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November 21, 2003

HELP OUT THE STRIKERS....If you'd like to help out the striking supermarket workers here in Southern California, go here and donate to their Thanksgiving turkey fund. They deserve your support.

And while we're on the subject, check out this story about the "mutual aid" agreement that the supermarket chains made before the strike:

The pact basically says that if one of the three chains reaps added business during the dispute, it will share some of that money, according to some Wall Street analysts who follow the companies closely.

...."I will acknowledge that there is an agreement, but we're not going to say anything about it," said Gary Rhodes, a spokesman for Cincinnati-based Kroger. "I'm not going to characterize it, nor provide any details about it."

Sounds like they're really proud of this little deal they cooked up, aren't they?

Bottom line: secondary strikes are illegal but collusion between employers isn't. It's yet another way in which current labor law favors management over workers.

Posted by Kevin Drum at November 21, 2003 02:35 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Isn't there some kind of antitrust violation there? Supposedly independent companies sharing revenues? And what do stockholders of one company but not another think of that?

Posted by: SP at November 21, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

Unions for are for corporations, not for workesers. Silly Calpundit.

Posted by: Boronx at November 21, 2003 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

Unions for are for corporations, not for workers. Silly Calpundit.

Posted by: Boronx at November 21, 2003 02:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "It's yet another way in which current labor law favors management over workers."

Not exactly. Employees can strike. That's a legal form of collusion. The employers' collusion you described is simply analogous.

Posted by: E. Rey at November 21, 2003 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, why doesn't this violate section 1 or section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act?

§ 1 Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1

Trusts, etc., in restraint of trade illegal; penalty

Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

§ 2 Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2

Monopolizing trade a felony; penalty

Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $350,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

Posted by: Diogenes at November 21, 2003 03:08 PM | PERMALINK

E. Rey-

strikes are more anagolus to coperation between stores within a corporation...as cal pundit points out the current behavior of the corporations involved is much more like a secondary strikes which he further notes are illegal

Posted by: slick willy at November 21, 2003 03:22 PM | PERMALINK

What trade or commerce is restrained?

Posted by: David Thompson at November 21, 2003 03:28 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for posting that donation link. I pass their picket lines twice a day and way looking for a way to help.....

I agree, this has to be some kind of anti-trust violation, let's see what the new guv is made of......

After the way that Steve Gourley was fired (LA Times, 11/21/03, p B1) I am not optimistic....

Posted by: cat at November 21, 2003 03:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Isn't there some kind of antitrust violation there?

And who would you expect to enforce anti-trust laws. The Justice Department that let Microsoft off the hook AFTER they had been convicted? The Republican Congress? The new Republican Governor?

There is no law anymore.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at November 21, 2003 03:36 PM | PERMALINK
And who would you expect to enforce anti-trust laws. The Justice Department that let Microsoft off the hook AFTER they had been convicted? The Republican Congress? The new Republican Governor?

The Democratic Attorney-General? The unions themselves? -- anyone harmed by a trust is has a civil cause of action under state law.

Posted by: cmdicely at November 21, 2003 03:37 PM | PERMALINK

Slick Willy,

I see your point, but since all three of the colluding supermarket chains are primary targets of the strike, then the analogy with colluding employees still holds --especially in light of the fact that workers from non-striking unions can lawfully refuse to cross picket lines.

Posted by: E. Rey at November 21, 2003 03:49 PM | PERMALINK

I've barely noticed a decrease in the level of service at my local Ralph's. I think the supermarkets should permanently replace the regular workers with the scabs if they want. After all, it's only been a month or so and the scabs are almost up to speed. This demonstrates the strikers are not as valuable as they think. Sure some of the jobs like baking, cutting meat, and selecting produce have a learning curve, but it's not rocket science -- although some of them are paid like rocket scientists. Almost every worker these days has to contribute a little to their healthcare -- even rocket scientists. BTW, I'm not a rocket scientist, but I design satelites which is pretty close.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 03:53 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, right, it's not about the chaotic leading edge of the shift of health care coverage costs onto individual employees... it's really just all about the level of service that Indie experiences while shopping. Silly me.

Posted by: melior at November 21, 2003 04:01 PM | PERMALINK

E. Rey-No, only Vons was the target of the strike. Ralphs and Albertsons locked their employees out in commiseration with their poor, belabored brother Von.

So the collusion falls back on the shoulders of ownership. And I too wonder, what do the shareholders think about sharing profits with the competition?

Posted by: Duckman GR at November 21, 2003 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

Indie, that has not been my experience. I went into Ralphs to buy a couple of essentials not redily available elsewhere. Checkers were slow slow slow, meat shelves were empty empty empty, produce looked like shit, bruised, and battered.

And they do not get paid like rocket scientists, unless it's a rocket scientist in Russia. $36,000 a year is not, especially in SoCal, living the high life!

Posted by: Duckman GR at November 21, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Oh, right, it's not about the chaotic leading edge of the shift of health care coverage costs onto individual employees... it's really just all about the level of service that Indie experiences while shopping. Silly me."

NO, OH SILLY ME. It's really about ME paying for the healthcare of people who can't get a better job so they bag groceries for 30 years and then bitch about it when they realize they don't deserve $20-$30 per hour because they don't have any special skills which justify such ridiculously high pay and benefits. You can crucify me for not having compassion, but the fact is I worked blue collar jobs during the summer as a brick labor and I got an education so I wouldn't have to do that the rest of my life. I should also mention that I got loans and worked part-time while I was in school to pay for so you don't whine and say my parents paid for my school.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 04:12 PM | PERMALINK

And $36,000/year is the very high end. Remember they earn "up to $18/hour". Most earn far less.

Indie is typical of a breed of California engineers, especially emigrees from South Asia. "We got ours, screw you." They imagine that they won't every be treated the same way because they are smart and hard working and have specialized knowledge and are superior to the serfs who work in retail.

Trust me. It'll happen to satellite designers too.

Posted by: Z at November 21, 2003 04:14 PM | PERMALINK

Duckman,

The lines are long and slow in Ralph's because that's the only supermarket they aren't striking.

Sure some items are understocked, but you've got a whole store of people starting from ground zero. If you gave these people a few more months it'd be running like a well oiled machine. I thought they were friendlier at least. Maybe they were thankful they've got a good paying job.

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 04:17 PM | PERMALINK

Indie is typical of a breed of California engineers, especially emigrees from South Asia.

In these extra-sensitive days, isn't that considered a racist comment?

Posted by: bob mong at November 21, 2003 04:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Indie is typical of a breed of California engineers, especially emigrees from South Asia.

In these extra-sensitive days, isn't that considered a racist comment?"

Yeah!. Just imagine if I said such a thing. You libs would go ape shit. Would anyone care to call out that little racist jerk.

That's BS about the supermarket workers earning "up to $18". I saw the scales and the meat cutters can make as much as $32 per hour. And does a cashier really need to make $18? A bricklayer with several years of training barely makes that much.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 04:28 PM | PERMALINK

Does an engineer really "need" to make whatever inflated, exaggerated, fat-ass salary you're making, Indie? Shouldn't the pure pleasure of having a brainpower job make up for mere money? What makes you so superior to a cashier? It obviously isn't your concern for anyone except yourself or anything except your own pocketbook.

Posted by: Temperance at November 21, 2003 04:34 PM | PERMALINK

An antitrust suit has been filed:

LA Times story here.

Posted by: cafl at November 21, 2003 04:36 PM | PERMALINK

No bob mong. The poster was a liberal, so he is exempt from any and all accusations of racism. If you perceive racism, then that's your fault.

I wonder how much the people who support the strikers think they should make, or how much benefits they should receive? Should they make 100 grand, just because that's more than 36 grand and it would be a more comfortable lifestyle? what about 50 grand? Should anyone just earn a comfortable middle class income no matter what the job? Silly liberals never realize that if it's expensive for the workers to live there, it's almost a given that it's expensive for the company to operate there too. Rent is higher, supplies are more expensive, and labor is definitely higher. I bet those stores run on less than 5% net. They don't have billions of dollars pouring out of every orifice to lavish generous gifts on their employees. I've never met a liberal that had any understanding whatsoever of what it takes to run a business.

Posted by: Homer the Troll at November 21, 2003 04:37 PM | PERMALINK

No Temperance, Indie doesn't NEED to make what he earns. He makes it because that's what the market is paying for his skills. Unions are just ways to get above market wages and benefits from employers. If corporations did the same thing to hold wages down... well.. we don't have to think to hard to know what the reaction would be.

Posted by: Homer the Troll at November 21, 2003 04:41 PM | PERMALINK

Duckman,

Again, non-striking employees are also allowed to "commiserate with their poor belabored brothers" by honoring picket lines at other facilities --and they generally can't be fired for doing so. My point is only that the employers' collusion cited by Kevin does not show that current labor law favors management over workers.

BTW, good point about the shareholders getting screwed.

Posted by: E. Rey at November 21, 2003 04:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Does an engineer really "need" to make whatever inflated, exaggerated, fat-ass salary you're making, Indie? Shouldn't the pure pleasure of having a brainpower job make up for mere money? What makes you so superior to a cashier?"

