Payback time
February 17, 2001 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Payback time Executive orders: nice way to beat up on labor unions!
posted by Postroad (18 comments total)
I try to avoid commenting on political issues because there's no sense preaching to the converted. However, Bush is quickly defining himself as a petty-grudge holding Commander in Chief and I'm quite sick of his back alley tactics. It pains the GOP to no end that the unions support the Democratic party and Dubya will stop at nothing to see to it that they pay for this, like the protagonist in a B-movie. "Payback time" is exactly the sort of thing I could see him muttering as he signs the executive order mentioned in the article. This sort of meddling is a perfect example of his shaky grasp on his job description.
posted by xtrmntr at 7:19 AM on February 17, 2001

Because as we all know, union rules and pay scales are perfect in every way and never cause needless cost and time overruns. Did you catch that Boston's Big Dig is a union project?

As everybody also knows, "Maryland's plan to force contractors to follow union rules and pay union wages" [that's a quote from the article, folks] is certainly the furthest thing from "political payback." It was, however, much closer to a deal-killer, since Virginia was threatening not to pay its part of the deal if Maryland insisted on forcing the other participants to use all-union labor.

I think it's just refreshing to have a President who's not beholden to the Sweeneys and Hoffas of the world.
posted by mikewas at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2001

Oh please, like this has anything to do with cost overruns. Ever heard of the Pentagon? Corporate welfare? No one ever gets on their case. This is about political payback, plain and simple and Bush knows that no one has the spine to stand up to him.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 12:31 PM on February 17, 2001

Ok, so how does forcing everyone to pay union wages help? Price fixing doesn't really lead to efficient allocation of resources, you know.
posted by CRS at 12:46 PM on February 17, 2001

I was a little hot when I wrote that, which is never the best way for me to express my opinions. On the other hand, I have yet to be convinced that by focusing on the unions, Pres. Bush is doing himself any favors. He has a full plate and four years to think about, the wages earned by a team of construction workers should be the least of his concerns.
posted by xtrmntr at 3:42 PM on February 17, 2001

Regardless of whether Maryland's plan is right or wrong, why the hell is the "President" getting involved at all. For a party that is all about states' rights, it sure doesn't mind stepping in to Maryland's affairs if it means it can screw labor.
posted by jpoulos at 6:18 PM on February 17, 2001

Ok, so how does forcing everyone to pay union wages help?

The intention is for companies to compete on things other than wages -- otherwise there'll be a continual downward pressure on pay with the employer who's made an agreement with organized labor and who presumably is paying his workers top dollar particularly at risk. That's why the auto workers always used to insist on industry-wide wage settlements.
posted by leo at 1:49 AM on February 18, 2001

Jpoulos: exactly. Like Supreme Court--step in when you want to make sure your ideas prevail' othersie, talk about the rights of states etc. Rome had a god for this: Janus
posted by Postroad at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2001

Regardless of whether Maryland's plan is right or wrong, why the hell is the "President" getting involved at all. For a party that is all about states' rights, it sure doesn't mind stepping in to Maryland's affairs if it means it can screw labor.

States' rights? HUH? Psst... this bridge - it's part of the Interstate Highway System. It's federally funded. It connects two different states, one of whom wants to ram inflated pay scales down the other's throat.

Those of you who have never, ever uttered the words "states' rights" except to oppose Republican efforts keep showing time and time again that you have no clue what the phrase means - or you choose to ignore its true meaning.

In cases where the issues involved are mostly or completely federal in nature - such as the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, or budget concerns on projects funded mostly with fedral funds - the federal government does have an interest and the President ought to act if appropriate.

This bridge is anything but "Maryland's" affair - it's a major link in the DC Beltway, and a significant bottleneck in the whole I-95 transit corridor. It need fixing - on time and on budget. The whole east coast shouldn't be held captive to Maryland's liberal dictates.
posted by mikewas at 9:08 AM on February 18, 2001

I hope I am never so desperate for a job that I actually break down and join a union, I would have to be pretty hungry to submit to garbage like that. Some of you think forcing people to do things they don't want to do is a good thing?
posted by thirteen at 9:19 PM on February 18, 2001

I think you had better talk to someone already in a union before you assume that joining one is an act of desperation. You'd find that the first thing they'd tell you is that they're doing a whole lot better than their non-union colleagues.
posted by leo at 10:18 PM on February 18, 2001

I know and have known people in unions my whole life. Some like it, some do not. All of them complain about them though. It would be desperation for me, because I will only join if I NEED a job, and the unions have bullied the situation where I cannot get the job without kicking back money to them. My mother was forced to join one, and was very pleased when she rose to management, and was able to leave the leeches behind.

I have one friend whose father is totally insane, and was forced to join a union he did not support, (I have mentioned him here before), he went out and had tiny stickers made that read "Union Card", and he carries them around, so that whenever he encounters a "Hungry? Eat your foreign car" bumpersticker, he can alter it to read "Hungry? Eat your Union Card." Although I violently disagree with placing a sticker on someone else's property, he cracks me up.

