Thursday, May 7, 2015

Labor Unions Trump Luddites

Mere civil penalties -- if you can call reinstatement a penalty -- carry zero deterrent against union busting.  Firing employees who attempt to organize a collective bargaining unit can be overwhelmingly profitable (unlike practicing forms of discrimination).  Firing a few organizers packs the same tactical punch as locking out the entire workforce but with zero economic inconvenience to the boss.  An employer may even feel compelled to bust a union because the firm down the road does so and he wont be able to compete equally.

Labor unions have no chance to ever resume their role as the natural  counterweight to employer interests unless union blocking/busting will be met with serious jail time.

Disappearing organizers deprives them of more than a job: it strips them of -- both -- the economic and political sinews they need to interact effectively against competing interests. Employees may be able to find another job but they cannot find another fair and balanced society (unless they emigrate to Denmark).
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Once a state legislature makes union busting a felony, federal and state RICO prosecution will kick in (there are 33 state RICO laws).

A business (which is not the defendant and which can be perfectly legit) fits the case law definition of an ongoing enterprise -- if it has:
(a) a purpose,
(b) a life outside the crime (a bank robbery gang is not an enterprise),
(c) longevity -- which is taken as over a year or substantially over. Longevity however may be considered built in: for example, if a demand is made for $1,000 a month. I imagine union busting action could be taken as having a common sense expectation of longevity -- if not, wait a year, then factor in the common sense expectation and start your prosecution.
 * * * * * * * * * *

The Industrial Revolution replaced fairly paid individual cloth weavers with steam loom operators whose incomes were squeezed below subsistence by the “Iron Law of (unorganized) Labor.” Over the same period, anyone in England who publicly advocated universal suffrage for all males was on his way to jail and then to Australia.  
The Making of the English Working Class (1966) -- E. P. Thompson

How much happier employees would have been to successfully support legislation protecting collective bargaining -- than to burn down looms.  Labor unions trump Luddites.  :-)

PS.  At first I couldn't believe reading that four years ago, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed card check legislation for farm workers (of all most desperately in need).  Then, further informed that California has the strongest labor law in the country -- 10% cards signed, the union gets the names and addresses of all employees; 50% gets an election within 7 days, no delays.  Also been suggested Brown traded this off for support for his deficit fighting bill -- possibly figuring he wasn't giving away much even if the other side thought he was.  ???  Important revelation for many here is that states may and do pass their own, even stronger than federal, labor legislation.

[LATE NOTE:  Just came up with this gem -- in Wisconsin it is a crime to force collection of dues for a union:
"Right to work comes with a Class A misdemeanor. Requiring dues payments could mean nine months in jail and/or a $10,000 fine for each violation."

[So when are we going pass state (and eventually federal) rules criminalizing employers thwarting employees exercise of their right to follow the federally prescribed formula to organize a collective bargaining unit by firing them?]

1 comment:

Denis Drew said...


I certainly think the title of the New York Times editorial itself — y’know, “How Racism Doomed Baltimore” — is totally facetious. [Just a playful spin off a serious portion of the original post]

I watched Meet the Press on Sunday and saw former Baltimore mayor O’Malley (very impressive otherwise — my prayer for president) frame the nation’s domestic agenda in terms of rebuilding our cities — presumably concentrating on the poorest parts.

The show replayed a 50 year old video of Senator Patrick Moynihan (co-author of Beyond the Melting Pot) explaining the plight of the black family back then as a result from a century of horrific discrimination. Those on the panel then took up the ghetto solution as repairing families.

That’s when I turned it off. As my brother John expressed it after I explained the American un-organized slave market to him: “Martin Luther King got his people on the up escalator just in time for it to start going down for everybody.”

It is not a matter of moving ghetto dwellers out of the ghetto — it is a very doable matter of moving the ghettos out of the dwellings.

I read Sudhir Venkatesh’s American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto and William Julius Wilson’s When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor at the same time. Venkatesh’s book went on past the end of Wilson’s book. It was only as the federal minimum wage dropped almost in half from LBJ’s peak (under performing Malthusian theory by early 2007) that the projects turned into gang infested hell.

If I were still young enough to work there wouldn’t be anything much out there for me to do. Chicago’s taxi meter is now 50 cents per mile lower than it was in 1981 when I started here — with possibly half the taxi business erased (subways to both airports, unlimited limos, free trolleys between the downtown hotspots) — and 40% more taxicabs!

Today’s federal minimum wage is $3.50 below what it was in 1968 — possibly the most inexplicable wage fact in any rich economy. Labor unions have disappeared. How is any victim of the ghetto supposed to navigate themselves through the modern American slave labor market? End today’s non-discriminatory slave market and you will solve everything else.

How to do that below [now above]: