The herd immunity theory of unions

Immunization

When we think of herd immunity, we think of vaccinations.  Fewer parents are vaccinating their children nowadays because of their fears about negative reactions to vaccinations (including the now-debunked theory about vaccinations causing autism).  Those parents skipping vaccination point triumphantly to the fact that, despite their children’s vaccination-free status, there hasn’t been a huge upsurge in measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chickenpox, or any of the other diseases that can now be prevented with a shot or nasal mist.

What these parents fail to realize is that the diseases haven’t stopped simply because they’re rare; instead, they’re rare because other children are getting vaccinated.  Because there are a sufficient number of immunized children within a given population, these former childhood scourges cannot the necessary foothold to become endemic or epidemic.  It’s this perfect balance — where just enough kids are vaccinated to defeat a disease’s onslaught — that we call herd immunity.  This balance is also very tenuous.  If the number of vaccinated children drops below the magic herd immunity point, dangerous diseases come back in a hurry.

Accepting the unions’ premise that unionization is a good thing, one can apply the same argument.  The opposite of right-to-work laws is mandatory unionization.  That means that, if you want to work in a specific industry, whether as an electrician or a teacher, you must join the union.  The theory behind this is that unions are so good at ensuring that workers are well treated, that all workers benefit and all workers should therefore contribute to the union.  It wouldn’t be fair for some workers to pay dues, and then for all workers to benefit.

Just as with vaccinations, however, a lot of workers lately have been complaining about the side effects from the unions’ role in their industries.  These side effects include economic demands so parasitical that they kill the host and the unions’ habit of going far beyond their initial mandate, so that union members find their funds supporting political ideologies that are antithetical to their own beliefs.  In right-to-work states, these people are allowed to opt out.

The union screeches are because they believe that it is unfair for non-union members, in effect, to benefit from herd immunity.  They don’t have to suffer from the downside of unionization (i.e., paying dues), but they get the upside benefits (i.e., better employment conditions).

The thing is that unions are not vaccinations and working conditions are not diseases that can become epidemic or even pandemic.  Instead, there is a marketplace balance:  if too many people don’t join the union, breaking part the herd immunity, the marketplace will shift.  In that case, rather than inevitably getting worse as happens when a toxic disease breaks out, things might actually get better or they might get worse, or they might just get different.

Tradeoffs are not the same as a polio pandemic.  As Charles Krauthammer points out, union states have higher wages and lower employment; right-to-work states have lower wages and higher employment.  In other words, both systems have benefits and both have failings.  The employees ought to be able to determine which system they prefer at a given workplace.

Having the government impose mandatory union membership perverts the marketplace and prevents workers from making choices about the system that works best for them.  Certainly, given union threats and hysteria, one suspects that the unions are worried that they won’t be able to compete in a free market.  With increasing worker mobility and communication skills, we don’t have the stagnant local employment market that allowed 19th and early 20th century employers to abuse a trapped labor market.

Union thug hitting Steve Crowder

Both mandatory unions and mandatory professional organizations are antithetical to Constitutional Free Speech *UPDATED*

California Bar Seal

The State Bar of California, which I have to pay into in order to practice law in the State of California, long-ago abandoned its core responsibility of ensuring that people who hold themselves out as lawyers to California citizens are at least minimally qualified.  As with all these mandatory organizations, it’s turned into a political advocacy group and, again in sync with all these mandatory organizations, it advocates Left. That is, it forces me to pay money if I want to have a livelihood in my chosen profession, and spends that money on heavily politicized issues such as abortion.  (It hews so far Left that, even when I was a Democrat, I was offended by many of the political stands it took with my money.)

The State Bar isn’t the only professional organization that leans Left.  The American Bar Association is heavily political too in a Leftist kind of way. The difference between the ABA and the State Bar, though, is that the form is a voluntary organization. I was therefore able to cancel my membership when I realized that my money was being used to support political causes that were unrelated to law and with which I disagreed.  Sadly, I can’t opt out of the State Bar — not if I want to be a practicing lawyer, that is.

Looked at this way, I have the same lack of rights as union members who don’t live in in right-to-work states. Here’s the deal: if unions and bar associations limited themselves to their original function, which was to ensure that union workers have good conditions or that lawyers have reasonable qualifications, union dues and mandated bar memberships would be less of an issue. Unions and Bar associations, however, have drifted far afield from these core responsibilities.  They’ve branched out since the 1970s or so to become political action groups taking far Left stands on just about everything.

When states mandate that workers must join unions or that professionals must join professional associations, the state is effectively coercing citizens into funding speech with which they may disagree. Looked at this way, mandatory participation in activist unions and professional associations is a profound perversion of the First Amendment right to free speech. Free speech doesn’t just include the right to speak freely, it also includes the right to refrain from participating in speech with which one doesn’t agree.

All of this popped into my mind when I received an email from the president of the State Bar of California (emphasis mine):

Begging

By now, you should have already received your State Bar of California fee statement. Statements were sent out on Nov. 30, and many of you may be taking steps now to send your payments before the Feb. 1, 2013 deadline. If you have not yet received your statement, it may be helpful to know that you can sign in to My State Bar Profile to calculate and pay your 2013 fees.

As the president of the State Bar, I would like to take this moment to enlist your help with an important opportunity that you have through your annual dues.

As attorneys, other people’s problems challenge us to do our very best. We straighten out transactions gone awry. We resolve property and commercial disputes. We counsel our clients through criminal proceedings and personal difficulties and help with innumerable other problems that ordinary people have every day.

But there is a new challenge. Sadly, our economy has experienced an almost unprecedented downturn with interest rates at historic lows. It is the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account (IOLTA)* revenue that pays for civil legal assistance for indigent people statewide; and it is barely a quarter of what it was in 2008. There is no cushion left as we struggle to close the justice gap – the gap between the legal needs of the poor and the legal help we can provide for them. This is an unprecedented crisis for those we are charged with protecting.

But there is a powerful step each of us can take in seeking a solution to the justice gap. Your tax-deductible donation to the Justice Gap Fund (a component of the statewide Campaign for Justice) will expand access to justice for the millions of Californians with nowhere else to turn. The Justice Gap Fund is the only statewide vehicle to restore critical funding to nearly 100 legal nonprofits that serve our biggest cities as well as the most isolated rural communities.

A gift made at line 10 of your annual dues statement, or online anytime at www.CAforJustice.org, will make a real difference.

Please join me in the Campaign for Justice. Make a life-changing gift to the Justice Gap Fund – it will make a real difference to those who most need our help.

I have to say that my heart strings remain un-tugged.  The Leftist policies of coercive organizations such as the California Bar Association helped lead to a long, deep economic collapse and painfully drawn-out recession.  The Bar, with its speech amplified by coerced dues, managed to out-shout someone like me, who would have had more money if the Bar hadn’t taken it away.  If I could have been left to my own political speech, I might then have been more amenable to contributing to a fund that helps poor people entangled in the political system.  Because the fund is owned and managed by the same group of people who contributed to this mess, however, I’ll hang onto my money until I find more worthy charities.

UPDATE:  You have to check out Michael Ramirez’s perfect editorial cartoon, because it distills to a single picture the whole free speech (or non-free speech) argument I made above.

Unions ask “How dare an employer comply with the law?”

Kudos to Mi Pueblo, a grocery store that caters to Hispanic shoppers, for abiding by federal law.  At least, I give it kudos.  The Unions are fighting mad:

The Bay Area’s biggest Latino grocery chain is trying to avert a threatened boycott after it began checking the immigration status of all its new hires through a federal work-verification program.

“This is a decision that doesn’t come easily,” said spokeswoman Perla Rodriguez of the 21-store Mi Pueblo Foods chain. “The immigrant community, that’s the core of who we are.”

The company joined the E-Verify network a few weeks ago at the recommendation of the Department of Homeland Security, which uses the database to inform companies if their prospective employees are living and working in the country legally, Rodriguez said.

[snip]

A union that has been trying to organize the chain’s 3,300 workers is planning to protest Thursday morning outside the company’s original San Jose store and also threatening a customer boycott.

“I don’t see what the benefit is to them, as an employer or a PR-type thing,” to check the immigration status of the mostly Latino workforce, said spokesman Mike Henneberry of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5. “It’s voluntary. They don’t have to do it.”

Maybe I’m terribly hampered by an excess of logic, but I do not understand Union support for illegal workers.  Every illegal worker takes a job away from a legal American worker.  In addition, because so many legal workers are paid under the table, they also exert downward pressure on wages.  As an American union member, I would be hacked off that my union dues are being used to benefit people who come here illegally to take my job.

Does the Wisconsin vote matter?

