Newspaper Blogs

August 14, 2003

SNEAKY STRIKERS....Ha ha. Via Nathan Newman, I learn that Verizon got all geared up for a strike, spent millions to bring in strikebreakers, and then the union decided to keep on working. How dare they? Here's how the Village Voice put it:

Instead of walking out, the phone company unions went into a labor version of rope-a-dope, the brilliant Muhammad Ali boxing tactic of covering up and burrowing down while your opponent uselessly flails about, unable to land a solid blow. Replacement workers remained holed up in their hotels, representing a hefty added payroll as regular union workers went about their normal routines.

So instead of a frontal attack, the union is using guerrilla warfare instead. And of course when Verizon finally sends the strikebreakers home, the union still has the option to cause maximum havoc by calling a strike if negotiations are still going badly.

Clever of them, isn't it?

Posted by Kevin Drum at August 14, 2003 05:48 PM | TrackBack



I love it!!!

Posted by: Rick B at August 14, 2003 05:57 PM | PERMALINK

The Texas Dems, the Verizon workers.

What the other Rick said, "Beautiful!! I love it!!"

Posted by: Rick at August 14, 2003 06:04 PM | PERMALINK

Can you hear me now? Ha! I love it.

Posted by: catalexis at August 14, 2003 06:19 PM | PERMALINK

I even like that tactic, and I'm not generally pro-union.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 14, 2003 06:20 PM | PERMALINK

When will these oppressive middle class workers let up? These poor corporations can't take this continued abuse.

Another tax cut for them is in order, post-haste!

Posted by: kormal at August 14, 2003 06:23 PM | PERMALINK

Legislation introduced to prohibit this kind of tactic in 5... 4... 3... 2...

(Constitutional? Precedence? Bwahahaha!)

Posted by: squiddy at August 14, 2003 06:33 PM | PERMALINK

They must be in league with the terrorists.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds at August 14, 2003 06:41 PM | PERMALINK

Lies of the Bush-Haters
Back in June, we noted that Bush-haters and Saddam-defenders were seizing upon a vague comment by Wesley Clark, a retired general and prospective Democratic presidential candidate, to justify their contention that BUSH LIED!!!!!! and said Saddam Hussein was behind the Sept. 11 attacks. Clark told NBC's Tim Russert that he'd received a phone call on Sept. 11--he didn't say from whom--urging him to argue publicly for such a link.

Anti-Bush fantasists simply assumed that Bush was behind the phone call Clark described. Here's former Enron adviser Paul Krugman:

Gen. Wesley Clark says he received calls on Sept. 11 from "people around the White House" urging him to link the attack to Saddam Hussein.

That Krugman column ran July 15. Yesterday the Times published this letter from Clark:

I would like to correct any possible misunderstanding of my remarks on "Meet the Press," quoted in Paul Krugman's July 15 column, about "people around the White House" seeking to link Sept. 11 to Saddam Hussein.

I received a call from a Middle East think tank outside the country, asking me to link 9/11 to Saddam Hussein. No one from the White House asked me to link Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11. Subsequently, I learned that there was much discussion inside the administration in the days immediately after Sept. 11 trying to use 9/11 to go after Saddam Hussein.

In other words, there were many people, inside and outside the government, who tried to link Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11.

So Krugman turns out to have been engaging in a bit of dowdification. Also odd about this, as blogger Donald Luskin notes, is that the letter is dated July 18, but the Times didn't get around to publishing it until yesterday, 26 days later.

Posted by: smith at August 14, 2003 06:54 PM | PERMALINK


If you not usually pro-union, does it follow that you're not usually pro-corporation?

I'm not trying to troll here, I'm sincerely interested in this question as it seems to be that unions are very similar to corporations (essentially function as corporations whose product is the work of their members) and they are, given even bad unions, at least as "democratic" as corporations.

I know that corporations, many of them, would like the one contract they aren't allowed to sign be a union contract, but I'm not sure why anyone else would be generally not pro-union if they took a position at all.

Posted by: Rick at August 14, 2003 07:01 PM | PERMALINK

I should qualify. Big, long established unions are what I typically don't like. I especially don't like them in closed shop states where you aren't allowed to work without joining the union.

Unions work under much less stringent disclosure rules than corporations.

If you are a shareholder and you don't like what you corporation is doing you can sell your shares. In order to get a similar effect with a union you would have to quit your job, and possibly change careers (such as if you were a teacher and didn't like the teacher's unions.)

They often engage in massive institutional drift if they have been around a while. Why does the teacher's union have a stand on abortion, for instance?

Unions pretty much confirm every fear about the tyranny of the majority. If you are in a 49.99% minority in a union, don't expect to be heard. And if you want change you can leave your job.

Unions can do some good from time to time, but quite often they don't.

So given a random corporation vs. a random union I'm likely to prefer the corporation.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 14, 2003 09:13 PM | PERMALINK

You can work in a non-right to be fired at will state without joining a union.

You just can't work in a union shop without joining a union.

But I see the point, contract law should be amended to stop corporations from sigining union contracts.

And companies that use Manpower for temps should be required to use very temp service agancy and interview freelance temps before filling position as well.

Nobody should have the right to discriminate against any job seeker for any reason, everyone should get a chance. Always.

Posted by: Rick at August 14, 2003 09:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hello India, Can you hear me now?, this is Verizon - I have a few thousand positions open...

Posted by: Mark at August 14, 2003 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

Just to note that while rope-a-dope allowed Muhammad Ali to extend his career at the top by about five years and score some incredible victories, it's a bit costly in terms of the old brain cells and probably shouldn't be recommended to anyone thinking of starting a boxing career today.

Posted by: dsquared at August 15, 2003 04:56 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. That made this old wobbly's day. I'm not usually too admiring of AFL-CIO unions, but this was a stroke of genius. I sure hope somebody is flying the red and black where the scabs can see it.

Oh, Smith: does this depend on what the definition of "is" is?

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at August 15, 2003 06:24 AM | PERMALINK

Verizon tried to lure my father out of retirement to come to work in New Jersey. The pay they were offering was simply awful: $30/hr and a per diem of $75. For New Jersey. It was an insult and Dad told them no way. It's useless to tell the old man that he shouldn't cross picket lines, so I'm glad Verizon was trying to do this on the cheap.

Posted by: Mirele at August 15, 2003 06:39 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think it will work in the union's favor--in fact, it's rather stupid of them to bait the company as such. The impending strike isn't over wages, but something rather more esoteric--job security--and I think the tactic might inspire less future confidence in American unionized workers than more. A good tactic for the here and now, sure, but I'm guess that tomorrow's job postings will be in the New Delhi Post...

Posted by: Kriston at August 15, 2003 06:43 AM | PERMALINK

Couldn't this just be a case of the union:
* seeing how well-prepared Verizon was
* backing down from their planned strike
* coming up with a face-saving rationalization for being cowards

I guess we'll see, when the replacement workers go home. But I think the union is getting too much credit for, well, talking a lot and then not backing it up with any action.

Posted by: Joe Grossberg at August 15, 2003 07:43 AM | PERMALINK

"If you are in a 49.9% minority in a union, don't expect your voice to get heard" --Sebastian

And if you are a minority shareholder in a corporation that is voting on a take-over deal, your voice matters? Ha!

"Right-to-Work" legislation is a blatant violation of the principles of American contract law.

Posted by: kokblok at August 16, 2003 09:25 AM | PERMALINK

I see Sebastian already addressed shareholder democracy...
I should read more carefully, and stop picking on you, Sebastian, while I'm at it :)
But its clear that, whatever the shortcomings of democracy within the trade unions, workers have a hell of a lot more "voice" in unionized workplaces than in non-unionized ones. This is, of course, the more meaningful comparison.

If you are a 98.9% minority in a non-unionized workplace, don't expect your voice to get heard.

Posted by: kokblok at August 17, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

To make a comment not really addressing the impending strike but Verizon's classification under the law. I wholey believe that Verizon employees should be considered "essential services" as are those employed in the public sector. And with that title should be both the immediacy and urgency of offering a realistic contract rather than have both the employees and their customers (us) be in a state of limbo. Verizon workers are entitled to maintaining all the terms and conditions of their former contract and the proposal to "give back" that which have been their's should not even be a proposal. Employers and employees must work in a reciprocal environment. If both of the above have as their goal customer service than a real effort to amicably settle their labor disputes and achieve a successor agreement absent the concerted efforts of a strike then it should be done.

Posted by: Shelley at August 19, 2003 09:22 AM | PERMALINK

Just to clarify any misunderstanding created by Sebastian's comments-- the disclosure requirements for unions are MUCH greater than those for any other institution, in particular corporations. Unions must make all financial information readily available to their members, all contracts must be ratified by a majority of the members (including those requiring a union shop -- closed shops have been illegal since 1947), and members have the right to know exactly how their dues money is being spent. All of these requirement are aggressively enforced under the LMRDA. As we learned from Enron, the same can hardly be said about the SEC. Not only does the SEC do a very poor job of enforcing corporate reporting requirements, those disclosure requirements only apply to publicy held companies anyway. privately held companies have almost no disclosure requirements whatsoever.

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