From Facebook:

Union members are not overpaid. Management willingly signs a contract stating that they agree with the negotiated price that all sides agree upon.

If those who don’t belong to a Union complain about us being overpaid, maybe their question should really be, “How do I get someone to negotiate on MY behalf for what I’m worth?”

I’ve often wondered why it is that we seem to be racing to the bottom when it comes to wages and benefits for workers. After all, the argument that “public sector employee pay and benefits are far too generous in comparison to private sector employee pay and benefits, so we should bring those public employees down to our level!” seems to me to be an argument in favor of bringing private sector pay and benefits up through organizing those workers rather than trying to bring public employee wages and benefits down by breaking their unions.

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27 Responses to Why do so many union haters want a race to the bottom?

  1. Sue says:

    Apparently Charlie Sykes has been trashing teachers’ unions again, although you would think mission accomplished after last Tuesday. But there’s another election coming up soon and the resentment must be nurtured.
    So there’s your answer, the reason unions are hated like they weren’t 30 – 50 years ago. Citizens have been well trained and indoctrinated, and the continuing education never stops.

    • PJ says:

      Absolutely right, Sue. The ongoing campaign to demonize teachers and their unions begins with the advocates of corporate education reform, and the effort was initiated decades ago with the intent of whittling away public confidence, belief, and trust in educators and the public education system itself. They have succeeded. What we must do in retort is recognize that it has happened, is happening, and disrupt it.

  2. tom harlen says:

    The liberals always leave out the fact that it is the taxpayers who pay for public sector unions. Why should my taxes go up so the public sector union leeches can get paid more than the average private sector worker?

    • Public employees are taxpayers the same as anyone else.

      However, it’s good to know that you consider firefighters and police officers to be leeches.

    • PJ says:

      Conservatives are indoctrinated into forgetting that it is taxpayers who pay for an outsourced, uneducated, privatized labor force and its ill-equipped management structure when public sector unions – teachers unions – have been starved into dismantlement. If you are in actuality concerned about how your taxes are utilized the question you should be asking is why should your taxes go up to pay for an unaccountable profit bloating apparatus that does not educate students? Why should public monies be siphoned away from the public sector into the private sector, into a sphere where the public has no deciding voice in how our children are educated? When you apply a starve the beast attitude to education you are not draining undeserving vital bodily fluids from the “leeches” you identify as teachers, you are draining the lifeblood of those whom they are dedicated – students – our children. You are draining the lifeblood of not individuals but of our society itself.

      What you are leaving out of your seemingly innocuous query is: You are making a first stage argument for dismantling the public education system and you are instantiating a lie to do it. Stating that public employees are paid more than the average private sector employee doesn’t make it magically true. What you are stating is an unsubstantiated distortion. It is an untruth. You are lying. The implications of your lie are gravely immoral to boot.

      The public sector is the first sector in this society and it is the template from which the private sector most properly follows. Unions public and private are the bulwark against systemic wage deflation. If you believe that public employees make more on average than private sector employees – which is a patently false assertion – if you are genuinely concerned about “unfair wage differentials” between the public and private sectors then you are barking up the wrong tree. You should be engaging the private sector and demanding it elevate its standards and conditions for working people. Or maybe you should be demanding an increase in unionization within the private sector.

      Your vitriol demonstrates willful ignorance grounded upon beliefs not facts. Willful ignorance is willfully immoral. Acrid conservatives such as yourself conveniently ignore the political implications of your own beliefs. Acrid conservatives such as yourself conveniently ignore the societal implications of your own beliefs. Taxes, education, and public sector unions are not about you. If you were at all concerned about a public education system grounded on expertise and the fabric of a strong, healthy society you would be advocating for higher taxes in spheres where taxes are unconscionably low and simultaneously devising a way to generate more revenue for the public coffers AND you wouldn’t be resentful about it. What the public should be asking you, Tom Harlan, is why should you be exempt from contributing to the foundations of our society? Why should the public allow you, Tom Harlan, to be a leech upon society? It is you, Tom Harlan that is the leech. The ignorant leech. The immoral leech.

  3. Jonathan Swift says:

    Johnny got a chocolate bunny in his Easter basket. I didn’t get one in mine. That’s no fair. Uncle Scotty take his away!

  4. Zach, where would the money come from to increase salaries and benefits for all workers?

    • Migosh says:

      Denis, ask Henry Ford. He figured it out more than a century ago. Guess what happened when he decided to pay the tops in his industry?

      Of course, to know this would require teaching of history. And we are cutting history teachers.

  5. mal says:

    Race to the bottom comes from a lack of imagaination, anxiety, and jealousy.

    “Those whose lives are fruitful to themselves, to their friends, or to the world are inspired by hope and sustained by joy: they see in imagination the things that might be and the way in which they are to be brought into existence. In their private relations they are not pre-occupied with anxiety lest they should lose such affection and respect as they receive: they are engaged in giving affection and respect freely, and the reward comes ofitself without their seeking. In their work they are not haunted by jealousy of competitors, but concerned with the actual matter that has to be done. In politics, they do not spend time and passion defending unjust privileges of their class or nation, but they aim at making the world as a whole happier, less cruel, less full of conflict between rival greeds, and more full of human beings whose growth has not been dwarfed and stunted by oppression.”

    – Bertrand Russell
    Proposed Roads To Freedom
    (1918, Cornwall Press, Inc, Cornwall NY)

  6. Sancheq says:

    The question arises, “Where would the money come from to pay increased wages if more workplaces were unionized?”

    The money would come from the pockets of the wealthy business owners who profit from the value added by the working class. The disparity between the two sets of people is greater now than it has ever been. The problem is that the plutocrats are blind to the fact that it is the working class who creates jobs.

    • Yes, employees add value to businesses or they would not be hired. Also, the owners risk their wealth with every new hire and would not do so without an expectation of profit. But the free exchange of labor for services is somehow unfair and the employers should pay more and they are all I suppose sitting on piles of cash. But what you fail to realize is that businesses must compete for labor. As such, a skilled employee can leave the tightfisted employer for the more generous one. Unskilled employees are less valued, ie add less value to a business and as such can’t demand the higher wages. The answer to this is not unionization but instead the improvement of skills that increase an employees value to an employer. Unionization is a protection racket for the lesser skilled individuals, but in the end they destroy every business and now government that must deal with them. And that isn’t good for anyone in the long run.

      • Phil Scarr says:

        Workers assume plenty of risk when taking a job. Employers commit wage theft with startling regularity. There are countless examples of workers being shafted when a company goes out of business. Is that not risk too? Worker claims on pay are limited once a company is liquidated, but creditor claims are, in effect unlimited. Who’s assuming the risk?

        Who takes more risk, the capitalist who lost his money or the steel worker who lost his life? Or the autoworker who was crushed?

        The use of “risk” as an excuse for exploitation and anti-unionization is a common practice among the apologists for capitalism. And it rings as hollow today as it did in the 1930s.

        • Sure a worker assumes some risk as well. Is there a way to go through life without risk? Lefties always think they are able to create some utopian solution when none exists.

          • Phil Scarr says:

            Lefties always think they are able to create some utopian solution when none exists.

            Wow, what a load of complete and total horse shit.

            I guess when proven wrong, resorting to a pompous straw man argument is all that’s left. It’s kind of sad, really.

          • Dennis, who in this thread has advocated for “some utopian solution?”

            What I’m simply wondering is why conservatives (including much of their base) are so desperate to drive down wages for workers, which is what attacks on labor unions do.

            It seems pretty clear to me from everything I’ve read that a financially strong middle class is the key to our country’s economic engine, and it certainly seems to me that conservatives are hell-bent on doing everything they can to weaken the middle class so they can help their corporate masters squeeze out more profits.

            • Zach, as a conservative who knows lots of other conservatives, I can safely say that I know of nobody who “wants to drive down wages for workers,” desperately or otherwise. Rather, I, and I think other conservatives, want to free workers and employers to negotiate pay according to the value of the labor and the value of the offer from management. Neither has the upper hand as workers would be free to leave for better opportunities while employers would be free to hire and fire according to their needs. The best protection for workers would be to offer good value, improved skills, reliability etc… such the employer would want to keep them from leaving by offering more money, prestige, recognition, whatever. The best protection for the employer would be to treat employees well. As I see it, unions just get in the way.

              • Zuma Bound says:

                If I didn’t know that you were actually a conservative, Denis, I would think that this was satire.

                Given that I do know that you are a conservative, all I can say is, “Unbelievable.”

                Unions, child labor laws, laws regulating working conditions, and so on, arose precisely because employers couldn’t be trusted to “treat employees well”.

                The conservative worldview, as you’ve defined it, is laughable, myopic and truly, truly divorced from reality.