The American Future Fund put together a very funny video that shows Progressives before and after the Wisconsin election.  Before, defeat meant an imminent apocalypse; after, defeat meant . . . nothing:

You can’t blame the Progressives for their differing before and after statements. With the November 2012 election coming up, one could argue that circumstances forced them to take both positions.

But we here at the Bookworm Room aren’t Progressives, and we’re not trying to induce people to vote one way or another.  Perhaps, then, we can come to a consensus about the implications of Walker’s victory in Wisconsin.

I’m too lazy right now to hunt up links, so I’m going to make factual statements that I’m 99% certain are accurate.  You can accept them as true, or you can call me on my errors.  This also isn’t a carefully framed essay.  Instead, I’m just throwing out ideas.

1.  Here’s a fact I know for certain, because I was there when it happened: I heard a pro-Obama liberal say, “Oh, my God!  This is a disaster.”  When I asked why, she said, “Because I wanted Obama to win in November, and this means he won’t.”  The media and White House may be spinning, but at least one (wo)man on the street thinks that the Wisconsin election, rather than being an anomaly, is a harbinger of things to come.

2.  Many have commented on the disparity between exit polls and votes.  I’m not ready to draw a conclusion from those discrepancies.  Roger Simon suggests a Bradley effect, one that sees political ideology, not racial views, as the opinion people are trying to hide during face-to-face interviews.  If he’s right, the polls in this election season just became meaningless, and all bets are off for November.  DQ, however, had a good point, which is that, until we know how many absentee ballots were cast in Wisconsin, we can’t know how anomalous the poll results really were.  Here in Marin, for example, up to 60% of voters do so by absentee ballot.  With only 40% of voters showing up at the polling places, and the pollsters only catching a small fraction of those, there’s going to be a wide margin for error in any hypothetical exit polling.

3.  Some man-on-the-street interviews saw people saying, “I just don’t like the recall idea.”  Maybe that’s true.  Or maybe people are lying about their motives for voting conservative in order to hide their resurgent conservative identity.  In any event, a couple of interviews does not a statistical sample make.  What’s of some significance is the fact that Scott Walker is the only governor to survive a recall vote.  In other words, in other places and other elections, people weren’t so squeamish about kicking out a governor who was fighting a recall.

4.  Money matters — and I’m not talking about money spent on elections.  Scott Walker, in the short time available to him as governor, shifted the Wisconsin balance sheet away from a huge, even catastrophic deficit.  People who are not ideologues will vote for someone who is manifestly preserving their way of life, even if they’re voting outside of their normal party identification.

5.  The unions are in serious trouble.  It’s not just that they lost.  It’s that, when workers in Walker’s Wisconsin were given a choice to walk away from the unions, they did so — causing a 2/3 drop in union rolls.  This means that the unions are serving only the politicians and the union leaders.  The rank and file might have been getting good benefits, but they realized that good benefits are meaningless in a broke nation.  They opted for social stability, rather than being forced to turn over their money to a union that didn’t serve them well and that didn’t serve their community well.

6.  This is deeply damaging for Barack Obama.  Oh, I know that Wisconsin is just one state.  There might have been all sorts of unique Wisconsin factors at work here that, practically speaking, have no relationship to Obama and to the nation as a whole.  But this was a big Democrat push.  The unions, which are synonymous with Democrats, put their all into this.  The protests against Walker were tied closely to the Occupy movement which is, in turn, tied closely to the Democrats.  The two candidates took positions that perfectly represented the dividing lines of political thought in this country, with Walker being the principled, budget-cutting conservative, and Barrett promising the same old big-spending, pro-union Democrat governance that saw Wisconsin slowly go broke in the first place.  When the Democrat side lost, you could practically see the stench start rising from the corpse.  That stench is going to stick to Democrats nationwide and, naturally, it’s going to stick hardest to the top Democrat.  It’s not the nail in the Obama re-election coffin, but it’s certain equal to a handful of nails, and joins other painful moments, ranging from big failures, such as the dismal job reports, worldwide economic collapse, and the scary despotism of the Arab Spring that Obama helped usher in, to small failures, such as the dog wars, the mommy wars, the bullying wars, etc.  Obama is looking like a very weak horse indeed, and in unstable times, that’s the last person the voters want shepherding their nation.

Unions strike, people die

A few days ago, I warned people not to get sick starting on Thursday in Northern and Central California, because the California Nurses’ Association was staging a sympathy strike.  Sadly, one patient didn’t or couldn’t take my advice:

A female patient at an Oakland hospital died early Saturday due to what the hospital described as a “medical error” made while she was under the care of a replacement nurse hired during a labor dispute.

The nurse allegedly gave the woman a fatal dose of medication, said Cynthia Perkins, a spokeswoman for the Oakland Police Department. The nurse, who was not identified, was taken in for questioning by officers.

The unions are outraged, of course, that anyone is suggesting a connection between the patient’s death and the strike. What underlies the unions’ outrage is that the strike was only one for one day (Thursday) but the hospital had locked the nurses out through Tuesday. The union claims that this lockout was a punitive move aimed to stop future strikes:

“An incident like this is chilling and strikes right to our nurses’ concern about their ability to advocate for their patients,” said Rose Ann Demoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association-National Nurses United, which represents about 2,000 nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. “It was irresponsible to lock out those nurses.”

In fact, the lockout was the only way the hospitals could stop the financial hemorrhage from the strike. As I already explained in my earlier post, the only way that the hospitals could get staff for the single strike day was to fly in out-of-state people who refused to work for anything less than a five-day contract. The cost per strike breaker: $9,000. Thus, one economic cudgel behind the one day strike was to force the hospitals to pay outrageous fees for one day of service. The hospitals fought back the only possible way: they locked their own nurses out, so they wouldn’t have to pay their salaries, and instead paid the strike breakers’ salaries:

Sutter Health, the company that operates the medical center in Oakland, hired replacement nurses on five-day contracts and hospital officials said the nurses who went out on the one-day strike Thursday would be locked out until the temporary contracts expire Tuesday.

“Once a strike is called, it would be financially irresponsible for hospitals to pay double to compensate both permanent staff and replacement workers,” Sutter Health said in a statement last week.

So we’ve got the nurses’ union calling a one day strike, not on its own behalf, but out of union solidarity.  The union knows going in that

(a) hospitals cannot manage without any nursing staff;

(b) that substitute staff will only work for a five-day minimum and only for a $9,000 fee;

(c) that hospitals cannot possibly carry the economic weight of paying both striking nurses and substitute nurses for both the strike day and the four days after the strike day;

(d) that, while the hospitals can lock out and withhold pay from their own nurses, they cannot do so for the strike breakers; so that

(e) the only possible economic solution for the hospital is to keep the strike breakers and lock out the hospital’s own nurses.

The California Nurses Association engaged in economic blackmail and, predictably, someone died.

Californians: Do not get sick between Thursday and Saturday, because the unions are on the move

I’m surprised that there’s so little news about an upcoming nurses’ strike in Northern and Central California.  This story should be a big deal, in large part because the nurses who are going on strike in thirty-four Northern and Central California hospitals actually have no complaint.  Instead, they’re putting thousands of patients at risk because their union wants to show its sympathy to another union (emphasis mine):

Thousands of registered nurses plan to walk off the job at 34 hospitals in northern and central California on Thursday in one of the largest such labor actions here in years.

Up to 23,000 nurses could be involved in strikes at Children’s Hospital Oakland and the large Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente systems, union leaders said.

[snip]

Kaiser nurses signed a contract earlier this year, but they plan a sympathy strike Thursday to support members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, who will walk off the job at Kaiser facilities in a separate contract dispute.

Here in Marin County, there are three hospitals:  Kaiser in San Rafael, Sutter in Novato, and Marin General, which broke with Sutter a year or two back.  For up to three days, starting Thursday morning, there will be only one fully functional hospital in Marin, a county with more than 250,000 residents (emphasis mine):

Workers at all of the North Bay Kaiser facilities will be striking, but consolidated picket lines will be held in Santa Rosa, San Rafael and Vallejo, NUHW spokesman Leighton Woodhouse said. The strike would include about 220 workers across the North Bay, at facilities in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

The California Nurses Association, with some 17,000 registered nurses at Kaiser facilities, will join the union as part of a sympathy strike, according to NUHW, which will amount to the largest strike in Kaiser’s history. Workers will walk off the job for one-, two- and three-day durations from September 21 to 23.

What’s just as bad is the way in which the hospitals, which cannot take the risk of patients dying because of the strike, will have to cope with the nursing deficit.  Kaiser, for example, is flying in strike-breakers, at a cost of $9,000 or so per strike-breaker.  The deal with these fly-in nurses is that they insist upon receiving a five-day contract, even though this strike is projected to last only one to three days.  While it would be impossible for Kaiser to have a replacement for each of the approximately 17,000 nurses on strike, the money Kaiser will be forced to pay out for this sympathy strike is outrageous.

