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Zer Netmouse
January 11th, 2008
12:26 pm

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wow. hyperbole much?
Just got an email from the democratic party about the primary election. At the bottom they have this to say:


BEWARE OF "RIGHT TO WORK" PETITION
At your polling site you may be asked to sign a petition to put Right to Work legislation on the november ballot.
Right to Work means Right to Work for Less. This legislation would:
Reduce wages and benefits
Weaken labor unions
Destroy the middle class
Please do not sign these petitions. This is an attempt by Corporations and out-of-state millionaires to further weaken Michigan's economy.


(emphasis mine)

this article reports that, "According to the U.S. government, poverty rates are 16 percent higher in right-to-work states. Due to poverty rates, these states have the worst infant mortality rates in the nation. Personal bankruptcies are also higher in right-to-work states."

That's not destroying the middle class, that's hurting the lower classes. at best the lower middle class...

Anyway, I'm not supporting or opposing the "Right to work" movement (here's another article against it) but I'm tired of people trying to play with my fear. I'm not afraid, people. Not more than is reasonable anyway.

(24 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:grimfaire
Date:January 11th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
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Sorry but I'm a right to work kind of guy. Although I do agree with you about the fear mongering. grrrrr

The right to work states as of 2006 rank (medical care) an average of 31st among all the states. It does include the worst states but also includes many top 10 states. There doesn't appear to be any statistical correlation between right to work and medical care according to the United Health Organization.

Then according to the 2005 Census Burea percentage of people below the poverty line. The same plot points appear. Yes, the right to work states include the worst states but have a seemingly random distribution among all the states with many in each area. Top 10, Top 20, Middle, Bottom 20, Bottom 10.

Now you may get more in depth into the numbers and see some correlation between Right to Work states and lower standards of living (poverty, medical care, etc) but from my experience I'd put up with that somewhat to get rid of the other problems.

Read (for example) North Dakota's Right to Work Law: It says nothing about stopping people from bargaining together, assembling, unionizing, etc... it does stop unions from being able to deny employment to people who choose not to join a union and if they are hired from deducting money from those people.

So my gut tells me to vote for the bill but I'd have to read it to make sure.
From:nicegeek
Date:January 11th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
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I'm also generally pro-RTW. I think that unions serve a useful purpose when they serve to reveal hazardous working conditions, and when they force companies to have more transparent policies and wage structures. However, it's not good for workers to be forced to join a union whether they like it or not. It's also particularly offensive when unions take a member's mandatory dues and donate them to political causes that the member might not agree with.
[User Picture]
From:grimfaire
Date:January 11th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
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I happen to think the Unions did a lot of good when they were formed. They were very much needed. Today...not so much.

The unions were the reasons a lot of the safety rules, agencies, etc... were put into place. Without them we wouldn't have what we have now that is for sure. But, that doesn't mean we have to shell out kudos to the current incarnation forever either.

When Toyota factories manage to pay a decent wage (those in the US) and it costs them approx $30/hr less than it does for the Big 3 there is a problem. I'm not exactly sure what they make but they do get health insurance, paid vactions, a decent wage, etc.
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From:jeffreyab
Date:January 11th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
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Without unions how long do you think it would be before all those rules and agencies are disbanded as being superfluous with no one to object in a collective voice?
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From:grimfaire
Date:January 11th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)
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Quite a while. This isn't 1950. A large function of unions was communication and organization. Those functions have been superseded by the Internet for the most part. Look at us here.

The ability to get news and updates on any shady dealings, wrong doings, etc of companies and governments is well beyond where they've ever been. Add onto the increased ability to communicate to people and you've taken most of what unions are good for away from them.

Company not paying OT? Post about it.. get a campaign going... bam...they not only stop but end up paying for it all; get media on their arse and all the bad publicity.

Government want to repeal something? Write to your congressmen and senators.

More so than ever; we have to stop assuming that someone else is going to do something for us; be it government, the media, the union, etc... and do it ourselves, organize it, promote it, just make it happen.

