Meant to Be Versus Is

Not unexpectedly, my column in last month’s Rhode Island Catholic was my first to garner a letter to the editor of that paper. I’m not sure, though, that William Schecher, of Smithfield, understood what I was trying to say when he writes:

The whole purpose of unions is to join together for the common cause of protecting and advancing the welfare of all workers, whether they belong to a union or not. This begins with a local union, whose members’ freedoms and initiatives must come together in solidarity as one, in negotiating contracts either in the public or private sector, or on a local or national level.

That may, indeed, be “the whole purpose of unions” in an idealized ideological vision (or in literature that unions push on their members), but it is not the reality of their activity. Indeed, my argument was that it’s not a likely outcome based on the incentives of their structure.
A union aggregates the power of its members for concentrated political and economic force. Union leaders often use their political capital in ways that have little to do with their members, and they must devote much of what’s left to keep the workers under their umbrella feeling as if they benefit financially by their membership.

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Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

–“Although the structure of unions appears subsidiary and democratic, with local branches and tiered elections, they are explicitly organized in opposition to non-members on whom they seek to impose terms, whether businesses or taxpayers.”
Great article. As regards the above quote, unions are typically structured (“organized in opposition to”) their own rank and file members too.
Union constitutions often only allow individual members to vote for their local officer, but not state or national bosses.
Union constitutions often don’t require secret ballot voting, but public voting (i.e., under the watchful and/or potentially retaliatory eyes of union officials).
Union constitutions typically don’t allow rank and file members to have an attorney to represent them / protect their interests in union disciplinary hearings.

David S
David S
11 years ago

Justin, the basic work rules, the 8 hour work day, the 40 hour work week, the daily lunch and “coffee” breaks, overtime, are all products of hard fought union efforts. We all take this work description so much for granted, along with many other work rules, that I quess it can be easy to forget their origins.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

David S
I remember one post of the Katz in which he cried about the power his boss held over his head in terms of being the entity that provided Katz and presumably the Family Katz with health insurance. So no I don’t think he gets it at all. He supports the Party of Me in which anything that is good for me (the Katz) is good for all. One platform of the Party of Me is that if you do not have some benefit then no one should have it either. Whatever is good for me is the position of the Katz. The good news is that it is tremendously difficult for the selfish to organize and then even if successful for awhile not to fracture into little competing groups with time. There’s no long time commitment and no honor with the selfish and that includes union members who display such characteristics.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Yes, Phil and David S, you are incredibly generous with other people’s money. You should be very proud of that.
David S, a couple of things have changed since the early 20th century, technologically and especially culturally. Unions were a result of that change initiative, not a cause. Many economists have argued that unions are no longer necessary (if they ever were). The public sector has never had the problems you describe. Nobody I know in the private sector, unionized or not, makes minimum wage and works sweat shop hours, so your logic kind of breaks down there. If you understand basic economics, you will understand why: wages and hours are market driven and cannot be arbitrarily changed by employers, lest the employer become uncompetitive.
Phil, as people on this blog have explained numerous times, the absurd system we have now in which health care is linked to employment is the direct result of government interventionism through salary caps and tax policy. You either don’t pay attention or you aren’t the brightest bulb.

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Kattz sez:

A union aggregates the power of its members for concentrated political and economic force. Union leaders often use their political capital in ways that have little to do with their members, and they must devote much of what’s left to keep the workers under their umbrella feeling as if they benefit financially by their membership.

Here’s the quote again sustituting the word “church” for the word “union” and the word “spiritual” for the word “political”. Kattz starts with a fact and then goes on to make assertions which are either false or at least challengeable. In any event assertions are just that, assertions. As assertions, they are eminently challengeable. Such rhetorical tricks downgrade whatever it is that Kattz is trying to say to simple propaganda. It’s opinion poorly disguised as fact. Here’s the quote again, subbing “church” for “union”, etc.

A church (union) aggregates the power of its members for concentrated spiritual (political) and economic force. Church (Union) leaders often use their spiritual (political) capital in ways that have little to do with their members, and they must devote much of what’s left to keep the members under their umbrella feeling as if they benefit spiritually (financially) by their membership.