Things are even more complicated than simply finding replacement nurses at incredible expense.  Most of the hospitals involved now have very complicated computer systems that are custom designed for each hospital chain.  These computer systems control everything:  nurse’s notes, doctor’s notes, pharmacy, lab tests, treatments, billing — you name it, it’s all computerized.  What these means is that hospitals are no longer fungible.  In the old days, a chart was a chart, and that was true whether you were in a hospital in Schenectady or San Francisco.  Nowadays, though, nurses have to understand computer systems that are unique to a given hospital.  That nurse who’s been flown in from out-of-state doesn’t know Kaiser’s or Sutter’s computer system.  For those nurses, it’s like having to fly a 747 when you’ve only flown a Piper before.

And again, let me remind you that the nurses aren’t walking off the job to improve their own working situation.  This is all about union solidarity.  So, my advice to you, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the northern parts of Central California is to play it safe starting Thursday.  Even if your hospital isn’t one of the ones dealing with a strike, it might be feeling awfully overwhelmed.  If you were thinking of doing some DIY work with power tools, hold off a few days.  If you were planning on sending your kids to a park with lots of monkey bars, send them out to play on the lawn instead, or maybe just plunk them in front of the television.  For the latter part of this coming week, you can’t be too safe.

Isn’t it time you got yourself a copy of The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available for $2.99 through Amazon, Smashwords or iBook.

A couple of addendums

With regard to my post about public sector unions, this story about a very generous retirement pension is a good follow-up.

And with regard to my post about Obama screaming in hysteric anger after Netanyahu explained that Israel was not going to commit suicide at Obama’s behest, I realize that I forgot the pivotal sarcastic question:  Weren’t we assured during the run-up to the election that he was going to be “No Drama Obama”?  Looks like someone lied to us….

What happens when government (state or federal) is pathologically hostile to business

This post tells the story of a case on which I worked.  It’s a true story.

Picture this: It’s 2001.  You live in California and you own a small business that consists of you and maybe three to five at-will employees.  Your profits are decent.

One morning, Jane, one of your employees, announces that she’s quitting, effective immediately, and stalks out.  You know — or think you know — your California law, which requires that, when an employee quits, you have her payment ready within three days of her departure.  (That would be Calif. Lab. Code § 202.) You therefore immediately prepare Jane’s final paycheck, covering the two hours she worked before she quit.

One day goes by, but no Jane.  Two days, but still no Jane.  On the third day, you actually drive over to her last known address to drop off the check, only to discover it’s a vacant apartment.  You head back to the office, check still in hand.  Jane didn’t ask that you mail the check to her, nor do you have a current address, so for the time being, you just hold on to it.

On the fifth day after quitting, Jane shows up, grabs the paycheck, and again disappears.  You breath a sigh of relief, thinking you’re finally done with Jane.  If only you knew, the story is just beginning….

A month goes by, and you suddenly get a notice from the California Labor Commissioner telling you that Jane is claiming that you violated California law.  Your crime?  You did not get Jane’s final paycheck to her within three days of her quitting.  Since you had the paycheck ready immediately, and her failure to receive it was solely the result of her own unavailability, you laugh at this charge, thinking you’ve got a slam dunk case.

You show up on the assigned day to argue your case before the Labor Commissioner.  The Labor Commissioner announces that the three day rule means the employee must have the money in hand by the end of the third day — regardless of either your efforts to pay her or her lack of effort to receive the money.  To punish you, the Labor Commissioner imposes statutory sanctions (or “waiting time penalties”) against you, and insists that you pay Jane an amount 27 times greater than the wages she was actually owed.

Shocked by the unfairness of it all, you hire an attorney, who tells you that you’re right — you complied with your statutory duty, and the Labor Commissioner erred.  The attorney tells you that this is indeed a slam dunk case, and that you should appeal it, which means filing an original action in Superior Court.  Sounds good to you….

The case goes to trial.  Jane is represented by the Labor Commissioner, so this is a freebie for her — the people of the State of California, through their tax dollars, are paying Jane’s attorneys fees.  The judge appears confused by the issues and eventually announces what he believes is a Solomonic ruling.  He holds that, despite the statute’s clear language — Calif. Labor Code §  202 explicitly imposes on the employer only the burden of having payment ready, not the burden of ensuring that the employee receives payment — you should have gotten the payment directly to Jane.  However (and this is where the Solomon part comes in) the judge will halve the sanctions award against you.

While miffed at the fact that you couldn’t get the judge to agree with you entirely, you still leave the Court with a light heart — after all, you got the original award against you cut by 50%, which must be viewed as a clear victory.  Au contraire, my innocent California employer.

In 2001 — when these events took place — the attorneys fee statute governing appeals from Labor Commissioner awards imposed attorney fees and costs against a party who appeared before the Court and was “unsuccessful in the appeal.”  (That was Calif. Lab. Code § 98.2(c), repealed.)  However, as of 2001, two California decisions had held that this facially-neutral language didn’t really mean what it said.

Instead, said the two cases, what that facially neutral language really meant was that, if an employee appealed a Labor Commissioner award and bettered his position by even a penny, he was deemed successful on the appeal, so that the employer would have to pay the employee’s (or, really, the tax funded Labor Commissioner’s) attorneys fees.  The contrary, however, was not true.  If an employer appealed a Labor Commissioner award and bettered his position by 99.9999%, but not by 100%, he was deemed unsuccessful.  He therefore still got to pay the employee’s (or, rather, the Labor Commissioner’s) attorney fees.

What this meant for Jane’s employer was that, even though she managed to better her position on appeal by 50% — she still lost!  She still got to pay the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees at fair market value.

The situation in 2001 was therefore as follows:  No rational employer could take the risk of an appeal from a Labor Commissioner award, since there was a huge chance that the employer, whether entirely or even partially correct, would still end up with a judgment requiring him to pay something, even a nominal something, to the employee.  (Judges hate giving employees nothing.) If that happened on appeal, the employer will be responsible for the oh-so-costly attorneys fees, fees that were usually far in excess of the underlying wage dispute.

And when you stop and think about it, this perverted reading of a facially neutral statute was a green light to the Labor Commissioner to do some nasty stuff.  Begin with the fact that Labor Commissioner employees are generally unsympathetic to employers.  This non-intuitive, twisted, backwards reading of a facially neutral statute gave these employees an incentive to ratchet up sanctions against employers to ridiculous amounts, because the Labor Commissioner employees knew that the employer couldn’t afford an appeal.  Even if the employer prevailed on the appeal by lowering the sanction to a more reasonable amount, the employer would still be impossibly burdened by the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees.

Keep in mind, too, that these attorneys fees were a complete windfall for the Labor Commissioner, since Commission attorneys are automatically paid by the State of California for their efforts.  And last I heard, when they receive attorneys fees from some hapless employer, the Labor Commissioners offices are not refunding the taxpaying citizens in that amount.

Bad as the above-described situation sounds, it actually got worse after 2001.  There was a brief, shining moment in 2002/2003 when the California Supreme Court, in a burst of profound rationality, said that courts couldn’t take a facially neutral attorneys fee statute, and read it to impose disproportionate burdens on employers.  (That moment of common sense was brought to you by Smith v. Rae-Venter Law Group (2002) 29 Cal. 4th 345.)  That was too good to last, of course.

Here’s the “got worse” part:  In 2003, the California legislature announced its explicit intention to overturn Smith v. Rae-Venter.  The current version of the fee shifting statute now gouges the employer in no uncertain terms: “If the party seeking review by filing an appeal to the superior court is unsuccessful in the appeal, the court shall determine the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the other parties to the appeal, and assess that amount as a cost upon the party filing the appeal. An employee is successful if the court awards an amount greater than zero.”  (See Calif. Lab. Code §  98.2(c).)

There is now no possibility of another Smith v. Rae-Venter decision helping hapless employers.  The Legislature has declare in no uncertain terms that the employer can avoid paying the employee’s attorneys fees (read, “the Labor Commissioner’s fees”) only if the employer walks out of Court owing the employee nothing — and obtaining that outcome, especially in liberal courts in the Bay Area or L.A., is a pretty big risk for any small employer to take.  This means that employers simply have to swallow the cost when a greedy employee manages to get the ear of a Labor Commissioner who believes it’s fine to impose disproportionate sanctions against a hapless employer, so as as that sanction will benefit a “downtrodden” employee.

Why does this sad story matter?  It matters because this little bit of social engineering — unknown to most people — is driving business out of California.  I personally know of at least two businesses that have just packed up and moved to other states precisely to avoid these kind of hidden costs.  Those oh-so-clever judges misinterpreting the law before 2002, and the “compassionate” Legislature enacting unfair laws in 2003, all think their good intentions say it all.  They truly believe they’re insulating poor, downtrodden employees from the risk of attorneys fees.

What they’re not thinking about, though, is the fact that these employees will be even more downtrodden when businesses keep pulling out of California, leaving the State without enough jobs — and the government without enough taxpayers to run itself.

There’s a reason I’m telling this story today:  it’s because the problem I’ve described above is not limited to the state level.  The National Labor Relations Board has held that Boeing cannot build a plant in South Carolina:

In a stunning move well beyond the scope of their legal mandate, the Obama Administration appointee controlled National Labor Relations Board is suing Boeing Corporation for, get this, building a second production line for their new Dreamliner passenger plane in South Carolina rather than in Washington state.

[snip]

South Carolina is a right to work state whose voters this past November overwhelmingly amended their state’s constitution to ensure that a worker has the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a labor union. The workers at the Boeing plant in South Carolina have also taken the bold step of booting out the union that represented them, effectively ending the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers stranglehold on Boeing production.

Now, Obama’s NLRB is attacking Boeing’s job creation in South Carolina as “union retaliation” directly related to a 2008 labor strike which crippled Boeing’s production in Washington state.

Now that those state governments that are in thrall to unions and labor have made it virtually impossible to do business in State A, the federal government is upping the ante by making it illegal for a business to move to State B.  I’ll reiterate here what I often say:  The Left may call them corporate fat cats or “rich people,” but I call them employers.  When you make it impossible for them to do business, they’re going to leave.  And if you make it impossible to leave, they’re going to die on the vine, leaving both State A and State B without jobs.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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Teachers are, apparently, above reproach

A classic Seinfeld episode concerned George Costanza’s decision (at Kramer’s urging) to park in a handicapped zone.  This being George, things went drastically wrong.  What I remember from the episode, though, isn’t the cascading sequence of disasters; instead; it’s the opprobrium heaped upon George for parking in the blue.  His parking decision wasn’t treated as a misdemeanor, an illegal act, an inconvenience, or an act of selfishness.  It was treated as a moral wrong.  It was the equivalent of spitting on the altar.

That episode keeps cycling through my head, because the other day I too committed a moral crime.  I criticized teachers.  Yup.  One of my facebook friends fulminated about the fact that his daughter’s American history teacher was a vast reservoir of misinformation.  I agreed:  “Some teachers are really dreadful.”  That was my spitting on the altar moment.  I was told that I was condescending; I was told that teachers shouldn’t be scapegoated all the time; I was told that parents have a responsibility too; I was told that teaching is a noble profession; and I was told that there are bad lawyers out there, so I have no right to criticize teachers.

None of this personal invective altered two truths:  my friend was venting about an actual bad teacher, and I stated, perfectly correctly, that some teachers are really dreadful.  I heaped more coal on the fire by noting these two truths and by adding that, in a free market, one can criticize bad lawyers, getting rid of them, and leaving the field open for good lawyers to bloom and prosper.

Somehow, in the last few years, teachers have become above criticism.  This is separate from the fact that the pact between teacher’s unions and governments means that they can’t be fired.  In a logical universe, this pact, which cements bad teachers in place, would increase the rumble of criticism against teachers.  But at precisely the same time that tenured teachers became permanent fixtures, no matter their incompetence, Leftist societal morality also said “you cannot criticize teachers.”  This was not a coincidence.  It’s the only way to protect the public schools from perpetual parental outrage.

The funny thing is that, at bottom, I truly respect teachers.  Or more accurately, I respect good teachers.  Teacher is a challenging j0b, although it can be a rewarding one.  (The same is true for most other jobs, when done well.)  Teaching is not an overwhelmingly profitable job, but it can provide a decent lower to middle class lifestyle.  (The same is true for most other jobs, when done well.)  Teaching requires a certain amount of training and education.  (The same is true for myriad other jobs.)  You get my point — teaching is a job.  It requires training and hard work.  Some days are boring, some fulfilling.  The income is okay, although you’ll never get rich.

But only teachers, if they put in the time, cannot get fired and, apparently, only teachers cannot get criticized.  Theirs is a job like everyone else’s — only different.

If I was a good teacher — and there are so many good teachers out there — I’d be hacked off at this situation.  Permanent employment is nice, but the accompanying degradation of ones professional is less nice.  The fact that one is not allowed to say evil of teachers doesn’t mean one isn’t thinking evil.  Moreover, the fact that people cannot criticize teachers (or, as I’ve discovered as a parent, oust the bad ones from the classroom), means that the teaching profession is denied the opportunity to cull out deadwood and correct mistakes.  Teachers are like a garden run wild, with the healthy plants dying as the weeds and poison ivy take over.

As an honest black person  in Britain said, this type of “positive discrimination” is as damaging as the old kind of negative discrimination once was.  It tarnishes the brand, whether the brand is race, color, creed, sexual orientation, or teaching certificate.

You get what you pay for with city government

One of my “crossing the Rubicon” moments came upon me about twenty years ago, when I went to the main branch of the old San Francisco public library (before it moved to its snazzy, very expensive new digs), and tried to check out a book.  I found myself standing in a line of about 60 people, all waiting to check out their books.

Standing on tip-toe (remember, I’m short), I was able to see that there were three active stations, each with a library employee checking out the books.  Considering that checking out books isn’t “rocket surgery,” I was at a loss to figure out why it was taking so long.  I discovered the problem when I got to the head of the line:  the clerks weren’t trying very hard.  To be honest, they weren’t trying at all.  Watching molasses drip on a cold day would be a more scintillating experience than watching these public servants processing the public.  To add insult to injury, they were rude too.

I walked out thinking this to myself:  “I doubt anyone of those clerks is paid more than about $28,000 per year, plus benefits.  That’s $84,000 cash per year, not including the benefits.  Why don’t they just hire one good person for $50,000 (plus benefits, of course), and get the job done right at a savings to the City of $34,000 per year, plus two unused benefits packages?  But of course, that couldn’t happen.  The unions would never go for it.  Their goal is to have as many employees as possible who, once they get their jobs, can never be fired, no matter how shoddy their work.  This isn’t about serving San Franciscans, this is about maximum employment for union members.”

I walked out of that library much more conservative than when I walked into that library.

This memory came back to me courtesy of an Instapundit post (hat tip:  Earl):

MORE ON THOSE UNDERFUNDED / OVERGENEROUS PUBLIC PENSIONS: Report: SF Pension Crisis Much Worse than City Claims: Adachi-commissioned analysis puts gap at $6.8 billion–not official figure of $1.6 billion. “The city’s pension fund is officially underfunded by $1.6 billion. Nation’s study argues that the pension fund is relying on a 7.75 percent annual rate of return that is unrealistic over the long term. The study argues for 6.2 percent, which it says was the average rate of return in the capital markets from 1900 through 1999.” Frankly, that “conservative” number looks overoptimistic to me. 4% is probably more realistic.

May I suggest a different way to phrase those headlines?

At about 4:30 PST, two headlines just came down the pike, following the Wisconsin Senate votes:

Wisconsin anti-union measure must pass Assembly before it can go to Gov. Walker for signature

More on Wisconsin anti-union vote: No Democratic senators were present – AP

I’d like to rephrase them:

Wisconsin pro-taxpayer measure must pass Assembly before it can go to Gov. Walker for signature

More on Wisconsin pro-taxpayer vote:  No Democratic senators were present — AP

Once again, the liberals are framing the debate, aren’t they?

The problem with public sector collective bargaining

The core problem, which this video illustrates, is that the government forces public sector employees to pay dues to public sector unions, that then use those dues to buy elections, to place into power politicians who raise taxes to pay ever higher government salaries and pensions.  This has nothing to do with fairness, and everything to do with an inherently corrupt system that sees Democratic politicians and union leaders use other people’s money to maintain their power bases:

Paul Krugman: a lazy ideologue

Paul Krugman has a bully pulpit in the New York Times.  Its numbers may be declining under Pinch’s overlordship, but it still remains “the paper of record” to a lot of people with their hands in or near the power trough.  Paul Krugman’s readers respect him because (a) he holds their elitist Left outlook and (b) he has Nobel Prize.  The latter assures them that he is a reliable source.

The problem for Krugman’s readers is that they’ve missed out on one essential feature of Krugman’s writing and analysis — he is profoundly lazy.  Comfortably encased in his ideology, he trolls the internet for facts that support his argument, without ever bothering to determine whether those facts are honest, credible or valid.  Worse, he has completely abandoned his own analytical abilities, and makes no effort to determine whether the facts he cites are relevant to his argument.  Conservative commentators have repeatedly caught him making outrageous misstatements that arise because of his appalling laziness.

