Unions are About Power, Not Principle

A couple of stories really drive the title of this post home to me.  First, flash back to any number of these type of stories

To Protest Hiring of Nonunion Help, Union Hires Nonunion Pickets

Billy Raye, a 51-year-old unemployed bike courier, is looking for work.  Fortunately for him, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters is seeking paid demonstrators to march and chant in its current picket line outside the McPherson Building, an office complex here where the council says work is being done with nonunion labor.

"For a lot of our members, it's really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage"”$8.25 an hour"”to walk picket lines. Mr. Raye says he's grateful for the work, even though he's not sure why he's doing it. "I could care less," he says. "I am being paid to march around and sound off."

So we follow that up with this story of a union employee who was fired for... wait for it ... trying to unionize his fellow employees

In a move of stunning hypocrisy, the United Federation of Teachers axed one of its longtime employees -- for trying to unionize the powerful labor organization's own workers, it was charged yesterday.

Jim Callaghan, a veteran writer for the teachers union, told The Post he was booted from his $100,000-a-year job just two months after he informed UFT President Michael Mulgrew that he was trying to unionize some of his co-workers.

"I was fired for trying to start a union at the UFT," said a dumbfounded Callaghan, who worked for the union's newsletter and as a speechwriter for union leaders for the past 13 years.

Callaghan said he personally told Mulgrew on June 9 about his intention to try to organize nonunionized workers at UFT headquarters.

"I told him I want to have the same rights that teachers have," said Callaghan, 63, of Staten Island. "He told me he didn't want that, that he wanted to be able to fire whoever he wanted to."

The UFT has long strenuously resisted city efforts to make it easier for school administrators to fire teachers.

"This is the exact antithesis of what they preach, and Michael Mulgrew is the biggest hypocrite out there," Callaghan fumed.

As it turns out, when unions like the UAW get an ownership position in a company, they tend to act exactly like management

You could also entitle it "meet the new boss, same as the old boss". What I'm talking about is a recent meeting between UAW bosses and GM workers. To say it didn't go well would be a vast understatement)(via Sweetness and Light):

Workers at a General Motors stamping plant in Indianapolis, Indiana chased United Auto Workers executives out of a union meeting Sunday, after the UAW demanded workers accept a contract that would cut their wages in half.As soon as three UAW International representatives took the podium, they were met with boos and shouts of opposition from many of the 631 workers currently employed at the plant. The officials, attempting to speak at the only informational meeting on the proposed contract changes, were forced out within minutes of taking the floor.

The incident once again exposes the immense class divide between workers and union officials, who are working actively with the auto companies to drive down wages and eliminate benefits.

Actively working with the auto companies? They are part owners now of the auto companies "“ they're "management" for heaven sake.

In each situation, when the tables are turned, union leaders suddenly discover the economic realities those of us who run businesses have always understood, ie

  • You don't pay more for labor than you have to.  That is what markets are about.  If good people are running around unemployed who are grateful to make $9 an hour, then hiring them is a win-win for both of you.  Setting an arbitrary price floor out of some notion of fairness merely leaves more people unemployed.  From the first story, this is a position the union never takes with any business but itself, but is certainly correct

The union's Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.

He says the pickets are not only about "union issues" but also about fair wages and benefits for American workers. By hiring the unemployed, "we are also giving back to the community a bit," he says.

  • Its nearly impossible to run a business if one can't hire and fire at will.  If, once hired, it becomes impossible (e.g. through a tangle of grievance processes) to fire people, then no business can operate well
  • Contrary to certain progressive notions, corporations do not have some sort of infinite treasury full of horded Nazi gold that can pay for any possible wage level.  Given product pricing in a particular industry as well as productivity levels, the labor budget is finite.  At GM, the reasonable labor budget is both finite and likely lower than its current level.  It is admirable at some level to see UAW officials dealing with this hard fact of fiscal responsibility (better, in fact, than are most government officials).  But one wonders how incentives could have been structured better in the past so that this epiphany could have been reached 30 years ago before the golden goose was already killed.


  1. DrTorch:

    You can't make up stuff like that.

  2. morganovich:

    i have seen firsthand the vast underground scrooge mc duck vault full of limitless gold laid by special geese. it is buried deep beneath the alps in a European country known only to the super rich who keep it from appearing on any maps. it is linked by a secret pneumatic network to corporate boardrooms all over the world. so, i know you are wrong when you say they cannot pay. they are just cruel corporate overlords.

  3. caseyboy:

    You can't make this stuff up. Hired hands to walk the picket lines. Hmmm, that makes perfect sense to me. A union headquarters that won't allow its own workers to unionize. Absolutely, they know they wouldn't be able to function efficiently with the work rules that might be negotiated. And you have to love the UAW rank and file against GM/UAW leadership. Irony of ironies, the UAW leadership probably sits around wondering how GM every made any money.

  4. Jeff:

    I have waited a loooong time to see the UAW get a helping of the irrational populist rage they've stoked for decades. I need a moment to savor the schadenfreude.


    There, all better.

  5. MJ:

    So outsourcing is okay, but only when the unions themselves do it? I'm confused.

  6. MJ:

    “For a lot of our members, it’s really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else,” explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

    That's a classic union line, right there. I know parking often prevents me from engaging in social protest, too. So does "something else".

  7. Gil:

    Why not simply state the views of judges from the laissez-faire era who ruled unions were illegal because they served no business purpose?

  8. LoneSnark:

    I suspect they had other reasons for why unions were illegal. The right of workers to not be forced to join a union, for one. I think the argument at one point was that unions were a violation of anti-trust laws, just as any government enforced monopoly would.

  9. Craig:

    Also enjoyable is the teachers' union in LA threatening to boycott the LA Times because its going to publish test data and tell us which LA teachers are horrible.

  10. Jim Collins:

    Damn. The unions can transport their members to Obamacare rallys by bus, but they can't be bothered to picket for their own jobs? So how do we unionize "professional picketers"?

  11. Zach:

    And let's not forget ACORN. They rabble rouse, trying to organize various "marginalized" workers in poor neighborhoods, but when their own workers tried to unionize (because most of them were getting paid minimum wage or less), ACORN reacted like WalMart.