OldTimeLefty

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Dan,
It’s the people’s money. Taxes are collected from the general public and are distributed for the common good. That’s the way it is. We voted on it and that’s the law. Get over it.
You may not like some of the ways public money is spent. I don’t like some of the ways that public money is spent. But it’s public money it’s not yours and it’s not mine. Once you pay a tax the money belongs to the taxing entity to spend as it sees fit.
IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY ONCE IT’S PAID AS TAX. GET OVER IT.
OldTimeLefty

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

If the Leftists here were smart enough to know anything about credibility, they wouldn’t make childish distortions of Justin’s (or any other commenter’s) name. To a non-Koolaid drinker, such stunts undermine them before their comment can even get to its first verb.

richardcranium [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest]
richardcranium [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest]
11 years ago

Is there a reason why BOBN continually runs to the defense of the blogger named Katz. Can he not handle himself. Me thinks Katz can handle to criticism on his own. It is almost as if someone insulted Bob’s lover or girlfriend. HMMM.

David S
David S
11 years ago

Dan, I do not understand your comments. I stated a defense of the original quote and stated that unions have been instrumental in creating the rules of the modern workplace and you start talking about 19th century sweatshops. “Nobody I know in the private sector, unionized or not, makes minimum wage and works sweat shop hours, so your logic kind of breaks down there.” Dan- thats my point. Union efforts over the years have made sure that what you say in the above quote is not the norm, and while that description is definitely still a part of the landscape, I quess I can take some heart in the fact that it has never showed itself to you. So, is it a success of unions that the Dan’s of the world can so utterly disregard them and take for granted the union efforts on their behalf, or, the likely ingratitude of the spoiled child.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

David,
Debating history isn’t relevant to my point, but I’d suggest that it’s at least plausible to interpret the facts such that limiting the work day and other such policies was a task ultimately inherent in the Industrial Revolution, with broad support across societies. (Really, how long would people tolerate their children working 16-hour days for peanuts before violent lash-back?) In this interpretation, unions joined a popular cause and put their stamp on it. (Which is not intended to deny the value of their contribution.)
The more important point — the one you’re ignoring — is that, whatever their initial benefit, their structure lends itself to trends to the behavior about which I so frequently complain.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Unions would have had a chance at being legitimate social organizations had they not been hijacked early on by Communists and organized crime, or engaged in widespread racism by excluding blacks who were migrating up from the South to work in the rapidly-growing industries in the Midwest.
Unions are a great example of good intentions turned into paving stones on the road to Hell.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

The more important point — the one you’re ignoring — is that, whatever their initial benefit, their structure lends itself to trends to the behavior about which I so frequently complain.
Posted by Justin Katz at March 19, 2010 8:36 PM
It’s no great secret that you frequently complain, if you don’t recieve some benefit someone else recieves. David S makes the point that the unions efforts to improve conditions for workers was not limited to it’s members only. You are the one who complained about the treatment you were recvieving from your boss in a post recently. Can you imagine what your complaints might have been if not for the work rules or regulations if you prefer that David S points to in his first comment.
OldTimeLefty
I liked the church for union comment. Remember that the holy trinity of the selfish is I, myself, and me.
Dan
I’m generous with my money and I don’t consider it incredible.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Phil,
I lack the time and interest to dig up the post to which you’re referring, but my recollection is that I was not complaining, but using my circumstances to make a broader point about the appropriate system for distributing healthcare. Without fail, you make the least charitable interpretation possible of everything I write, and in comments such as the above, you then build on those erroneous interpretations as if they’re proven and acknowledged facts.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Katz
I went looking for the post that you at least admit to have wrtitten but it has disappeared. I looked under healthcare because you do not list among your other topics “crying and complaining” or “Me myself and I”.
Just explain to me from your most recent response to me how the “least charitable interpretation ” turns into “those erroneous interpretations”. Also how did an interpretation charitable or otherwise multiply.

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