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From:jeffreyab
Date:January 12th, 2008 02:23 pm (UTC)
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You give the Internet too much importance.
There are many skilled workers out there that never log on to the net.

A collective voice is a stronger voice, it allows the average guy to have legal representation and lobbyists equivalent to the big corporations.

A congressperson is much more likely to listen to a union that has many members in his riding than one person.
From:nicegeek
Date:January 12th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)
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I wrote:
It's also particularly offensive when unions take a member's mandatory dues and donate them to political causes that the member might not agree with.

After a bit of research, I need to revise this statement. Federal law does allow union members to opt-out of the use of their money for political purposes. However, the default is to permit them...a ballot measure to change it to opt-in was recently defeated in California.

I'd be curious to know whether there's any social stigma attached to opting out this way.
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From:madkingludwig
Date:January 11th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)
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It's an attempt to destroy unions. the "destroy the middle class" thing is only slightly disingenuous: the accusation stems from a belief, based on old data, that manufacturing jobs that economically place one in the middle class still exist. Those jobs were union jobs, but have been so depleted through "free trade" that they no longer have the cohesion necessary to bargain effectively. Therefore, had "Right to Work" laws been passed, say, 50 years ago, the sizable middle class that existed in the post-WWII era would have been destroyed at that time.
Now it is merely making sure that there will never be significant unions again.
And, yes, it is designed to depress wages and create a "more flexible labor market". Which does mean working twice the work for half the pay.
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From:pnh
Date:January 11th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
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Quite right. Widespread union membership, and the union-management detente that lasted from World War II to the mid-1970s, is what created the modern American middle class. The only thing inaccurate about that flyer is the tense; that middle class has been destroyed, bifurcated into a world of upwardly-mobile knowledge workers (you, me, and most of our friends) and downwardly-mobile losers bereft of any clout whatsoever.
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From:jeffreyab
Date:January 11th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
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Patrrick makes a good point, Right to Work sends any union manufacturing workers that are left in the middle class down to the lower class.

I believe there are some left in MI and ON.
From:nicegeek
Date:January 11th, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
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There are some left, but, in my opinion, nobody should be counting on many manufacturing jobs being around in a couple decades. Perhaps in a few protected industries, such as Defense, but not anywhere else. And that's not necessarily a bad thing; 150 years ago, most people in the U.S. were farmers. 50 years ago, most people in the U.S. were factory workers. 50 years from now, most people will probably be in some combination of the service, technology, and health fields.

In my opinion, the unions are fighting the wrong battle; they're trying to resist these changes because their power base is built around the manufacturing economy. However, often the best thing for their members would be to get retrained in an up-and-coming field, so that they have more employment options. This creates a conflict of interest for the unions, since over the long run, this will tend to shrink their membership rolls.

IMHO, the right battle to fight is not to try to hold back the changes, but to get people the education and training they need to learn and change along with the job market. That will give them better security than the unions could negotiate for them.
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From:netmouse
Date:January 12th, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC)
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well, in my mind, the rapidity with which we are exporting manufacturing away from this country is an issue. Just like the country gets overly dependent on foreign powers when it imports a resource like oil, once we aren't manufacturing anything and our younger generations start growing up without knowing how physical things work and are built (this is already happening), we put our entire nation into the sort of fragile state of dependency many upper classes find themselves in.

From:nicegeek
Date:January 12th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
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In my view, it's actually a good thing for countries to become more interdependent, as it provides a really strong disincentive for a country to start a half-cocked war that the rest of the world thinks is unjustified.
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From:netmouse
Date:January 12th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
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well, one would think. yet that has not worked so far... in fact it has worked rather the opposite way, where a certain country has felt the need to impose its power on countries it is dependent upon. Of course, that probably wouldn't work with China, but we'll have to see, won't we?

I guess I'm just can't stand watching our country become populated with a majority of spoiled brats who can't apply logic and don't know how to make things, only how to consume them.
From:nicegeek
Date:January 12th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
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I think it's working with China, but yes, we'll have to wait and see on that front. The U.S. has been able to get away with a belligerent foreign policy because of its unilateral economic clout, but I think that that will eventually change as the rest of the world develops, as long as the U.S. doesn't shut down trade and try to make itself an island. Islands are dangerous, because they don't have to care what anyone else thinks of them.

