Koch Brothers and Unions
A number of organizations are advocating a boycott of the products that come from companies owned by the Koch family. This is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it could potentially hurt the wrong people.
The Koch brothers own Georgia Pacific. It is an American consumer goods company that makes everyday products like facial tissue, napkins, paper towels, paper cups and the like. Their plants are great examples of American advanced manufacturing. Incidentally,
GP makes most of its products here in America. The company’s workforce is highly unionized. In fact, 80 percent of its mills are under contract with one or more labor union. It is not inaccurate to say that these are among the best-paid manufacturing jobs in America.
This presents a dilemma and a paradox. While the Koch brothers are credited with advocating an agenda and groups that are clearly hostile to labor and labor’s agenda, the brothers’ company in practice and in general has positive and productive collective bargaining relationships with its unions.
While some companies are running from investment in American jobs, The Koch brothers’ Georgia Pacific just reached agreements with its primary union in the paper industry to invest more than a half a billion dollars in capital to essentially create two state-of-the-art machines that conserve fiber and energy at two separate union mills.
While certainly there are disagreements from time to time on what the right pension program is, or right wage increases and incentives, or the right formula for health care cost sharing, ultimately we end up with negotiated solutions.
That from Jon Geenen, International Vice President of the United Steelworkers. The difference, of course, is that the unions that the Koch Brothers have a working relationship with operate in the private sector, where reasonable negotiations between equal stakeholders actually take place. Keeping the management/employee relationship balanced is beneficial to the company and its employees. The Koch Brothers anti-unionism, if one is to judge by their actions, is focused on the public sector. While Geenan believes this “a dilemma and paradox”, the Koch Brothers, and many other people, are not so conflicted. Like it or not, there is a difference.