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  1. #81
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    Perhaps, though over here unions are slightly different in that they're playing political kingmaker more often than actually doing anything. I've been a part of two unions - one was a combined union representing emergency dispatches, the liquor industry, and some other random industry (I was the dispatcher for clarification), and a nursing union.
    Here they used to make political kingmaker within Democratic party primaries but now national union membership is so low that it's hard for them to make any headway at all. Even in rust belt union strongholds they are effectively being ignored when they're not being killed outright - just look at Wisconsin under Governor Walker.

    I've been part of two unions as well, and while the last one - District Council 37 - was more or less useless, it was mostly due to ineffective leadership and a too widely disparate rank and file to really be organized in an effective manner. The other had a far more effective means of collective bargaining and also knew how to use allied unions to rally for a common cause.

    The thing is, pointing to bad or shortsighted leadership within unions and thus saying "we don't need unions" is, in my opinion, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Bad leadership is bad leadership, and if you read my blog you'll see plenty of examples of bad union leadership, but no representation is far more of a detriment to labor and society overall. I am most definitely a universal supporter of unions because they need to exist. They should exist with competent leadership, but first and foremost they need to exist.
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  2. #82
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    I am most definitely a universal supporter of unions because they need to exist.
    But I don't need to be in one, right? As long as that's fine, I'm probably fine! =)
    Last edited by Berzee; 19-04-2013 at 04:08 AM.
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  3. #83
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee View Post
    But I don't need to be in one, right? As long as that's fine, I'm probably fine! =)
    So long as you still pay dues, do what you want. You'll benefit from the collective bargaining anyway.
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  4. #84
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Hypernetic's Avatar
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    Won't somebody please think of the women though?

  5. #85
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    The thing is, pointing to bad or shortsighted leadership within unions and thus saying "we don't need unions" is, in my opinion, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Bad leadership is bad leadership, and if you read my blog you'll see plenty of examples of bad union leadership, but no representation is far more of a detriment to labor and society overall. I am most definitely a universal supporter of unions because they need to exist. They should exist with competent leadership, but first and foremost they need to exist.
    Oh I agree that unions need to exist, and I don't want to comment about the situation over there, but here the situation is slightly different and we already have extensive protection for employees which the unions did fight for back when they were actually representing workers as opposed to picking their own to put into power. The problem with it over here though is that the link between the big unions and the ALP is so deep that it's endemic and forms the basis of why some of the big unions (i.e. the ones that could actually do something) actually exist. Whenever the ALP is in power, you're almost guaranteed that the big unions will flop around ineffectually while putting out campaign materials year round, reaching fever pitch at election times (and we're heading into a federal election right now, the scare tactics are out in force because the ALP are almost certain to lose).

    It pisses me off that something so important has turned into such a load of bullshit. Even over here where the law is well and truly on the side of employees I totally agree that we still need unions, but our unions are far too interested in politics that I sometimes wonder if it isn't worth scrapping all the major ones and starting again, killing ties to the ALP. I know that's impossible, but I can dream.
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  6. #86
    Quote Originally Posted by GunnerMcCaffrey View Post
    Everyone in the private sector should bloody well organize, then - and meanwhile be thankful that others already have, because the thing about those strikes is that they help keep wages and benefits higher for everyone else. Employers realize they need to give a little to keep unions unattractive.

    Wanting things to be worse for other people isn't the same as making things better for ourselves. In the end it makes things worse for everyone, including ourselves. Jealousy and bitterness are not useful motivations for a society.
    I'm not sure whether we should get into a debate about the specifics of this particular case - it's a bit off topic. My point was really one of principle: there should be some sense of social responsibility in the way unions wield their power. In the same way, there should be some sense of social responsibility in the way management behaves and in the way companies are run. I don't agree with the mantra that just because a union can do something, they should. Holding private companies or the public to ransom in order to secure disproportionate benefits is not good for society.