Wow, this is about the most un-intelligent post I've seen on these boards. Maybe even dumber than the racist comment in this thread. No one "needs" to make $100K, $50K, or even $20K. What one "needs" has nothing to do with how much we are paid.

I don't think you have much a grasp on basic economic principles, but there is a reason an engineer is paid more than a cashier. I have different skills that demand more pay than a cashier because I pursued higher education. Does that make me a better person? Hell no. Does graduating from college mean I can demand a better job and a better salary than a cashier? Not necessarily, but on average yes. The reason I can get a higher paying job is because I got good grades in school and have skills that are valuable to my employer.

Being a cashier can be as demanding as any other job, but what you get paid at your job is not necessarily dependent on how hard you work. If that was the case my Dad, who is a Brick Foreman, would be a millionaire. The fact is, it doesn't take a genius to be a cashier. That's why it doesn't require college and that's why it's not a highly valued skill. I could go on and on, but I doubt you even understand these simple concepts.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 04:51 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you love the right's approach to race? Spend half the time moaning about how Jesse Jackson or some damn body is playing the race card, and spend the other half of their time playing the race card - and all the while insisting that they are justified in playing the race card because "you libs" are not justified in playing it. Layers and layers of inconsistency.

Engineer emigrees from South Asia are not a race. Is it that strange to observe that people with a certain educational and professional background who come from a certain geographical region to another certain geographical region might have other things in common too? That there might be certain attitudes that are typical in that group?

Posted by: Rick at November 21, 2003 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

in my years as a retail worker, including various jobs in supermarkets such as meat cutter in a specialty grocery store in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in america [beacon hill in boston], i never made higher than $8.50 an hour. are people really getting paid $32 an hour to cut meat now? somebody please post a .pdf of their pay stub -- until i actually see this with my own eyes, i'm incredulous.

aside from that, i would inquire of our esteemed friend indie whether he much enjoys his eight hour workday, five day work week; if he receives neither of these then i wonder about his "better" job. both of these benefits are the result of the direct action of workers, some who did not survive said actions.

finally, i would opine that as much as we like to argue about things, very few among us could last very long procuring our own food without the help of grocery store employees, much less delivery truck drivers and farm laborers. we would all do well to look more closely at what is at the end of the american fork.

it reflects a particular philosophy, i think, to state that only certain "special skills" warrant high pay. i would submit that there are certain jobs no one else wants to do without which we would all starve and rot in piles of our own garbage and feces, and i feel very, very good about "paying for" those people's health care, although that is i believe a rather light analysis of the economics involved.

Posted by: r@d@r at November 21, 2003 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, bricklayers aren't getting the required wages for their trade? What, did your friend not make his journymanship?

Cutting meat is a far more dangerous job than tinkering with satellites. All the rocket scientists I know make twice what the store clerks do... And they do it because it's what they love, not for the big bucks. Because no one pays the big bucks for science.

This rocket-scientist wife is going to split her turkey budget with the union strikers, and invite over friends for the holiday. That's what people in a community do.

Posted by: Crissa at November 21, 2003 04:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Engineer emigrees from South Asia are not a race. Is it that strange to observe that people with a certain educational and professional background who come from a certain geographical region to another certain geographical region might have other things in common too? That there might be certain attitudes that are typical in that group?"

WTF are you talking about Rick? Is Asian not a race anymore? You are an idiot.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 04:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Does an engineer really "need" to make whatever inflated, exaggerated, fat-ass salary you're making, Indie? Shouldn't the pure pleasure of having a brainpower job make up for mere money? What makes you so superior to a cashier? It obviously isn't your concern for anyone except yourself or anything except your own pocketbook.'


Bottom line: Indie is probably not who or what he claims to be. Don't take anything he says at face value, because he has already demostrated that he will say whatever he needs to score cheap rhetorical points. He's already been proven a liar. Don't feed the troll.

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 05:00 PM | PERMALINK

Indie (you sack of shit): I know a man of Anglo extraction who was born in Asia. Not all asians are phenotypically "asian" (whatever the Hell that is). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But, maybe you need to upgrade.

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 05:02 PM | PERMALINK

oops! I need to take my own advice.

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Cutting meat is a far more dangerous job than tinkering with satellites. All the rocket scientists I know make twice what the store clerks do... And they do it because it's what they love, not for the big bucks. Because no one pays the big bucks for science.

This rocket-scientist wife is going to split her turkey budget with the union strikers, and invite over friends for the holiday. That's what people in a community do."

Yes, cutting meat is sooooo dangerous. Meat cutters are injured in the line of duty all the time.

You must be so proud of yourself for inviting friends over for the holidays. Wow, what an amazing act of kindness and sacrifice. Not only are you going to forego a little cranberry sauce for the poor supermarket workers, but you're going to have friend over your house. I'm thinking Sainthood is the next step for you.

Did I lay the sarcasm on hard enough or do you want more?

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 05:04 PM | PERMALINK

How can you talk about unions and trusts at the same time without mentioning the fact that unions are labor trusts?

The economics are identical, and the only principle involved is self-interest.

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 05:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Bottom line: Indie is probably not who or what he claims to be. Don't take anything he says at face value, because he has already demostrated that he will say whatever he needs to score cheap rhetorical points. He's already been proven a liar. Don't feed the troll."

Please name one lie that I've told jackass. Otherwise, you are the liar. I don't need to give anyone my life story. You can believe what I say or not. All I can say is if you are going to simply write off my good points then you are a biased fool.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 05:11 PM | PERMALINK

This whole thing is insane.

Rather than fight over contractual deals, both sides in this should be going after the real bad guys: Wal-Mart.

I mean, they could make a worker-management agreement in favor of demonstrations at any walmart that opens. Make sure to do it on the day after thanskgiving, etc etc.

If the workers are willing to strike without pay, a few days picketing walmart should be an easy thing. And there are 3 stores, so no one worker would have to picket very much.

I mean, alls fair in love and war. And walmart means war.

It's time for "extra-market forces"

Posted by: p mac at November 21, 2003 05:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Indie (you sack of shit): I know a man of Anglo extraction who was born in Asia. Not all asians are phenotypically "asian" (whatever the Hell that is). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But, maybe you need to upgrade."

Give me a break man. We can all read here and when someone makes a racist generalization about Engineers from Asia we know what group of people he's referring to. Even if he was talking about all Asians, include the white guy you know from Asia, that doesn't make his statement correct.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 05:18 PM | PERMALINK

When are people going to learn not to feed the trolls?

Posted by: epist at November 21, 2003 05:29 PM | PERMALINK

God, Indie is a moron.

Point by point:

NO, OH SILLY ME. It's really about ME paying for the healthcare of people

...isn't that what always happens when you buy something from someone else? This is the basics of our capitalist system: You pay for something, and someone else gets the money.

Why do you object to this?

who can't get a better job

How do you know they can't?

Your statement seems to be a blanket condemnation of grocery store workers -- your elitist side is showing. What, are you some sort of liberal?

But really, it shows that you don't know why people take supermarket jobs.

They take them for the benefits, moron.

so they bag groceries for 30 years

Gosh, and you wonder why people say Republicans are elitists.

and then bitch about it when they realize they don't deserve $20-$30 per hour

Grocery workers don't make $20-$30 an hour. This is a lie.

because they don't have any special skills which justify such ridiculously high pay and benefits.

Well, given that you don't seem to have even the basic facts of the situation -- you assume that grocery workers make $30 an hour and that's why they're working there -- why should we believe anything else you say?

Also, please note that in our system, which values experience -- especially in customer care positions -- you don't just pay people based on their "special skills." Seniority counts! The argument that people should be paid only for their "special skills" sounds like one that an idiot kid fresh out of school would make.

You can crucify me for not having compassion,

No, I'll crucify you for being an uninformed, elitist moron with no respect for anyone but yourself. And even that's probably a sham.

but the fact is I worked blue collar jobs during the summer as a brick labor and I got an education so I wouldn't have to do that the rest of my life.

Gosh, lucky you.

I should also mention that I got loans and worked part-time while I was in school to pay for so you don't whine and say my parents paid for my school.

What a big strong independent man you are!

Did you go to a public school? Leechin' off the state there, eh? [I'm only pointing this out because conservative idiots often brag about being so "independent" and self-made. But often they're more than willing to take advantage of public benefits.]

BTW, I take classes with at least two supermarket employees who are currently locked out or on strike. They're working hard on their degrees, even though they're older students. Yeah, I know, you're MUCH MUCH BETTER THAN THEM. Keep telling yourself that, kid.

--Kynn

Posted by: Kynn at November 21, 2003 05:37 PM | PERMALINK

Why should labor law even exist? Employers ought to be able to fire all the whiners and hire immigrants, if they are willing to work for less.

Heh. I'm only half kidding. But what does justify the government preventing a person from deciding to end a person's employment if the person won't work for what is offered? (Don't say "industrial peace", the violence is usually caused by workers and can be solved by police)

Posted by: Reg at November 21, 2003 05:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kynn,

That was a weak rebuttal. Most of your points were just bashes against me, which are pointless to try and refute, because you'll just try to bash me some more.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 05:42 PM | PERMALINK

What's weird about the article is that it utterly fails to mention the lockout.

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 05:50 PM | PERMALINK

No, Moron, she made great points. She just decorated them with some well deserved bashing.

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 05:51 PM | PERMALINK

I never said you were a liar, Indie. I merely said that you might be.

Are you?

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 05:53 PM | PERMALINK

jri: "What's weird about the article is that it utterly fails to mention the lockout."

It's mentioned in the first paragraph. It's explained more fully in paragraph 14.

Posted by: E. Rey at November 21, 2003 06:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kynn said:

"They're working hard on their degrees, even though they're older students."

...

The whole point is that if people in low-level jobs make "living" salaries (or better) they will have no economic reason to do just that...learn skills and move up. They may still have _personal_ reasons to educate themselves, of course, but this is relatively unimportant.

It is fundamental to an advanced society that people learn better and better skills. Unions discourage this.

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 06:07 PM | PERMALINK

"I never said you were a liar, Indie. I merely said that you might be.

Are you?

Posted by jri at November 21, 2003 05:53 PM"

SEE THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE YOU POSTED ASSMEG ==>

"Bottom line: Indie is probably not who or what he claims to be. Don't take anything he says at face value, because he has already demostrated that he will say whatever he needs to score cheap rhetorical points. He's already been proven a liar. Don't feed the troll.

Posted by jri at November 21, 2003 05:00 PM"

THE PHRASE "HE'S ALREADY BEEN PROVEN A LIAR" SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE CALLING ME A LIAR.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 06:14 PM | PERMALINK

Ooops. Indie. You're right. I did call you a liar. Here's why. You claimed that service at Ralphs has not been hurt by the hiring of scabs. But this statement, located above, is at odds with that statement:

"Indie, that has not been my experience. I went into Ralphs to buy a couple of essentials not redily available elsewhere. Checkers were slow slow slow, meat shelves were empty empty empty, produce looked like shit, bruised, and battered."

You have a clear agenda to present a picture of labor as bad, the strike as ineffectual, and management and scab labor as good. However, many anecdotes above indicate the opposite of much of the above. Who is right? Someone is lying and I am going to bet it is you.

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 07:01 PM | PERMALINK

"jri: "What's weird about the article is that it utterly fails to mention the lockout."

It's mentioned in the first paragraph. It's explained more fully in paragraph 14."

Oops. Mistakes were made.

Posted by: jri at November 21, 2003 07:04 PM | PERMALINK

Indie the point you are missing is how the hell would you eat if it wasn't for the people who work in the grocery stores? Why don't they deserve to make a living wage? To have health insurance? Why is America a closet third world country - where we keep our people poor and stupid, and keep basic commodities subsidized so the working poor can afford to live and have the jobs that no one really wants? Your lucky you have an education and a job - what the hell do you have against a grocery store clerk?

Posted by: afinta at November 21, 2003 07:21 PM | PERMALINK

Time to set things straight.

Here's the point. Regardless what you think of labour unions, the law requires employers and unions to do the following:
1) not collude
2) not be anticompetitive
3) bargain in good faith
and that's pretty much it. And here's why i'm with the strikers. Any rebuttals from any conservative/libertarian must answer the following arguments. If you can't or don't want to, then you have nothing to contribute, and should not post. Am i taking over the terms of the debate? Damn straight i am. So here goes.

To the argument that labour unions are trusts, and therefore anticompetitive:

Two problems with this. first, not all trusts are anticompetitive. a trust of trusts (a metatrust) or a collusion of unions would be, hence, the illegality of it--unions are not allowed to collude. keep in mind that two locals are not two unions--they are structured like franchises, so multiple locals of union X are not, for these purposes, properly understood as colluding. Second, in this particular case, profit sharing by companies undergoing labour negotiations are actually anticompetitive. This is because profit sharing agreements are illegal between other supermarket chains not legally in business with one another. Why? because allowing that activity permits the transfer of funds between businesses to either (a) force some other business out, or (b) duck taxes on the transferred money. The way to duck taxes is as follows. companies x and y report income to the government. companies only are taxed on reported profits, minus loopholes. suppose that company x is profitable, but y is not. then x and y can enter into an agreement to transfer money in exchange for some kind of anticompetitive behaviour (i.e. stock, raising prices, loans, deferred repayment of the initial amount, etc.). That's bad. So either tell me how it's good, or don't post.

That answers #2 above--the employers here are engaging in anticompetitive behaviour. off #1, that employers not collude, is very simple. employers x, y, and z cannot collude in negotiations against union a, same way unions a, b, and c cannot collude against employer x. the reason is that the bargaining is artificially unfair--the bargaining is meant to establish the ACTUAL fair market value of the labour, and unions are necessary for this equilibrium to be actualised. simple as that. in this case, however, the companies are actually illegally colluding, but there's not going to be any enforcement, if only because the unions are already too management-friendly (just over 80% of union executives and directors come from management positions, nationally). this is a case of x, y, and z against a, and that's bad. so either argue otherwise without falling into the a, b, and c versus x being good, or don't post. go ahead, i dare ya.

Off #3, this is much easier to show here, and much harder in court. The companies are currently engaged in bad faith negotiations. Here's how it needs to work. if the lawsuit can produce the agreement in discovery, and the court does not seal the document discovery process completely, then the document/agreement is out. if so, then the union can actually prove that the employers are engaged in bad-faith negotiations, and that is exactly what i'd like to see. why? because they fucking ARE engaged in bad-faith negotiaitons. so either show how they're not, or don't post. again, i dare ya.

Posted by: george at November 21, 2003 07:23 PM | PERMALINK

george said:

"...not all trusts are anticompetitive. a trust of trusts (a metatrust) or a collusion of unions would be, hence, the illegality of it--unions are not allowed to collude."

...

I don't think collusion between unions is necessary for unions to be proven as anticompetitive trusts.

If every gas station is run by Standard Oil, then I have to pay their price...their isn't any other. That's the meat of anti-competitive pricing. If I'm an employer, and persons A, B, C are union, and want $25 an hour, but persons D, E, F will take $15 an hour...and my business is closed-shop...I have to take the higher price. The analogy is straightforward.

Making it worse, persons D, E, F are probably from a much larger pool of individuals, and statistically will be better workers.

Unions hurt three groups:

1) Customers
2) Businesses
3) Prospective employees

and help (temporarily):

1) Current Employees.

The grocery stores will likely automate more quickly as a result of union activity.

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 07:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Ooops. Indie. You're right. I did call you a liar."

JRI,
No shit I'm right. Since it's impossible to have a discussion with someone who can't even remember what names they called me the post before I'll gladly be ignoring your posts.

"However, many anecdotes above indicate the opposite of much of the above. Who is right? Someone is lying and I am going to bet it is you."

JRI,
Not a math wizard either I see. Let me give you a little lesson. One anectdote is NOT equal to "many anectdotes".

You are such a lightweight.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 08:32 PM | PERMALINK

My, after reading through all the mean (I might say racist) comments made at poor Indie I am finally at the last comment, so I'll add my take, and you libs can call me racist names too! Oh fun for all!

While I don't knock the grocery workers for trying to get all the benefits they can, I think that they at least have to begin to come to grips with the fact that the marketplace is not going to support their demands ($5 a week for healthcare and they are outraged - from one story I read while I pay much, much more than that). These jobs are, for the most part, unskilled positions that most high schoolers can do. And, have to bring it up, but in California especially there seems to be a large number of people (new immigrants, high school grads with no college, recent GED recipients, etc) that are more than willing to take these jobs for compensation that is significantly less than what the union people currently have. And, worse yet, these new "self checkout" lines are fully automated, no worker is even required.

Bottom line, if I were these workers, I would seriously look at job training programs to get some more marketable skills. It sounds mean, yes, but it is also a reality they will face, if not this round, a future round of labor talks.

Posted by: mark at November 21, 2003 08:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Indie the point you are missing is how the hell would you eat if it wasn't for the people who work in the grocery stores? Why don't they deserve to make a living wage?"

If there were no grocery stores I guess I'd have to go out to eat all the time. If there were no restautants I'd go to 7-elevens or gast stations. If there were no convenience stores or gas stations maybe I'd have to open up a fucking grocery store and hire people at a reasonable wage to do pretty basic work. After all, there'd be a hell of a lot of money to be made if there were no grocery stores. If none of this worked I'd have to grow my own food.

BTW, what the hell is a living wage supposed to mean? Even someone making $8 an hour makes around $16K if they work full-time all year. When I was in college I lived off much less than that. Would you want to? Probably not, but that's why I went to college. Supermarket workers are certainly making more than $8 an hour. I would consider that a living wage, but if by a living wage you mean a house, two kids, two cars, a big screen TV, and a vacation every other year then we are not talking about the same thing.

Is it really so hard to understand why some jobs pay less? I don't think people on this website really understand it. I'm all for people getting the highest wage that their employer will give them, but there is just a limit to what you can get. Maybe the supermarket employees have reached their limit. Maybe not.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 21, 2003 08:47 PM | PERMALINK

Indie--
Yawn!!
What the hell are you talking about? If someone wants to strike to enforce a contract, who the hell are you to step up and say they should "learn new skills"???? If the labor laws were fair, these people would be getting paid a lot more and you know it!
Wage negotiations, like every other contract negotiation, are ALWAYS about the relative power of seller and buyer. Contrary to what you seem to believe, there is no "natural" price for grocery store work. It is all based on social norms, which can, of course, be changed. You have failed to provide an arguement for why unions should not be allowed to negotiate wages under the same contract law that applies to such entities as "temporary labor finders" and so forth. Do you actually have any knowledge of contract law at all? Just interested, because it sure sounds like you're talking out of your ass.