      • PJ says:

        No doubt you sincerely believe in the validity of the economic scenario you’ve laid out, and I respect that. Ironically, you’ve also indicated a belief that “Lefties always think they are able to create some Utopian solution when none exists.” Yet it is you have articulated a Utopian schemata.

        Your analysis fails to account for the realities of a globalized economy structured to favor limited business interests at the expense of the domestic public interest – the interest of aggregate labor in this country. The model you propose may have had some relative relevance 50 years ago, but in a 21st century hyper-globalized economy your model is sheer fantasy. Businesses do not have to compete for labor in the manner in which you suggest. This is the ridiculous fiction perpetuated by both Democrats and Republicans alike. The idea which insists upon the need for increased skills and education within the labor force may have even been true in the early stages of globalization, but the notion has been proven false not only during the current economic crisis but evidenced by 30 years of domestic market constriction and disproportional valuation of education and skill.

        So, if you would please elaborate a little on your point in the event I’m misunderstanding you: Exactly which skills do you refer to in your scenario? To how many economic spheres do these value-added skills apply? Are they channeled into one sector or is it a broad need? How are you measuring skill? What value do you place on experience in relation to skill? Do you think experience has any impact on skill? Is there an assessable combined value to experience and skill?

        I would contend that neither education nor experience are applicable to the current unemployment situation this nation is enduring. You’re rounding on a circulatory path back toward “training and education” which does not address the structural realities of a globalized economy – and one which will likely become more deregulated and favorable to foreign corporations and less favorable to domestic public interests if TPP is realized.

        What your analysis leaves out is who determines value and why and the value of human capital. Your analysis skews the perspective of economic relations so drastically it’s unrecognizable as a thoughtful response to a supranational economic climate. You seem to reiterate the standard talking points for justifying not only the marginalization of “Big Labor” but the non-existence of “Big Labor” within an economic sphere determined by “Big Business” interests. This suggests you believe in the simplification that what is good for big business is good for aggregate labor. I’d disagree.

        Your protection racket analogy is flat out wrong on several counts, and it is an identifiable meme derived from propagandist extremism. I suggest you study what protections rackets are, how and why they function the way they do, how they have evolved over time, and the circumstances under which they operate. Unions are not analogous.

        When you use this analogy you insert the idea that businesses are victims of labor – that workers are victimizing their employers. Not only is this not a useful lens for examining the complex issues of our day, it subverts the actual power structure and exploitative relationship that currently exists and which exists in historical precedent.

        Union members are not racketeers. Racketeers are not legitimate players within a legitimate relationship. if you thoughtfully examine this metaphor you’ll find the economic extortionist in this country is not citizen labor but big business. If you believe there is some coherently scaled contrast between unions and big business with respect to kickbacks and regulatory capture, please do make the argument.

        I’ll grant you this – unions in this country have not adapted well to nor sufficiently resisted globalization. But I would maintain that your antiquated business model doesn’t either. If we accept the current supranational economic structure – and for the record, I do not – then more responsive attitudes and perspectives must be reached. Germany and Spain, for example, have actively opened their economic cultures to the kind of creative thought that is marginalized in this U.S. by the very rhetoric you espouse.

  7. jimspice says:

    Oooo. Ooooo. I know! I know! The race to the bottom is the direct result of the VERY odd coalition of the very few economic elite, and the very many social conservatives. The latter MUST buy into the rhetoric, or the cognitive dissonance over voting against their own self interests would tear them apart.

  8. dante says:

    There is no such thing as being overpaid. Whether union, or non union the goal of all people who work is to earn as much money as possible. I have never bought into the union people are overpaid mentality.

    • Phil Scarr says:

      That’s interesting because I’m noodling on a blog post about the concept of the “Maximum Wage.” It’s something that had traction back in the 1940s under FDR in the run-up to World War II. I believe the idea has some merit, though I don’t know how it would be implemented.

  9. Cat Kin says:

    “Misery loves company.” And if you’re not in a union inculcated into your mind are two thoughts: 1) the economic gods will like you better; 2) prices will come down when unions are broken.
    This is pure propaganda bull, of course, but hey! it works doesn’t it?

  10. John Foust says:

    Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s, except for wages “above average”, health care benefits, and pension contributions.

  11. Susan says:

    For those arguing the value of competition, may I point out an example.

    In Dane county we have three viable competing HMO’s, and yet the insurance costs for an individual, much less a family, are such that no minimum wage earner could afford health care, and not that many of the middle class as well.

    And this is only one of many situations that abound, where even with good competition going on, it won’t work on its own.

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