Union members apparently don’t want to kill the American goose that is laying their golden eggs

A deeply disappointed New York Times reports that the Democrats are not able to rely upon the union stalwarts in the upcoming election:

Labor leaders, alarmed at a possible Republican takeover of one or both Houses of Congress, promise to devote a record amount of money and manpower to helping Democrats stave off disaster. But political analysts, and union leaders themselves, say that their efforts may not be enough because union members, like other important parts of the Democratic base, are not feeling particularly enthusiastic about the party — a reality that, in turn, further dampens the Democrats’ chances of holding onto their Congressional majorities.

I wonder if the problem doesn’t lie only with failed Democratic promises, something that would definitely agitate the union leaders.  Perhaps the real problem amongst the rank and file is that a lot of ordinary Americans who pay union dues, either from a weak commitment to the unions or because their job forces them to do so, are finally figuring out that unions can bring benefits to their members only if there is a fat and happy U.S. to generate those benefits — and that if you become a super parasite, your host will die, denying you the nutrition on which you feed.

SEIU under fire at Northern California Kaisers

I’m generally not a union fan, because I believe that unions have become inherently corrupt organizations that stifle business growth in America, something that harms the very people they’re supposed to represent.  At the government level, government unions have completely gained the upper hand, so much so that the government merely signs the checks, without considering that gold-plated pension plans are economically unsustainable.  In other words, with too much power vested in them, unions, rather than being helpful, and balancing power between labor and management, have become a parasite that will eventually kill the host.

Which is why I found very interesting a flyer that was lying around Kaiser when I went today for help with a vexing, albeit ultimately benign, problem.  (Kaiser, incidentally, gave me wonderful treatment — swift, attentive and courteous).  Anyway, for your consideration, I present a volley in one union’s war against SEIU hegemony:

kaiser0001_33pct

San Francisco protests on a silver platter

I’m all for reducing pollution, but we don’t need a trumped-up excuse like “climate change” in order to achieve a cleaner environment. Minimizing pollution is a legitimate goal which stands on its own merits; concocting hysterical disaster scenarios (such as those shown in An Inconvenient Truth) only serves to undermine any credibility the environmental and conservation movements once had.

That’s Zombie speaking, in the first of a four chapter journey through a day of protests in San Francisco.  Zombie covers environmentalists protesting environmentalists, madcaps trying to crash a Tea Party, the Tea Party itself and an SEIU Immigration Amnesty protest.  One can say many things about the City (and I often do), but it’s certainly never boring.  Find out for yourself.  Pull up a comfortable chair in front of your computer, and let Zombie do the walking.

P.S.  If you’d like more visuals and some audio of the SF Tea Party, check out Fund 47.

Two unions spend $319.2 million over 10 years to affect California political process

Here’s a list of the biggest spenders in California politics for the past decade:

These 15 groups spent more than a combined $1 billion over the past 10 years to influence public policy:

– California Teachers Association: $211.8 million

– California State Council of Service Employees: $107.4 million

– Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $104.9 million

– Morongo Band of Mission Indians: $83.6 million

– Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians: $69.2 million

– Pacific Gas & Electric Co.: $69.2 million

– Chevron Corp.: $66.2 million

– AT&T Inc.: $59.6 million

– Philip Morris USA Inc.: $50.7 million

– Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians: $49 million

– Southern California Edison: $43.4 million

– California Hospital Association: $43 million

– California Chamber of Commerce: $39 million

– Western States Petroleum Association: $35.2 million

– Aera Energy LLC: $34.6 million

Source: California Fair Political Practices Commission

What’s striking is that the Teachers’ Union outspent the next biggest spender by almost two to one — and the next biggest spender is also a union.  The Chron, incidentally, tried to make it sound as if the union spending, while at the top, was indistinguishable from the trailing corporate spending:

While the powerful teachers union topped the spending list and the California State Council of Service Employees – which lobbies on behalf of public employees represented by SEIU labor chapters – came in second, at $107 million, business wasn’t far behind. Six corporations funneled nearly $324 million into the political process, including $69.2 million spent by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., $66.2 million by Chevron Corp. and $59.6 million by AT&T Inc.

In fact, on a per corporation basis, corporations were far behind unions, and, collectively, they lagged behind casinos too.  Here are the numbers:  Two unions spent $319.2 million to affect the political process.  Three Indian gambling groups spent $201.8 million to affect the political process.  Three government regulated utilities spent $172.2 million to affect the political process.  And where do the remaining corporate entities come in?  At $373.6 million, which sounds like a lot until you realize its divided between seven corporations, for an average of $53 million per entity over ten years — versus the unions’ average of $159 million per entity over ten years.  So just who is really affecting the political process?

By the way, do you want to know one of the ways in which the Teachers’ Union spent that money?

For example, the California Teachers Association, which represents 330,000 public school teachers in the state, spent $26 million to defeat a school voucher system in 2000 and another $50 million to kill three other ballot measures.

It makes more laughable than ever the Democrats’ hysterical attack on the Supreme Court for making the way clearer for corporate voices to speak.  The fact is, corporations are infinitely more representative of America’s varied voices than are the huge blocks of unions, all of which are aimed at consolidating vast amounts of political power under “progressive” control.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for the SEIU and other unions? *UPDATED*

There are some things that seem immutable, right until a collapse that, in 20/20 hindsight, seemed inevitable.  Just think of the Iranian Revolution, the Fall of the Berlin wall and . . . the SEIU?

For some time, the Service Employees International Union has appeared to be a permanent fixture on the political and economic scene.  With a friend in the White House, friends in Congress, and aggressive purple-shirted adherents fanned out all over the nation, how could one believe that it was anything but a locust plague lasting in perpetuity.  It had POWER.

But a funny thing is happening.  While the SEIU may have POWER, it isn’t doing it’s actual job, which is to represent workers.  Otherwise, how to explain the fact that government workers in Marin County, one of the bluest of blue spots in America, are dumping the SEIU (emphasis mine):

County of Marin public employees dissatisfied with representation by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have petitioned to replace it with their own locally controlled union, the Marin Association of Public Employees.SEIU represents more than 1,500 of the county of Marin’s total 2,100 employees. The Marin Association of Public Employees represented county workers and the employees of a number of other local municipalities and public agencies for years before joining SEIU, which has 2.2 million members, in 1983.

In January, a petition requesting the decertification of SEIU was submitted to the county. Maya Gladstern, a systems support analyst with the county who is helping to coordinate the campaign for the association, said at least 30 percent of county workers have signed the petition, the minimum required for decertification.

“It’s a way of giving the employees of Marin more and better representation,” Gladstern said.

[snip]

Gladstern said most of the complaints about SEIU stem from the union’s decision, three years ago, to merge many of its smaller local unions in California into four large locals.

“So we lost our small local,” Gladstern said. She said the union lost its permanent office, its executive director, three union representatives and an administrative aide.

“We went from having a local office where we could meet in private to meeting in the county cafeteria,” Gladstern said.

Gladstern said the union’s strike fund, which amounted to about $80,000 to $100,000, has been absorbed by SEIU, and the Marin employees are likely to see an increase in their union dues from 1.2 percent of their salary to 1.75 percent.

(Read more about the SEIU in Marin here.)

Of this last, emphasized, paragraph, my friend Steve Schippert has this to say:

Where I come from, that’s called stolen. Small union shop decides to roll on with the big boys, who can surely twist more arms and harder to get the workers more. When the Big Dogs end up taking from the workers (their offices, their local leadership and staff in order to do what all statist union leaders seek – central control), said workers decide that the Big Dogs were predators. And realize that they took their strike funds “for the better service to the whole” of course, and won’t be giving the money back.

Because, you see, it’s not about the workers. It’s about the Union and the top of its food chain. If it were about the workers, the strike funds garnered from those who paid into it would stay with those from whom it was extracted.

But it ain’t about them. Is it?

Any questions?

In many ways, you can change the names and nouns and this describes quite presciently what the beloved Health Care process will be like. There just won’t be any “petitioning” to replace the new Big Dog bosses.

When asked why I don’t teach in a public school and take summers off, my answer is a principled and monetarily costly, “I do not do unions.” I will die broke, in debt and hungry first. All on my own.

Marin’s county workers aren’t alone when it comes to feeling disaffected by the union’s loyalty to them.  With the recession, one of the things that is becoming patently clear to American workers is that unions really only have one constituency:  union management.  For both workers and employers, unions are simply an economic drain.  Certainly the numbers point to growing disgust with the whole institution:

Unions are losing the public-relations battle. A survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that public approval of labor unions has declined significantly during the last three years.

Positive attitudes toward unions have fallen in most demographic groups. Forty-one percent of those surveyed say they have a favorable view of labor unions, while nearly the same amount has an unfavorable view at 42 percent. The results are a 17-percent decline from the last poll taken in January 2007, when a majority of people (58 percent) had a good view of unions while 31 percent thought otherwise. (The findings reinforce a 2009 Gallup poll that said only 48 percent of Americans approve of labor unions—an all-time low since 1936.)

I certainly see that disaffection in my community and, for most people, it revolves around a single source:  schools.  All the lovely, liberal people where I live are discovering that the teacher’s union has a profound effect on their children’s education.  And somehow, liberalism flies out the door when one’s own children are the sacrificial lambs at the altar of liberal ideology.

I’m seeing that play out very clearly with one of the teachers at my son’s school.  This person is a cancer, loathed equally by parents and students.  The teacher is lazy, inept, vicious, erratic, and just about everything else you can think of that makes a teacher hateful and ineffective.  I’ve complained repeatedly to the administration and been told in carefully coded language that there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this teacher.  Thanks to union contracts, unless this teacher murders a student or praises Republicans, it’s a lifetime sinecure.  (And of course, one of the teacher’s sins is to advocate illegal immigration, but that’s okay….)

What’s fascinating is that, when I “innocently” ask those parents who rail about the teacher why the teacher is still there, I get a two word answer:  “The union.”  They understand that there is an institution standing there between their child and a quality education and, damn, if they don’t resent it.  They’ll still speak lovingly of unions in meat-packing plants in Arkansas, but they’re getting pretty sick of what’s going on in the school district in their own back yard.

I’m not unaware of the fact that unions have their place — perhaps only in history, but it’s still a place.  At the turn of the last century, the employers’ ability to exploit their workers was an overwhelmingly negative force, and one that needed to be countered.  But we’re not living in 1890 or 1910.  Instead we’re living in 2010 and unions, rather than defending illiterate, helpless employees against grasping employers, are themselves a corrupt and grasping group, destroying industries, rendering government bloated and ineffective (except where it’s dangerously intrusive and overwhelming), and generally acting as a significant drag on a moribund economy.

UPDATE:  Shortly after I wrote the above, I learned that Obama has appointed SEIU head Andy Stern to his debt panel.  While it is a reminder of how closely tied our president is to a corrupt organization, it doesn’t change my point.  Even if the head has a crown, can the entity survive if the body is dying off?  My post describes a dying body.  Yes, SEIU can damage America for some time to come, but I think its heyday is over.

The Kennedy Democrats and the rise of the public unions

Here’s a beautiful matched set:

The first part of the set is Daniel Henninger’s truly brilliant article about the way in which President Kennedy’s 1962 executive order allowing federal workers to unionize “transformed the Democratic Party into a public-sector dependency.”  Henninger thinks this dependency broke down yesterday in Massachusetts.

The second part of the set is the Supreme Court’s decision to break the back of McCain-Feingold, prompting this petulant outburst from President Obama:

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” Obama said.

“This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington — while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.”

Illegal immigrants, gay rights, gun safety, and other stuff *UPDATED*

This is a portmanteau post, filled with interesting things I read today, some of which come in neatly matched sets.

Opening today’s San Francisco Moronicle, the first thing I saw was that an illegal teen’s arrest is causing a stir in San Francisco’s halls of power.  You see, San Francisco is a sanctuary city, and its official policy is to refuse to allow police to notify the federal government when arrestees prove to be illegal immigrants.  As has happened before, one of those nice legal illegal immigrants is, in fact, a cold-blooded murderer.  This particular 15 year old is accused of having held the two victims in place so that his compadres c0uld execute them.  The hoo-ha is happening because someone in City government, disgusted by the legal travesty that encourages people like this to make themselves free of our cities and our country, reported the kid to the INS, which is now on the case.  The liberals in the City ask “How dare a San Francisco employee help enforce federal immigration law?” My question, of course, is a little different:  “Why doesn’t the fed withdraw every single penny of funding from sanctuary cities?”  After all, I was raised to believe that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

As you’re thinking about the above travesty of law and justice (and the two dead kids executed in San Francisco), take a few minutes to read this American Thinker article about California’s self-immolation, a Democratic autodestruct sequence driven, in part, by the state’s embrace of illegal immigrants.  Illegal immigrants place a huge economic burden on California’s already over-taxed individuals and businesses.

The next Moronicle article that drew my eye was about the ongoing Prop. 8 trial taking place in San Francisco.  As you recall, Prop. 8 reflected the will of California voters, who wanted to affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Prop. 8′s opponents are trying to prove that voters had impure thoughts when they cast their ballots, making the entire proposition an illegal exercise of unconstitutional prejudice.  Prop. 8 backers are arguing that you can support traditional marriage (as President Obama has claimed to do), without harboring bad thoughts about the GLBT community.

As you think about the ramifications of that lawsuit, I’d like to introduce you to Chai R. Feldblum, who is President Obama’s nominee to the EEOC.  She has a law professor at Georgetown, who really thinks that people’s brains should be purged of evil thoughts, especially evil religious thoughts:

Chai Feldblum, the Georgetown University law professor nominated by President Obama to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has written that society should “not tolerate” any “private beliefs,” including religious beliefs, that may negatively affect homosexual “equality.”

[snip]

“Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people,” the Georgetown law professor argued.

Feldblum’s admittedly “radical” view is based on what she sees as a “zero-sum game” between religious freedom and the homosexual agenda, where “a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side.”

“For those who believe that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is not morally neutral, and that an individual who acts on his or her homosexual orientation is acting in a sinful or harmful manner (to himself or herself and to others), it is problematic when the government passes a law that gives such individuals equal access to all societal institutions,” Feldblum wrote.

“Conversely, for those who believe that any sexual orientation, including a homosexual or bisexual orientation, is morally neutral, and that an individual who acts on his or her homosexual or bisexual orientation acts in an honest and good manner, it is problematic when the government fails to pass laws providing equality to such individuals.”

Feldblum argues that in order for “gay rights” to triumph in this “zero-sum game,” the constitutional rights of all Americans should be placed on a “spectrum” so they can be balanced against legitimate government duties.

All beliefs should be equal, regardless of their source, Feldblum says. “A belief derived from a religious faith should be accorded no more weight—and no less weight—than a belief derived from a non-religious source.” According to Feldman, the source of a person’s belief – be it God, spiritual energy, or the five senses – “has no relevance.”

[snip]

Feldblum does recognize that elements of the homosexual agenda may infringe on Americans’ religious liberties. However, Feldblum argues that society should “come down on the side” of homosexual equality at the expense of religious liberty. Because the conflict between the two is “irreconcilable,” religious liberty — which she also calls “belief liberty” — must be placed second to the “identity liberty” of homosexuals.

“And, in making the decision in this zero sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people,” she wrote.

I don’t think Harry Truman would have understood or appreciated Feldblum’s effort to quash religious freedom in the U.S.  He was someone who was able to separate his acts from his prejudices in all the right ways.  As I like to tell my children, he was a racist who integrated the American military; and an anti-Semite who helped create the State of Israel.

I believe all people should be treated equally under the law.  I do not believe, though, that this means that religions should be wiped out, or that Americans should be subject to the thought-police so that their impure ideology is brought in line with the identity politics of the left.  I believe most Americans are capable of being Harry Truman:  that is, they can recognize that their own personal prejudices against a lifestyle, a skin color or a religion, cannot be elevated to legal doctrine.  One of my problems with Islamists is that they’re no Harry Trumans.  They want to do away with the rule of law and, instead, substitute their 6th Century desert theocratic code.

Moving on, at this weekend’s soccer games, the other moms and I were speaking about a gal who is quite possibly the worst teacher in middle school.  She’s a lousy teacher, which is bad enough, but one can layer over that the fact that she is vindictive, mean-spirited and lazy.  Everyone I know has vociferously complained about her to the school administration.  And yet there is is.  She’s too young to have tenure, so I asked, rhetorically, why don’t they just fire her?  One mom’s answer told everything we need to know:  “The union makes it impossible to fire people.”

At least one union leader, at least, is trying to make it so that the American Federation of Teachers is less of a tyrannical dictatorship holding children as hostage, and more of an institution aimed at helping to educate children.  I don’t think Randi Weingarten is going to turn unions around, nor will she much change my opinion of unions.  Historically, I think unions were necessary and important.  In certain low-wage, low-skill, low-education fields (meat packing springs to mind), I still think they’re potentially useful.  Overall, though, I have a deep dislike for unions that goes back to my dad’s years as a member of the various teachers’ unions controlling California public schools.  The unions did minimal work helping to raise my Dad’s wage (he earned $21,000 annually in 1987, the year he retired), but were excellent at (1) kick-backs to administrators, who got great wages; (2) beginning what became the profound devaluation in the quality of California’s education; and (3) making sure that bad, insane and malevolent teachers were impossible fire.

Other unionized businesses are just as bad.  Hospital worker unions make a certain amount of sense.  The 24 hour a day nature of a hospital makes it easy to abuse nurses and other care givers.  However, when I was a young college student who got a summer job in the virology lab (an interesting time, since AIDS was first appearing on the radar as a series of bizarre diseases in gay men), I took over for a secretary who was leaving on maternity leave.  Although a secretary, she was unionized too, which explained why, despite disposing of old sandwiches in her file cabinet, and being incapable of getting her researcher bosses to the medical publishers (a primary part of her job description), she could not be fired.  This was not for want of trying.  It was simply that the unions had made it impossible to fire people like her.  They’d also made it impossible to fire people like the nurse I had many years later who, the first night after I’d had major abdominal surgery, refused to give me any painkillers and isolated me from any other caregivers.  Apparently I had said something that offended her.  Sadly, this was not her first time playing this kind of sadistic game.  But there she was, thanks to the unions.

On a more cheerful note, guns don’t kill people, guns rescue people from sinking cars.

And lastly, Steve Schippert highly recommends today’s Daily Briefing at Threats Watch, so I do too.

UPDATE:  Please visit A Conservative Lesbian for a thoughtful take on the nexus between religious belief and gay rights.  No knee jerk liberalism here; instead, a good analysis about religious freedom and minority rights.

What in the world does this have to do with teachers?

One of my main bases for hostility to teacher’s unions is that increasingly have nothing to do with their original goal, which was ensuring a living wage and decent working conditions for teachers.  (Not that they were always that effective at serving their original union mandate.  My father was a teacher and he did belong to a union.  In terms of his needs, what it should have done was given him a living wage, which it did not.  For most of my childhood, we were just above the poverty line on his salary.)  In the old days, they mostly focused on wage and workplace issues, although they periodically slid into policy issues such as ebonics (which, unsurprisingly the unions supported despite, or maybe because of, the fact that ebonics education ensures   that blacks never leave the ghetto).

These small forays in policy, which used to be a subset of the teachers unions’ function, have now become overriding goals. The perfect example of this is the NEA’s wholehearted, almost obsesssive commitment to same-sex marriage.  Whether you support same-sex marriage or not, you have to task yourself — what in the world does this have to do with teachers’ salaries and workplace conditions?

I dislike strongly that my classroom teachers are being indoctrinated by an organization the purports to serve them in maintaining livable working conditions.  I’d have exactly the same response if the NEA obsessively opposed same-sex marriage.  This is not an issue that should be on the table for the teachers unions and, to the extent it is and to the extent it guides what goes on in classrooms, I bitterly resent it.

A good deal all around

I frequently read that the White House is dancing the to the various unions’ tunes because, as the saying goes, you “dance with them what brung you.”  In other words, it was union money that helped (in a large way) to pay for Obama’s victory, and now the White House is returning the favor.  The unions, having paid for his election, are dictating the agenda.

I don’t actually think that’s true.  I think the unions subsized the Obama bid for the White House, not because it expected a quid pro quo, but because it knew that, as inevitably as salmon swim upstream to spam, so too would Obama follow the union agenda.  That is, Obama wasn’t bought, despite being paid for.

Why do I say this?  Because Obama knows that even if he alienates the unions, he doesn’t have to worry about their money going elsewhere.  If Obama decided that his popularity amongst the American masses required him to give the unions a completely cold shoulder, the Democrats and Obama would still be the only game in town for the unions.  I mean, honestly, do you think that the unions are going to start funding the Republicans?

In other words, for Obama, it’s a wonderful one way street.  He can get money from the unions, but do whatever the hell he wants, because the unions have no one else to turn to.  As I said, though, it’s not all bad for the unions, either, because Obama’s core agenda is the same as theirs.  Even if they take a few hits from him, they’ll continue to be friends bearing financial gifts.

A teeny crack in the wall

This morning Mr. Bookworm offered me something:  “Hey!  You want to blog about something Obama’s doing that I don’t like?”

I was curious.  “What?”

“This Employee Free Choice Act.  What’s up with that?”

“That’s been around for a while,” I said.  “It’s one of the platforms on which Obama ran.”

He asked, “What do you mean?  I’ve never heard of it.”  I forebore to point out that this might be an indictment about the NY Times, NPR and The New Yorker, which are Mr. Bookworm’s only news sources.

“Anyway,” I said, “it’s kind of old news.  Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Obama promised to enact it as one of their first pieces of legislation.”

Another why question:  “Why would they do that?  This is a piece of crap?”

“They’re doing it because it’s payback time to the union bosses.”

A blank look:  “What do you mean?  This is a piece of crap legislation.”

I explain:  “This isn’t about the legislation’s merits.  This is payback.  The union bosses deliver the vote; the politicians deliver an Orwellian act that’s aimed at turning every workplace into a union shop.”

The last plaintive words I heard drifting down the hall as I headed off to work were, “But I don’t understand….”

It saddens me a great deal that a bright person caught in the NY Times web managed to vote for someone when he had no idea what that someone was promising to do.  It also saddens me a great deal that a bright person is so naive that he can’t understand that a dangerous and crappy piece of legislation is on the table as part of political dirty dealing.  On the other hand, I’m pleased to see a little crack in the wall.  That, at least, might lead to bigger and better things.

The Unions and GM

I’m ambivalent about unions.  When they first arose as a real market force at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, I believe they were a necessary counterbalance to industries that (a) had unlimited power in the employment market place and (b) that abused that power something awful.

I started turning against unions in the 1970s, when I witnessed the unutterable garbage pouring out of the California’s teachers union (of which my dad was a member).  The union did little to improve teacher’s wages (believe me, very little), but got it’s sticky, uninformed, politicized fingers in every aspect of public education, to education’s great detriment.

Nowadays, we still have unions, but we don’t have the situation that prevailed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  We have a fairly educated American workforce, we have vast bodies of legislation protecting the worker, we have the free flow of information, we have a mobility unimaginable a century ago (meaning workers have an easier time following jobs), and we’re struggling to compete in something equally unimaginable a century ago:  a world economy.

Also, unions, which used to protect blue collar workers from true abuse (dangerous working conditions, unsustainable wages, the abuses of factory towns, etc.), now exist at greatest strength in the government sector, a thought I find discomfiting, since both feed at the public trough, free of market forces.

With those thoughts in mind, I offer you an interesting press release that came in today’s email:

Center for Union Facts
For Immediate Release
November 11, 2008

Union Job Rules, Unreasonable Demands Big Factor in GM Downfall
GM’s Concessions to Unions Have Put the Company’s Long-Term Viability in Question

Washington D.C.- General Motors Corporation (GM) is driving its way toward bankruptcy or a government funded bailout, thanks in large part to restrictive work rules placed on the organization by the United Auto Workers (UAW). Last night, General Motors chief executive, Rick Wagoner said the company would need a federal aid package before Barack Obama takes office in mid-January.

GM has said that they will need an $11-14 billion cash injection in order to continue conducting business. Without that bailout, GM said Friday that it might halt production as soon as the middle of next year. Deutsche Bank Group, one of the world’s leading financial service providers, downgraded General Motors yesterday morning, targeting their stock value for $0.

Much of this turmoil stems from restrictive UAW job rules that prevent GM from having the flexibility to be competitive in the global marketplace, particularly during an economic downturn. One of the most egregious examples is the union job bank, which continues to pay workers whose jobs fell victim to technological progress or plant restructurings even though they aren’t actually working. The job bank, established in the mid-1980s, requires GM to pay displaced workers nearly their entire salary plus benefits and pension.

UAW also bullied GM into gold-plated health care benefits that are unsustainable. For each car GM makes, more money is spent for health insurance than on steel for its construction. Workers gained the right to smoke while on the assembly line, and some pay $0 deductable on doctor’s visits.

“The United Auto Workers have bled General Motors dry, leaving the company in a tattered state, and the union members extremely vulnerable,” said Richard Berman, Executive Director for the Center for Union Facts. “Job banks that pay workers to do nothing and other harmful union rules are at the heart of GM’s imminent bankruptcy. It will be truly unfortunate if union demands over many years result in another bankruptcy or bailout.”

“This should come as a lesson to government officials considering passing the Employee Free Choice Act, which would put more power and control into the hands of union chiefs who bankrupted one of America’s signature corporations.”

News you can use about unions

I think unions were an absolute 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 change the employer/employee dynamic away from mind-bogglingly brutalizing practices.  (See, for example, the horror of phossy jaw, which afflicted 19th and 20th century workers in match factories.)  I still think unionization is useful in certain unusually 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, when the employer has information the employee lacks and has the ability to control environmental safety which, again, is something the individual employee cannot do.

BUT, as long-time readers know, there are a lot of unions that have become bloated entities that no longer ensure that the employees have a living wage and safe work conditions, but instead have become bullies (1) that drag down the economy, (2) that affect delivery of the product or (3) especially when it comes to teachers, that get involved in matters that have nothing to do with the terms of their employment.  Indeed, it is this last that long ago turned me against the unions.  My Dad was a teacher and a union member, and brought home unending stories of the union’s failure to affect his barely-there wages (we were often at poverty level, despite his working a second job all year long).  At the same time, the union aggressively advance all the brilliant “educational” ideas that brought California diving down from its ranking in the top ten States for education to a position somewhere near the bottom.  So I really dislike unions that abandon their mandate, which is to negotiate wages and benefits, and instead start trying to run their employer’s businesses.

As it is, unions nowadays aren’t doing very well, with membership falling everywhere (or maybe everywhere but in the government sector).  In a way, they are a victim of their own early successes.  Because of their early agitations, we have federal and state wage and hour laws, we have huge statutory systems and federal and state run commissions in place to protect worker’s rights, we have OSHA, we have retirement plans, etc.  Thanks to the unions, the systems are in place, essentially making the unions redundant.  Also, as a Weekly Standard article pointed out a few weeks ago, union management no longer shares the values of many union workers.  Workers apparently are tired of seeing their dues fund candidates who hold political views directly antithetical to their belief systems.

The fact that employees don’t need unions very much anymore, and that they may not like the unions very much any more, has led to an interesting phenomenon:  outsourcing picket lines to non-union labor.  You heard me correctly.  I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t read it at Labor Pains, a blog devoted to news about unions.  Thus, Labor Pains reports that a seven month long strike has been going on against a store called Farmer Joes (which boasts two locations).  Aside from the fact that the strike is irritating customers and shoppers at neighboring stores, the union members themselves seem to be calling in the strike, which really can’t benefit their position.

Indeed, the fact that union members call in their work seems to be a problem that goes beyond the picket line.  Here’s some anecdotal evidence:  Periodically, the big San Francisco hotels are shaken by employee strikes, with tourists weaving their way through picket lines made up of strikers who accuse the hotel management of all sorts of heinous practices.  But the heinous practices aren’t all on one side, and I’m not talking here about dirty strike tactics.  I’m talking about the fact that a kitchen manager at one of the big hotels confided to one of my friends that he loves the strikes, because he finally gets decent labor.  The scabs who are willing to work during the strikes work hard and do a good job.  The union members who come rolling back into the kitchen every time one of these strikes has run its course are dead weight.  This guy is in the uncomfortable position of being a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat (this is San Francisco after all) who can’t stand the unions.

The problem, of course, is that once an entity exists, it’s hard to get rid of it.  Even though the union may have outlived its usefulness in most (not all, but most) industries, it’s just going to keep grinding away, sucking up worker’s dues, throwing its money at Democratic politics, and otherwise messing around with an economy that might benefit from a bit less union involvement.

Can we go viral over Pelosi’s hypocritical habits?

The internet is an amazing thing.  Within one day, that hilarious National Guard photo rebuking Kerry was everywhere.  It deservedly got all that attention, but how about a little attention for some other things too?  American Thinker points to a story from Investor’s Business Daily explaining that Nancy Pelosi, who may be the next Speaker, augments her vast fortune with non-union labor that may well include illegal aliens.  What’s even more shocking than the story — and it is shocking considering her political stands on unions and illegal immigration — is that the MSM (with the exception of Investor’s Business Daily) is assiduously ignoring the story.  It’s therefore up to the bloggers to get it circulating.

So, go, circulate!

How unions work, and how they don’t

VULGARITY ALERT. DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ SOMETHING SLIGHTLY VULGAR.

My sister sent me this joke in an email. As she said, “it pretty much says it all.”

A dedicated Teamsters’ union worker was attending a convention in Las Vegas and decided to check out the local brothels. When he got to the first one, he asked the Madam, “Is this a union house?”

“No,” she replied, “I’m sorry it isn’t.”

“Well, if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?”

“The house gets $80 and the girls get $20,” she answered

Offended at such unfair dealings, the union man stomped off down the street in search of a more equitable, hopefully unionized shop. His search continued until finally he reached a brothel where the Madam responded, “Why yes sir, this is a union house. We observe all union rules.”

The man asked, “And if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?” “The girls get $80 and the house gets $20.”

“That’s more like it!” the union man said.

He handed the Madam $100, looked around the room, and pointed to a stunningly attractive blonde.

“I’d like her,” he said.

“I’m sure you would, sir,” said the Madam. Then she gestured to a 92-year old woman in the corner, “but Ethel here has 67 years seniority and according to union rules, she’s next.”

Deconstructing a joke always kills the humor, but I think this joke, more than many, explains both how unions do benefit the worker and how they pervert the marketplace.