Posted by: kokblok at November 21, 2003 09:20 PM | PERMALINK

there is just a limit to what you can get. Maybe the supermarket employees have reached their limit. Maybe not.

It's a race to the bottom. Who'll get there first? We know which side this guy's on.

Contrast Orwell (from memory): "When I see a policeman beating a striker, I know which side I'm on."

Posted by: bad Jim at November 21, 2003 09:21 PM | PERMALINK

As a fellow "winner" in our economic sweepstakes who also worked in a supermarket to help pay my way through college, I would like to point out a few of things to you:

1) Most of the supermarket workers are *not* full time, because the supermarkets will only schedule them 20-30 hours a week. Why? So that they can have payroll flexibility for times of seasonal demand. Well why not get another job, you say? The supermarket (a Ralphs, since you ask) I worked at also demanded 40 hour a week scheduling availabilty. The bottom line is that even checkers getting $18/hr seldom cleared $36K/yr.

2) You say that the higher skilled jobs (meat cutter, etc.) have a shallow learning curve. Care to back that up by stepping into one for a week? I almost guarantee that you will come out missing a few fingers. They are high paying because they are (a) dangerous, (b) unpleasant, and (c) require more skill than you think.

3) The high standard of living in our country is predicated on a large and vibrant middle class. Therefore, I don't understand why you are so enthusiastic to kick people out of it. Remember, fewer middle class people = fewer people who can afford to buy discretionary high tech toys like cell phones and satellite dishes = fewer cushy aerospace engineering jobs for you.

4) I wouldn't feel so secure if I were you. Unlike supermarket work, which *can't* be shipped overseas, your job is inherently disposable. There is no reason why it can't be outsourced to India or Singapore or somewhere like that. And I predict that an aerospace engineer who can't even spell satellite, let alone anecdote or laborer will be one of the first to go...

Posted by: Gryphon at November 21, 2003 09:36 PM | PERMALINK

Gryphon--
But for some reason I think our friend Indie will not understand anyone who does not want to "reach for the stars" and get a college education. Though you might want to ask yourself, Indie, how things would be if EVERYONE did take your advice and went to college. I imagine their degrees would be about as valuable as high school diplomas are now. And we'd be in the same situation, except it would be self-righteous pricks with PHDS telling the rest of us what to do with out lives. Fantastic!

Posted by: kokblok at November 21, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

Question for Grphon:

If the market value (yes, there is such a thing) for a particular job is $15, should some mechanism be put into place to give a certain person $25?

Now, what if fifty other people are happy to work at $15? We seem to be concerned with fairness here. How do you explain to these people that because of "fairness" they aren't allowed to offer their equal labor at a better price?

Remember: These people are convinced that their situation is decidedly unfair. How do you convince them otherwise?

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

me oh my...
Would you care to address the legal issue here? I'm not interested in your "moral" arguements. The "market value" of a job is derived by many different variables, most of which are socially constructed. Can you tell me why grocery store workers should not struggle to improve their position within the venerable confines of US contract law?

Posted by: kokblok at November 21, 2003 09:54 PM | PERMALINK

There is of course a greater need for grocery workers than there is for engineers. So the idea that we should all get education and work white collar jobs is absurd.

Imagine a nation of engineers, now try to imagine them not starving to death.

If we all "moved up" (such a condescending phrase) then of course we would all earn $8.50 and hour as.... engineers!

Its quite safe to say that no matter how well compensated some of these "real" jobs are they are never as essential as grocery workers, who make sure we all have food to eat. If the sh8t ever hits the fan the satellite designers will be the first to go.

The issue of course is about division of wealth. The wages of workers are seen as an obstacle to the real path money should take, into the pockets of investors that expect to "make money" by calling their brokers. Money that is produced through the labor of the workers.

Without work, there is no profit.

Posted by: bruce at November 21, 2003 09:57 PM | PERMALINK

me oh my--

Here's your argument as i take it.

1) For all entities Y and conditions Z, if entity Y must hire/purchase from some restricted pool of persons/options n/o/p, then conditions Z are anticompetitive (definition of anticompetitiveness).
2) If company X is closed shop, then X must hire from union A.
3) a/b/c are with union A, and d/e/f are non-union.
4) Company X is closed shop.
5) Therefore, company X must hire from restricted pool a/b/c (from 1,2,3).
----
Therefore, conditions Z where company X must hire from restricted pool a/b/c is anticompetitive.

The argument is clearly valid, but i'll take you to task on the definition. What you've got is a problem with the way you've snuck in the closed shop part. Here's the problem:

First, for company X to be closed shop, then X must have agreed with some union A to a closed shop policy at some prior time. Hence, your definition of anticompetitiveness is incomplete, and i'll show you where the analogy breaks down.

We must, in the interests of justice, build in to the definition of anticompetitiveness some kind of lack-of-consent-condition, namely: entity Y does not willingly bring about conditions Z in the relevant sense. So we modify the definition to read something like:

D) For all entities Y and conditions Z, if entity Y must hire/purchase from some restricted pool of persons/options n/o/p, then conditions Z are anticompetitive, so long as Y does not willingly restrict the pool of persons/options.

Why is this intuitively better? What's driving the Standard Oil case is that you have no and have never had any say in which oil company to buy from--it's a non-consented monopoly. Period. In the closed shop case, the company could have hammered out an agreement with union A at some prior time to keep it as an open shop--perhaps by offering higher pay or benefits, or some other incentives during negotiations. If the union would not have budged, then the company decided that it would be better to offer closed shop than the trouble of breaking the strike, the loss of business, the embarrassment, etc. Given all that, the company weighed its options and willingly chose closed shop. That's what's different in the Standard Oil case--someone never consented (or perhaps never even had the opportunity to consent), and therefore, the Standard Oil case is different.

The similarity of consent i'm trying to draw is with, say, two governments. If a dictator prohibits some activity A, and a democracy also prohibits A, then the person committing A under the democracy has, at most, less to complain about. Consider two kinds of A. Let one be murder and let another be driving faster than 45 mph. Let X and Y be the offenders in the dictatorship and democracy respectively.

When X gets punished for murder and for driving faster than 45 mph, he can (in principle--legitimately and honestly) make the following complaints:
1) i never consented to not murder.
2) i never consented to not driving faster than 45 mph.
3) murder should be made legal.
4) driving faster than 45 mph should be made legal.

When Y does the same, however, he can IN PRINCIPLE, legitimately and honestly only make the latter two. they both might be wrong (morally or theoretically) about making murder legal, or even about the driving, but the fact of consent is relevant here, so long as we understand that there's nothing in principle stopping such a complaint from being legitimately or honestly made (i.e. there's no irrationality or deliberate falsehood in making the claims).

Hence, the consent of the closed shop is relevant in the way X and Y are in relevantly different circumstances--the Standard Oil case is like X, while the employer/union case is like Y.

Nice try though.

Posted by: george at November 21, 2003 09:59 PM | PERMALINK

Hi kokblok,

Like most people, I don't have a good or even working knowledge of contract law. My arguments (as you said) are part-moral, and part-economic.

If I determine that a particular view is in keeping with good morals, and good economics, then that is all that needs to be said.

If contract law (whatever it might say) is in contradiction with good morals and good economics, then it should disappear. Law is a result of moral/economic considerations.

(Obviously, I couldn't take this view if I were on a jury regarding the present case.)

I am concerned with ALL workers, including those who are unemployed. The grocery store workers' struggle must be viewed from more that just their own perspective, since it effects more than themselves.

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

me oh my,
well, ok, i'll take on your moral arguement as well. The fact is, your vision of a large group of low-wage, anti-union workers is a fantasy. I hear this kind of talk much more often from intellectual conservatives than I ever do from workers. Most lower wage workers understand that they are in inferior bargaining position in regards to wages. The problem is that most Americans think that "exit", not "voice", is the solution to all their problems. That is, they would rather quit their job and move on than use the law to make their current situation better. Perhaps this is a source of a certain kind of dynamism in our economy. But, I do not think this works for everyone, and I think there needs to be a swing of the pendulum back from "exit" to "voice". Just to restore some balance, for christ's sake!

Posted by: kokblok at November 21, 2003 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

George,

I would agree with you in any cases where "Consent" was genuine. I imagine that the number of such cases is: Zero.

Now, I can't prove that, but I will suggest that the existence of pro-union legislation indicates that the government has coerced businesses into accepting unions. If the number isn't Zero, it's still got to be very low.

At any rate, the day may come when Wal-Mart is unionized. They sure as hell won't have consented to it, and labor prices will go up. I maintain my basic point, that the following will be hurt as a result:

1) Wal-Mart shareholders,
2) Wal-Mart customers,
3) Prospective employees.

