The collective bargaining clusterduck

There is a problem with what unions have come to represent in this country. No longer are they the voice of the workers- they’ve become a cash cow for Democratic lawmakers- the same way Wall Street has done for lawmakers willing to look the other way on regulation.

The real issue isn’t workers’ rights to strike, or the deals- it’s political Neanderthal thinking – using a club instead of diplomacy.

It’s also a bit of resentment thrown in. Unions have gotten a bad rap for adding in protections for people who suck, and refusing to accept what the normal world outside their political playpen preaches- pay for performance is the norm.

Public employee unions are the last bastion of union strength right now- and they should be looking closely at what happened to their auto worker brethren. From today’s New York Times on Hyundai in Alabama:

For more than a year, workers at the Hyundai plant have been putting in 10 hours of overtime a week as part of their regular schedule, plus occasional Saturdays. With an average regular wage of about $20 an hour, the additional overtime hours mean workers here are earning more than many workers at the unionized plants up north. The United Automobile Workers union has long tried to organize plants in the United States operated by foreign carmakers, most of which are in the South, but has yet to succeed anywhere.

via Hyundai’s Swift Growth Lifts Alabama’s Economy –

The real solutions to this perceived problem are more than health care, retirement, step increases, seniority, tenure- a rational approach to the problems would revolutionize our “capitalist” system and give it a chance to compete in the future:

  • Take the money out of politics. It’s time for real campaign finance reform. It would be cheaper for the taxpayers to pay directly for short campaign periods, with equal money for each candidate. We’d also need to institute Instant Runoff Voting to stop making this a lesser of two evils race every time.

I mean, if you look at the last election, 2010, the AFL-CIO spent $100 million and 90-some percent, 98, probably, percent of that money went to Democrats. You had the American Federation of State (unintelligible) and municipal employees spent $50 million electing Democrats. So the Democratic Party is very much beholden to these public employee unions.

via Week In Politics: Wisconsin Protest : NPR.

  • Retirement, except for highly dangerous public service like the military, police, fire etc. isn’t until 65. No pension payments until 65- no more double dipping.
  • Universal health care plan- and I’m not going to try to argue that one here- let’s just say that our health insurance industry is out of control and it’s time to go to direct pay health care.
  • Eliminate tenure except for college professors- who are supposed to be able to do research, publish, etc.- in addition to teaching. However- make it easier to fire for cause- and, compensation is no longer linked to seniority.
  • Eliminate “prevailing wage” from the vocabulary- competition is essential if we are to have free and open markets. I’ve also found this idea odd- in that some people are more productive- and prevailing wage takes none of this into account.

There are solutions to the issues. But striking out with a hammer when what is needed is some good diplomacy isn’t moving our state forward.

Maybe it’s because John Kasich is an idiot- to use the term he used to talk to a police officer doing his  union job– or maybe it’s just another case of Wall Street muscle screwing us again.

Either way- collective bargaining isn’t the problem- collective brainlessness is.

Unions began as a way to ensure equality- equal and fair pay for people doing the labor that produced profits. Our plutocracy in America would love to take out the last effective tool of leveling the playing field.

Don’t let it happen. Think of the three R’s: Resist, revolt, recall.

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23 Comments on "The collective bargaining clusterduck"