The latest to catch him is Iowahawk, who has abandoned scathing humor for straightforward reporting.  This is a really important one, because it shows that Krugman’s wrongness is 180 degrees.  He gets things exactly bass ackward, and is using his bully pulpit to spread gross untruths about public sector unions and collective bargaining.

The New York Times again strains for moral equivalence

We all learned in school about the Triangle factory fire in New York back in 1911.  The fire started and too many women died in significant part because of horrible working conditions the factory owners were able to impose on economically trapped women.  The fire was a PR disaster for management in America, and a huge aid to the development of private sector unions.  Since the 100th anniversary is drawing near, both PBS and HBO have shows lined up about the event.  The New York Times TV reviewer is excited, because he seems to hope that these shows will help boost sympathy to union protesters in Wisconsin and, now, other states too:

As demonstrations in support of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions proliferate, PBS can pat itself on the back for scheduling the documentary “Triangle Fire” on Monday night — more than three weeks before the 100th anniversary of the New York garment-factory blaze it details, which figures so strongly in the imagination of the American labor movement.

I wonder if the reviewer ever wakes up at 3 a.m. and thinks, “What the hell kind of crap am I peddling?”  Because, really, is there any equivalence between these two scenarios?

Scenario A:  Immigrant women labor under appalling conditions (60-80 hours a week), starvation wages, no job security whatsoever, and factory conditions so dangerous that, ultimately, 146 die in a single day, having leaped from windows to escape encroaching flames and locked doors.

Scenario B:  College graduates work a seven month year for the government and, once they’ve received lifetime job security, earn a total compensation package in excess of the average non-government worker in their community.  Further, these graduates are forced by law to pay money to a union that, in turn, hands that money over to a political party that, in turn, sets the wages for the union members, who then are forced by law to pay part of those wages to a union that, in turn . . . well, you get the corrupt cycle I’m describing here.

I hope that Americans are wiser than New York Times television reviewers and realize that, while we want our teachers to have living wages and safe working conditions, both for their own benefit and for the good of our children, the scam that’s currently in place with public sector unions is grotesque, unsustainable, and totally unrelated to the tug of war that occurs between labor and management in the private sector.

What’s really going on in Wisconsin

It’s a good video:

Here’s the real point:  If you want to work for government (which can be a very honorable or practical or neutral thing to do), you are forced to pay union dues.  You know, when you pay those dues that they will be used to fund the Democrats.  This is true whether or not you, personally, want to fund the Democrats.

Once elected, the Democrats shower benefits on the public sector unions, since that ensures that the unions will then shower money right back on the Democrats.  What’s important to remember is that these elected Democrats are your employees, just as the public sector workers are.  Nevertheless, you, the tax payer, have been cut out of the loop.  Instead, there’s an endlessly cycling mutually beneficial relationship going on between unions and benefits, that you’re paying for.  I think it’s called taxation without representation.  (Hmm….  Where have I heard that expression before?)

James Taranto on Wisconsin

Taranto is always good.  Sometimes, though, he’s great.  That’s the case for his column today, which discusses (a) the difference between public and private sector unions and (b) the difference between Tea Party and union protests.  He’s not saying anything you haven’t heard before or figured out for yourself; it’s just that he says it so well.

Regressives

Roger Simon, among others, has noted that the demonstrations in Madison demonstrate how old-fashioned the modern Left is, something that’s true despite the Left’s attempt to re-brand itself with the name “Progressive.”  It therefore seemed appropriate for me to run again an article I wrote for American Thinker back in September 2007.  My section on the unions (“Look for the union label”) seems prescient now.

***

Regressives

Language is anything but static, something for which we must be grateful. It’s the dynamism of the English language that, at the high end, gives us Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope, Dickens, and at the low end, gives us the liveliness of slang and dialect.

One of the interesting things about English’s constant, beneficial mutations is the fact that some terms which start off as merely descriptive begin to degrade in meaning, eventually ending as insults. For example, the now archaic word “beldam” started off as a grand old lady and ended up meaning a miserable hag. “Spinster” originally described a woman who spins, but came to mean a desiccated, narrow minded old virgin. Another word that ended with a completely degrade meaning was “bedlam,” which describes a completely insane situation, but that had its genesis in Christ’s natal town of Bethlehem.

And then there’s the word “liberal.” It comes from the Latin “liber,” meaning free, so the word “liberal” originally referred to one committed to freedom. Over time, however — indeed, in our lifetime — it came to mean one thing: someone who could not win an election. Clearly, it was time for a change.

Liberals, after some bold attempts to reclaim the title for themselves (and they’ve got the bumper stickers to prove it), decided to jettison the term entirely and come up with a new word to describe themselves. They are now “Progressives.” The word “progressive” means to advocate beneficial change and progress, and that’s certainly what Progressives would have the American people believe they offer.

By giving themselves this label, however, the Progressives have proven yet again that there’s no delusion quite as powerful as self-delusion. The fact is that, if you pick apart each of the Progressives’ stands on any major issue of the day, you’ll see that either they have staked out positions that were either proven false or ineffective decades ago, or they’re still fighting battles that were long ago won, making their efforts redundant (yet still, somehow, harmful to the modern political process).

One, two, three, four, No way will we win this war

The most visible example of the Progressives’ tendency to live in the past is their compulsive urge to view the Iraq War as if it was a movie sequel entitled The Vietnam War, Part II. This was apparent within minutes of the War’s inception, when Progressives (both in and out of the media) were already labeling it a quagmire. They looked for and found their My Lai massacre when the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Haditha affair came to light.

Showing admirable tenacity, the Progressives have clung to these few 1960s/1970s lodestones despite some pesky details that run counter to their Vietnam narrative. For one thing, there was the fact that, in the months leading up to the War, Saddam Hussein worked hard to convince UN inspectors that he had WMDs. If this was true (and they’re in Syria or elsewhere right now), he invited the War on himself and his long suffering people.

If it was Saddam issuing propaganda aimed at aggrandizing his stature amongst the rogue nations of the world, no one can be blamed for bombing his nuclear Potemkin Village. Certainly he’d actually built that faux village on a solid foundation, since few could doubt that someone who would gleefully use poison gas to massacre his own people would hesitate to use it against foreign enemies, given the chance.

Another problem for the Regressives… er, Progressives… is the nature of Saddam’s Iraq itself. Vietnam had the bad luck to be caught between opposing Communist forces, with Vietnam the battered football in the middle. Iraq was quite a different kettle of fish. In a region that distinguishes itself as the land of repressive regimes, Saddam stood out as a star. In addition to the Halabja massacre (see above), Saddam brutally tortured and murdered his own people, committed ecoterrorism to drive out disfavored ethnic groups, gave free reign to his sadistic sons with the hope that they’d eventually rule Iraq, invaded neighboring sovereign nations, and is believed to have murdered around 200,000 of his own people. Under Hussein, Iraq was not an unwitting international football kicked around in the Cold War, it was a time bomb waiting to explode.

None of these icky little facts deter the Progressives. For them, it’s always 1974 all over again and they urge us on to the one lesson they learned from the Vietnam War: the U.S. should turn tail and run. Sadly for Iraqis and Americans, the Progressives are careful to freeze their historic memories to fix on that (to them) wonderful moment when people raced to the rooftops of buildings, desperate to board the last U.S. helicopters. Memory carefully stops before it reaches the reeducation camps in North Vietnam or the Killing Fields of Cambodia. For Progressives, useful as the past is to define their current-day agenda, some history lessons are better left unlearned.

‘I believe it is peace in our time.”

When it comes to terrorists, Progressives show a true sense of retro style, turning the Way Back machine to the 1930s, with Neville Chamberlain as their role model. For those who are not conversant with Chamberlain’s dealings with Hitler, they are instructive.

Immediately upon assuming power in 1933, Hitler began to use violence and intimidation within Germany in order to achieve his political and social goals. To the extent that he went after Communists, many in Europe and, especially, in Britain, were not unsympathetic to his goals, even if they deplored his tactics. They were less sympathetic to, but perfectly willing to ignore, his attacks on Jews, gays, clergyman, gypsies, and the mentally and physically handicapped. These were, after all, internal affairs and (I’m sure this was said with the inevitable shrug), “what can one do?”

Europe’s ability to look the other way changed in 1938 when Hitler, feeling limited by turning his aggression on his own people, began turning his energies outward. In March 1938, after having already procured the assassination of an Austrian Chancellor, Hitler invaded Austria in what became known as the Anschluss. (And it’s no credit to Austria that large numbers of its citizens were delighted with this turn of events.) Although this was a complete violation of all international law, and was clearly an act of war, Chamberlain’s government sat passively by.

Then, in September 1938, when Hitler began to rumble about the Sudetenland, which Germany had lost to Czechoslovakia after World War I, Chamberlain went to Berlin to meet with Hitler. Hitler quickly got the measure of the man and offered Chamberlain an either/or solution to the Sudetenland issue: Either Britain assist Germany’s plans to annex the Sudetenland or Hitler would invade Czechoslovakia and take it back himself. Overawed by Hitler’s reasoning, Neville Chamberlain quickly agreed to the “either” part of that plan and executed the Munich Agreement. Proud of his negotiating skills, which gave Hitler the power and geographical range instantly to overrun Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain returned to England and boasted to the British people that

“this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.”

The 1930s peace crowd took those words seriously. Despite Hitler’s increasingly aggressive acts throughout the 1930s, both inside and outside Germany, and despite Hitler’s clearly expressed threats to take over Europe and destroy all whom he deemed inferior, Chamberlain and the peace party that support him were “shocked, shocked” when Hitler, appropriately viewing the Munich Agreement as a carte blanche from supine European leaders, first invaded Czechoslovakia, then Poland, and then tried to take on the world.

Chamberlain’s incredible naiveté in believing that it was possible to have peace with a tyrant bound and determined to control and kill anyone who affected his power meant that, within seven years of the Munich Agreement, through genocide, the ordinary and tragic casualties of war, and battle deaths, as many as 72 million people are estimated to have died. One can only conclude that Chamberlain got “peace with honor” confused with the Roman idea, which was to “make a desert and call it peace.”

If the above narrative sounds uncomfortably familiar, it should, and I’m not just saying this because you probably studied World War II in school (or, at least, you did if you’re over 30). The so-called Progressives are closely mimicking Chamberlain’s behavior. They’re thrilled with Bin Laden’s reasoning, especially since he sounds uncannily like their own Progressive leaders. They want us to do everything that Bin Laden and his minions advise: withdraw from Iraq, jettison Israel, and remove any Western presence from Saudi Arabia (except, of course, for the petrodollars).

The Progressive’s antiquated appeasement standards are even better displayed with Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York. Let me remind you here that Ahmadinejad may have been part of the 1979 hostage crisis, that he’s repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel entirely, and that he’s determined to become a nuclear power, which poses a threat to all Western interests. But who cares? Bully boys are always treated well by appeasers. This time, not only were the Progressive appeasers excited to give him a forum at the once prestigious Columbia University in New York, they’ve gave him airtime on American TV courtesy of 60 Minutes.

And just to put the whole matter of the Progressives’ fawning over Ahmadinejad in its proper retro perspective, in 1933 Columbia happily offered the red carpet to a high ranking Nazi official. One could argue that, in 1933, it wasn’t quite so obvious how terrible the Nazis were to become, but Columbia President Lee Bollinger has killed that argument already. He announced that he would have invited Hitler to speak too. Keep in mind that even Chamberlain didn’t invite Hitler to London.

We’re having a baby, my baby and me.

One of the most retrograde areas in Progressive thought concerns abortion rights — and I think you’ll agree with me whether you are pro-Choice or pro-Life.

A couple of years ago, I found myself at the abortion rights webpage for the National Organization of Women. What struck me right away was how dated the organization’s position was regarding abortion. At that time, to make its point about the need for legalized abortions, it led with photographs of four women who died from abortions. Following the link, I was led to the story of seven women who died from botched abortions. The years of death were 1929, 1929, 1940, 1950, 1967, 1977 and 1988. The dates are significant, since only the last two occurred after abortion became legal.

The death in 1977 was blamed on the fact that the dead woman was denied public funding for her abortion; the death in 1988 was blamed on a young woman afraid to seek parental consent for a legal abortion. Thus, with the exception of the 1977 and 1988 abortions, all the highlighted deaths occurred in times when birth control options were nil to limited, and when the stigma of pregnancy for unmarried women was extraordinarily high. The 1988 abortion was also a “stigma” abortion, since the girl was afraid to tell her parents.

There is no doubt that, if you are pro-Choice, either whole heartedly or in a lukewarm kind of way, there are, in 2007, still arguments to make in favor of abortion — rape, incest, a high risk pregnancy, a woman’s right to control her body, etc. The old reasons, however, just don’t apply anymore. Aside from the easy availability of myriad forms of birth control, nowadays the average accidental pregnancy may well be difficult or inconvenient, but it is no longer social death. Women are not turned out at night into snow storms, women do not become community pariahs, women are not forever tainted because of having an “illegitimate” pregnancy and, despite NOW’s focus on teen abortions and parental consent, it’s the rare news story that concerns a teen dying of a back alley abortion in those states requiring parental consent. It may certainly be embarrassing for a woman to admit to a pregnancy, but it is no longer the end of life on earth as women know it. Certainly the abortion debate would be more honest, if less emotional, if the “Progressives” were to debate abortion in the here and now, instead of in the then and gone.

We Shall Overcome

Perhaps ashamed that during both major Civil Rights battles (the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movements), Democrats allied themselves against African Americans, modern Progressives not only proclaim themselves the defenders of Civil Rights in America, but they also continue to wage the battle against racism as if it’s still Selma, 1964. In the Progressive world, racial oppression is an omnipresent aspect in the fabric of American life, with every white American (who isn’t Progressive, of course) a slavering racist anxious to degrade and dehumanize blacks.

To Progressives, something like the Jena 6 is a beautiful thing, because it proves their point — America is a racist nation, and they can board their protest busses and bravely take a seat at the segregated lunch counters of their fantasies. What they seem incapable of realizing is that even government conduct as suspect as that in the Jena 6 case reveals how far America has come since the actual Civil Rights movement. I’m probably not the first to notice that Jena 6 is a cause celebre, not because it’s happening all over America, or even all over the South, but because it’s anomalous.

White America is not routinely scapegoating black America. Indeed, the most recent racially motivated scapegoating saw a white Southern politician attempt to destroy the lives of several white defendants in an effort to curry favor with the local black community. (That would be the alleged Duke rape, for those of you scratching your heads over my allusion.) It’s also worth pointing out that the Jena 6 case is not the traditional “whites are bad, blacks are scapegoated” scenario, but seems to be an uglier and broader slice of race warfare amongst the young’uns, with each side enthusiastically threatening and otherwise terrorizing its opponent.

There is no doubt that there are still Americans who are racists, and it behooves each and every American to target that racism where it lies. But we make a grave mistake if we (for “we” read “Progressives”) pretend that the institutional racism of the Jim Crow South is still a looming factor in the lives of African-Americans. That kind of historical yearning means that, every three years or so, when something bad happens to African-Americans (and I don’t deny that bad things happen), Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can race over to relive their own glory days in the early 1960s, all the while obscuring the fact that we live in a much less racially charged world. This kind of 1960s theater in the 21st Century does two terrible things: it continuously inflames the African American sense of grievance, something both psychologically and practically damaging; and it helps grow two dangerous emotions in white Americans when it comes to race: ennui and resentment.

Look for the union label

Unions were a necessity in the early days of the industrial revolution. Workers were so spectacularly abused in those days (in part because they had limited mobility when it came to looking for greener employment pastures) that only by united action were they able to shift the employer/employee dynamic away from mind-bogglingly brutalizing practices. (See, for example, the successful 1888 strike that forced the British government to legislate against the horror of phossy jaw, a phosphorous based cancer that afflicted 19th and 20th century workers in match factories.) Unionization is still useful today in highly dangerous industries where the risks of employment go beyond the economic and into life and death scenarios – and this is especially true in the chemical industry, where the employer has information the employee lacks and has the ability to control environmental safety which, again, is something the individual employee cannot do.

Having said that, most unions today are not useful at all, but are redundant victims of their own success. Thanks to decades of union action, the federal government and all the States have wage and hour laws, labor commissions (most of which are usually very hostile to the employer), occupational safety and health laws, mandatory retirement plans, minimum wage laws, etc. All of these, of course, were worker protections that unions fought for and won.

The problem is that, once you’ve done what you came for, what’s left? Well, for a lot of unions, aside from a huge effort negotiating salaries for the union bosses and a de minimus effort doing the same for union members, what’s left is a bullying style that tries to infringe on management prerogatives by dictating how the business should be run. The most obvious example of that trend can be found in the teacher’s unions, which routinely try to control both the broader political process and the classroom curriculum, all the while pressuring their employer (that would be you, through your agent, the government), to continue employing them without regard to performance standards.

Despite all this, for the Progressives, unions are the only things that stand between American workers and the 19th Century factory system of 12 hours, at salaries equal to mere pennies, in horrible unsafe conditions. It’s as if the social and political changes affecting employees during the last 100 years never happened. Instead, only by emphasizing working conditions that, in most cases, no longer exist, can Progressives keep alive an institution that serves their larger political agenda (often with a complete disregard for the rank and file’s beliefs), but that has an increasingly small effect on any given union’s original purpose.