    Obviously, the situation in the games industry, where people have to work extremely long hours for relatively poor remuneration, have little job security and few benefits, is no better, either for those individuals or society at large. The point here is simply that either extreme is bad. Just pitting two organisations - organised labour and private ownership - against one another, not expecting either of them to exercise any restraint, and saying "no holds barred", is a recipe for conflict, opposition, divisiveness. I'm not against unions - I'm a supporter of them. I am however, against any group wielding disproportionate political power. I expect management and unions to work together towards a mutually beneficial compromise. There are plenty of companies and unions who do work this way together.

    On the subject of the specific example I gave, there was no evidence of this sort of mentality. The only reason given was essentially: they are making our working conditions worse, so we must strike. I don't agree with that ideological position. And I didn't agree with the "we don't want a race to the bottom - we want private sector pensions to get better, not ours to get worse" argument either. We are approaching a public sector pensions crisis. The system is fundamentally flawed and ultimately unaffordable. The reason private sector pensions aren't (weren't, technically) a patch on public sector pensions is because such pensions aren't economically viable. You simply can't save enough throughout your working life to have a pot that big when you get to retirement. There was some statistic - in an article written in the guardian I think, ironically enough - which said that in order for someone on a teacher's salary in the private sector to get the same pension as a teacher, they'd need a pension pot of around 750,000.

    Quote Originally Posted by GunnerMcCaffrey View Post
    Having been the unemployed person waiting in the wings at one point in my life, I can tell you I felt very keenly how ridiculously expensive everything is getting just to keep funneling money from the people who work to the people who own, and how insulting it is to be offered low-paying short-term contracts by organizations who can and should offer better. I refuse to join the race to the bottom, and resent the fact that when I was unemployed, my situation was used as justification to keep other people's wages down. There's more wealth in society than there's ever been before. The problem is distribution, not production.
    Then I'd say you have a much more sensible view of the situation than the hypothetical person I was talking about. As I said in my post, I don't share that view myself either. The point of the example was really to illustrate that fairness is, to some extent, subjective and depends upon your perspective.
    Last edited by RandomTangent; 19-04-2013 at 10:37 AM.

  7. #87
    Quote Originally Posted by arccos View Post
    I don't know the specifics of your case, but in the US when teachers pensions are "adjusted", it generally means they decrease they pension payouts to all teachers. Which means if you're a 59-year-old teacher, not only did you just have your future pay cut, but you just had a portion of your compensation package for the entire time you've worked essentially stolen. Imagine if a pay cut meant you had to pay back your employer for the entire time you'd been there. It would be illegal in every case if the government wasn't the one doing it.

    Teachers pensions are a personal sore point with me because they're getting extremely unpopular in the US. Somehow the wealthy and powerful have managed to pit the middle class against each other to tear down wages and unions. Pensions have existed since the 40's here and somehow now it's terrible if someone can retire comfortably as they originally negotiated? It's one thing to renegotiate future earnings, but to take what people have already earned is despicable.
    I think you hit upon an important point. Our instinctive reactions to these issues are born of our personal experience, which will obviously vary hugely according to the political climate and history of the country we're from. In other words, our views are prejudiced by our experience. When we talk about "too much union power" in the UK, we aren't talking about workers organising for a fair deal, we're talking about unions crippling the country as in the late 70s by striking over almost everything. You can still believe unions are a good thing whilst accepting that their power has been abused in the past.

    The UK is significantly left-leaning compared with the US. Even our mainstream "right wing" Tory party is probably left of your Democratic party in some policy areas. For example, in the UK, the average public sector wage is actually now higher than the average private sector wage. This wasn't always the case, and in the past, it was used as a justification for the superior benefits those working in the public sector often received. Obviously this doesn't mean there aren't disproportionately highly paid individuals in the private sector - of course there are.

    I believe - and I'll check this afterwards to be sure - that the changes to public sector pensions here were primarily about 1) closing off final salary schemes to new applicants and 2) increasing pension contributions from current members. The problem with the public sector pension scheme in the UK is that there is no fund. The pensions of people currently in retirement are paid for by the pension contributions of those currently in work. It is completely unsustainable, and it was a massive mistake, but that's unfortunately how the system works. I imagine changing it now would be extraordinarily costly.
    Last edited by RandomTangent; 19-04-2013 at 10:15 AM.