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John Ise
Good post.  As I see it, however, what’s going on in Wisconson (and probably Ohio) is all about politics, not state deficiets. From The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:   WI Gov. Walker proposes that the right to collectively bargain be taken away from most — but not all — state and local workers. Who’s left out? “Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.” As Harold Meyersonnotes, these are also the unions that happened to be more supportive of Walker in the last election. Funny, that. Walker tries to sell the change in collective bargaining as modest. “State and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay, they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures.” But that’s not really true. Read down a bit further and you’ll find that “total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum.” In other words, they couldn’t bargain for wages to rise faster than inflation. So, in reality, they can’t bargain for wages and they can’t bargain over other forms of compensation. They just can’t bargain. The proposal doesn’t stop there, though. “Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.” These rules have nothing to do with pension costs or even bargaining. They’re just about weakening unions: They make it harder for unions to collect dues from members, to negotiate stable contracts or to survive a bad year. The best way to understand Walker’s proposal is as a multi-part attack on the state’s labor unions. In part one, their ability to bargain benefits for their members is reduced. In part two, their ability to collect dues, and thus spend money organizing members or lobbying the legislature, is undercut. And in part three, workers have to… Read more »
Stephen Lahanas
Stephen Lahanas
I am not a fan of unions – I’ve never belonged to one and I’ve seen the impact that union corruption has had on local politics. Having said that though I have always understood the need for unions. Unions and management provide a sort of checks and balances system on each other – if you take one of these factions out the equation the situation becomes skewed. Unions helped to ensure that ordinary people obtained economic rights, rights such as: sick leave a 40 hour work week any benefits Minimum Wage the right not to be exploited (in sweat shops) It was largely because of unions that ordinary people in the US were able to work without staying in poverty – which is exactly the opposite case across the rest of the world where low-wage labor is siphoning off American jobs. In those countries which are intensely anti-labor the workers are only paid bare subsistence wages, are exploited and never have hopes of escaping poverty. “Market forces” will always strive to view labor as a commodity rather than as people – and as a commodity we will never be valued and market forces will always look to drive our costs down. There is no future in that economic paradigm for increasing standards of living or upward mobility – those concepts are an anathema to the neo conservative movement for which Gov. Kasich has become a standard bearer. We need to really think about what is happening here – the Tea Party movement is just an updated spin to the exact same conservative agenda that has been in motion since the 1980’s. Their goal is to bust all unions in this country and to essentially disempower both the working class and middle class in one fell swoop by removing both economic opportunity and all of the safety net that has been in place since the 1930’s. This then has the effect of politically handicapping these groups as well. Kasich represents the most elitist movement in this country since the landed gentry of the South fought the war between the states. In… Read more »

I grow weary when people don’t follow the realities of hiring and firing.
First–relevant to a range of issues including Dayton’s inability to administer a civil service exam–NO ONE knows how to make the best hiring decision every time.  The best companies at hiring manage to choose the best candidate roughly half the time (we know this via research, for example comparing hiring rankings with actual performance when many people are hired for the same position).  So all of the talk about “unions prevent bad people from being fired” is hooey.
What prevents bad people from being fired is lazy bosses and human resources offices who don’t bother to do the required paperwork by deadline.  This was shown to the public when DPS failed to properly fire Loretta Cephus despite having had the absolute right to do so.  Confidentiality prevents me from citing other, more egregious cases from all levels of education–and some from the private sector as well.
Unions are legally required to defend the interests of their members against the interests of the employer.  A group that disciplines its own members is called a licensing board, and I wouldn’t object if public employees were given the same sorts of boards as doctors, lawyers, or accountants.
One other thing–if you don’t want to pay teachers according to seniority, then please make certain they’re not underpaid, especially at the start of their careers.  The main reason we can’t retain teachers (most of them quit in the first five years) is that the starting salary is puny.  In the 1950s (when our education system was generally admired) teacher pay was in the top 20% compared with careers of similar education levels; now it’s in the bottom 20%.


The irony of it all is that the teacher’s unions have supported policies and candidates that want more state and federal control over education. Thus illustrating the one of the biggest problem with centralized power…eventually someone who disagrees with you is going to be in power. So this is a monster of their own creation.
Personally I’m opposed to SB 5. It’s just another example of government overreaching into local affairs. If we are going to have a state mandated monopoly then it needs to be managed by those it is serving and not politicians in Columbus and DC. This is simply setting the precedent for a union supported politicians to mandate pro-union policies on localities when they are in power.


Trouble is we keep talking about teachers’ unions as if there were only one, the National Education Association.
But it includes management people and is a poor excuse for a union.
How come nobody ever mentions the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO?

Ice Bandit

…if you look at the last election, 2010, the AFL-CIO spent $100 million and 90-some percent, 98, probably, percent of that money went to Democrats.

…that was money well spent. Over 700 Democrat politicos got the heave-ho from a pissed off electorate in that election, so perhaps the unions didn’t spend enough. How many of those coerced dollars were taken from the dues of folks whose opinions are polar to the union’s. How many of these union members would voluntarily opt out if given the chance? And the inconvenient truth contributors seem to ignore is also the most germane; government is broker than an East Dayton crack-ho holding a counterfeit twenty and a hundred shares of Enron preferred. And Uncle Sam ain’t just bust-out, he’s got IOUs stretched from the Canton in China to the Canton south of Cleveland. And the mass temper tantrum being witnessed in Madison, Wisconsin and Columbus are not to dissimilar from the ones displayed by entitled frat boys when mom and dad cancel the credit cards. Government is in the throes of an unprecedented and necessary downsizing, and it ain’t pretty. Moraine, for example, used to literally take money baths (think city constructed water-parks) when UAW tax dollars flowed into the treasury. Now, the waterpark is closed and the town in reduced to setting up speed traps on Sellers and Dryden Roads. The taxpayers are tapped out due in no small degree by government largesse and fiscal bungling, but that push-back ain’t on display at statehouses….


Ice Bandit has hit the nail on the head. I sued my union, the American Newspaper Guild, in 1968 when it decided to send a dime of my money every month to an outfit backing President Johnson for election (always wrongly called re-election, since he was elected by Lee Harvey Oswald). I was backing Sen. Eugene McCarthy in opposition to the war in Vietnam and did not want my money to go that way.
For a full account of what happened, please read my free book, available at the top of this site.
By the way, my first complaint was to the U.S. attorney, who blew me away. Yet I was complaining about a violation of federal law, the Taft-Hartley Law to be exact. U.S. aatorneys represent the Department of Justice and are supposed to keep federal law enforced.

Stephen Lahanas
Stephen Lahanas

Another thing to keep in mind is that the current legislation being proposed by Gov. Kasich has absolutely NOTHING to do with Ohio. This is a coordinated effort across 14 states thusfar and this latest strategy was developed by the CATO, Heritage Institutes over the past two years or so.
Whatever complaints anyone here might have about unions locally or nationally, the goal of this effort has nothing to do with reforming current practices or even with budget shortfalls. The goal here is clear – to disempower all government services employees by breaking their unions. This is has been combined with a sustained propaganda attack in the media against teachers and state and federal employees (blaming teachers for all issues related to education, claiming state workers are overpaid etc.)
It seems odd that no one in the larger debate on education standards or efficacy ever mentions that districts with higher standards of living and larger per student investments (and thus smaller class size) consistently perform better regardless of what types of pedagogy is applied. Yet teachers in blighted cities or neighborhoods are always blamed for the fact they are teaching in ghettos.
We will all realize sometime soon that as the last “barriers to a free market economy” are demolished we will be living in 1890 all over again and everything we learned and built over the last century will have to be relearnt and rebuilt at a very high to all involved.

Robert Vigh
Robert Vigh

I have not done adequate reading on this topic to get full fledge into it, but the little piece I did pick up was that the only reason collective bargaining exists on a statewide basis is because it was made a law in 1983. This “collective bargaining” would only seem to exist because a majority of people at the time made it a law. So, it would seem there may be a majority of people that want to undo this law now.

Why exactly is this bad? What business does government have making laws that are for OR against unions? I am open to be educated on this one, but how much different is this law than say………just striking the one from 1983 off the books?

David Sparks
David Sparks

Video from today’s rally at the Convention Center:
Dayton, Ohio retired teacher Jim Brinkman tells the story about he was jailed for fighting for the right for collective bargaining. This interview took place outside of the Dayton Convention Center on 2-21-11:
Dawn Wojcik, President of the Western Ohio Education Association at the Vote No on Senate Bill 5 Town Hall meeting in Dayton, Ohio.:
Vote No On Ohio Senate Bill 5 Protest – Dayton, Ohio Convention Center 2-21-11, the scene from the convention center at 9 a.m.:

