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Observing my upside down America

U.S. Labor Unions: Bane or Benefit?

with 12 comments


Introduced in March 2009 and then referred to the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions in April, H.R.1409 – Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 Act (aka “card check”) is a bill intended to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes. It would make it easier for workers to join unions and would tighten penalties for employers who try to stop them. Supporters such as Human Rights Watch and the NAACP say the bill provides important protections for the middle class.


With only 12% of American workers in unions, why should the rest of us care? Experts say a revived labor movement could benefit workers both in and out of unions and cite a need for forces that promote a fairer sharing of wealth. They also note that the gap between America’s rich and poor is the largest it’s been since 1928. Over the last 75 years, unions helped secure benefits like unemployment insurance, Social Security, and the 40-hour workweek.

Under the bill, workers would be able to decide whether to hold a secret ballot vote on union formation after a majority of employees have signed union authorization cards, or to have the union certified based on the cards alone. Under the current rules, employers have the power to make that decision. The bill also designates a time line for first contracts to be drawn up between unions and employees and stipulates that if no deal is reached within 120 days, an arbitration panel will render a decision that will be binding for two years. Finally, it would increase the fines employers must pay if found guilty of violating their employees’ right to unionize.

This bill is organized labor’s number one legislative priority, and it is vigorously opposed by the business lobby. Democratic leader are expected to bring it to a vote in the Senate sometime this summer. The big question regarding its passage is whether or not the Democrats can find 60 votes in favor of breaking an inevitable Republican filibuster. The Senate version is S. 560.

Opponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association say it increases labor costs and hurts the bottom line. Both sides have spent millions on lobbyists and advertising to make their case.

Supporters such as Human Rights Watch and the NAACP say the bill provides important protections for the middle class. Opponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association say it increases labor costs and hurts the bottom line. Both sides have spent millions on lobbyists and advertising to make their case.

Others contend that unions have outlived their usefulness. “The workplace is much better today,” says Michael Eastman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Employers know they need to offer certain benefits and good wages to keep good workers.”

Professor Daniel says Card Check likely would not increase union membership until the economy improves, since workers are currently more concerned about job security than wages and benefits. “ Today, most workers are too fearful to take a risk for unions,” he adds.

Looking at the numbers

As of March 5, 2007, a UAW represented assembly worker’s wage rate at GM/Ford/DaimlerChrysler are as follows:

AssemblerHourly rate COLATotal
GM$26.09$1.77$27.86
Ford$26.10$1.83$27.93
DAIMLER-CHRYSLER$26.86$1.77$28.75

When Congress debated the bailout package for Detroit, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans had demanded that wages and benefits for employees of U.S. automakers needed to be renegotiated to match the lesser overall compensation that foreign carmakers like Toyota, Honda and Nissan pay at their U.S. plants.

The Japanese automaker has fewer retirees in the U.S., and its health care benefits and pensions are less generous than those negotiated between Detroit and the UAW. Another key point is that health costs and pensions for auto workers in Japan – worth billions – are subsidized by the Japanese government. Not so in the U.S.

In December 2008, The Detroit Free Press reported that it had obtained an internal Toyota report which said the company should align its hourly wages with the prevailing manufacturing pay in the state rather than those of competitors in the auto sector, with the goal of cutting an expected $900 million increase in worker compensation by 2011 by one-third.

On average, other manufacturing jobs pay less. In Kentucky Toyota workers in Georgetown earn about $30 per hour, while the median wage in the state for manufacturing jobs, according to the Department of Labor, is $12.64.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger points to generous union-negotiated benefits packages as being a burden to America’s auto industry,

“You know, if you pay the auto workers or the benefits and all of those things, are maybe too high. … We have, like, in America, you sell a car, and you have $2,000 of each car just goes to benefits. So I think that there’s a way of reducing all of that, make them more fiscally responsible.”

Sen. Jim DeMint:

“Some auto manufacturers are struggling because of a bad business structure with high unionized labor costs and burdensome federal regulations. Taxpayers did not create these problems and they should not be forced to pay for them.”

