The Wisconsin Governor does not like unions.

My biggest criticism of the unions is that they can become a business on to themselves. Instead of going out and trying to organize workers, they simply stick to the status quo. We have huge populations of low wage workers in this country that could really benefit from unionization. Manufacturing, government, and trucking seem to monopolize their attention, while the workers from the service, farming, and retail industries have little to no collective bargaining power. Think of all the people that work in the fields, in restaurants, and in retail. Most attempts to unionize them are easily thwarted and none of the big national organizations come to their aid, despite having a tremendous amount of economic and political power. Unionization is still a grass roots prospect for most employees and it almost never works in their favor. The activism and a sense of a larger mission are not there. They support the workers in their union, but there is no dedication to the larger American workforce as a whole.

Dimmerswitch wrote:

But the reason I'm down on the capitol is that our brand-new Governor (who won with 52% of the vote) is acting in a manner more suitable to a petty tyrant than an elected official of a state I'm proud to call home.

Well said. Wife, kid, and I will hopefully be joining you today (live 10 blocks from the Square).

When unions are used to improve working conditions I think we can all agree that it's a good thing. I don't think any of us would like to return to sweat shops or places where workers die do to deplorable conditions.

Unfortunately unions have evolved (or devolved) in many instances to a workforce sledgehammer that forces employers to reward mediocrity and grossly inflate pay and benefit packages. I experienced this personally when i worked for UPS in college. Being told I "HAD" to join the Teamsters after 3 months was a revelation, and a shock to me. I had to work my ass off to get in but once I was in I literally had to do 1/3 of the work. It's not uncommon to have union agreements that allow people to retire after 20 years and make 75% of your highest annual salary. That's prove positive that something is really freaking wrong.

Blaming other countries or employers for "takin r jobs" is absurd. The jobs have moved for a couple of reasons:
1. We aren't willing to do the work at wages that will support the often absurd profits.
2. We like walking into Walmart and paying next to nothing for crap that is made be people working in conditions (and for wages) we'd never tolerate.

In summary, we like to bitch endlessly about exporting jobs and how terrible the Chinese, India's, Mexican's etc. are for tanking our jobs. Ironically, we can't wait to get into Walmart buy the $29 DvD player that was made by a child in some province we've never heard of.

What everyone needs is a gigantic injection of common f*cking sense!

Trashie wrote:
Dimmerswitch wrote:

But the reason I'm down on the capitol is that our brand-new Governor (who won with 52% of the vote) is acting in a manner more suitable to a petty tyrant than an elected official of a state I'm proud to call home.

Well said. Wife, kid, and I will hopefully be joining you today (live 10 blocks from the Square).

The tea party counter-rally started today; hopefully everyone on all sides can keep civil and peaceful!

Bear wrote:

What everyone needs is a gigantic injection of common f*cking sense!

I was thinking about this when I did my taxes today. Yes, the 3.5% effective tax rate and rebates for social security will fix our problems.

Not to completely derail...

If I was the Governor, I would honor the contract, and bargain better the next time around. Until that time, the residents will have to pony up the money. My home state is going to feel this pain really soon. Can't wait.

Bear wrote:

In summary, we like to bitch endlessly about exporting jobs and how terrible the Chinese, India's, Mexican's etc. are for tanking our jobs. Ironically, we can't wait to get into Walmart buy the $29 DvD player that was made by a child in some province we've never heard of.

I never bought the argument that unions drove jobs overseas either. Even if union workers made average wages and benefits, the jobs would still have left. It's simply cheaper (lower wages, less regulation, cheaper taxes, raw material costs, etc.) and to be honest, those poorer countries really do need the jobs.

We are in a privileged position that no one ever discusses. Look at the back of an iPhone and it says, "designed by Apple in California." That is a far better position to be in economically than if the iPhone were simply built in California. We may not have plants in the US making iPhones, but the lionshare of the profits come right back to the US. I would much rather live in a region that designs the things the world buys (N. America/Europe), then the region that manufactures them (Asia).

An associate degree from a trade school or a community college could land you a decent entry level job at any number of corporations in the US and the things you learn add to your inherent value as an employee. Thus, when you move or have to find another job, you have training and experience that will land you another position. Pinning your hopes on the local factory job offers you nothing but a job, which may or may not exist 10 years from now. If that plant disappears, you have nothing.

The way I see is that every job that can go overseas will go overseas because of math. The simple truth of the matter it is far cheaper to hire 10 computer scientist from India than 1 in America. Big businesses are run buy groups and not single people. These groups are always trying to find ways to make more money not employ Americans. They want to get more for less. Unions aren't the problem, health care isn't the problem. The problem is basic math. If your job doesn't require your physical present it will go overseas sooner or later. John Kerry was speaking the truth about this during his presidential bid. No one listen though, to busy talking about swift boats and ribbons.

heavyfeul wrote:

I never bought the argument that unions drove jobs overseas either. Even if union workers made average wages and benefits, the jobs would still have left. It's simply cheaper (lower wages, less regulation, cheaper taxes, raw material costs, etc.) and to be honest, those poorer countries really do need the jobs.

