Unionization for Thee, Not For Me Pt. 2

EFCA keeps popping up in the news now and again (WSJ for subscribers, Politico, Google News search). A little reading will give you the guts of the topic but its most contentious point is the use of signed cards instead of secret ballots under certain circumstances to recognize a union.

Once in my life I was a scab. I worked for one summer for my family's distribution company on a delivery truck when the drivers struck. Their jobs, sweaty and difficult, required a high school diploma, no nights, no weekends, no meetings and paid between $65,000 and $120,000/year + health insurance and pensions (in 1989). I don't recall their specific demands but I imagine they wanted, in the words of Samuel Gompers, "more." Well, their union said strike so they struck. I don't remember all the when's and how's but I do know none of them ever came back to work again.

Before you start thinking my fat-cat family just waited out the working stiffs, lounging by a pool, know that the business peaked about ten years before the strike and was sold for about 1/2 its peak value a couple years after the strike. The peak value was a nice number but was hardly enough to endow the founder's great-grandchildren with a life of Paris Hilton ease. Even if it was, the business belonged to my stepfather's family so I was never destined to hang pantyless with Paris and Britney. While the strike by itself didn't kill the business, partnership with changing tastes and bad decisions eventually did.

The job was fun, exhausting and paid pretty well. Only five people knew who I was: my stepfather, his father, the general manager, the warehouse manager and me. We had some bad ass security guards on the trucks with us and in case I was ever outed, the baddest bad ass security guard was assigned to my truck. He was an off-duty CPD beat cop named Acky who told me, and I believed him then and now, if anyone hassled me he would fire a few warning shots into the perp's leg.

Though a non-teabagging, free market trader, I have nothing particularly against unions. Unions serve as a necessary check against egregious employers. I believe workers have every right to organize and companies with bad union relationships deserve what they get. Unions, however, also have a documented history of malfeasance and corruption, so they're no angels themselves. Unions were dominant in a period of extraordinary American economic hegemony. Without unionization workers would have gotten the shaft. But when there's not enough to go around their legalized stranglehold on labor supply can help destroy a business. To see the havoc public sector employee unions can wreak, when conspiring with elected officials they organize to elect, dig into either San Diego or New York.

What's this got to do with EFCA? Only this: if secret ballots are so damn important in Mexico, why aren't they in the United States? Could it be. . . .wait for it. . . .politics?

No comments: