Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 4, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

LAW? WHAT LAW?....It is, of course, illegal to fire someone for trying to organize a union at their workplace. So how's that law working out?

We find a steep rise in the 2000s relative to the last half of the 1990s in illegal firings of pro-union workers. By 2005, pro-union workers involved in union election campaigns faced about a 1.8 percent chance of being illegally fired during the course of the campaign....If we assume that employers target union organizers and activists, and that union organizers and activists make up about 10 percent of pro-union workers, our estimates suggest that almost one-in-five union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their activities in a union election campaign.

Italics mine. This is from a new study by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer of CEPR. And just so you can't say I don't provide good news along with the bad, the authors report that although illegal firings have risen dramatically under the Bush administration, things still aren't quite as bad as they were during the Reagan administration. So count your blessings.

Via Brad Plumer.

Kevin Drum 3:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

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Comments

The market works!

Posted by: Al's Mommy on January 4, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I for one welcome our new Democrat Overlords.

Posted by: R.L. on January 4, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

If only unions were everywhere, and all domestic industries could be more like the US automakers! Oh man, that would be great.

Posted by: American Hawk on January 4, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like an issue for Edwards. Watch out for him.

Posted by: david mizner on January 4, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

By 2005, pro-union workers involved in union election campaigns faced about a 1.8 percent chance of being illegally fired during the course of the campaign.

Correlation is not the same as causation. I suspect union workers are lazier than non-union workers and so of course union workers are more likely to be fired because employers prefer to keep the hard worker over the lazy worker.

Al

Posted by: The Real Al on January 4, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like an issue for Edwards. Watch out for him.

What did Edwards do/propose while in the Senate?

Posted by: gq on January 4, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Did it ever occur to you that a large percentage of those that fancy themselves "union organizers" are really just cranks, misfits, and professional malingerers? Ask any ten people that work on a unionized shop floor if the benefits of unions outway the costs in dues, red tape, shop-floor politics and decreased competitiveness and eight out of ten will admit that unions are more trouble than they're worth. That's why Reagan Democrats have made the Repubs the majority party, except for this two year hiccup.

Posted by: minion of rove on January 4, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

LMAO at AH. Yeah, the unions are at fault for US auto makers putting all their chips in SUVs.

In the world of wingnuts, management is never at fault.

Posted by: Disputo on January 4, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'd guess that if you took the fired PATCO workers out of the equation, the situation for workers trying to organize is worse today than it was under Reagan.

Wonder how many cubicle potatoes who deplore "lazy" union members could last a single full shift put in by SEIU members who clean the coffee stains, cheetos crunched into the carpet and restroom accidents the potatoes leave behind.

Unions are the reason your cubicle farms have light, air, indoor plumbing and potable water.

Unions are the reason you work five eight-hour days a week instead of seven 15-hour ones.

Unions are the reason you get paid enough to live on, and are protected by law from employer mistreatment.

Unions are the reason defined-benefit pensions were once the norm in this country.

Employee health, safety, and security have all plunged downward in perfect concert with the plunge in union membership over the past 30 years.

Union membership is now less than 10 percent in the private sector. Very intimidating.

What are you afraid of?

Posted by: Yellow Dog on January 4, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Employers should have every right to fire workers who want to interfere with a free labor market, but if they show restraint and only fire 1.8% of troublemakers, what's the problem?

Posted by: Al on January 4, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo: the unions are at fault for US auto makers putting all their chips in SUVs

True. Fortunately though, Honda's UAW workers were smarter.

Posted by: alex on January 4, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

eight out of ten will admit that unions are more trouble than they're worth.

87% of all stats are made up on the spot.

Posted by: Disputo on January 4, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Correlation is not the same as causation. I suspect union workers are lazier than non-union workers and so of course union workers are more likely to be fired because employers prefer to keep the hard worker over the lazy worker.
Al
Posted by: The Real Al

But apparently suspicion is the same as evidence.

Have you been stealing from Rehnquist's medicine cabinet?

Posted by: cyntax on January 4, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Only 20%? Is that the best they can do?

Posted by: Brian on January 4, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Yellow Dog nailed it. Good job. Now, if we could just pass some laws to prohibit executive types from organizing and mingling at country clubs, spas, resorts on the Mediterranean, etc. You know what happens then - those worthless layabouts propose some downsizing or merger that helps no one, damages American competitiveness and causes unemployment rates to go up. Lazy, no-good bastards.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 4, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Yellow dog: right the flyin' hell on! damn, you're good!

87% of all stats are made up on the spot
Not quite accurate: actually, it's 86.8%!

Posted by: thersites on January 4, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The hell with (ridiculously low) fines for companies that violate labor laws and fire/punish workers for advocating union representation.

Put the CEO's and other co. officers in jail if found guilty of this practice. 5 years sounds about right. And prohibit them from ever holding a corporate office again.

Maybe even publish this names like we do for sex offenders so you can know if one lives in your neighborhood. Oh, and posters on trees, too!

Posted by: JimPortlandOR on January 4, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Save the labor unions!

What we need in this country are more unions. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to corruption of any kind!

Posted by: sportsfan79 on January 4, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

What we need in this country are more unions. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to corruption of any kind!

What we need in this country are more managers and CEO's. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to corruption of any kind!

Posted by: trex on January 4, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

What we need in this country are more politicians. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to corruption of any kind!

Posted by: trex on January 4, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Did it ever occur to you that a large percentage of those that fancy themselves "Bush supporters" are really just cranks, misfits, and professional malingerers? I just think of them as dead-enders myself.

Posted by: SavageView on January 4, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Save the cartels!

What we need in this country are more cartels. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to corruption of any kind!

Posted by: SavageView on January 4, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

What we need in this country are more commenters on blogs. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to productivity loss of any kind!

Posted by: thersites on January 4, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

What we need in this country are more powerful religious leaders. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to corruption of any kind!

Hmmm, looks like corruption in the public sphere may not be exclusive to labor unions and not a good reason to single them out for criticism.

Posted by: trex on January 4, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

You forgot the obvious:

What we need in this country are more Republicans. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to productivity loss of any kind!

Posted by: Disputo on January 4, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

trex, why do you hate America?

Posted by: thersites on January 4, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Ooops, guess I should have said "corruption" instead of "productivity loss".

I blame unions for my cut-n-paste error.

Posted by: Disputo on January 4, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

What we need in this country are more commenters on blogs. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to productivity loss of any kind!

It is amazing how much commentary shows up here in the middle of a work day, isn't it?

Posted by: fgh on January 4, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

What we need in this country are more commenters on blogs. They are beyond reproach, and never lead to productivity loss of any kind!

word.

Posted by: Edo on January 4, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

That's why Reagan Democrats have made the Repubs the majority party, except for this two year hiccup.

We are always the winners, except for this one time when we got stomped on comprehensively!

Simply beautiful.

Cue Frequency Kenneth with a random collection of wingnut create-a-slogan phrases including socialist, welfare, free market, invisible hand and made this country great.

Posted by: floopmeister on January 4, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ask any ten people that work on a unionized shop floor if the benefits of unions outway the costs in dues, red tape, shop-floor politics and decreased competitiveness and eight out of ten will admit that unions are more trouble than they're worth.

Having actually worked in a union shop for 7 years (CWA), minion, I can call your bullshit on that one.

It'd be more like 8 out of 10 were happy about the union, in reality, and were quite glad to have it, warts and all. Of those 8, 4 were probably enthusiastically pro-union, and 4 were just so-so pro union, but not many folks were actually anti-union. People aren't stupid, and they know exactly what would happen were the union to go away (they're pay would be cut by a third, there benefits completely eliminated, etc.)

You're completely wrong. Unions have all the same problems of incompetence and corruption that management and non-union companies have. It's just that in union companies, workers actually get something much closer to a fair slice of the company profit, which would have all gone to the top 1% of the company, had the union not been there.

Posted by: teece on January 4, 2007 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans hold 3 seats on the National Labor Relations Board, Democrats hold 2 seats. In this administration, decisions have favored management, and it is viewed that precedents have been watered down that were set in previous administrations.

University of Illinois Professor Robert Bruno said, "By every account that I have seen, the NRLB appointees under the two Bush administrations (2000 to 2006) have been very reactionary to the right to organize. By all accounts, there is no effective legal right to organize because there are so many opportunities for employees to undermine that right."

Posted by: consider wisely on January 4, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

eight out of ten will admit that unions are more trouble than they're worth.

You are howling mad. Try talking to a union member some time. The union shops I worked in during my hospital career had higher job satisfaction, lower turnover, happier employees and higher productivity. You can't just make shit up like that and not expect those of us who have actually paid union dues to call you on it.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 4, 2007 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Economist Paul Krugman: "According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hourly wage of the American non-supervisory worker is actually lower, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970. Meanwhile, CEO pay soared--from less than 30X the average wage to almost 3ooX the typical worker's pay....Since Bush the Second...the balance of power shifted against workers and the middle class to a degree not seen since the Gilded Age."

Recall the current president bragged that his base consisted of 'the haves and the have-mores.'

Posted by: consider wisely on January 4, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I was recently talking to a middle-level manager at our local Wal Mart - and there is currently a serious nationwide, but secret, effort underway to unionize. Working conditions have gone downhill there, very rapidly in the past 2-3 years. There's a strong tide of discontent afoot.

I, for one, could not be happier with that news. Even though Retail unions are useless. (it was the Manufacturing and Teamsters unions that really built the middle class in this country - as a member of UFCW in the 1980's, I can say that they worked very hard to make the case for elimination of all Unions in the US. Let's hope it works out better for WalMart's employees.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 4, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Moral: if you're lazy, incompetent or, more likely, a disaffected pain-in-the-ass employee, become a union organizer so you are harder to fire.