  8. #88
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    I believe - and I'll check this afterwards to be sure - that the changes to public sector pensions here were primarily about 1) closing off final salary schemes to new applicants and 2) increasing pension contributions from current members. The problem with the public sector pension scheme in the UK is that there is no fund. The pensions of people currently in retirement are paid for by the pension contributions of those currently in work. It is completely unsustainable, and it was a massive mistake, but that's unfortunately how the system works. I imagine changing it now would be extraordinarily costly.
    There is a pension fund for unionized public sector employees here - which is pretty much the last bastion of unions in the States - and while there's been a lot of hemming and hawing about how much these guys are "gaming the system" and how much pensions cost, two things are of note:

    1) The reason there's a pension crisis is because the fund was routinely raided for quick liquidity by city officials or was invested as a giveaway to the stock markets whereupon it was decimated by the financial crisis.
    2) In terms of overall expenditure, pensions are a relatively small portion of budgets when it comes to the public sector but come with relatively little political opposition when they're on the line because the retired think they're untouchable and the non-retired think the issue will be resolved before they're retired.

    They tend to lead in the headlines because represented public sector employees on average have it better than comparable non-represented private sector employees and as such political opponents use it as a wedge to divide the working class.
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  9. #89
    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    There is a pension fund for unionized public sector employees here - which is pretty much the last bastion of unions in the States - and while there's been a lot of hemming and hawing about how much these guys are "gaming the system" and how much pensions cost, two things are of note:

    1) The reason there's a pension crisis is because the fund was routinely raided for quick liquidity by city officials or was invested as a giveaway to the stock markets whereupon it was decimated by the financial crisis.
    2) In terms of overall expenditure, pensions are a relatively small portion of budgets when it comes to the public sector but come with relatively little political opposition when they're on the line because the retired think they're untouchable and the non-retired think the issue will be resolved before they're retired.

    They tend to lead in the headlines because represented public sector employees on average have it better than comparable non-represented private sector employees and as such political opponents use it as a wedge to divide the working class.
    I think 1) is probably one of the reasons why, ultimately, here in the UK we didn't end up with a fund - it would be too tempting a pot of cash for government to resist. I believe the consensus now though is that that was a mistake. I'm not sure at what rate our population would have to be growing in order for there to be enough working people to pay for the number of retired in a scheme like the one we have, given we're all living so much longer, but even if we weren't a long way off this figure, we would need sufficient public sector jobs for all these extra people to fill in order for them to contribute to the pension scheme. I know this argument was made at the time, but given the relatively small size of the retired population compared with the working population, the scheme we ended up with was cheaper, and so here we are.

    Interestingly, here, pension reform creates quite a lot of political opposition. I remember just before our last-but-one general election, the then Labour government had put forward proposals for public sector pension reform - it's been a hot political issue over here for at least a decade. There were large strikes, huge public outcry, and it being more or less on the eve of a general election, the government backed down. At the time, there were various committees and various reports which continued to stress the fact that our public sector pension system was about to become unaffordable, but it isn't until recently that the issue has once again been tackled by a government.

  10. #90
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee
    I don't need to be in one
    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano
    So long as youse still pays da dues, bub


    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano
    You'll benefit from the collective bargaining anyway.
    Quote Originally Posted by Berzee
    I'm uncomfortable with the implication that I should always try to get more than I have without stopping to ask if I'm being treated fairly already.
    Anyhow, it's fine if you're partial to a good Conclave. ^_^ I like a nice opt-in craftsman's guild myself, now and again.
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  11. #91
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    That's basically the issue that I think most people have with Unions. Yes, they (in theory) do a lot of good. But they are also political groups that push their own agendas that may not even have the workers best interests in mind (the annecdotes regarding the Labor Party come to mind). And this mentality of "If you want to work here, you have to give us money" is the big issue. Because it is basically making it mandatory for employees to support political groups and causes they may not agree with.

