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View Diary: In further praise of unions. (209 comments)

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  •  Do you think (9+ / 0-)

    your employer would be so generous if unions had not pushed for such things in the first place? Union gains raise everyone's standards. That's always been true and always will be. The forty hour week, vacation pay, sick days, health benefits, dignity and respect at work, and much, much more were all unheard of concepts--until implemented through collective bargaining. Men and women endured beatings from company thugs and some even died on the picket lines to make these gains for future generations. Every worker, unionized or not, owes a debt to these brave people.

    The reverse is true, too. Just wait and see how Toyota and Honda cut wages to match the new, lower pay rates and benefits that UAW members will likely end up with.

    "All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms labor is treason. -Abraham Lincoln

    by happy camper on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 08:38:22 PM PST

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    •  Yeah he would (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffLieber, brooklyns finest

      Wouldn't you treat your workers well if you were a business owner?  Is it unusual to you that most people who would be smart enough and hard-working enough to build a business to the point of hiring people might have some redeeming qualities?

      •  Not at all. (8+ / 0-)

        But the record of business in general is lousy in this respect.

        Consider this, though: if a 40 hour week was not a standard, would your employer establish it as your standard? If his competitors were not paying health benefits, or living wages, or holiday pay, would he feel obligated to do so? Would he be able to do so?

        I'm not trying to dis your employer. But working people never got anything they didn't take. Unions have raised standards for everyone.

        "All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms labor is treason. -Abraham Lincoln

        by happy camper on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 09:04:28 PM PST

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        •  I run a non-union company. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FarWestGirl

          We're not a charity - we don't pay employees more than we have to or give more benefits than we have to.  But you see, simple fact is that we do have to pay employees a competitive salary or we can't keep them.  Same applies to benefits.

          In general, since we are non-union, we make the decision on benefits based on whether it seems that our employees would prefer the benefit to the cash cost of the benefit as salary.  It's that simple.

          So, for example, many companies in our industry are quite inflexible on vacation schedules.  People have to take them during season downturns.  We've reviewed our work load and, in general, we find that we can usually let people take vacation when they want to.  It's a benefit that is effectively free for us.

          On the other hand, our work force is almost all young and healthy.  We don't have any health insurance beyond Worker's Comp.  Why?  Because our employees, mostly, don't value it as much as they value the equivalent in cash.

          Is that good or bad?

          •  What happens when (3+ / 0-)

            one of those young, healthy employees gets in a car wreck and spends a few nights in the ICU? Or one of them gets pregnant? Or falls off a ladder and breaks their arm? Medical bills can hit thousands just for a few tests and a trip to the ER.

            Sorry, but I believe a union is like a motorcycle helmet. When you're sailing head first through the air at a wall, it's too late to put it on. Everybody who has a boss needs a union.

            "All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms labor is treason. -Abraham Lincoln

            by happy camper on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 06:00:57 AM PST

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            •  Well, when that happens they get screwed (0+ / 0-)

              financially or they rely on the hospital to give them free treatment and the taxpayer ends up paying.

              But we got a quote on health insurance and then we did a poll - did people prefer the cash or the insurance?

              It was pretty damned near unanimous - people preferred the cash.

              I'm my employees' employer, not their parent.  I am not in loco parentis and I don't want to be.  If a union insisted on health insurance in preference to higher wages it would be going against our staff's express wishes.  

              If you think a union can somehow get insurance as well as higher wages, well, there's a limited pot of money available for employees beyond which we just shut down.  We don't really care if that money goes to salaries or benefits, but either way the total is limited.

              •  So, you're on the government welfare teat, too? (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                happy camper, Dirtandiron, debbieleft

                Well, when [medical expenses] happen[] [my employees] get screwed financially or they rely on the hospital to give them free treatment and the taxpayer ends up paying.

                If you're employees "get screwed financially," from medical expenses that you don't, or won't provide insurance for, then they have to work harder to dig themselves out of the hole, reorganize under bankruptcy, or end up needing government assistance to get by, etc. And this is not nanny state thinking, how? Oh, but at least they're motivated workers, if they can still work.

                Conversely, if they aren't screwed financially, because they don't pay, then "the taxpayer ends up paying." And you're sloughing off foreseeable expenses of having employees and a business, expecting the nanny state to absorb the assorted costs and act loco parentis for both your business and employees, so you can all gamble on retaining more immediate resources. Feh.

                I'm my employees' employer, not their parent.  I am not in loco parentis and I don't want to be.

                As a taxpayer (yes, I am), I don't appreciate your circuitous utilization of state subsidization of your business.

                And you apparently see nothing wrong with any of this.

                Sometimes I blame it on the whole human race. Sometimes I wonder if it's me.
                - G. Pendderwen

                by Urtica dioica gracilis on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 10:50:31 AM PST

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                •  Don't distort what I wrote... (0+ / 0-)

                  If you're employees "get screwed financially," from medical expenses that you don't, or won't provide insurance for, then they have to work harder to dig themselves out of the hole, reorganize under bankruptcy, or end up needing government assistance to get by, etc. And this is not nanny state thinking, how? Oh, but at least they're motivated workers, if they can still work.

                  I'm perfectly happy to pay for medical insurance if my employees want it.  They're the ones who told me that they preferred cash.

                  As for relying on the state... we pay taxes, we follow regulations, we operate in the business environment as it exists, not in some Libertarian fantasy.

                  We also rely on the state for policing rather than hiring our own security guards, for fire fighting rather than subscribing to a private firefighting company, and for national defense rather than hiring mercenaries.

                  If the government cuts back on its funding for health for the uninsured or makes such debts undischargeable during bankruptcy our employees may decide they value health insurance more than they value its cash equivalent in which case we will pay for it.

                  In the same way, if the government cuts back on policing and other public services our employees may decide that they value secure company provided dormitories over buying / renting their own houses in which case we will also provide that fringe benefit.  (Don't laugh - we do provide that as an optional fringe benefit for our China subsidiary's staff.  We maintain a company dorm with room for 6 people with priority for junior staff.  The cost comes out of their base salary.)

                •  Why do you object to the taxpayer paying? (0+ / 0-)
                  You support single payer, right?

                  So in that case the taxpayer will also pay... in fact, the taxpayer will pay for EVERYONE, so that's even more for the taxpayer to pay!

      •  Small businesses are great, but... (9+ / 0-)

        Honestly, I know exactly what you mean. I know plenty of small business owners who are great people, who take care of their employees like a family and who make a huge difference to the life and soul of their communities.

        But there are some problems: First of all, although many business owners are great guys and ladies, no-one should have to depend upon their employer being such for basic health-care. Secondly, as great as many of these employers are, so many are unable to provide full benefits because of the cost - as good as their intentions are, it really takes a sizeable group, be it a union or a nation to negotiate truly affordable healthcare for all.

        Finally, I think that the real problems kick in when businesses grow beyond that point where the owner knows everyone. Decisions about healthcare are no longer in the hands of one individual with a personal stake in each employee and so are deferred to accounting departments where health-care is just another cost factor.

        Here the incentive may be to give benefits to those high up enough to be deemed valuable while the "replaceable" less-skilled workers may just get the shaft when it comes time to cut costs. And that's where unions really do make such a difference.

        "No, I still got *my* saber, Reverend. Didn't turn it into no plough-share, neither."

        by brooklyns finest on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 09:16:10 PM PST

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