Thursday, November 06, 2008

How are the mighty fallen

It wasn't so very long ago that the pundits were predicting the durable Republican majority. Democrats were to be reduced to a beleaguered, regional minority. How are the mighty fallen!

But lest we boast too much; regardless of electoral college totals, Obama won only 52% of popular vote. George Bush, with a slightly slimmer majority went on to govern with impunity, pretending there was no opposition. From the beginning, he shut out any dissenting voices. The energy policy was written with input from oil companies only. Labor found itself completely disenfranchised. Even moderates within the Republican Party were routinely shouted down. Soon, they began to believe the echo chamber, with disastrous results. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Even though many Democrats (me included) remember the swaggering Republican arrogance of the last eight years, the fear-mongering, the pandering to the lunatic fringe, the attempted politicization of the Justice Department, the thousand insults and questions about our patriotism from right-wing radio; and are in no mood to be magnanimous in victory, for our sake, Obama needs to be. So far, he shows every indication that he will follow this course. I think his cabinet choices will also confirm this.

While holding fast that arrogance, racism, and bigotry have no place in his administration, there needs to be room at the table for dissent. Otherwise, Congress is liable to revert to Republican control next election, and we will be back to gridlock.

I think one of the first issues where we will see this played out is the Employee Free Choice Act, which was a great sleeper issue in this election. The EFCA is the Roe vs. Wade issue of the Labor Movement.

The Dems owe Labor big time on this, but it is vehemently opposed by business groups. Without a filibuster proof Senate majority, I doubt EFCA will pass.

Instead, as a union member, I hope to see the replacement of Bush appointees on the NLRB with more labor friendly faces, a crack down on labor law violations by companies, stiffer penalties, and speedier resolutions of grievances.

This is the spirit of compromise that I hope to see in Washington during an Obama Administration. I don't expect Republicans to roll over and let every Democratic initiative become law of the land. The eagle needs both the left wing and the right wing to fly, so here's to our opposition. Long may they live, for they keep us honest.

13 comments:

Jamie said...

Umm, I voted for Obama and I also live in a state where there are no Unions (at least that I'm aware of). Unions are an incredible drag on both quality and quantity. And to just say one more thing, and I know this will offend you but Unions are among the dumbest ideas ever devised by the human race. If you don't like your employer then by all means find another one....you DO have a choice.

Grey Fedora said...

Jamie:

Care to comment on why you think unions are "among the dumbest ideas ever devised by the human race?"

Is the 40 hour week dumb? How about minimum wage, OSHA, child labor laws? All as a result of working people coming together and challenging the corporations.
Did you know that a black union man and a white union man earn the same pay for the same job? Ditto for a union woman.

When 1/3 of the labor force was unionized. union companies set the standard for wages and benefits for the economy: vacations, health care, pensions. What is the standard in today's largely non-union economy? Do you think joining together to bargain for better wages and employment conditions is a dumb thing?

As a progressive, you should support unions for no other reason than they are an excellent counter to the right-wing "Joe Sixpack" propaganda we think represents the working class.

In the 2004 election, GWB won white male voters by a 25% margin, but lost the same white males who were union members. Similarly, he won gun owners by 27%, but lost by 21% among gun owners who were union members. Regular church attendees voted for Bush by a 22% margin, but union churchgoers went against him by 12%.

Source: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Right, 2006, Earth Works Press.

RedWing said...

Wow Jamie...that may have been the "dumbest ideas" you ever came up with. Well that and voting for Virginia Foxx. *wink*

hehe sorry, but Grey Fedora is right here. Labor Unions were and still are a MUST. Don't forget, it wasn't that long ago that CHILDREN were forced to work for next to nothing. ADULTS were forced to work for pennies because there WERE no other jobs to go to. Labor unions brought an end to corporate tyranny and allowed the middle class to grow. Partly because of unions we HAVE a middle class.

There are many unions in NC. NC is not a union free state. Unions are like the Welfare System. They are a must, but can always be reformed to make better. Taking away secret balloting is a way of making them better.

Jamie said...

sorry dude but I didn't vote for Foxx. I said unions not labor laws. get it straight. i'll post more tomorrow, it's 5:00!

RedWing said...

I think you're missing a point, though. Labor laws would never have happened if it wasn't for Unions. You could not have had one without the other.

Jamie said...

I did comment on it:

"Unions are an incredible drag on both quality and quantity."

Take this scenario and run with it:
I'm in a union and joe blow next to me has the same job and the same pay as me. Now I work my ass off and he sits around a picks his nose.

Now give me one good reason why I should continue to work my ass off while he doesn't!

Now, here's a scenario where unions are not needed (this is real):
I worked for xyz Company, I had been there for 5 years. A new guy is hired. This new guy has the same job title as me and makes about 98% of what I do. After two years he still only does about half the work that I do.

Does this piss me off? Yes! Do I do something about it? Yes I do! I went back to school, got my degree. One week after I graduated I started a new job with a 50% pay increase!

So, In my original post I said,"If you don't like your employer then by all means find another one....you DO have a choice."

Unions may have had their place at one time but now they are no longer needed and should be slowly removed from the picture.

Oh, just one question for GF. Are you a teacher?

RedWing said...