Greg Hunter
Greg Hunter

I absolutely LOVE this bill! It is perfect!  For all those lovely Union workers, State Employees and Teachers that voted on ONE issue (Abortion, Security or repressed Racism) – I have one Question.  “How’s that working out for you?”
Candidates matter, party beliefs matter.
The Wall Street Boys in cahoots with DC ruined the manufacturing base of America, not Unions.  Then the Wall Street Boys and DC boys blow bubbles (DOT-COM, Housing) to take money from Americans for make work that does not make a good society, then sell the crap to the Chinese.  Who by the way turned American Craftsmanship into Crap to sell US.  Nice.  I call it the GM model.  Take motivated workers who enjoy making good cars and slowly ruin them by putting bean counters in charge and reducing the quality while making obscene profits.  The 70s were a good reflection of this process as Unions fractioned and fought each other, because the Union boys elected criminals.  Keep your eyes on the big prize, Corporations and not Unions ruined America and are ruining the World with their stranglehold on Politics.  Turner, Hall, Joseph and all are either knowingly used by Corporations or are dupes who believe they are doing the right thing because of some blind ideology, like Abortion or Mises or insert stupidity here _________

Stephen Lahanas
Stephen Lahanas
To those folks who are claiming that the orchestrated Union Busting that is occurring nationwide is the result of a popular mandate – please provide us with the evidence. I recall sitting through hundreds if not thousands of TV commercials over the past election cycle and read through quite a bit of literature – not in any of it did I read about the need to end collective bargaining. I also didn’t see one exit poll where any voters expressed an interest in that policy shift.   What we have here is a massive bait & switch strategy wherein conservatives exploited a generalized / unfocused dissatisfaction with the Recession (a recession caused by them but now blamed on Democrats who were too timid to reject much of the policy that led to it) and the electorate responded to incredibly vague and non-specific campaign rhetoric (or just stayed home in disgust). Other items not discussed during the election that have all of sudden come front and center include cutting both Social Security and Medicare as well as Veteran’s benefits and much more. If Conservatives had run on their true agenda they would have lost in a landslide.   So here’s the formula, conservatives get rich by wrecking the productive economy (the one where things actually get produced or done) create massive deficits and unemployment and then attack the productive economy in order to pay off the debts for those who plundered trillions in our national wealth. The level of corruption, hypocrisy and vindictiveness associated with this movement and agenda is truly frightening and fairly unprecedented.   To any conservative here who is not wealthy (and we’re talking over 250k per year or several millions in net worth) who actually thinks what is embodied in Senate Bill 5 or the current conservative agenda is a good idea then you should consider the possibility that you’ve been indoctrinated. Only someone who no longer has the ability to think for themselves would willingly forfeit their future employment opportunities, earning potential, pensions, medical benefits and more in order to satisfy cynical ideals designed solely to… Read more »
Robert Vigh
Robert Vigh


I believe we can pretty much insert “Politician” in all instances in your post for “Conservative”.

I think Senate Bill5 is a good idea, primarily because it seems to undo the 1983 law. If for example Dayton public employees want to create a local union contract and only collectively bargain with the city, there is NOTHING stopping them. The only difference, is that the city is no longer legally compelled to abide.

I would like to hear or see more opinions, but more in an academic non-emotional manner as opposed to all people of X are dumb.

Stephen Lahanas
Stephen Lahanas

Hi Robert, I’ll grant you that politicians on both sides have now largely been bought out – the influence of big money in politics dwarfs anything that ordinary folks such as ourselves could ever match.
What will stop unions from doing what you describe is the fact that as more and more safeguards are removed eventually local and state governments will simply fire anyone daring to belong to union (and are already preparing to do so for strikers). This is not an emotional argument – this is the clear and specific agenda being applied to public service unions – the same agenda that has decimated private unions over the past three decades.
Here’s what really ticks me off – if you want to hear me get emotional – I’m middle aged now and I’ve paid into Social Security / Medicare since I was 14, but it is largely going to be gone by the time I retire. check this out:  – even with social security and pensions, most folks are falling short now. What do we have to look forward to but a future of unaffordable health care, no pensions and declining wages?
I’m mad as hell – you bet, the conservative agenda has sent 10 to 20 million jobs packing overseas in 20 years, it has wrecked Dayton and the entire midwest and it is making college and retirement unaffordable – yet we still have ordinary folks supporting these policies because they’re addicted to Fox News and buy the BS hook line and sinker. You tell me honestly that Beck, Hannity and the rest aren’t working on coordinated propaganda churned out by more than 100 think tanks and conservative political front groups – their investment of billions in BS is paying off big for them. Yea, I think it sucks…


It seems that you have decided that conservative politicians have given jobs to foreign countries.  Can you please explain how politicians are giving jobs away in foreign countries?
Let us assume that you mean that businesses have found it more profitable to locate many of their operations overseas.  What would have happened if the businesses hadn’t relocated?  Would some business person from some other country have been able to take the same position, use the labor in that country and compete in the domestic marketplace with cheaper products?
Is the answer to that raising tariff rates and becoming ever more protectionist?  Is the answer to ensure that Americans do not have access to the goods that are available to the remainder of the world without paying more?
I don’t like politicians at least as much as you don’t like politicians, but blaming conservatives while trying to defend the union mentality that has bankrupted this country is not the way to go.  Unions as organizations of mass quit are fine.  Unions as anything else are bad.

Stephen Lahanas
Stephen Lahanas

An interesting update for anyone following the national debate: Wisconsin’s governor just got pranked by someone posing as David Koch:

“The Kochs also give millions to support Americans For Prosperity, which launched a $320,000 television ad campaign in favor of Walker’s legislation on Wednesday and already has a website,, where more than 60,000 have signed a petition supporting his plan.”

The website where the audio of the prank is posted has been hacked and BTW there have been other Cyber attacks on sites opposing the current conservative legislative assault across the nation.
And lastly for the record – Governor Kasich is part of the Fox News media propaganda machine – he worked for them for years and got hooked up with much of his campaign funding through them. There was no part of his agenda driven by Ohio grass roots support – he is following a national template.

Jeff Dziwulski
Jeff Dziwulski

That Koch impersonatation prank was pretty cool. 

Civil Servants Are People, Too
Civil Servants Are People, Too

It does seem to me that HB5 and similar measures are overreaching, by a wide margin.    If you look at what’s happened the last 2 years, you will unions across the country who have negotiated in good faith.  They have given up wages and benefits, or accepted increased costs, in order to help local governments remain fiscally sound.
That does not sound like a system that is unreasonable or out of control.
Perhaps there are things that should be changed, in some parts of the country.   Are there obsolete work rules that prevent effective deployment of resources?   Are there guaranteed raises or benefits that may need to be temporarily halted?    There is room for solutions on both sides.

If the problem is the budget, then let’s find reasonable short-term solutions to deal with that issue.    However, we should not embark on a Race-To-The-Bottom and dismantle a system that has been effective and useful for the last 20 years.

Consider the alternative.  At some point on this anti-government war path, government service will become uncompetitive and unattractive.   People will flee for private sector jobs when the economy recovers.   Civil service is already widely looked down upon, instead of respected.   Should we make these jobs LESS desirable for the best and brightest?  How will that help the public?   How will we attract the NEXT generation of cops, teachers, accountants, and other leaders?

Unlike the business sector, demand for government services tends to INCREASE during hard times.    We have to make tough choices, but not soley on the backs of people serving their communities.


“Here’s what really ticks me off – if you want to hear me get emotional – I’m middle aged now and I’ve paid into Social Security / Medicare since I was 14, but it is largely going to be gone by the time I retire. check this out:  – even with social security and pensions, most folks are falling short now. What do we have to look forward to but a future of unaffordable health care, no pensions and declining wages?” – Stephen Lahanas  
You really should be over being ticked off about SS not being around for when you retire.  I’m close to your age and we’ve known for most of our adult lives not to rely on Social Security.  What you should be ticked off about, maybe you are, is that we are still dumping 12% of your compensation into something that won’t be there and the feds refuse to do anything to fix it.  Social Security and most pensions are essentially ponzi schemes.  You can’t sustain a pension system where you work until you are 50-55 and then receive 70~80% of your highest years of pay for 20+ years.  A majority of pensioners end up taking more out of the system than they put in.  The math does not work.

John Ise

One of the most under-reported stories over the past decade is the ferocious, often illegal, corporate resistance workers have come to experience when attempting to organize their workplace. Studies have shown that if workers’ preferences were realized, close of half of the workforce would have union representation. Here in Florida, private sector unionization rate is an anemic 3%. The reason is that now it is all too often the common practice for workers to be subjected to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, and retaliation for supporting a union.

An analysis by Cornell University’s Kate Bronfenbrenner of 1999-2003 data on union elections found that:
• 63%of employers interrogate workers in mandatory one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union;
• 54% of employers threaten workers in such meetings;
• 57% of employers threaten to close the worksite;
• 47% of employers threaten to cut wages and benefits; and
• 34% of employers fire workers.

Even when workers elect to form a union, over half of those workers have no collective bargaining agreement a year after the election. Congress and President Obama could deliver no better gift to working America than passing the Employee Free Choice Act that would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers’ rights.


Well, Stephen–you can look at social security from the conservative Wall Street Journal (now owned by Faux Noisecorp) or you can balance the view with something from a liberal publication:
I’ve heard from responsible economists that the estimates that Social Security is going broke are predicated on assumptions like everyone living to 130.  Let’s face it, some anti-government types have been trying to repeal social security ever since it was implemented.
Note that, had you a pension with Enron or Bernie Madoff, you’d be far worse off than you will be with social security.
But back to the union issue–I don’t see anyone here but me trying to come up with a way that unions can do things like discipline their own members for on-the-job malfeasance or incompetence, or any other of the complaints so many here want remedied.  The law says that the union must represent the interest of it’s member, and that means they must stick up for even the worst employees.  It ought to be possible to change the law without destroying workers’ rights; nobody seems to understand how to do that, least of all the latest crop of term-limited pols.
And to the anti-union folks here–if union-busting (along with tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, and downplaying the role of government) was going to generate prosperity for all of us–why hasn’t it worked in the 30 years since Reagan started implementation?

Ice Bandit

However, we should not embark on a Race-To-The-Bottom and dismantle a system that has been effective and useful for the last 20 years. (CSAPT)
….effective and useful, dear CSAPT? You betcha. If you are a government employee. Everyone else grabs their ankles with one hand and a tube of KY with the other, while Uncle Sam picks our pockets, runs over us with a manure spreader, then tries to convince us we’ve been caught in a mudslide. Sorry, dear CSAPT, but why would the apparatchik class think itself exempt from the economic chaos that has scythed thru every other element of the economy. These entitled elites aren’t the victims in this morality play, dear CSAPT, they earned the enmity and vox populi is finally sounding off their dissatisfaction. America’s 40 year experiment with behemoth government is in it’s endgame dear CSAPT, not dismantled as you allude, but collapsing from it’s own bloat and inertia. And methinks there will be few who mourn big government’s demise…..

Ice Bandit

Social Security and most pensions are essentially ponzi schemes. (joe_mamma)
……somewhere, dear joe, the spirit of Carlo Ponzi weeps. Rumored to be residing in the Dark Kingdom where he is the Devil’s Secretary of the Treasury, Ponzi’s soul takes silent umbrage anytime someone refers to Social Security as a scheme bearing his name. For you see, dear joe, Ponzi used charm, persuasion and considerable chutzpah to run his scam in the early 20th century. And Ponzi’s scams were a type of affinity fraud, targeting the America’s growing and largely unassimilated Italian community. According to legend, opera singer Enrico Caruso was so tight with a dollar he made George Washington show his wooden teeth, yet Ponzi was able to persuade the great tenor to part with thousands of dollars in an era when a quarter an hour was a living wage.  To finance the mathematically doomed Social Security pyramid, in contrast, Uncle Sam uses coercion, threats, subterfuge and confiscation. And once the money is taken, the solons elected to protect the program go on a shopping spree to finance unnecessary and unwanted social engineering programs leaving IOUs in the wake. Eventually, dear joe, demographics and mathematics make the system unsustainable, and yet the same legislature that bankrupted the system refuse to fix the problem. So hear the Old Bandito’s plea, dear joe, in future use please don’t confuse Ponzi’s guile and charm with Uncle Sam’s blackjack. And somewhere, dear joe, Carlo Ponzi’s soul will whisper a his thanks……