Sen. Jon Kyl:

“For years they’ve been sick. They have a bad business model. They have contracts negotiated with the United Auto Workers that impose huge costs.The average hourly cost per worker in this country is about $28.48. For these auto makers, it’s $73. And for the Japanese auto companies working here in the United States, it’s $48.”

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Written by Ben

November 27, 2009 at 10:16 am

Posted in Labor Unions, Politics

Tagged with ,

12 Responses

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  1. I believe history will show the true reasons for the demise of GM lies at the feet of the United Auto Workers Union. Union bosses have successfully negotiated sweetheart packages that has destroyed GM’s competitiveness by shackling the company with rigid work rules and extravagant costs.

    For example, a 2007 collective-bargaining agreement required the automaker to pay up to $140,000 in severance to a worker whose position was eliminated. In addition, the company is laden with enormous health-care costs

    The average cost of employing a worker at the Big Three, including benefits, was nearly twice that of Japanese automakers.

    A bankruptcy judge would have brought some reason to labor costs and create a stronger GM.

    The UAW plans to use taxpayer money to fund their compensation packages. They know they can count on Obama and the Democrats to help them. All told, organized labor contributed over $74 million in the 2008 campaign cycle, 92 percent of that went to Democrats.

    Ben

    November 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

  2. Unions suck. They are nothing more than an arm of the demomarxist party.

    Elric66

    November 28, 2009 at 8:17 am

  3. My dad worked for G.M. and was in a UAW local. Since he is a UAW retiree we get the local UAW magazine and newsletter once a month. It was through reading that drivel that I initially became opposed to the unions. I was moderately anti-union before the 2008 election, but when one of the authors of an article called the tea party protesters racists and that they woke up one morning and said “Oh my god, there’s a BLACK man in the white house!” that really made me mad. I’ve hated the UAW and other unions like them since. Sure some of the people are good, but the union bosses are corrupt to the core.

    An Informed Mind

    December 8, 2009 at 12:23 pm

  4. In the mid-to-late ’70s, perhaps into the early 80s (memory sucks) I listened to many news reports about UAW strikes, tire manufacturer strikes, Boeing strikes, steel worker strikes and on and on. The purpose of all of them was to get more for less. More pay, more vacation time, bigger pension, less hours, harder to fire someone. It was shackling our nation’s manufacturers and gave Americans little of value in return.

    Americans got the same product, but it cost more.

    It’s no wonder Japan kicked our ass in manufacturing quality cars.

    Unions are a bane to this country. It has out-served its usefulness.

    Ben

    December 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

  5. My grandfather was black-jacked during the 1930’s fighting for the unions. My dad was union born and bred and served as President of his local several times from 1946 – 1960’s. Daddy died in 1969 and one of our last conversations he told me that the unions had “gone too far” and were no longer working for the working man.

    The incident that brought on this conversation happened to him at work. Dad was a pipe-fitter, welder and maintenance mechanic for a large aluminum company. A rolling mill had broken down and Dad was called in to fix it. In order to get to the problem he had to slip a 2×4 under the machine to lift it a bit. The shop steward stopped him and called a carpenter to slip the 2×4 in place. This held the work up for an additional half hour. Dad was disgusted, and it was the final disillusionment for this life long union man.

    Unions killed themselves with their pettiness and now if we don’t stop them they are going to help Obama kill the United States.

    I hope if we ever get our country back that we wipe out a lot of the corruption before we resume taking care of business. It will of course mean taking Washington back by getting rid of all the criminals in Congress now. But there is no one going to convince Barney Franks few constituents not to vote for him, and yet that creature has so much control over my life! (sigh) sometimes I need to just go paint a pretty picture and pretend. BB

    Brenda Bowers

    December 16, 2009 at 1:11 pm

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  8. WTH? Why are you comparing Japan to US. You are about one century out of date. The fact that in free countries People can demonstrate and protest, should be celebrated. This could never be done by the neo MarxistCapitolists Country of China (GM will play key role to future China Auto domination http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704865704575610771579286344.html).

    I don’t always agree with others’ free speech, but it is unAmerican to disagree with their right, no matter how offensive.

