Comments on: What will replace unions? A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: y2kurtus Thu, 13 Jan 2011 15:48:40 +0000 I’m so late to this thread that few will probably read this but my two cents on who will replace Labor unions in the fight vs capitol is AARP.

AARP is already fighting hard to defend social security which for the first time is a negative income stream for uncle Sam. Keeping that promise was easy when it meant billions coming in for congress to steal for other uses… during the recession it meant that briefly billions were going out as so many were unemployed and so many filed for early retirement benefits.

The number crunchers think that negative cash flow will temporarily reverse back to positive… but only for a couple years at most. Soon the outflows will exceed inflows permanently. Then each budget battle in congress will include a fight over social security and Medicare.

AARP will organize an army in the tens of millions to fight for the benefits they have been promised. There will be rallies, marches, town hall meetings, all of it. In the end I think they will succeed in keeping social security largely untouched… taxes will be raised on the affluent.

Medicare as it is currently structured is toast. My wife’s grandfather, a war hero, a 45 year contributor in the work force and a great guy all around was life-flighted 3 times (this at 77 and twice at 79 years old)from the rural hospital near his home to a major hospital. He probably spent 3 months in an ICU at what $2,500/day?

That math can never scale as the population of seniors skyrockets.

Preventive care will be covered, generic drugs covered,
but helicopter rides to the ICU for a 4 week stay that buy you another 4 months of a low quality life won’t last the fiscal reckoning that has already begun.

The old (retired, semi-retired and retired) will join hands with younger workers demanding that corporations and their affluent shareholders support those who have less.

By: ARJTurgot2 Thu, 13 Jan 2011 00:01:27 +0000 Reuther though, did not feel totally comfortable about the direction they went on the wages and benefits issue. He tried to get the government involved in a national health care system in the ’60s and finally gave up and simply did it for union members. GM, etc. was glad to buy him off with better benefits packages. Lots of very old chickens are now coming home to roost.

One of the things I found interesting during the takeover of GM was the reporting that came out after the lid came off about its internal operations. For all the BS and posturing and blaming things like labor costs, they didn’t seem to have systems in place to do things like simple cash flow management.

By: Curmudgeon Wed, 12 Jan 2011 12:14:20 +0000 I’m sorry, Christian. The goal of unions is to benefit their members through higher pay and benefits, and more political power for themselves. That’s not the same thing as getting business to act decently. Now, I’m not saying that business behaves any different; rather, I’m saying that unions are fighting the last war, rather than looking at the forces that are bringing about the changes we see. We are not going to reverse globalization (if we try, we will end up poorer), so unions and management have to look at adapting the workforce to this change.

And yes, I think the American consumer has voted on lower prices and the ability to price compare from the comfort of our living room, and the vote is a resounding yes.

By: ChristianPinko Wed, 12 Jan 2011 05:16:03 +0000 Curmudgeon, why do you say “we” love WalMart’s low prices? I almost never shopped there, even when I was a dirt-poor graduate student. I don’t think WalMart is an economic or social necessity. By contrast, the disappearance of unions has, in the U.S. at least, removed the constraints from business interests that motivated them to act decently. Now the dominant business model is to develop fiendishly complex business schemes that allow the lucky few insiders to walk away with unimaginable wealth, while the broader public is left with debt.

By: Boyardee Tue, 11 Jan 2011 21:48:50 +0000 I think you have to separate public sector from private sector unions. Private sector union jobs are disappearing b/c they tend to dominate high fixed cost industries that are dying in the US. Nevertheless, I don’t see them as “unpopular.” Alternatively, public sector unions are going to continue to become less popular as the public begins to view them as getting “rich” on the public dime.

By: Curmudgeon Tue, 11 Jan 2011 18:36:57 +0000 Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it, uniongal? We love Walmart’s low prices. Even when they aren’t the lowest, Walmart is so large that it sets the price standard for everyone.

When I was growing up in that company town, there were few alternatives for commerce beyond the company store, and we lacked the information needed to compare prices, and the shopping alternatives. Today, hundreds of prices for dozens of comparable products can be had in a few minutes, and we can have our selection shipped right to our house.

As consumers, we love that. It empowers us and gives us the choice we never had thirty years ago. But we have to work in that same world, which means that we work harder than ever, for wages and salaries that don’t reflect our increasing productivity. Throw in the rest of the world, which is pleased as punch to do as good a job as we do for a fraction of the cost.

The only response I’ve seen from unions to that dilemma is to call for more unionization (only we can solve the problems that we have no idea how to solve), restricted trade, and penalties for outsourcing. In all likelihood, those responses will make us poorer, not richer, in part because we lose the low prices on which we as consumers have come to depend.

I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. And I am pretty sure unions don’t, either.

By: uniongal Tue, 11 Jan 2011 17:34:59 +0000 “I can’t envisage unions ever getting their mojo back in the US private sector.” You seem to have forgotten that the largest private employer in the United States is Walmart. Let me say that again, in nearly 40 states, more people work for Walmart than any other private enterprise.

It is true that the broad mass of workers in this country do not see unions as the solution to their station in life. For 1.5 million workers means little or no control over their hourly schedule – including how many hours they are scheduled to work in a week. It means earning wages just above the federal minimum wage and having no retirement account, paying out of pocket for health insurance, and most likely, putting their kids onto state-funding public health care, food stamps and the like. This is the new America and this is America’s future unless we collectively decide that we want something different or better.

Wall Street had a collective panic attack at the idea of labor law reform in this country and business interests succeeding in terrifying Congress that giving workers a fair shake at joining a union would signal the end of our democracy. If you accept that premise, than you must accept that the Walmart employment model is the model that shapes the future for my children and for yours.

The only way to level the playing field – which means Walmart associates need to earn a little more money, they need to have enough to put into a retirement account, they need to have affordable health insurance and work enough hours so that they no longer qualify for public assistance – is to change the rules so that associates can advocate in a fair environment for themselves. And that will mean that the Walton heirs and their collective fortune might shrink a tiny bit. Personally, I think America deserves to get a little bit of that money back…spread down into the paychecks and bank accounts of the 1.4 million workers who ring up the sales and stock the shelves of every Walmart store in America.

By: ARJTurgot2 Tue, 11 Jan 2011 17:10:49 +0000 Uh, I think Curmudgeon is actually channeling me; I still have an old membership card for the steel workers local from my late father.

But, my own experience with the AFL-CIO was not as good as my father’s. As a member of the SEIU, working grocery stores during college, I found the leadership utterly corrupt, my local representative a drunk and an incompetent. As a manager in a government IT shop I found the union only came around to ‘defend’ people that suffered from serious personality disorders; literally so dysfunctional that if they lost their jobs they were headed to homeless babbling on the street. Actual work contribution from them was not something the union was concerned about, so the affect of the union was to cripple the organization and wash their hands.

The U.S. needs to do four things for it’s workforce

1) Improve the defined contribution process, and insure that people leave the money alone. With a highly mobile workforce, DB plans are probably no longer possible. The Feds themselves moved that direction when they switched from CRS to FERS.

2) Health care, especially during periods of unemployment

3) Re-education opportunities

4) Some form of transitional income during the retraining process. High enough to stay alive, low enough to provide an incentive to seek alternatives.

I don’t hear the AFL-CIO making that their priorities, I see them trying to prevent change. That’s always a losing proposition.

By: TFF Tue, 11 Jan 2011 11:26:18 +0000 dWj, I once taught at a school whose union (albeit formally called an “Association”) exemplified that approach. Of course they still pushed for better pay and benefits, but they also worked closely with management on appropriate rules and procedures. The system worked pretty well and without noisy friction.

I do believe there is an essential role for unions in public education. As long as the funding process is heavily politicized, there will remain small-time politicians who try to throw their weight around when their son or daughter receives a poor grade for poor work. That happens even today, more frequently than you might imagine, but (thanks to the unions) you can’t dismiss a teacher without cause and thus they can do little more than make the teacher’s life miserable for a while. And no, I’ve never been the focus of such retribution — but people I respect have.

By: Uncle_Billy Tue, 11 Jan 2011 06:57:53 +0000 Um, ultranationalist movement(s)?