Monday, January 14, 2008

The End of Two Eras

Heh, the end of Hollywood as we know it? Yes indeed, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving place. But not just curtains for Tinseltown as we've known it. It's also the end---has has been for a long time---of the stranglehold of unions on workers of all persuasions. People don't need unions like they once did at the height of the industrial revolution, for heavens sakes. Like the demise of the mainstream media, unions are looking more and more like antiquated aardvarks that have more than served their purposes in the food chain of business and commerce. This is the age of the independent contractor. But, for anyone who really feels persecuted by big management and the guys at the top, well there's always the ever-eager-to-sue-the-wits-out-of-the-world-for-a-large-cut-of-the-action, John Edwards.


This is something I meant to link to earlier. It's a piece on Pajamas by Bert Prelutsky on Barack Obama's creepy, race obsessed Afro-centric church in Chicago. Well worth reading and asking why the MSM isn't making more out of it? Oh, that's right, it's because Barack is the messiah incarnate. I keep forgoting to remember. Silly me.


Vienna VA said...

Web, for once I agree with you. Unions are almost as bad for America as democrats. Worse even -as if that's even possible!

Who needs a 40 hour workweek? Time and a half for overtime? A 30 minute lunch break? Weekends off? Sick days? Health Insurance? Only terrorist lovin' Commie pinkos, that's who!

I mean honestly, do you sit around pining for the repeal of the Fair Labor Standards Act? Frankly, your idea of America is a little frightening Web - a Christian theocracy w/hardcore capitalism at the expense of average Americans? No thanks.

web said...

Who're gonna believe? Me or the U.S. Government on this one?

The Decline of Union Power:

The changing conditions of the 1980s and 1990s undermined the position of organized labor, which now represented a shrinking share of the work force. While more than one-third of employed people belonged to unions in 1945, union membership fell to 24.1 percent of the U.S. work force in 1979 and to 13.9 percent in 1998. Dues increases, continuing union contributions to political campaigns, and union members' diligent voter-turnout efforts kept unions' political power from ebbing as much as their membership. But court decisions and National Labor Relations Board rulings allowing workers to withhold the portion of their union dues used to back, or oppose, political candidates, undercut unions' influence.


So that's approximately 83% of the working/employed/productive class who is managing without 'organized labor's' help.

The incredible shrinking labor unions.

Quote from Heritage Foundation on Unions said...

The guiding philosophy of organized labor is that a union can bargain for higher wages and better treatment than workers could obtain individually. But the union philosophy sees the economy through a 1950s lens where only two agents negotiate how to cut the economic pie: management as the agent of capital and investors, and organized labor as the agent of individual workers. It assumes monopoly power for employers, lifetime employment for workers, and non-unique (lower-skilled) labor. Consequently, unions tend to prosper only in the rare cases where all three conditions exist—an increasingly rare situation in the modern economy. The economic pie is dynamic, and burgeoning entrepreneurship simply does not make sense to the union philosophy.

Why would a uniquely skilled artist, or uniquely skilled knowledge worker, need general representation? The new rules of the technological economy mean smaller firms and more individualized work, not assembly lines. About the only place monopoly power remains a reality is government.

What is most interesting about the union philosophy is its intellectual roots in 19th century Marxism. Karl Marx famously saw the march of history in terms of a dialectic between two forces. But the forces of “capital” and “labor” were synthesized soon after the publication of Das Kapital when Great Britain formalized in law the limited liability stock corporation. In modern times, no one thinks twice about employee ownership of stock options, or of profit sharing, but they make the capital-versus-labor framework an anachronism. Entrepreneurs create capital out of nothing. They are neither worker nor capitalist. Yet economists who study growth now recognize that the entrepreneurial role is central—almost exclusively central—to explaining why productivity rises and why workers experience wage growth.

But the very things that big unions have been fighting for in recent years are hostile to innovation. They protect jobs of the past at the expense of jobs of the future. They fight for bailouts of inefficient corporations. They fight for higher minimum wages that price low-skilled workers out of the market (and out of competition with their members). Hostility to part-time employment, workplace flexibility, and capital gains are all antithetical to the virtual workspace that fosters start-up innovation.

In Decline: Overview of the Unionized Workforce

American workers have not remained oblivious to this fact. Over the past 25 years union membership in America has dropped dramatically: 21.4 percent of all workers belonged to a union in 1981; today, only 12.5 percent do. The decline of private sector union membership is the heart of issue, dropping from 19 percent to under 8 percent in just 25 years. In other words, nine out of 10 employees at for-profit companies are not in a union.