Who are these people? Group #2 and #3 are people in the same class as current employees. I don't doubt that Group #1 is the same, at least in part.

Moving money around is a zero-sum game. If one gets more, the other gets less. In many cases, you're hurting one group to help an identical, luckier group.

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

me oh my,

I could write a bunch of stuff about how unions are merely a technique to improve negotiationg power in a free market, but instead I would like to concentrate on

If the market value (yes, there is such a thing) for a particular job is $15, should some mechanism be put into place to give a certain person $25?

I would dispute that there really is such a thing is market value, because we don't live in an ideal free-market economy. Go pick up a textbook and read the sections on "Ogilopoly", "Barriers to entry," and "Asymmetrical information" for an understanding of some of the problems workers face in achieving the optimal free market value for their labor.

The instant that such an optimal economy exists then we can start quibbling about the moral dimensions but until then I will just accept unions and the limited protections that workers receive under labor laws as a way to redress the inefficiencies created by imperfections in our so-called free market economy.

Note that I am not criticizing capitalism itself, although I question whether people such a me oh my and Indie would truly want to live with the consequences of an unfettered lassez-faire labor market.


Posted by: Gryphon at November 21, 2003 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Let me see if I understand the argument correctly:

Unions harm prospective employess by making it more difficult for them to get jobs. They do this by raising the bar for the job (you must join the union) and by making the job cost the employer more, resulting in fewer jobs.

OK, if that's a fair rendition, then explain to me how this competition from union activity is any different, morally, from the activity of other parties? It seems to me that what we've got here is an argument that proves too much. If collusion between current employess that results in a lowering of the prospects for prospective employees is morally impermissable, then so is collusion between prospective employees, or between (or even within) employers, that lowers such prospects immoral.

So, prospective employees shouldn't be able to pool their resources to improve their chances of getting a job, either by sharing a car ride, or by grouping together in 'families' (which are, after all, merely anti-competitive exclusive trusts) and pooling resources to send some members of the family to school to get an education, thereby helping to drive up the bar for employment. These actions would be morally impermissable, since they would lower the employment prospects of prospective employees as a result of deliberate collusion.

Also, employers shouldn't be able to collude, in trade organisations and limited partnerships, say, to improve production effeciency, since that would also lower the prospects of prospective employees.

These claims are absurd, so what is needed is a brake, a way to stop the argument from reaching them. The only way to do that is to claim some morally relevant difference between the harm resulting from the collusion of current employees, and the harm resulting from the collusive actions of others.

Problem is, there is no such difference. The actions of current employees, leveraging collective bargaining strength to make the best deal for themselves, are the paradigm of free market exchange, in that they are (legal) strategies for maximising individual utility. We can't call this behaviour anti-competitive, unless we are also willing to brand all collusion that results in selective advantage anti-competitive, and that's obviously not on.

So we can serenely grant that unions harm the prospects of prospective employees, and that that harm results directly from the collusion of the union members. All we need to say in reply is 'That's what you're supposed to do in a capitalist free market.'

Posted by: epist at November 21, 2003 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Where is this link to donate from? It's an obscure URL that I can't find off the AFL-CIO or unionvoice.org websites (yet).

Posted by: yevgene at November 21, 2003 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

To epist:

Consider a family composed of members (A, B, C) and a union composed of members (X, Y, Z).

Now, imagine that person A and B "Collude" to improve person C's marketability.

Now, imagine that person X and Y and Z collude to prevent person C from offering a particular price for his labor.

These are clearly different types of "collusion" and shouldn't be confused.

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

To Gryphon:

There is such a thing as a free market value, but since its discovery requires rigid conditions (large numbers of buyers and sellers for a standardized product) it's never met in certain cases, as with the labor market.

One thing is for certain: If a group of workers are all making $25 dollars an hour, and someone offers $15 dollars an hour, the market value is DEFINITELY not $25.

If (after the offer of $15) those workers are still making $25, they're making too much, and somebody is getting screwed.

Posted by: me oh my at November 21, 2003 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight... If one worker accepts the job for less than the others... They all should accept the job for less?

Where does that leave us?

It leaves us with jobs no one wants to do because they know they won't get paid enough to do it, so they don't do it unless they absolutely have to.

What's the point of taking a job for $25 when your employer might decide to pay you $15 next week 'cause a guy came up and said he'd work for $15?

That's market instability, not market flexability. Instability is what keeps many people from finishing those classes to get a better education, from using those skills they spent hours training for.

Supermarket jobs are not unskilled labour. You can't just pull someone off the street and make them operate machines safely, accurately, and handle food, money, and customers safely.

You should respect the investment the companies and the employees have made to do their jobs well.

Posted by: Crissa at November 21, 2003 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Indie will be enjoying a return to the labor pool when his skill set is moved to Taiwan, India, or China, which have a glut of well trained and competent engineers, many trained in the US and Europe. Hopefully he won't cut himself on the meat slicer or bandsaw, or injure himself moving bricks. Maybe they will let him drink coffee at the union hall, where he can take training classes and volunteer to serve his community while he waits for the next slot on the list. Or he will wish he had joined SPEEA.
Me oh my's arguments reflect a basic lack of understanding of domestic economics at the level of the household. American ideals are based on meritocratic principles (hard workers who excel are promoted higher faster and better paid) with the understanding that there are structural flaws in the ideal that give some workers greater advantages (dad is the manager, uncle owns the store, blowing the chef, etc.). If there is no basic floor to wages, a living wage, then there is either cooperation among workers to improve their group remuneration, exaggeration of efforts to maximize personal advantage (blowing the boss, sucking up, etc.), or some combination of work slowdown and petty larceny that reduces efficiency and profits. If there is a floor (living wage, which is dependent on local economic factors), more emphasis can be put on rewarding the best and brightest (Indie's replacement from Bangladesh) and minimizing office politics/gamesmanship and the desire to organize for group solidarity. If I can't support myself, I can't purchase enough consumer goods to support other sectors of the economy. When I worked in restaurants, many of the Mexican and Central American workers lived in tiny apartments hot swapping bunks and carpooling from job to job. Is that the way of life we want for our future? These guys at least had goals and a timeline for getting out (most were supporting their families back home and buying land to farm). What do we do when the top jobs are in Malaysia? Taipei? Mumbai?
Unfortunately, for this to work you must have responsible government, and the Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Greens all seem to have less stomach for governance than for power. I think our representatives should be forced to play SimCity or Caesars until they get it.

Posted by: bigfoot at November 21, 2003 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

I live in South Carloina. SC is a so-called "right to work" state. Labor laws are so restrictive that unions have an extremely hard time making any inroads here. As a result, the vast majority of labor work for rock-bottom prices and no benefits. The puts downward pressure on other - more technical industries - to pay less, too. Why pay an engineer 40K when you can offer job training to a high school graduate and pay him 20K.

The race to the bottom is real and it goes beyond those dirty labor jobs. If you don't watch out, indie, you might find your job much less valuable than you think. But then I suppose a rugged individualist like yourself will retrain and retool while taking care oaf 2 kids, a mortgage, a car, student loans, healthcare, and all the other trapping of success.

Posted by: Scott Fanetti at November 22, 2003 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

To Crissa:

A clarification. The labor market is not the stock market, and as such it shouldn't radically change everytime the buyers/sellers change volume or pricing a tiny bit. If a hundred people make $25 and one offers $15, and they're equally qualfied (i.e. as equal as two shares of stock) then the market value isn't $25...perhaps $24.5...but this assumes the bargaining takes the same back-and-forth that occurs in the stock market, and it won't.

I'm speaking in abstractions, remember...stripping away unrelated variables. The ACTUAL cost of that $15 an hour employee is much higher, since the employer will have to restructure, retrain, have a period of low-productivety, pay workman's comp all over, etc.

Most of you aren't speaking in abstractions, you're repeating anecdotes. I've worked in non-union, union factories, chemical and steel. I've got all sorts of anecdotes that I realize are scientifically insignificant.

...like the time I asked a union worker to cut two 3 foot wires for me. Now, I could have done this myself in about 30 seconds, but that would have broken union rules. So, this kid's cutting the wires, while 4-5 other guys are watching him do it. It takes 15 goddamn minutes! I go to use them and the goddamn connectors fall off...on all four ends! Those wires cost the company upwards of 100 goddamn dollars!

Scientifically insignificant.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

To Bigfoot:

I just read your post, and thought I'd bring up another anecdote. You say:

"If there is no basic floor to wages, a living wage, then there is either cooperation among workers to improve their group remuneration, exaggeration of efforts to maximize personal advantage (blowing the boss, sucking up, etc.), or some combination of work slowdown and petty larceny that reduces efficiency and profits."

Heck, this goes on everywhere no matter what. We had a process leader who had a loud mouth, and so the operators staged a slowdown that cost untold thousands of dollars. I honestly think that the union arrogance had something to do with this.

Real childish stuff is almost never economic in nature.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 01:11 AM | PERMALINK

So let me see..., the difference between good collusion and bad collusion is this:


". . .person X and Y and Z collude to prevent person C from offering a particular price for his labor. "

So the badness is in the preventing? If everybody has a collge degree, and thus college degreess are the entry level requirement for a job, am I not being prevented by those who have degrees from not getting a job if I don't have a degree?

