18 December, 2008

Blanche Lincoln Sez: Union (Probably) No!

So I get an email today advising that the arbitrator our union and the company hired to hash out an argument over health benefits has decided we peons are going to take on a greater share of costs. I won't divulge the details - I try to keep work out of this blog for obvious reasons - but the arbitrator came to some conclusions to support the decision that I found interesting.

He apparently did some comparison between us and non-union call center workers, and discovered that we make a much better wage and pay far less for better health care than our non-union peers.

That made me sit and stare for a moment. I hadn't known the percentages before. They were, shall we say, considerable. And even after the rise in costs negotiated with the arbitrator, the difference will still be considerable.

And should folks start screaming that unions destroy business and union workers are overpaid and all the rest of the anti-union tropes, I'd like to just point out one thing: my company is actually growing during this economic fuckfest.

Unions help ensure that employees get to share in the bounty they create. And employees who earn more get to spend more, which keeps the economy rolling along - fuckery with deregulation and financial shell games had a lot to do with the current mess, but there's also the sad fact that a consumer economy depends on consumers who have the cash to consume, and with wages flat over the past several years, that ain't a happenin' thing.

Cons, of course, can't comprehend simple truths such as this. It seems there's at least one Dem having trouble with the concept as well:

While giving herself “room to support the measure if it’s brought up later,” Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) said yesterday that “she doesn’t think federal legislation that would allow labor organizations to unionize workplaces without secret-ballot elections is necessary.” The legislation in question is the Employee Free Choice Act, which allow workers to form a union if a majority sign cards of consent, instead of having to undergo a full and very often unfair “election” process.


In 2007, just 8.8 percent of Arkansas workers were members of unions. That same year, an Arkansas worker’s average weekly wage was $712, which was 44th in the nation.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research has found that “unionization raises the wages of the typical low-wage worker (one in the 10th percentile) by 20.6 percent.” Furthermore, were the Free Choice Act to pass, it is estimated that an additional 14,157 workers in Arkansas would receive health insurance, while 11,164 would receive pension benefits.

But heaven forfend that companies may have to slightly reduce gargantuan executive salaries to pay for such things. Gods forbid that employees who want to unionize should find it easy to do so. And as long as Sen. Lincoln gets those big cash infusions from the fat cats at Wal-Mart HQ, I guess she doesn't need the little people to contribute to her campaign.

She does, however, need them to vote. And I think that's something we peons need to point out more often.


Woozle said...

I wonder if this -- "Unions cost companies money / make companies less profitable / are bad for business / etc." -- is one of those "unquestioned assumptions" that turn out totally not to be the case.

You know, like "tax-and-spend liberals"...

Mike at The Big Stick said...

Dana, So I assume you see every union as beneficial and would prefer it if every employee in America belonged to a union?

Woozle said...

Mike: I don't know about Dana, but what I see is that we really need some hard numbers about:

1. how businesses are affected by unionization
2. how employees feel about unions over time, before unionization (or de-unionization) and over the years following
3. how employee benefits are numerically affected by unionization, with similar time-sampling

I suspect a lot of the arguments could be resolved by identifying what works, what doesn't, who gets harmed, who benefits, and so forth. Right now pretty much all I have to work with is hearsay, and all Dana has (unless I'm mistaken) is that plus a small number of pretty conclusive personal experiences which may or may not be unusual (very small statistical universe).

Does anyone know where to look for this information? Does it exist? If not, is this a project we should try to promote somehow?