Bill and Hillary Clinton, when running in 1992, were fond of repeating the old saying that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome. They were prescient (and I’m not just talking about Hillary’s recycled healthcare plan). No matter how they label themselves, the Progressives are anything but: on every issue that affects Americans, they have staked their politics and theories that are antiquated, ineffective or redundant. And if that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Obama wears the purple

In Roman times, purple was the Emperor’s color.  Today, it’s the color of the man who dreamed of being America’s Leftist king:

Is anybody else as creeped out by that video as I am?

And another question, which has nothing to do with unions — Do you get the feeling that Obama is hiding under the table as events in Libya unfold?

Hat tip:  American Thinker

A reminder to let Wisconsin Republicans known you’ve got their backs

If you haven’t already sent emails expressing support to Wisconsin Gov. Walker and the Republican Senators, you must.  Here are the email addresses:

govgeneral@wisconsin.gov
Sen.Ellis@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Darling@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Galloway@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Grothman@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Hopper@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Kapanke@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Kedzie@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Lazich@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Leibham@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Olsen@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Schultz@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Vukmir@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Wanggaard@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Zipperer@legis.wisconsin.gov

Wisconsin has become the first battle in the true war between the taxpayers and the unions. The Governor and the Senators are at the front line of fighting, and they need to know that their efforts matter, and that they matter far beyond Wisconsin’s own borders.

More thoughts on Wisconsin

The average Wisconsin teacher has a better total compensation package than the average Wisconsin taxpayer.  After the proposed legislation goes through, the average Wisconsin teacher will still have a better total compensation package than the average Wisconsin taxpayer.  If this was 1789, events in Madison would be the equivalent of the French aristocrats taking to the streets, attired in satins, silks and jewels, and armed with pitchforks and pikes, to stridently demand even more from France’s starved and overworked peasantry.

Let’s get serious, though.  The issue, of course, isn’t compensation.  The average teacher who is taking to the street thinks it is, but the organizers, including Obama, the organizer-in-chief, know what the uproar is really about, and that is a Republican effort to diminish the power of public sector unions.

Currently, unions — all unions, whether public sector or private sector — get to speak to politicians on behalf of their membership, speech that is effected through contributions to politicians who are most likely to pass legislation favorable to union goals.  When it comes to the private sector, I don’t have a problem with that.  Corporations can and should be able to do that do.  If legislation affects a group or entity, it should have a political voice.  The same holds true with private sector unions.

When it comes to public sector unions, especially the teachers’ unions, things are different.  With regard to teachers’ unions, the unions don’t limit their efforts to wages, benefits and working conditions.  Instead, they are deeply involved with politicizing the classrooms to ensure that they raise generations of young people who understand the world through a Leftist filter.  And with regard to all public sector unions, the union dues aren’t intended to affect legislation.  Instead, they’re essentially being used to bribe the people who write the checks and pay the pensions.

One of the things Wisconsin Republicans want to do is decrease the amount of dues available to public sector unions, money that those unions have traditionally used to buy elections.  They’re doing this by proposing a law stating that non-union members in the public sector are not required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.   (I’m not sure whether this law would also apply to private sector unions but, for the reasons discussed below, it should.)

Currently, in a unionized business, employees are forced to pay union dues, whether or not they agree with union goals.  The reasoning behind this, if I remember my Labor Law class correctly, is that it would be unfair for non-union employees to benefit from the wage and working concessions wrung out of the employer by union members who did pay dues.

How much better it would be to apply the marketplace to union membership.  Assuming a perfect union, one that exists only to ensure decent wages and working conditions, if enough people belong to the union, yes, everyone benefits, including the “freeloaders.”  In vaccination terms, the latter are getting the benefit of herd immunity.

What invariably happens when the going is good is that more and more people conclude that the status quo is good regardless of their active participation.  Parents stop immunizing their children; and employees back off from the unions.

In the disease world, herd immunity vanishes and unvaccinated people fall ill.  Seeing the consequences of their actions, people start immunizing again, and the diseases back off.  In the union world, employers gain the upper hand, and workers realize that it was a mistake not to pay their dues.  Employees start paying their dues again, the union’s power returns, and the balance of power between employer and employee swings back to the center.

Forcing union membership creates a situation in which the union leadership is beholden to nothing and nobody.  No matter what the leadership does, no matter the bad deals it strikes or, in the case of the teachers’ unions, the horrid things it does to the classrooms, it keeps going and going and going.  Union leadership is like a demented, perverse, evil Energizer Bunny.  Our students are held hostage in the classroom, and we are held hostage in the legislature — in significant part because these state supported unions buy elections to ensure politicians who will maintain this twisted status quo.

I often say I hate unions.  Thinking about it, though, what I hate is a political system that has given unions unlimited power, freeing them from marketplace constraints.  They are the perfect illustration of Lord Acton’s dictum that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Thoughts about the Wisconsin teachers’ union *UPDATED*

As I understand it, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, faced with a $3.6 billion biennial budget deficit (for the years 2011-2013), had the choice of raising taxes in his financially beleaguered state or firing up to 6,000 state employees.  He chose a third route, proposing that Wisconsin’s public sector employees start carrying a small portion of their pension and benefit load.  The Heritage Foundation summarizes Walker’s proposal as follows:

Walker’s proposal would limit collective bargaining power and reform public employee benefit plans. For the first time, state employees would be responsible for making a 5.8 percent contribution into their pension plans and pick up the tab for 12 percent of their health care benefits. As it currently stands, Wisconsin taxpayers bear 100 percent of the costs.

Even with this change to the status quo, the employees are still better off than the average Wisconsin employee.  First, as noted, taxpayers are currently paying all of those costs.  Second, even under the proposed change, the public sector employees would still be paying a significantly lower percentage of these costs than are paid by similarly situated private employees.

Keep in mind, too, that the average teacher in a Wisconsin city Milwaukee including benefits — has a salary a total compensation in excess of $100,000:

This salary annual compensation package is one half the average sale price ($200,000) for a home in Madison, Wisconsin.  The average salary in Wisconsin overall is less than $60,000.  To summarize, Wisconsin teachers, who are state employees receiving their income from taxpayers, get higher pay and better benefits than many of their taxpayer employers.

Aside from the money issues, Gov. Walker proposes trimming union wings a bit, so that the unions lose some of their coercive power over their own members:

Walker’s budget removes the special privileges that give government unions their outsize influence. His plan allows workers to quit their union without losing their job. He requires unions to demonstrate their support through an annual secret-ballot vote. He also ends the unfair taxpayer subsidy to union fundraising: The state and local government would stop collecting union dues with their payroll systems.

In a dreadful economy, in a state with a huge debt load, you’d think that the public sector employees would be sanguine about the proposal.  After all, they get to keep their jobs, they get to keep their benefits, and they still have salaries and benefits that exceed those given to their taxpayer employees.  In addition, the unions that they are currently to which they are currently forced to belong would have to be run more fairly.

If you were looking for reasoned thought from unions, however, you’d be looking a long, long time.  The unions and their Democrat consigliores have gone absolutely ballistic.  The Democrat politicians have gone into hiding and the teachers have gone on the march.

With regard to the teacher protests, you’ve already heard about the illegal strike; the ill-informed and indoctrinated students dragged into the fray; the vile signs likening Walker to Hitler or Hussein or Mubarak, or placing gun sights on Walker’s face’ and the filth these protesters left in their wake.  What I’m more interested in is why the teachers?  Other public sector employees are also subject to these budget proposals, but it’s the teachers who are leading the way.

Part of the answer, of course, lies with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.  In a state in which the teachers’ union has been likened to the fourth branch of government, it was he who first made Americans aware of the way in which teacher’s unions, more than any other single employee group, are putting a pinch on state government coffers.  Suddenly, teachers aren’t the sweet-faced little ladies teaching Johnny and Janie to read.  Instead, they’re well-paid cogs benefiting from the union’s depredations.

Christie is always careful, in his speeches, to distinguish individual teachers from the unions themselves, and he’s right to do so.  It is the unions that are rapacious.  The teachers benefit, of course, from the union demands.  They’d be absolute idiots to say “No, I don’t want the salary you’re handing me; no, I don’t want the benefits that are coming my way; and, please, forget about that tenure that makes sure I’ll have a job forever.”  Each individual teacher knows that if he should decide unilaterally to be honorable and turn down the salary and benefits headed his way, it would change nothing.  The situation would continue the same, but he’d be poor.