Perhaps what you mean is that the union members set up a seperate and special set of requirements that a person has to pass to get a job in the union shop, and this is impermissable preventing. But then the AMA is impermissable. In fact, all professional restrictive associations are, as they do the same thing.

Besides, it's ridiculous to argue that the real damage unions do is in colluding to keep others out of the workforce. Unions want new members. If they had their druthers, they'd employ every friend and relative of a union member that wanted a job. They don't get to do this because of resistance from the management, since the management has to pay for the new employees. But it's obvious that the union isn't deliberately keeping people from working by barring them entry into the union. The only argument to make on this score is that the union hurts the prospects of prospective employees indirectly, by driving the costs of the jobs upwards. But again, that sort of competition is not just permissable, it is the normal working of the free market. If I negotiate a higher salary with my boss, and consequently he is unable to hire as many people, I have colluded with him to the detriment of other workers. But this is what you are supposed to do .

Perhaps you might argue that unions are unfairly hindering others by merely forcing them to join the union to work in the shop. But I don't see how this is actually a barrier to entry. That you have to pay union dues whether you like it or not is a condition of work, not a barrier to it. If the pay at the job was just over the level necessary to make it worthwhile for the person to take the job, and the union dues brought it under that level, then you might have a case for the union actually inhibiting a person's taking a job directly. But this never happens. Union jobs generally pay much better than their non-union counterparts, and have significantly better benefits packages, so it seems unlikely that a person would find themselves in a predicament where union job was so close to the bone that the tiny union dues made it unattractive.

Posted by: epist at November 22, 2003 01:59 AM | PERMALINK

you know, i have to eat every day. i'd like to know that the food that i eat is safe to eat. i want folks in the meat and produce departments to know what they're doing and to care about their jobs and their customers safety.

something to think about when you consider these employees.

Posted by: kevin lyda at November 22, 2003 01:59 AM | PERMALINK

To epist:

Quoting myself:

"...person X and Y and Z collude to prevent person C from offering a particular price for his labor."

When I use letters to denote people, I'm implying that they're equal, in the same way shares of stock are equal. This doesn't actually happen, but is the sort of helpful abstraction that economists always use.

Now, once we assume equal people, I CHANGE a particular variable, in this case the price of labor. Person C ONLY DIFFERS based upon his price.

Try to imagine: You want to buy a Honda Civic; 3 dealerships have them priced at 16,000, whereas a 4th has it priced at 13,000. Is it fair if the first three prevent you from buying from the forth? Absolutely not.

Thus, it's unfair from "X and Y and Z" to prevent a company from hiring "Person C".

Remember: For argument's sake, I've removed all variables except price.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 02:28 AM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight... If one worker accepts the job for less than the others... They all should accept the job for less?

Yes. Then we should all bitch and moan about the "dirty, stupid Mexicans" stealing our jobs.

Remember: Income Redistribution is bad. Paying low-skilled workers enough to get by is bad. Let's just line them up and shoot them, we can save ourselves a whole bunch of headaches by just cutting our losses now and murdering the lower classes.

Posted by: Quain at November 22, 2003 02:30 AM | PERMALINK

For all those so "concerned" that I may be forced out of my job one day by cheap labor don't worry your pretty little heads about it. I don't plan on being an engineer for long because it bores the hell out of me. Although, it's not quite as boring as reading a post from epist or george. I'm quite aware of the situation with more and more technical jobs going to foreign countries. It's just another reason to get more education and make yourself even more valuable to your company through hard work. The smart people will adapt and do things like start a software business that relies exclusively on foreign technical labor and and then sell the product around the world for big bucks. The dumb people will form unions and turn productive US technology workers into drones that will stagnate the growth of the country.

Please continue to call me names, ridicule me as not being compassionate, make dire predictions about my future, etc.... This just demonstrates your hatred of anyone who disagrees with you and your general closed mindedness.

-Indie

Posted by: Indie at November 22, 2003 03:17 AM | PERMALINK

um, Quain--murdering the lower classes costs money. a lot of it. who's gonna pay for the bullets, or the rounding up and starving and such? for you to suggest this misses the point: the trick is to have them feel really happy that they even GET to work for peanuts, then they'll kill themselves. just kill them ourselves? so brutish. so vulgar. so uninspired. you have no vision.

me oh my--the number of cases where consent is genuine is zero or close to zero? um, perhaps you misunderstood me, but i'll say it again in less complicated terms. any case where some kind of contract exists, such that the contract ensures the employer to retain closed-shop conditions, JUST IS a case of consent. This means that ALL closed shop employers are definitionally included in the set of cases of genuine consent, as closed shop is a technical term in labour law referring to an employer who has made an explicit legal agreement with a union to abide by closed shop hiring conditions. this means that we can easily find out how many cases of genuine consent--simply by counting up the number of closed shop employers there are. end of story.

and to anticipate your argument concerning the impact of labour legislation on closed shop practices, i'll say the following. there is no law anywhere or on any jurisdictional level that mandates for any set of employers to abide by closed shop conditions without a contract with a union. closed shop conditions are SIMPLY a civil contract between a union and an employer. the government is not involved unless (a) it is the employer, (b) or it is required to enforce a contract between some employer and some union. Hence, i'd hardly call this coercion on the government's part.

and a point of clarification--collusion is a matter between bargainers, and has to do with issues of bad faith. therefore, union MEMBERS are not, properly understood, colluding with one another, they are bargaining collectively. in the supermarket case, the stores are not colluding with one another qua bargaining with the union, but are instead (a) colluding with one another to share profits during bargaining (this is anticompetitive against other BUSINESSES, not against the union), and (b) bargaining in bad faith against the union (by witholding appropriate revenue data by which to negotiate appropriate demands with the union)--this is because the amount of money transferred is not disclosed to the union, and nor is the taxation on the funds reported. therefore, the employers will knowingly and artificially keep the union demands undervalued, which is just what bad faith negotiation is.

collective bargaining, either among employees or employers, is and should be fine. collusion is not.

as for the wal-mart case, if wal-mart ever unionizes, then it will be exactly BECAUSE it has consented. perhaps the employees will create conditions under which it makes sense to unionize, but this is not the same as forcing the company to consent--rather, it marks a change in the labour market, which is what wages, benefits, and unionization REFLECT, not CAUSE. remember all, the market is by nature a psychological phenomenon, and things like prices, volume, inventories, etc. are supposed to TRACK--they are not THEMSELVES "the market." Hence, if and when wal-mart unionizes, then the beneficiaries will be:

1) wal-mart employees--present and future, as noted above by epist, unions will gladly have new members, as each member increases the bargaining power of the union, and all unions offer structured promotion systems, most often in steps or stages, for its members.
2) non-wal-mart customers--by raising costs of wal-mart, wal-mart increases its prices, thereby decreasing its overall market share/power, and increasing the variety of retailers in the marketplace for ALL customers.

so #1 answers your claim about prospective employees--they join the union and they're fine. and you can cry me a river feeling sorry for the wal-mart shareholder. and just to pre-empt you, i know you're going to appeal to the small shareholder, because that's the real smallest-violin-in-the-world case, while neglecting to state that the small shareholder for wal-mart has a share so small that: it does not and has never paid dividends, the set of small-ly held shares amounts to less than 5% of the total shares in the company, and that 60% of the company is closely held, meaning that it belongs to one family. yeah, i feel real bad for them.

as for current wal-mart customers, they benefit same as non-wal-mart customers--as variety increases, costs drop. yay for all. the trick is to understand the difference between a decrease in growth and a decrease in size. will wal-mart see a decrease? yes, but only in growth--the company will GROW more slowly than it did before, but it will not RETRACT or shrink. instead of growing 6% annually, it will grow 1% annually. what's wrong with that, considering that the other 5% in growth is presumably made up by the increase in competitors? the economy does better generally, and costs go down. last i checked, that's a GOOD thing.

keep trying.

Posted by: george at November 22, 2003 03:51 AM | PERMALINK

Indie--didn't mean to bore you, but i do notice something. you haven't even answered a single point i've raised. at least me oh my is putting up a fight.

while i don't condone the racism, and i think the dire predictions about your future are, on some level, uncalled-for (insofar as they are directed at you, as accurate as they may be), i'm kind of disappointed in you--here i offered a clean way for the discussion to turn intelligent, and you decided not to bite.

as for your claim that unions stagnate growth, that is not observed--since the birth of labour unions, the workday has shortened, the vacation time has lengthened, employee safety has improved, and wages have gone up. so too, with these things, have the following increased: productivity, employees, purchasing power, and innovation. down are employee accidents and fatalities, malnourishment, child labour, and the uninsured. if you want to see what labour unions do for economies, look at europe, australia, and the united states. if you want to see what happens without them, look to africa, southeast and mainland asia, and south america. which places are better off?

i'll rest my case so far on that. but it's not like i want to bore you with africa details. after all, people can't be bothered, now can they?

Posted by: george at November 22, 2003 04:01 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. This will be "scientifically" insignificant since I am relaying my personal experiences, but that said....

I find that I am usually the only actual current blue collar worker posting in comments around these blogs and the level of arrogance spouting from pompous jerks who are educated well beyond their level of intelligence never ceases to amaze me.