As for the people who don't know how to make things, I think that even if they're not making physical widgets, people in other sectors of the economy (say, nurses) are still 'making' something valuable, even if it's intangible.
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From:jeffreyab
Date:January 12th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
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You assume that a manufacturing worker can be reprogrammed to do something in the knowledge economy.

This means going back to school for most of them at a time they may be sending their kids to school or planning for their retirement.
From:nicegeek
Date:January 12th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
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I do assume that people can learn a new profession, if given the right resources. Defining "the right resources" is a really long debate, of course.

This is really the classic 'buggy-whip manufacturer' problem: When technological or societal changes make it so that some jobs are just no longer necessary, what do you do with the people who had those jobs?

You can try to block the change and force the old jobs to stick around, but then you're causing two kinds of harm. First, you've got a person spending their life doing work that doesn't really need to be done anymore. At least for most people, I think that would be profoundly demoralizing and disempowering. Second, the money spent paying for busy work is effectively wasted when it could have been used for more productive purposes.

Instead of blocking change and wasting the rest of a life's worth of labor in the process, I think it's better to focus resources on helping the person change along with the world. Doing something genuinely useful is not only better for their employer, but is far better for their own self-worth too.

I think that adaptability is a fundamental human trait, and that most (though not all) cases of people who "can't" learn new skills have their roots in either stubbornness or the fear of change, which could be overcome with sufficient effort and some combination of carrots and sticks. In the rare cases where someone absolutely can't learn an employable skill even given every chance to do so, you'd probably have to handle them just as you would someone who was unemployable due to a severe disability.
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From:jeffreyab
Date:January 12th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
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And who is to pay for this training?

I have found many of the retraining programs to be of the quick and dirty type they fulfill the minimum requirements but do not help the trainee esp. in the long run.
From:nicegeek
Date:January 12th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)
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That's the really long debate I mentioned, which probably isn't worth getting into here. The point I was making was that for everyone involved, retraining is generally better than keeping obsolete jobs around.
From:nicegeek
Date:January 12th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
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Better for everyone except the unions, I should have said.
[User Picture]
From:madtechie2718
Date:January 11th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
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Is this a reasonable description of the debate?:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-to-work_law

From the previous comments, it doesn't seem to tell the entire story.

The UK was almost destroyed as an economic entity in the 60s and 70s by the unbridled power of the unions - mostly I think we have a pretty decent balance today.

Being forced to join a union as acondition of employment is not something I could countenance.
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From:mjwise
Date:January 12th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)
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The most experience I have with RTW issues is that my sister was forced to join the teachers' union at the jr./sr. school she teaches at in Indiana (not a RTW state). The dues are a not-insignificant sum (hundreds a year 6 or 7 years back, may be more now) and from what she told me, the leaders were pretty much the loudmouthed malcontents that frankly didn't care too much about teaching. Plus she is risking losing her job due to lack of popularity of art classes and budget cuts (she's the only jr/sr art teacher, for, oh, 30 miles at least) and the union has been basically no help at all. She's had to resort to personally campaigning the school board to save her job (and may yet be successful). So you could probably count her in the RTW column.
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From:howardtayler
Date:January 12th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
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I'd be interested to know the following:

1) What is unemployment like between RTW and non-RTW states?
2) What is the welfare burden like between RTW and non-RTW states?
3) Where are the 1-to-1 statistical coordinations, if there are any?

--Howard "Not a member of a Union" Tayler
From:nicegeek
Date:January 12th, 2008 06:36 am (UTC)
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I think that a proper evaluation of RTW would need to control for a lot of other variables, too. It would have to find two areas that are very demographically similar, except for one being RTW, and the other not.

Another way to study it might be to find several states that went from non-RTW to RTW (or vice-versa), and see if there was a common trend.

I'd be very interested in the answer as well, but I'm not up for doing that much data diving, and the journal articles I found were all on pay sites. Someone at a University with journal access might be able to do better.
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