Wonder why Kevin didn't think of that?

Posted by: a on January 4, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

"If this discussion could result in any way to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representation arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."

Weingarten Rights. US Supreme Court 1975

How important is this, wing -nut trolls!!??

Posted by: consider wisely on January 4, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

of course the wing nuts miss the point entirely. this is not about whether unions are good or bad — it's the law that workers have the right to organize. in their (dim) view, laws are to followed only when they deem it to be convenient. and i do agree with global citizen that unions can be a catalyst to a better work place.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 4, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

The US gov't has finally adopted the Dutch marijuana policy -- but we apply it towards firing pro-union workers. Viz, it's technically illegal, but we don't actually punish people for it.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 4, 2007 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Ask any ten people that work on a unionized shop floor if the benefits of unions outway the costs in dues, red tape, shop-floor politics and decreased competitiveness and eight out of ten will admit that unions are more trouble than they're worth.
Posted by: minion of rove

Excuse me, minion ... do you have another reference for those numbers? You see, I can't seem to Google to recognize your rectum as a valid source.

Posted by: Nads on January 4, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

The law must be enforced. It must be enforced so that illegal firings cannot take place. It also must be enforced so illegal immigration cannot take place. Amazing how those on both sides of the aisle pick and chose what laws to enforce.

Posted by: brian on January 4, 2007 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Brian, for reminding us of something every natural born conservative ought to understand: that the law must be enforced.

But lets remind ourselves that these particular laws stink, and are desperately in need of revision so that they may serve their original purpose of preventing unfair labor practices.

Even on the extremely rare occasions when such cases of victimization are fully adjudicated, guilty managers face even less than a slap on the wrist.

I've been involved in a case that took nearly three years from start to finish: from the original attack on workers; to a decision favorable to the workers by an Administrative Law Judge; which was appealed by the company; to a decision by the full National Labor Relations Board upholding the ALJ's decision. Three years. The punishment: the company basically has to say they erred, and that in the future they agree to behave like good boys and girls.
Not even a slap on the wrist. The workers have moved on; and of course there's no union. No fine; no manager loses his job. No consequences.

This is the rule of law?

Posted by: Friend of Labor on January 5, 2007 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't management like unions. One word: GREED. The republicans babble about the importance of employers providing, job training, health insurance, and retirement packages. I work construction and the only employers who provide all of these things are union contractors. If all of our workers were unionized the health care and social security problems would go away because medical and retirement benefits would be provided by the employers. And no, it wouldn't destroy the economy. I work for a union electrical contractor who is making a darn good living in spite of the fact that he pays about 20% more on the check than nonunion contractors, plus health insurance, pension, and annuity none of which are provided by his nonunion competitors.

Posted by: sparky on January 5, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Wingnuts:

Unfortunately for you, we already tried the libertarian paradise-It was called the Gilded Age. It predictably produced a handful of ultra wealthy individuals such as Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, etc., and a vast number of desperately poor workers. But if that is what you want to sell to the American public, I say go for it!

Posted by: CDWard on January 5, 2007 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK


Dispto Re: UAW or Management causing GM problems.
Aside of the product policy, look at the main problem: health care and pension costs for the employer.
Detroit is caught in a vicious but foreseeable downward demographic spiral. Retirees are not costing too much money individually, they are just too numerous.

So let go to the origin, and who is responsible for that. I don't have the link handy, sorry, but the story I read was of the UAW leader wanting portable -not job linked- pension and health care insurance, that means mor or less universal.
The GM boss was against (socialism it is!), and came with the one the US knows nowaday.
The syndicate accepted, making the calculation the employers would reckon and come to their sense sooner or later with a basic calculation from their accountant.
They still don't have.

So, today: fire the union man, cover the CEO with a lavish compensation.

But more basically for the unfettered capitalism worshippers:
If the 1% stomp on my right of labor organizing, do I have the right to stomp over their property rights?

Posted by: Union leader skills vs. manager skills on January 5, 2007 at 6:33 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican'ts hate the working man. If you work for a living and vote Republican't, you're a fool.

Posted by: merlallen on January 5, 2007 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

I remember during Reagan's reign asking a friend how much worse can it get?

Since Bush, I've never asked that question again.

Let us not forget that the mentally impaired were "liberated" by Reagan and now find homey residences on the streets.

Posted by: Cyn2 on January 5, 2007 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'm so sorry about your cat. She seemed like such a lovely critter. Cats are supposoed to live forever( only to people that don't much like them ) but in real life they aren't around all that long. Think of all those poor cats is Iraq and elsewhere that don't know where their next meal is coming from, and think about your lovely feline with a happy, cherished life. I'm so sory for you but be grateful that you gave your cat so much.

Posted by: sab on January 5, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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