Thursday, November 15, 2007

Life imitates a Mastercard commercial

Picketers200_2What union carpenters make in Washington, DC: $24 an hour.

What non-Union carpenters make in Washington, DC: $16 an hour.

What the carpenters union pays the homeless to walk picket lines, so the union carpenters can keep working at $24 an hour: $8 an hour.

Hypocracy of the carpenters union: Priceless.

14 Comments:

Blogger sexyretard said...

Now that IS ironic!

About 8 months ago I became part of the problem and joined the NEA. I learned that employees of the union actually have their own union to represent them to union leadership, who otherwise could be counted on to screwthem

4:09 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I thought this post might coax the thought-to-be-all-but-extinct S-Tard out of his tenebrous lair, as this is an issue we have bandied about for some time.

But the fact is, the Carpenters Union is not a homeless charity. It is an organization whose objective is to advocate on behalf of its members, not devise a living wage scheme for day laboring picketers. Some of us might wish that America's unions were more of a broad movement for social justice, but it ain't: it's a patchwork of corporatist interest groups, the way the AFL of yore battled the CIO of yore to keep it.

So where's the hypocrisy?

4:56 PM  
Blogger International House of Pedantics said...

The hypocrisy is obvious to me.

The bank saw value in hiring lower wage people to do their carpentry. Perhaps they trade off some baseline skills assurance or something like that; but they decide to play the market and take that risk.

That is exactly what the union is doing in hiring cheap picketers.

So, to the union: it's ok for us to do it, but not ok for you to do it.

Why isn't this obvious to you, Jeff?

11:08 PM  
Blogger International House of Pedantics said...

And to S-tard... My fiance is in the same boat as you. She is a full time union employee. And they have unionized to bargain with the union.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

IHOP,

The economy is an *economic* contest between:

1. employers who want to pay as little as possible,

2. workers who can self-organize to force employers to pay them more,

3. workers who won't or can't organize and who therefore chip away at organized workers' ability to demand more, and finally

4. consumers.

This is before your time in the KKRB, IHOP, but we've had many a kerfuffle over what hypocrisy is or is not (see any of the many chickenhawk comment wars from last year). I take the strict constructionist view that a hypocrite is someone who engages in behavior that he preaches against.

The goal of the carpenter's union is to secure higher wages and benefits for its members--that's it. They are no more hypocrites for paying homeless picketers $8 an hour than they are for driving up the cost of carpentry services, and therefore taking more money out of the pocket of the consumer of carpentry services (who is also some kind of worker, don't forget).

11:15 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

OK, so it may not "technically" be hypocrisy, but it still lacks any kind of moral authority. If the economy is really nothing but a Marxist dialectic between two sides (or four) playing a zero sum game, then there is no longer any "real" reason that workers should be paid more, unless paying them more happens to be in the corporation's best interest. This is rarely the case.

This is just like my friend Mr Al and Mr John and their palaces and jet trips. They may well be "right" about "global warming," but they themselves have no legitimacy. A union needs to have moral legitimacy. The only way that the phrase "union made" means anything if the union itself stands for something worth standing for. General wages is worth standing for. Parochial wages just for carpenters is no more a moral good than me getting a raise individually from a corporate whore who just likes the way I shake it.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

S-Tard,

"A union needs to have moral legitimacy."

In order to do what? I don't necessarily disagree with this in a big picture sense, but most of the unions that made the middle class prosperous during the Golden Age of American progress were very basic trade union organizations, with little sense of social movement activism beyond the interests of their own members. I believe that this may ultimately have been to their disadvantage, but I couldn't prove it.

But let's suppose an unlikely scenario in which the carpenter's local actually has the money to pay picketers carpenter's scale wages (almost completely impossible--locals typically barely have enough in the strike fund to pay striking workers a paltry stipend): what's their moral obligation to those homeless picketers once the picket line is down? Continue to pay them $23 an hour for doing nothing? Why not? They were paying them $23 an hour for not doing carpentry before that.

My point is that in sticking unions with moral/material obligations that don't inhere in their charters/are impossible from a financial standpoint, you're just union bashing in a non-constructive way, which is unfortunate since there is so much constructive union bashing to be done.

9:35 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

You don't think that a national fund could be set up to cover the cost of fill-in picketers?

10:54 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"You don't think that a national fund could be set up to cover the cost of fill-in picketers?"

Can and should--and your taxes should be raised to pay for it. And that's exactly what is likely to happen when the Dems retake the levers of power in '08, Inch' Alla.

1:19 PM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

I was speaking of a national fund paid by union dues rather than taxes. Asalam aleikum.

Any interest in a foray down to Ottawa December 22nd?

9:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"Any interest in a foray down to Ottawa December 22nd?"

Ah, so you did end up closing on November 30? How's it working out for you? We're leaving for Grand Rapids on the 22nd. Sometime in January instead?

8:14 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

January is good. Yes, the house has been closed upon. It is ours. Soon it will become a veritable house of horrors for the political left, as we invite liberal neighbors over for dinner and then serve them clubbed-baby seal while playing Christmas music during Hannukah. Ishtar will not be happy.

I still don't get why you reject out of hand the idea of providing picketeers with a living wage. Don't set-up crews at the Taste of Chicago get paid better than 8 bucks an hour? Maybe instead of making political contributions to Democrats who screw them over anyway, they could establish a fund to pay better wages to those walking the picket line.

3:11 PM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

"But let's suppose an unlikely scenario in which the carpenter's local actually has the money to pay picketers carpenter's scale wages (almost completely impossible--locals typically barely have enough in the strike fund to pay striking workers a paltry stipend): what's their moral obligation to those homeless picketers once the picket line is down? Continue to pay them $23 an hour for doing nothing? Why not? They were paying them $23 an hour for not doing carpentry before that."--Sexy Jeff

No, as you rightly say, the unions are not charitable organizations. I don't even think that they have to pay them union scale wages. But to say that non-union carpenters are underpaid at 16 an hour and then to pay people half of THAT well, it's just laugh out loud funny.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"But to say that non-union carpenters are underpaid at 16 an hour and then to pay people half of THAT well, it's just laugh out loud funny."

Again, the operative word here is "carpenters."

In spite of my leftism I guess I still see the labor market in fairly free market terms: you're not owed anything by your employer just because he makes money off of you. It might be nice if all employers valued the contribution of their employees according to some moral standard, but it's just a fantasy to expect it to work that way.

As a practical matter, low-skill workers have to stand up for their rights and create their own value-added by imposing heavy costs on an employer who chooses to fight the union. There just is no other way of doing it.

Workers should have the legal right to organize, and the state should actively protect that right and punish employers who violate it(as opposed to the present situation, in which the state actively interferes with it). But it's the responsibility of the workers to get out and fight for a union if they want one.

If we were talking about workers employed by the Catholic Church, or some other organization for which moral responsibility is a raison d'etre or a significant talking point, then it would certainly be a good tactic for that organization's workers to call out management on violating a fundamental aspect of its own code. As it is, I just don't see how the local paying homeless people 136% of minimum wage to hold up picket signs is such a huge stain on its moral standing (whatever that is).

9:40 AM  

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