    A few years back my father was working for a company that manufactures inserts for bullet-resistant vests. He worked on the assembly line and was forced to join the union and pay dues if he wanted to work there. Which basically meant he paid his dues and was constantly indoctrinated as someone would walk around the floor and basically say "You are going to vote for X in the upcoming election" a few times a day.
    I fully suspect he was exagerating, but the fact of the matter was that he was being forced to contribute money to the campaign of politicians and groups he strongly disagrees with and had to put up with being told who to vote for "in the interest of the Union".
    Also, he lost the job about a year later because the Union only cared enough to protect the long-term members and seemed to be working with the company to lay off/fire people before they classified as "long term" for the purpose of job security.
    Last edited by gundato; 19-04-2013 at 03:16 PM.
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  12. #92
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    I think 1) is probably one of the reasons why, ultimately, here in the UK we didn't end up with a fund - it would be too tempting a pot of cash for government to resist. I believe the consensus now though is that that was a mistake.
    The motive in New York, I know, is the chronic underfunding of the government through excessive long-term tax breaks to most of the corporate HQs (as enticement for them to stay) and the inability to issue bonds to make up for short-term liquidity problems. The latter is due to an austerity program to shore up city governance after the fiscal crisis of 1975 where the Republican-controlled federal government threatened not to assist the city while it was wracked with a drug war and white flight, meaning that it had lost a significant of its tax receipts amidst strong demand for increased social spending and thus "defaulted." The former is your usual 1980s-90s neo-liberal race to the bottom that we're still paying for thanks to 20+-year obligations.

    In that sense, it's more symptomatic of a cascade failure of leadership, exacerbated if not caused outright by the lack of direct representation and accountability in federal government. After all, our system is made specifically to limit direct democracy whenever possible.
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  13. #93
    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    The motive in New York, I know, is the chronic underfunding of the government through excessive long-term tax breaks to most of the corporate HQs (as enticement for them to stay) and the inability to issue bonds to make up for short-term liquidity problems. The latter is due to an austerity program to shore up city governance after the fiscal crisis of 1975 where the Republican-controlled federal government threatened not to assist the city while it was wracked with a drug war and white flight, meaning that it had lost a significant of its tax receipts amidst strong demand for increased social spending and thus "defaulted." The former is your usual 1980s-90s neo-liberal race to the bottom that we're still paying for thanks to 20+-year obligations.

    In that sense, it's more symptomatic of a cascade failure of leadership, exacerbated if not caused outright by the lack of direct representation and accountability in federal government. After all, our system is made specifically to limit direct democracy whenever possible.
    A nice example of unintended consequences. I'm not a fan of economic protectionism anyway, for all sorts of reasons. The fact that it's very hard to undo that sort of tax relief in times of greater prosperity is just one of them.

    I'm afraid I have to confess to a certain amount of ignorance about the details of the American political system - particularly how federal and state government are organised and how each interacts with the other. Interesting bit of history on NY though - thanks.

  14. #94
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    I'm not a fan of economic protectionism anyway, for all sorts of reasons.
    I wouldn't typify it as protectionism - exactly the opposite, really. It's the consequence of unfettered free trade: States and municipalities are pitted against one another in a bid for corporate entities that can exist more or less anywhere. The whole "Right To Work" thing in Southern states was basically just governments selling out their own constituencies in order to entice companies to move there (only to be slapped in the face when, once the entitlements dry up, the companies just as quickly move on to a neighboring state or Mexico).

    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    I'm afraid I have to confess to a certain amount of ignorance about the details of the American political system - particularly how federal and state government are organised and how each interacts with the other.
    The Cliff Notes version of fed vs state vs city is threefold:

    1) Only feds are guaranteed to be allowed run a debt
    2) The electoral college favors underpopulated states in national elections
    3) Large cities exist mostly in highly populated states