    The new game, of free range companies, with trapped, herded, localized workers WILL prey on everyone from chemist, engineer, middle manager, skilled worker, to floor sweeper.

    So next time you twist old outdated philosophies of the 80’s to shore up the multi-nationalist agenda, you are only arguing against your self, unless you are the the top 2%. What is with complaining about someone making $26 an hour, who’s skills (quality and speed) may take 12-20 years to polish (some of these jobs are often dangerous and health injurious), while a 4 to 8 year college grad can make $80 for 5 minutes of barely working. Twisted.

    The enemy today is not Unions, Japan, Europe, or even Mexico. It is the very future of the US autonomy, and the freedoms that are slipping away. All while those in true control (the money that funds our elections, with no caps), are happy to play the left against the right. Heck, it is too late to worry about spending, since no amount of austerity can ever help. We are in too deep to ever grow our way out of our debt. Can you spell insolvency? If you are awake, you can probably feel it with every breeze. Can you even ponder what this will do to our future, our autonomy? Or are you going to intellectually beat up on labor protesters, who won’t be free enough 10 years from now to protest anything. Wake up! Like you are in some zombie state.

    http://www.infowars.com/how-can-america-create-wealth-if-our-industrial-base-is-destroyed/

    P. Revere

    March 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm

  9. Before you call me a lib, with your zombie mind, remember, 2000 to 2008 spending and side shows, all Republican. All special interest spending, with little aimed at job creation or building our industry. The contrary, rather.

    The problem is lack of basic, basic, obvious reforms of the system, in favor of temporal squabbling. The more off track the debate gets, the more obfuscation, the better for those that are gaining from the status (or trajectory).

    P. Revere

    March 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

  10. If I were a Zombie like you propose, then I would be all up in arms and getting hot under the collar while defending the group of Republicans responsible for your claim. That would be IF I were a subscriber to the beliefs and values of those said “Republicans”. The truth of your matter is that I am a conservative and obviously those “Republicans” do not subscribe to the same beliefs I do. In fact, it makes them R.I.N.O.s if the Republican Party is supposed to be made up purely of conservatives, which, obviously, it isn’t.

    The other and bigger issue is your apparent distaste toward the “spending and side shows”. I suppose being that it upsets you, then being true to your principles, you must be livid about the “spending and side shows” which have been going on since Obama got the office.

    Nancy Pelosi declared that her congress would be the most open and transparent in history and that the swamp would be drained. It was a great declaration which went nowhere. She went on to later make her most infamous declaration of them all when, talking about the health care bill, she said it must be passed before we can find out what’s in it.

    Some transparency, but there’s plenty of spending and sideshows, that much is painfully obvious to anyone drawing breath.

    Ben

    March 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

  11. It just hit me the comment that some Historian will look at labor unions as reason for…. These historians would be brain dead. (Productivity, is easily 1:4, unskilled:skilled)

    But this is more like a magician trick, where some distraction is created to divert attention from the real disappearing act. The labor arguments above is a mere side diversions for reasons of our industrial demise:

    http://www.infowars.com/how-can-america-create-wealth-if-our-industrial-base-is-destroyed/

    Which don’t cover that the state owns most all the industries. It is like a 130 lb wrestlers getting into a ring with an 1200 lb gorilla (who has no rules), and calling it a fair fight. Some contests are just plain stupid. But at this point, we are at least about %80 dead financially, technologically as a nation. All under our two party (view point restricted) watch.

    Take it or leave it. There is always ways to muddy the obvious, argue any point. But, sadly, we will go forward, and downward. Fingers will point everywhere, except in real direction of those truly at fault, since these people have most the money.

    P. Revere

    March 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm

  12. Going from Repulican control to Democratic (2008) was like a person firing their embezzler accountant (who stole most their money and got them fired) and hiring an art teacher to do all their finances.

    A thief to the idiot. And a side show.

    Conventional conservatism got it’s strength from promising growing the economy to grow jobs. We see, the opposite happing. You need new rules to hold on to the voting base, unless you think big money can just buy them off, or scare them to keep voting against their own jobs, since the alternatives are IDIOTS like Pelosi.

    P. Revere

    March 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm


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