Truthfully, some of the people I know are very grateful to their unions, but they are all plumbers and electricians. I don't know if there is a reason for this, but none of these guys were forced to join. If the whole deal is so good, why do they need to draft the unwilling?
posted by thirteen at 10:55 PM on February 18, 2001

Well, that's just it. Maybe they aren't drafting the unwilling. Maybe people have legitimate reasons to be in a union and to continue belonging to one -- whether they're a plumber or healthcare worker or university teaching assistant. Intense complaining over "having to belong" to a union has never come from the people actually in unions -- after all, they've got a great deal.

But if we're dealing in anecdocs, try this one on for size: a woman from management all her life hated unions. She was a small businessperson and unions were always getting in the way. Later on, after she retired, she married a guy who belonged to SAG. He eventually passed on but because she was his wife, she receives all the benefits of a spouse including "medi-gap" insurance. Do you think she's going around sticking silly labels on people's cars about being "forced" into a union? No, because this opponent to unionism finally understands that the talk about being "forced" into this or that is complete bunk and that it's really about -- finally she realizes -- being able to afford prescription medicine when you're seventy-five years old. That's what union is.
posted by leo at 10:11 AM on February 19, 2001

Intense complaining over "having to belong" to a union has never come from the people actually in unions -- after all, they've got a great deal.

I have to disagree with that. I went out for lunch today with a good friend of mine, who's working tech support at a community college in Canada. He's a forced union member, and just today he complained about the fact that he can't be given a raise despite the fact that he's the only one on the campus who can fix the printers.

I think unions are a good thing in many, many work environments, and most of the staff at the college he works at definitely benefits from the union.

I think actually, in his case, is that the unions have been around since before tech support existed there. Some unions are better for thinking jobs, and some are better for repetitive jobs.
posted by cCranium at 10:47 AM on February 19, 2001

A lot of this depends on whether you think you have a shot at success on your own or in conjunction with everyone else in the office. I can well see how your friend might be frustrated at this state of affairs and I'm not saying his view on why he can't get a raise isn't accurate in his case. Just as often, these cries of "inflexibility" have more to do with budgets than union rules. In fact, they're often handy excuses for supervisors to hide behind.

What the union typically does is work out a pay scale with the employer but this isn't just one pay scale -- it'll be a whole set of pay scales even for one position. So if the supervisor wants to give someone a raise, what he does is move you from one pay scale to the next -- that even without changing your "official" position or grade (though that is another way of doing it).

Being creative with the books, fitting funding to people's abilities, needs and performance -- in the union or non-union shop -- is the mark of the true administrator. It's not something I'd ever want to do but it is something I've admired from afar.

I'd only like to add that tech support people get almost no respect, finanically or otherwise almost any place you go.
posted by leo at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2001

But if we're dealing in anecdocs, try this one on for size

Is this a real person? I want to reply more, but I have to go, and for some reason I
cannot pull a quote from the linked page. I will figure it out later, but it is that one
quote that has me steamed.

I have a full time job as a Sysadmin for a magazine, and a decent freelance
illustration thing going. My income comes just about equally from both places. There
have been people who have tried to unionize my fulltime job, and they fail because of
lack of interest. In the 10 years I have been there it has come up 2 times.

If they can somehow unionize freelance illustrators, I can't see how it will help me. I
join, and get less work because I cannot price myself more attractively. Or I don't
join, and I have people who want to force me in, or shut me out. How wonderful.

It strikes me, as a way to protect the majority at the expense of the talented. I can
see why it is desirable, but it will never be for me. I am not casting myself as the
talented, but I do want to do it all on my own, and think I have the right to do so.

I have been planning for my retirement since I was in my teens. There have been
rough spots where I did not save as much as I should have, but when I am 75 I will
be able to take care of myself. If you don't think you will be able to do the same, I urge you to start saving now.
posted by thirteen at 3:12 PM on February 19, 2001

That first line should have been in italics, sorry
posted by thirteen at 3:13 PM on February 19, 2001

Bill Spencer, vice president of government affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents nonunion companies and has waged a high-profile campaign to head off a labor agreement on the Wilson Bridge, said Glendening's labor agreement was patently unfair to nonunion shops, which make up 85 percent of Maryland contractors.

"If you win the bid, you have to sign the union-only agreement. You have to use union restrictive work practices. Your employees have to pay into union benefits funds. They have to pay dues ," Spencer said. "Anybody can bid. But if you win the bid, basically your employees have to join the union."
That was the quote that got me posting, the bolds are my own. I am not really against unions, despite my lack of desire to join one. If you want a union, I don't think anyone has the right to stop you, and if this article was about people not being allowed to join, I would not like that either.
posted by thirteen at 7:56 AM on February 20, 2001

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