    Thus, cities are chronically underrepresented and thus underfunded - especially in economic downturns - despite being cash cows in times of prosperity. California, for instance, has had to manage a huge state debt to keep services afloat despite being a net payer in federal taxes, and New York can't run any deficit at all, so fiscal crises end up with stark cuts to services almost immediately (not to mention are the primary reason NYS can't pass a budget on time: Choosing who to cut is a blood war.)
    Last edited by Nalano; 19-04-2013 at 03:52 PM.
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  15. #95
    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    I wouldn't typify it as protectionism - exactly the opposite, really. It's the consequence of unfettered free trade: States and municipalities are pitted against one another in a bid for corporate entities that can exist more or less anywhere. The whole "Right To Work" thing in Southern states was basically just governments selling out their own constituencies in order to entice companies to move there (only to be slapped in the face when, once the entitlements dry up, the companies just as quickly move on to a neighboring state or Mexico).
    Yeah absolutely - I agree with that. By protectionism, I meant those states/municipalities using policy to incentivise particular industries to either set up shop in the first place or stay, rather than go somewhere else. In other words, protecting their own local economies to both maintain employment and GDP and - although I would guess this applies less on a state-vs-state and more on a country-vs-country level - to keep particular industries alive in particular areas. I.e. we've decided we want a load of high tech industry in NY, so we're going to give tax breaks to high tech companies etc. That sort of thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    The Cliff Notes version of fed vs state vs city is threefold:

    1) Only feds are guaranteed to be allowed run a debt
    2) The electoral college favors underpopulated states in national elections
    3) Large cities exist mostly in highly populated states

    Thus, cities are chronically underrepresented and thus underfunded - especially in economic downturns - despite being cash cows in times of prosperity. California, for instance, has had to manage a huge state debt to keep services afloat despite being a net payer in federal taxes, and New York can't run any deficit at all, so fiscal crises end up with stark cuts to services almost immediately (not to mention are the primary reason NYS can't pass a budget on time: Choosing who to cut is a blood war.)
    Interesting - thanks for the information! Sounds like this would also naturally lead to political conflict/discord between local and federal government. I.e. the largest population centres are not as likely to support the elected federal government as the smallest ones.

  16. #96
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    Yeah absolutely - I agree with that. By protectionism, I meant those states/municipalities using policy to incentivise particular industries to either set up shop in the first place or stay, rather than go somewhere else. In other words, protecting their own local economies to both maintain employment and GDP and - although I would guess this applies less on a state-vs-state and more on a country-vs-country level - to keep particular industries alive in particular areas. I.e. we've decided we want a load of high tech industry in NY, so we're going to give tax breaks to high tech companies etc. That sort of thing.
    But that's the thing: It doesn't matter if it's state by state or country by country. You could be in Macau or Las Vegas: Somebody is spiting himself in order to fuck over his neighbor.
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  17. #97
    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    So long as you still pay dues, do what you want. You'll benefit from the collective bargaining anyway.
    LOL, paying dues to a union you're not in is the dumbest thing I've seen on the internet today.

    P.S. unions in general are a close second.

  18. #98
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zaboomafoozarg View Post
    LOL, paying dues to a union you're not in is the dumbest thing I've seen on the internet today.

    P.S. unions in general are a close second.
    If you're in a union job, you pay dues to the union whether you're a member or not.

    You're benefiting, after all, as their collective bargaining contracts cover you despite your status.

    That's the primary difference between union states and non-union states.
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  19. #99
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Berzee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    If you're in a union job, you pay dues to the union whether you're a member or not.

    You're benefiting, after all, as their collective bargaining contracts cover you despite your status.
    And if they don't get enough dues to cover expenses, they can always send a few members to hang out at red lights and charge for unsolicited window washings.
    ---
    Like I said before (and before and before) -- it's not actually possible for anyone to negotiate fair wages and good working conditions for me, 'coz I already have got those things. That means any negotiations made on my behalf must needs be aiming for a deal that's unfairly advantageous to me, which would leave me feel a bit grabby.

    I guess the one thing that could be negotiated without making me feel that way would be an ironclad guarantee that the fair deal I've got now will persist until the end of days...but I'm not sure I'm ready for that kind of commitment!
    Last edited by Berzee; 19-04-2013 at 06:20 PM.
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  20. #100
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    Berzee, I would argue that if the person who owns the company you work for (assuming that you work for a company rather than being self employed/owning your own company) makes any money at all you are inherently not being paid fairly

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