I am not refering to the big picture arguments about collusion and labor/anti-trust law that are present. Those are actually quite interesting.

So, to those of you who think you understand the struggles of the working class because you had a tough summer job, or worked a couple years in a factory before going to college, please stuff it.

As Judge Smales said in Caddyshack, "The world needs ditchdiggers too, Danny."
We can't all be white collar geeks whose newest WiFi gadget makes them feel like they have arrived. So cut the crap.

As a society, we could go back to the good ol' days when business could whip-saw workers down to the lowest penny. Wal-Mart is already trying really hard. Just ask the old cleaning crews who were replaced by the contractors who liked to hire undocumented workers because they could pay them shit and violate all sorts of labor standards. (OT, WC, etc...) What about workers who can't afford to live in the communities they serve? A decent wage is the least you can offer someone who has to be bussed 30 miles to get in from their $1000/mo glorified trailer in SoCal.

When did a venerable trade like meat-cutting become a profession worthy of smearing? Why has the price off food been kept deflated for over 30 years? Can it last?

Why are aerospace engineers unionized at Boeing and Lockheed? Why do nurses and pilots organize? Snarky little Limbaughesque cliches about the value of someone's work tend to break down when you include folks who have your life in their hands.

It IS about community standards. 70+ years ago society decided that the working class deserved a little better. Unions pretty much created the working middle class, the family vacation, the weekend, etc... These are things that WE claim to value. So why are some folks so ready to piss on people who spend a full day on their feet? ...because they don't want to give up their health benefits? Please....

One of these days there will be a backlash and engineers might actually have to pay the real cost of the hepatitus free scallion that was grown by an American farmer who pays minimum wage.

Posted by: def rimjob at November 22, 2003 04:56 AM | PERMALINK

def rimjob,

you are a person after my own heart. I am working class. Which i define as such; all the money I have and make come from my own labor, not from the labor of others. By that definition there are lots of US. However, we are constantly beguiled into thinking that we have some allegiance to the investor class, those that earn a majority of their income from other people's labor.

This is no suprise since their voice is predominate in media and governmental discussions of "economics". This is not a "zero sum" game as one poster quipped. This is because there is a class separation. The vast majority of capital is owned and managed by a small group of very wealthy people. The amount of ownership represented by the working classes is small, and most resides in large institutional investments (Mutual Funds, Pensions) which are managed by, you guessed it, the fund managers, who work for the big dogs. So ironically, we have our own money working against our primary interests, namely our wages.

Obviously a more representative ownership of capital by the workig class themselves would be ideal, with managers working FOR us, not AGAINST us. But that is simply not the reality in America. Ownership is very concentrated. They have a very strong voice in our perception of reality.

In general the web is full of people that have relatively middle of the road white collar positions that will put them in close alliance with management. So its not uncommon for even "liberal" voices to be anti-worker in online forums. There has been a very dramitic shift though as even skiled labor is seeing layoffs, wage reductions and increases in health care costs. The tone of the debate is changing, to better reflect the decline in worker security.

Every job should have dignity. We used to believe that if you worked hard, no matter what you did, then that meant you could support yourself. Are we willing to accept that that is not true anymore? If we do, expect everybody's quality of life to suffer. We dont live in a vacuum, and we can only gate of so much of our world.

Posted by: bruce at November 22, 2003 08:40 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for posting this link.

Posted by: Senor Bozo at November 22, 2003 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Reg:

The reason we need labor laws is because our current free market system demonstrated, at the turn of the 19th century, that without government controls it evolved into something downright evil.

As long a work day/work week as the company wished to require. Pay that would barely allow one to survive at all. Working conditions where a dead employee was common. Payment in company scrip, only usable at the company store (where prices were greatly inflated). Children before puberty working long, hard, dangerous work weeks.

Should I go on? Grumble all you want about any real or perceived excess of unions. If we
eliminated labor law, this country would go right back the horrible state of treating human beings like expendable cogs in a machine. Every single worker, whether educated or not, skilled or unskilled, Dem or Repub, owes a lot to unions. Some people paid for these things with their life (Yes, companies once called in the men with guns and killed workers demanding better treatment.) Some very small degree of repsect for the system is very little to ask.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at November 22, 2003 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

To def:

"Unions pretty much created the working middle class"

...

A total fallacy. The working class was made by advances in technology, and associated productivity gains. Henry Ford paid his workers twice the going rate, not because of unions, but because the assembly line made every worker much more productive. This had the added bonus of allowing him to demand the best workers.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

George,

We clearly are operating under different definitions of "Consent" and "Collusion",
so I'm not sure we can ever agree concerning them.

When a number of workers agree to demand a certain price, I view this the same way I view any "Collusion"...just like a Steel trust, or OPEC. I don't see the economics as being any different, except, of course, that workers are in a different class.

I shouldn't have used the term, "Closed-shop". I am speaking generally of any situation where the following can occur:

Persons "A and B and C" set the price of their labor to $25, and prevent person X from selling his labor at a different price. Person X is the "Prospective employee" I mentioned, and he is clearly harmed in this case.

This to me is an unacceptable condition, no matter the "good" being sold. (See my "Honda Civic" example above.)

I'm trying to make myself as atomic as possible. If you introduce new variables into the above example..."Oh, but A,B, and C have signed a contract"...then you're arguing outside the terms I've set.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

A total fallacy. The working class was made by advances in technology, and associated productivity gains. Henry Ford paid his workers twice the going rate, not because of unions, but because the assembly line made every worker much more productive. This had the added bonus of allowing him to demand the best workers.

WRONG!!!! (You're talking to guy who grew up in Detroit and is quite familiar with the UAW.)

Try reading a little history and you'll find that the first big union strike at Ford was ended when Henry's wife asked what the workers were striking about. Henry said they wanted $5(?) day.

Her response was to call Henry a miser and... lo-and-behold the strike was settled.

The UAW has been at Ford since the 20's,just about the time I cited in my previous post. If you think that Detroit's working class suburbs (Warren, Dearborn, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Westland, etc... would exist in their current form without the UAW, you are sadly mistaken.

Please do not propagate anti-union lies. I could tell you about Henry's thugs on the bridge leading to the Rouge Plant. (Ever heard of Walter Ruether?)

Posted by: def rimjob at November 22, 2003 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Correction:

Two posts above I say, "The working class was made"...I meant "The working middle class was made."

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

To def:

Okay, my example was bad, assuming you know what you're talking about. I read a Henry Ford biography that didn't contain the scene you mention.

My point is still valid. Consider a pre-technological era. If peasants and serfs unionize, no amount of striking is going to give them the modern equivilent of 32,000 dollars/year, or 15,000 dollars/year, or even 750 dollars/year.

Okay? This is really, really elementary stuff.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

My point is still valid. Consider a pre-technological era. If peasants and serfs unionize, no amount of striking is going to give them the modern equivilent of 32,000 dollars/year, or 15,000 dollars/year, or even 750 dollars/year.
Okay? This is really, really elementary stuff.

Please contrast that with an excerpt from my earlier post:

It IS about community standards. 70+ years ago society decided that the working class deserved a little better.

Yes, if the Lords of the land had decided that the Serfs were worth more, and the standard of the day wasn't to kill those who resisted the will of Monarchy... then maybe they would have paid a living wage, with or without strikes.
However, in the 20th century those morals of society deemed it was improper to kill those who work for you, so.....

You need to find a new line of reasoning.

Strikes are bad for all involved and should be used only as a last ditch effort. Often the blame for a work stoppage is put at the feet of the unions when in fact it is directly the intended outcome management. This strike might qualify. The stores seem very intent on breaking the union.

The best recent example, though, is Northwest Airlines, when the ALPA went out on strike. Management gambled and lost that the strike would cost them less than a new contract based on the assumption that the well paid pilots would want their paychecks. Boy were they wrong... But I'd bet that the MBA who came up with the analysis and predictions still got his bonus.

(Also, a quick google check came up with the fact that Clara Ford forced her husband to settle the '41 strike which was based on the racially motivated firing of 8 black workers. I may have gotten my UAW lore mixed. Still Ford has had the UAW since the 20's and 30's. Apologies, but I still stand by my statement.)

Posted by: Def Rimjob at November 22, 2003 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

To Def:

The machinations of both unions and companies are unrelated to my basic point, that technology (rather than politics) improves people's lives.

You said:

"It IS about community standards. 70+ years ago society decided that the working class deserved a little better."

...to really address this, I'd have to deconstruct it into about fifty pieces, because you're saying a number of different things. Let me touch on one part of it: "Society decided".

You're personifying "Society". It doesn't have a Free Will, and can't decide things. When Real Wages go up, ten million different variables are involved, some important, some unimportant...agitation, technology, dumb luck, demographics, public opinion, are all involved. These things (especially public opinion) have their own numerous causes.

But when COST to produce something goes down (enabling an increase in real wages) very little is involved: It's frequently a technological change.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I will agree that technology plays a huge role for many workers, although you state it as though it were a zero sum game. The average worker at a grocery store is hardly the benficiary of the elimination of paper pushers. Aside from optical scanning for purchases and inventory, the retail workers of groceries have hardly been touched in the past 50 years. (Radio scanning might be the new trend, but that is still in the future)

However you mention public opinion, and THAT is my biggest point. When I say society, I basically mean public opinion. In a democracy, public opinion matters. Living wage (which includes health insurance, IMHO) has been a cornerstone of labor organization since the concept began.