The problem for teachers is that, having taken these benefits, they’re stuck with the consequences.  They’re stuck with the fact that, because of tenure, too many incompetent teachers occupying America’s classrooms, bringing the whole profession into disrepute.  And they’re stuck with the fact that the unions have stuck their collective bargaining noses in the curriculum, teaching information and values that offend their taxpayer employers.  And they’re stuck with the fact that ordinary taxpayers (and teachers are taxpayers too, but their numbers are small compared to the rest of America’s taxpayers), think that it’s obscene for someone to get paid twice their own salary, with much better benefits, for seven months work.

Oh, yeah!  Did I forget to mention that?  Most people work about eleven months of the year, with approximately one month off for official holidays and vacation.  Teachers, however, work on average seven months of the year, except that they make more money than those eleven-month workers do.

How did we get to this point with teachers?  I certainly remember a time when it wasn’t this way.  From about 1966 until 1987, my father was a public school teacher in a San Francisco Bay Area school district.  Those were not the glory days.  Our family lived only slightly above the poverty level.  We made ends meet only because, in addition to his teaching job, my father taught summer school and gave private lessons.  Eleven months a year, my father worked five to six days a week.  He left the house at 7:00 every day to teach school and returned home at around 10:30, after his private lessons ended.

The only good thing about my father’s job was the benefits.  He didn’t get life insurance, and he got a minuscule pension (about $5,000/year when he retired), but he got great medical and dental.  The dental was especially good:  if we had our teeth cleaned and checked twice a year, the insurance company would pay for all major dental procedures.  My parents, though, had to dig into their own pockets to get our crooked teeth straightened.

The whole situation stank.  There was a reason, though, for teachers’ lousy compensation.  Before women’s lib, the bulk of teacher’s were women.  Before women’s lib, you could therefore pay these female teachers a very low salary.  The thinking was that women who taught were wives and mothers who were bringing in a little extra.  They didn’t need a top salary because theirs was the second salary in a household.  (My mother, a draftswoman, was told precisely this back in 1958, when she learned that the man sitting at the table next to her, with the same training and job description, received twice her salary.)  That this wasn’t always the case — that the women was sometimes the primary or sole breadwinner — didn’t prevent it from being true often enough for the system to work fairly well in an era before women started realizing that the job itself, not their marital status, should determine the salary.

Incidentally, women’s lib also changed the caliber of teacher we see in today’s classroom.  In a pre-liberated era, one of the only jobs for bright, college-educated women, was teaching.  Classrooms therefore got a lot of teachers who would, by today’s standards, be considered over-educated.

I don’t say this to denigrate today’s teachers.  I know that most of them (and most are still female, although there are a fair number of men), are qualified for their jobs.  But the fact is that many of them don’t come from the top third of their own graduating classes.  When it comes to women, many in the top third now go to the cachet jobs:  doctors, lawyers, architects, investment bankers, etc.  This means that the current crop of teachers, with obvious and many exceptions, lacks the breadth of knowledge and education that characterized pre-women’s lib teachers.  What all this means is that we pay more now for teachers than we did a generation ago, but we get less educational bang for the buck.

The kind of starvation wages my father was paid were offensive.  Also, people realized that their children are in the teacher’s hands.  If they don’t get decent teachers, they don’t end up with decently educated children.  Ironically, it was the Leftists who argued most stridently what is an obvious free market principle:  if you don’t pay good salaries, you don’t get good workers.  Salaries for teachers had to go up.  It’s just that, as the unions gained more and more power, salaries went up disproportionately to the service being offered.  This fact wasn’t obvious during the flush times, but it sure is obvious now.

Worse, no matter how good the teachers, at precisely the same time that the unions were getting more demanding, people were noticing that their children were getting less educated.  Some of it, as I pointed out, was due to the change in educational level of those teaching.  Some, however, was due to the increased politicization of the classroom.  Educational colleges because less concerned with the Three Rs and infinitely more concerned with indoctrinating students.  Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic got swept away in ebonics, climate change, multiculturalism, identity politics, self-actualization and self-realization.  A six hour day just didn’t give enough time for everything, and academics suffered.

But no matter what, teachers’ unions clung to that moral high gr0und:  “It’s for the children!  Give us more money and, even though we won’t change the way in which we operate, we promise that we’ll produce a better product.”  After twenty plus years of being fooled, the taxpayers are finally wising up.

It’s this moral high ground, though, that sees the teachers in the forefront of the battle against Governor Walker.  No one is going to be sympathetic if the tax collections or auditors or motor vehicle employees rise up to fight the cuts.  It’s the teachers who have put themselves on the high moral pedestal, and it’s they who are falling furthest and fastest, although I don’t think they’ve quite realized either their speed or trajectory just yet.

The last thing I’ll say here, speaking directly to Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin Democrats, is a Margaret Thatcher quotation:  “This [is] no time to go wobbly.”  This is one of those turning points in a war.  It’s the public sector’s Gettysburg or Midway or Battle of the Bulge:  whoever wins this battle, wins the war.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

[Updated to add video with $100,000 compensation info.]

UPDATE:  Larry Kudlow gives some useful information that helps put all the numbers in context:

Wisconsin parents should go on strike against the teachers’ union. A friend e-mailed me to say that the graduation rate in Milwaukee public schools is 46 percent. The graduation rate for African-Americans in Milwaukee public schools is 34 percent. Shouldn’t somebody be protesting that?

Governor Walker is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and he wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance. That’s an outrage.

Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America — which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Ace nails the bottom line on allowing public sector unions

The point of a union is that it has political heft.  One of the ways in which we demonstrate political heft in this country is money.  Unions (just like corporations) can donate money directly to candidates and parties.  The result, as Ace pithily says, is “nothing but legal corruption: they are currently permitted to bribe the government officials signing their contracts.”

As you watch the anarchy in Wisconsin, which sees infuriated teachers, ignorant students in tow, storming the capitol, while Democrats hide in order to prevent a fair vote, keep Ace’s point in mind.  (By “fair vote,” I mean of course that, in a representative democracy, on some issues, the party that won the majority wins the legislative votes too — unless the sore losers cheat.)

A smogasbord of interesting stuff

Apropos my apparent fascism, one neocon, an former Communist, and also an Italian Jew, suggests that supporting Israel may be enough to earn that appellation from the Left.  (H/t Soccer Dad)

Speaking of Soccer Dad, at his blog we have another reminder that Ataturk‘s western nation is vanishing, to be replaced by a hardline Islamic nation.

As a companion piece to three depressing posts about Islam’s ascendancy vis a vis Christianity, Bruce Kesler introduces us to an organization that’s trying to challenge discrimination against Christians.

I’ve mentioned that I use my “real” Facebook as a means, very politely and disingenuously, to challenge my liberal friend’s strident, usually unthinking, worldviews.  (All some of them, I admit, are a lost cause, whom I keep as friends only for the amusement value.)  Turns out I’m not the only one.  Here are some techniques if you’d like to use facebook as a gentle means to return some of your lost liberal friends to the real world.

The Anchoress has a great memory.  Back in 2004, when liberals lost, they went out of their way to make loud apologies to other Americans for failing to win the good fight to save the political world from Bush.  This time around, they’re remarkably silent.

It’s not just that Obama is again loudly criticizing Israel (all the while managing to keep his mouth shut about Palestinian behavior).  It’s that he uses a Muslim nation as the forum for his criticism.  I can’t quite articulate it, but there’s something even lower than the usual low about doing that.

Union bosses are content to kill the goose that lays the golden egg (that would be the American economy, by the way).  Union rank and file is, apparently, less thrilled about that short-sighted approach to their lives and livelihoods.

I’m worried that we’re showing hubris by getting all excited about Pelosi’s decision to retain her leadership status.  (Here’s an example from Roger Simon, whose writing is always so delicious.)  Nancy is vile.  Nancy is dishonest.  Nancy is intellectually stupid.  Nancy is all that.  But she’s also got a feral knack for manipulating people (aided, no doubt, by her dishonesty), and I have no doubt that the core players (Soros, the Chicago people) are behind her move because they think it will benefit them.  I don’t know how it will benefit them, but I’m neither manipulative nor dishonest.  We should certainly feel free to laugh, but I’d still keep my hand on my weapons around that woman.

I’ve been trying to explain to my kids all the reasons I despite the UN.  (This is a subject that comes up annually, because I refuse to give “coins to UNICEF.”)  Here’s a good, albeit merely symbolic reason, for loathing that antisemitic tyranny that elevates every tin-pot dictator to meaningful power, all of it aimed against Israel.

Oh, and here’s a good article about what constitutes real “progress.”  (By the way, how many old school Democrats do you think appreciate the way they’re now classified as “Progressives,” which is an entirely different political animal.  For all its whining about its inability to communicate over right wing noise, the Left is miraculously adept at manipulating language.)  (H/t New Editor)