When the public asks whether unions are relevant, they are asking the wrong questions. Organized labor is very powerful politically, for now. But unions are almost totally irrelevant economically in the 21st century workplace of individualization and technology. There simply isn’t any debate over whether unions are facing extinction, because the numbers speak for themselves.

Unions do remain a powerful force among one segment of workers: government employees. Some 36.5 percent of all government employees belong to unions, up since 1981. These numbers are highest at the local level, with 41.9 percent of all local government workers holding union cards.

The decline of private sector unions coupled with the high rates of public sector unionization has changed the face of the American labor movement. Decades ago the typical union member worked in the private sector, often in a very physically demanding job. He would strike to get higher pay or better working conditions. Today 48 percent of all union members work for the government. The typical union member nowadays is a local government worker lobbying city hall to raise taxes so the city can pay him more. Rather than striking to redress difficult working conditions, modern unions fight for more government because they are the government, drifting ever farther from labor’s initial goal of improving the life of working Americans

Vienna VA said...

OK. I get it. You hate unions, union members, people who support unions, people who know people who support unions. We're all marxists or something.

I don't doubt that union power has decreased, but I don't share your argument that America is better for it. Ask the Wal-Mart worker who is threatened with losing his or her job for even discussing unions in general, who works no more than 37 hours per week so that W-M is not required to provide benefits, who works mandatory "overtime" at no pay, and who is encouraged to apply for federal assistance (i.e. medicaid and medicare) for health coverage rather than receive any company-sponsored insurance. Doesn't it bother you as a taxpayer that YOU have to pick up the tab for Wal-Mart employees, rather than the company?

I know I value things like the 40 hour work week, sick leave, minimum wage, retirement benefits and health insurance - all brought to you by your local union. Ask your friends and neighbors if they do, too. You'll no doubt be surprised to find they enjoy those things and aren't as excited as you seem to be about giving them up.

p.s. The Heritage foundation? Do you EVER go outside your cozy comfy world of right-wing noise?

web said...

It's not a matter of hating anything. It's my opinion that there are far better ways of negotiating without organized labor.

There are many factors in play today that make unions more obsolete. That's my observation.

Vienna VA said...

Ok, what are the better ways of negotiations? You and I seem to have diametricaly opposed views - I think workers need an organized group to stand up for their work place rights, you seem to think that workers don't need a group like that because businesses will take care of its workers.

If McDonald's wasn't mandated by the FSLA to pay entry level employees a minimum wage, do you think that company might pay those workers less? If coal companies weren't regulated by MSHA/OSHA, do you believe those companies would pay for safety improvements because they want to? IF GM didn't have to deal with the UAW, do you think they'd consider paying for their workers health benefits? I'd say in those three examples, businesses would be much more concerned with the bottom line than in paying a fair wage, creating a safe environment or contributing to employee benefits plans.

The argument the striking writers in Hollywood are making is that they aren't being paid for their work. If they write something for prime time TV, which then gets placed on the internet, why shouldn't they get a share of the profit? GE does. The writers union made the mistake of not asking for a bigger slice of DVD sales, something they aren't willing to lose out on again with the new mediums of communications. If the union did not stand up for their workers, GE (or any other company) could decide not to pay a share for *anything* (residuals mostly, in this example). What's wrong with workers standing up for their right to be paid fairly??

web said...

I am short on time today, but let me say that in most business situations now, there are better ways to stand up for our rights as employees than joining organizede labor. Those unions have served purposes no doubt in the big (and dying in our country) auto companies, and in making laws like OSHA. However, I say again, there are many resources available today better than big unions.

And if the unions are so good for writers, especially when it comes to royalties, then why are those same writers striking. For thirty years these people are claiming almost no cut of the creative pie.
These are years that the union has been their organizing principle.

This is all I'll have to say about this today.

Vienna VA said...

Like I said before, even the writer's union would freely admit that they did not have the foresight to see how lucrative DVD sales would become. The writer's union dropped the ball in that case. They aren't about to make the same mistake again, especially with all the new technology emerging daily.

You've got a link above about Wikipedia - did you see that coming 10 years ago? How about youtube? Facebook? The last writer's strike was in the late 1980's. Think about how much technology has changed since then - did you use the internet in the late '80s? Have multiple personal computers? A DVD player? A cell phone that could fit in your back pocket, and that could play tv shows? None of us did. Heck, my parents still had a dial telephone. Technology changes quickly, and the writer's union is determined to make sure that the writers receive due compensation in whatever new and emerging outlet shows their work. Sounds pretty darn American to me.

I'm still curious to know what the non-union options are for empolyees to negotiate with buisnesses, which I suppose is a conversation for another day. Businesses are not going to deal with each employee one at a time (talk about non-cost effective bargaining), and I do not subscribe to the notion that they'll do things out of the goodness of their own hearts.