For the last several decades, public opinion has been rather ambivelant towards unions, and on occaision rather hostile. That may change if the current trend of Wal-mart style wage competition continues. You are talking about real reductions in wages and benefits for the SAME work.

Again, if that continues... watch out.

Posted by: Def Rimjob at November 22, 2003 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

To Def:

We'll have to see what happens. I predict the future will mirror the past.

Twenty years from now, a grocery store that once had 250 employees, will have 25. These people will be VERY well paid, and secure in their jobs. The 225 will find other work, and some will take pay cuts...but all will pay less for food.

...Just a prediction, of course.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

These people will be VERY well paid, and secure in their jobs

Not if Wal-mart is trendsetter.

BTW, low food prices can be traced back to the farm and wholesale markets. They are not a product of retail food sales.

Gotta' run..... I hope you're right, but....

Posted by: def rimjob at November 22, 2003 01:10 PM | PERMALINK

Me oh my,

I don't think you appreciate the difficulty in what you are trying to do. There is no moral difference between union collusion that results in a prospective employer being unable to sell his labour at a given price (i.e. lower than the set union wage, and non-union collusion that results in a prospective employer being unable to sell his labour at a given price.

So, if I need (but don't have) a college degree to get a job, because everybody has one, then I am unable to sell my labour at a given price. Other people have colluded to bring about this state of affairs. Thus, by your argument, they have done something unfair. But that's obviously ridiculous.

Perhaps the complaint is that the union sets a minimum wag bar directly, as opposed to the more indirect affects on entry wages from other people's collusion. But why is there a moral difference here? If X, Y, and Z decide between them that they are all going to petition the boss for higher salaries, and they do so successfully, resulting in the boss being unable to hire another employee at any wage, then X, Y and Z have colluded to harm the prospects of other prospective employees by preventing them from selling their labour at a given price (indeed, at any price, which is worse). But of course, X, Y and Z aren't in a union, and further, they needn't bargain as if they were to achieve this effect. The mere fact that so many of his employees are demanding raises at the same time might be enough to convice the boss that he needs to raise wages.

So again, we need an argument that what unions do to harm prospective employees, (i.e. raise the minimum wage bar, so that prospective employees cannot sell their labour for a given price) is morally different than what everyone else does that also raises the minimum wage bar (i.e. go to college, negotiate raises, etc.) And remember, the pressure to offer someone higher wages need not be legal pressure (although, as others have pointed out, if the shop is a closed one due to a legal agreement, then calling this arrangement unfair flys in the face of the right to contract). A reasonable boss might well decide that he cannot hire a new employee at significantly lower wages than his current employees for all sorts of reasons besides direct union pressure. For example, he might worry about the fairness of paying someone significantly less than someone else for the same job. Or he might worry about the festering displeasure and resulting tension and inefficiency that such an arrangement might bring about. Or he might be unable to hire someone worth hiring for the job at the lower wage level, etc. If these reasons are made salient for the boss as a result of deliberate (but non-union) collusive action on the part of his current employees, then by your lights they have acted unfairly. But again, that's clearly wrong.

Perhaps we might say that restricting trade by establishing wage minimums is somehow practically impermissable, because the market needs unrestricted bargaining lattitude here to function properly. But again, this just seems false. I know of no arguments that support the claim that markets won't work with minimum standards, and while it's trivial that markets will be more efficient (in some sense of efficient) if there is unrestricted bargaining, that's no argument that there shouldn't be some restrictions. I'm sure we all know the arguments for restrictions on bargaining even in a completely free market: consent and absence of undue coercion; concern for deleterious externalities (pollution), etc.

Posted by: epist at November 22, 2003 02:05 PM | PERMALINK

Epist said:

"So, if I need (but don't have) a college degree to get a job, because everybody has one, then I am unable to sell my labour at a given price. Other people have colluded to bring about this state of affairs. Thus, by your argument, they have done something unfair."

...

Two different worlds, an abstract one, and a real one. Right? When I say, "Person X, Person C", I am assuming they are equal...in every way...except for price. That's the abstract world.

In the real world, Person X can change. If he IMPROVES somehow, then he might get more pay, since he has also improved society. Public policy should encourage this. To say, "Why can't Person C underbid Person X?" is a meaningless question, if Person C is unqualified. I don't care if some PAYS to perform heart surgery, if he hasn't gone to college.

If someone manipulates the system (through a union, or any similar behavior) by getting more pay without improving himself, or society, then such manipulation...in my view...is unacceptable.

Yes, it happens ALLLLLL the time, I know. We could stop talking about unions and instead talk about "Protectionism" which is their reason for existence, or "Favoritism" which is usually a side-effect. P & F occur in most groups, but they're especially bad in certain ones: Unions, Boardrooms, Fraternities, Country Clubs, Families, etc.

Unions can fight fire with fire concerning Country clubs, but customers get screwed both ways.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK


Me oh my,

You say:

"If someone manipulates the system (through a union, or any similar behavior) by getting more pay without improving himself, or society, then such manipulation...in my view...is unacceptable."

Am I right in thinking that this is based on the idea that the best (or most just) possible system is a meritocracy?

If so, this is not exactly the orthodox free-market position. The argument for the free market generally goes something like: Bargainers negotiate with one another for the best deal they find mutually acceptable. This bargaining results in the most efficient distribution of resources, because people pay what they estimate the good or service is worth, and these people have the best information and the strongest possible motive (self interest) to get the best deal.

That Hayekian sort of argument makes no mention of merit as a way of pegging worth. In fact, Hayek explicitly argues against a meritocratic basis for prices (on several grounds, chiefly that we are unable to properly assess merit).

So never mind the orthodox, there's the question:

How do we measure merit? Do we create a deparment of worth? Or do we let the market dictate merit judgments? The former is, I think you'll agree, untenable. The latter means accepting the prices the market sets as the sole measure of worth, but that means accepting the actions of unions as normal strategies, and accepting the wages of union members as accurate reflections of the worth of the members. Unless, of course, we can prove that union collusion is relevantly different than other collusion, which, as far as I can see, we haven't.

Posted by: epist at November 22, 2003 04:26 PM | PERMALINK

Epist said:

"How do we measure merit?"

If you're hiring somebody, then you measure merit...no one else. If you're buying a car, then you measure merit...no one else.

I suppose I want a meritocracy, yes. There's people better than me, and they're going to beat me at salary, social position, etc...but what's the alternative? To force a new definition of merit upon people.

An employer might define merit as: "A good, steady worker."

But I force the following upon him: "Merit is someone who belongs to my group."

Since the person making the decision has lost the ability to determine value, it's no longer a free market/meritocracy...it's a command economy.

Shoot. If you ever start a business you'll change your mind pretty quick.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, cheap-labor conservatives. Can't get enough of 'em.

"It is fundamental to an advanced society that people learn better and better skills. Unions discourage this."

What of people who simply don't have the skills? Dim people, let's say. They shouldn't be allowed to live? Let's just snuff all the people with an IQ under 120. They clog up my freeways.

A person who puts in a hard day's work deserves to make enough to support him/herself and a family. Since the industrial revolution, it has been shown again and again that unions are necessary for workers to have a chance at this.

Posted by: Stoffel at November 22, 2003 06:30 PM | PERMALINK

Me oh my,

I agree, merit decisions should be made by the market. But again, union collusion is a natural part of market bargaining. If the market process determines merit, then an increase in pay resulting from union activity is, by definition, the market responding to an increase in merit.

The sorts of merit bases you were speaking of earlier, however (skills, actual service to others) are not market forces. But that's what you need to make out your difference between union collusion and personal self-improvement. I agree there is some intuitive appeal to the idea that a college degree merits higher pay. But, if you want to be a marketeer, that fact is not necessarily relevant to the amount of merit a person posesses. Rather, the only thing that sets the price is willingness to pay on the part of the market.

Oh, and what will I change my mind about, when/if I start a business, exactly? I haven't offered view, just pointed out a problem for your view.

Posted by: epist at November 22, 2003 06:32 PM | PERMALINK

My last post.

For what it's worth, a college degree isn't necessarily an "improvement". If I gave that impression, sorry.

As for people with an IQ under 120, I would suggest that salesmen, tradesmen, teachers, police, and accountants generally fit into that category...I don't think it's a real problem.

Posted by: me oh my at November 22, 2003 08:39 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the exchange. It was fun to talk about this stuff.

Posted by: epist at November 22, 2003 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

me oh my wrote: This doesn't actually happen, but is the sort of helpful abstraction that economists always use.

Abstractions are only helpful when they have at least some grounding in reality.

Coming up with an completely implausible scenario is not terribly helpful. It's a red herring.

Posted by: JayD at November 23, 2003 09:26 AM | PERMALINK

Indie wrote: Although, it's not quite as boring as reading a post from epist or george.

I know. I hate reading well-reasoned and logical arguments too.

Bores the hell out of me.

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