Jamie, again you missed my point on reformation. Your story IS valid and I would never say otherwise. One of the main issues with Unions is the lack of "equal work for equal pay." This can be solved through Union reformation where it becomes easier to FIRE an employee for not performing their duties up to a certain standard.

Teachers are a perfect example of this. If a teacher is not meeting the criteria set forth by what would hopefully be "union standards" then she should be fired and someone with higher standards put in their place. As long as there is a proper independant review, this should solve the problems you speak of. As it stands now, you are correct on your points.

However, to phase unions out of the picture would be disasterous and will lead to corporate tyranny, once again. Why? Because CEOs only care about the bottom line (i.e. stock holders/stock price). If they had free will to lower job salary expectations or not give proper raises, believe me, they would do it. And before you scream, "That's what labor laws are for." just know that most strikes ever conducted by Unions were VALID.

So, in conclusion, you are correct that there are problems, but the solution is not to get rid of unions. The solution is for unions to expect equal work for equal pay. To do this requires them to allow employers to fire employees who are not living up to company/union standards. Unions have the ability to kick people out, they just never seem to do it. That should change.

Grey Fedora said...

No, I'm not a teacher. I'm an electrician, and a member of the IBEW.

Your first story is an example of management not doing their job. There is nothing in any union contract that precludes disciplining an employee for cause, this includes non-productivity. All the union does is insure the disciplinary action is fair.

Your second story makes no sense. Most jobs have a training period where you have increases in both pay and responsibility. Usually, during this probationary period new employees do not have full union protection, so non-performers can be weeded out. Again, this looks like management is not doing their job.

Finally, you went to school and got another job with a 50% pay raise. Different classes of work pay differently. Skilled labor earns more than unskilled, professions earn more than trades. As an electrician, I don't expect to earn as much as a surgeon. When you graduated, you didn't go back to the same class of work.

Jamie said...

Grey Fedora wrote:
Your second story makes no sense. Most jobs have a training period where you have increases in both pay and responsibility. Usually, during this probationary period new employees do not have full union protection, so non-performers can be weeded out. Again, this looks like management is not doing their job

The second story is true and about me.

so I say thank you for your observation/opinion as I know who's watching! *wink*

Scotty12 said...

EFCA will pass:

This is one area where Obama's economic policy and political expediancy will actually reinforce each other.

One of the overlooked parts of the famous "Joe the Plumber" encounter was what Obama said about how Joe's hypothetical plumber business would benifit from having customers that could afford to hire him. This is fundamental to the narrative that Obama will build about economic recovery following on from FDR. It is no accident that the last time income disparity was this wide between CEOs and workers was 1929. The right never understands this but for the rich to get richer the companies they own need customers. In the absence of union pressure there is no "free market" pressure to increase wages in line with productivity and inevitably you get "gilded age" disparity. What happens in the cycle is that a new technology or resource opens up a middle class. In the first part of the last century it was mass production. Henry Ford (evil bastard though he was) recognized that he could not sell his cars if nobody could afford them. He calculated the price of the model T and the wages he paid based on how many months work it would take for one of his workers to be able to buy one as well as feeding and rent. He then calculated back to define the fastest growth achievable for each rate of pay including the calculation of union pressure on other employers based on the rate of pay he was paying.

This calculation led to the middle class. THEN the CEOs began to agitate against union power and gradually via cartells and other pressure bust the unions. Wages started to fall fast. To maintain growth credit was made cheap and easy and so the growth contiued for a while despite falling real wages due to debt. Then in 1929 the bubble burst just as it did this time for the same reasons. FDR re built the middle class with the help of unions.

Obama will teach this lesson to the American public again and will start with the first principle laid out in his agenda (See change.org) By increasing the minimum wage and indexing it. (in fact indexing the MW is actually potentially going too far but I suspect the plan is to negotiate indexed MW against EFCA and so pass a minimum wage with anual but unidexed review with the passing of the EFCA. Pump money to the middle class and so grow the economy the only way that actually works via increasing earnings of the middle class.

RedWing said...

Jamie,

You are free to rant all you wish. If you recall, I totally agreed with your situation. I think everyone did, there was just nothing that could be done thanks to the corporate (non unionized) mentality. :)

Tom B said...

Trade unions interfere with the ability of the market to allocate its resources efficiently. Forcing employers to pay more than the market rate will ultimately lead them to employing less people, and investing in technologies that replace human labour altogether. This protectionism only works in the short run. They're not dumb, just short-sighted and selfish. The free market will pay you what you are worth. If you're not worth much then increase your productivity, don't hold your employer to ransom as your gain is going to be someone else's loss.

Thatcher smashed the unions in the UK, and she was hated for it at the time. Actually she greased the wheels for possibly the most prosperous era in modern British history.

jamie said...

That's just it Dan...something was done! By me! I didn't wait for someone to come wipe my ass for me...I did it myself!

Had I been in a Union my employer would have been forced to pay me fairly(bad for business) and I would have never had the inclination to better myself.(bad for me)

Having not been in a Union my former employer will have to either hire someone new to work at a low wage or get more out of the current employees(good for business) and I now have a bachelors degree, a much better paying job and a job I can actually call a career(awesome for me)