joplin said "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." But I refer to "economic" freedom.)

You say, "Freedom of action allows the powerful to take advantage of the weak — this is the motivation for the union movement." I would argue that it's the exact opposite — it's the GOP and the "job creators" who are guilty of taking advantage of the weak — and keeping them from unionizing is just another way of keeping them weak (beside suppressing their votes, gerrymandering, lobbying, campaign contributions as "Pay for Play", etc.)

Regarding political candidates, who you say, "aggressively advocate for the killing of children and the normalization of sexual practices". Therein lies the real dilemma, as I noted in another post:

... Aside from the "morality issues" (e.g. abortion, gay marriage, birth control, religion, civil rights, etc.) most Americans seem to all agree on most other economic and social issues (e.g. fair wages, raising the minimum wage, taxing the rich their fair share, prohibiting trade agreements that offshore American jobs to foreign low-wage countries, corporate cronyism and bank bailouts, and saving and strengthening Social Security so that it's there for them when they'll need it ... And if GOP voters are aware, but still vote their way based only on moral issues — such as abortion — then that is an entirely different subject altogether. The Republican leadership is perfectly aware of this "moral divide" — and exploits this divide by using the aforementioned "morality issues" to further the divide (and conquer) the American people — just to push their own agenda: to gain political power and to advocate policies that mostly benefit wealthy people in this country (and by proxy, the largest corporations, their revenue-stream generators). The GOP has also been using the strategy of "generational warfare" to divide older and younger voters on issues such as Social Security and Medicare. Try to remember when Tea Party protesters were saying: "Keep your hands off my Medicare!" Now Tea Party members of Congress will be going after Medicare, Social Security, disability insurance, unemployment benefits, TANF, food stamps, and anything else in our New Deal social safety net that 99% of all Americans will need at some time in their life.

There are many other parts of your argument that make no sense to me either, but time prevents me from going any further. (Maybe it can be a future post). Thanks for your opinions.

From the Roosevelt Institute

The House GOP Budget Ignores the Evidence That Combating Inequality is Good for Economic Growth

The Republican Budget Plan Looks to the Past, Not the Future

66 Ways Unions Have Improved Your Life