Overseas, maybe not. Out of state? I've seen it happen quite a bit. See the recent example of Mercury Marine of Fond du Lac Wisconsin, who went to their union and said "Look, in order to stay competitive we need to examine our cost structure. The union labor and benefits is what's throwing us out of whack, and we simply can't stay competitive with these costs. We either need some significant concessions or we're going to move production to a different state."

The union decided to stay strong and voted down the concessions. In 2012 (I believe, which is the end of the contract) production moves to a southern state where instead of $25/hr and full-boat benefits Merc will pay their workers considerably less money and "rest-of-the-world" benefits. (I don't have exact numbers, but wages will be more in the line of $14-16 dollars/hr from what I've heard.) The local economy of Fond du Lac, much of which existed to support the operations there, will be devastated. There are repercussions for large businesses leaving an area that have a huge ripple effect on smaller, non-union businesses. The decision by the union workers to refuse concessions cost them their jobs as well as the livelihoods of non-union workers in the greater FDL area.

Next, look at Harley-Davidson. They went to the union and said the same thing, cost structure, moving out of state, etc. This was in the wake of the Mercury decision, and the H-D union voted for the concessions, and thousands of jobs stayed in the greater Milwaukee area as opposed to moving to Kentucky or Tennessee.

Michael wrote:
heavyfeul wrote:

I never bought the argument that unions drove jobs overseas either. Even if union workers made average wages and benefits, the jobs would still have left. It's simply cheaper (lower wages, less regulation, cheaper taxes, raw material costs, etc.) and to be honest, those poorer countries really do need the jobs.

Overseas, maybe not. Out of state? I've seen it happen quite a bit. See the recent example of Mercury Marine of Fond du Lac Wisconsin, who went to their union and said "Look, in order to stay competitive we need to examine our cost structure. The union labor and benefits is what's throwing us out of whack, and we simply can't stay competitive with these costs. We either need some significant concessions or we're going to move production to a different state."

The union decided to stay strong and voted down the concessions. In 2012 (I believe, which is the end of the contract) production moves to a southern state where instead of $25/hr and full-boat benefits Merc will pay their workers considerably less money and "rest-of-the-world" benefits. (I don't have exact numbers, but wages will be more in the line of $14-16 dollars/hr from what I've heard.) The local economy of Fond du Lac, much of which existed to support the operations there, will be devastated. There are repercussions for large businesses leaving an area that have a huge ripple effect on smaller, non-union businesses. The decision by the union workers to refuse concessions cost them their jobs as well as the livelihoods of non-union workers in the greater FDL area.

Next, look at Harley-Davidson. They went to the union and said the same thing, cost structure, moving out of state, etc. This was in the wake of the Mercury decision, and the H-D union voted for the concessions, and thousands of jobs stayed in the greater Milwaukee area as opposed to moving to Kentucky or Tennessee.

I hear what you are saying but I can't possibly imagine agreeing to work for 60% of my former pay and a fraction of my benefits. Perhaps if the workers in the southern state manage to unionize they can have something much closer to a middle class wage, and benefits that will help them if they or their loved ones get hurt or sick.

Now slightly off topic but very amusing:

craigslist ad wrote:

I know how it is.

You're a freshman Senator from Bayview/South Milwaukee. You're riding high on the thrill of your first big election victory, thinking "maybe this whole state government thing is going to be alright." Sure you're in the minority, but that means you get to say whatever you really want right? Who knows maybe you'll even get to co-sponsor a bill to give social services to poor people or something hippy-dippy like that.

But before you've even finished breaking in the tall backed "captains chair" your wife bought for your Madison office the sh*t hits the fan. The Governor goes totally 'roon the bend' and you can't walk from that great bagel shop on state street to your office without getting almost hit in the face with a "Local 171" sign.

Or maybe you've represented Poplar and north-west Wisconsin since your first election at the beginning of time. You've known the vagaries of being in and out of power. But after 20 years in Madison you've had it with this sh*t. Time to do something adventurous and blow this popsicle stand.

Either way you're on the lam, following river-beds and listening for dogs as you try to duck the fuzz and make it to sweet sweet freedom in the cornfields of Iowa or Illinois.

We've all been there.

Well lucky for you I'm here to help. I'm throwing open the guest room in my Logan Square home to any Senators currently evading the Wisconsin State Patrol. Sure you may not have all the comforts at home - no fresh cheese curds on every corner. But if you stare at the lake hard enough you might be able to pretend you're just in a bigger MIlwaukee... with an actual economy.

This jives pretty strongly with my experience of unionized public employees. Extreme CYA to the point where people are actually less productive at their jobs and incapable of learning, taking criticism or accepting new methodology.

This is everywhere in the workplace. It infuriates me to no end people who's full time job is to CYA and do nothing productive. Those are the skills they should put on their resume: can talk in circular logic, is a yes man, and gets promoted often.

I really think I have it all backwards. I should do nothing at my company and my incompetent boss will take me with him since he has a built in patsy and looks good because the people working for him a even less competent. If you think outside the box or show some ambition, you are first in line when the layoffs come.

edit: oops double posted somehow

NathanialG wrote:

I hear what you are saying but I can't possibly imagine agreeing to work for 60% of my former pay and a fraction of my benefits. Perhaps if the workers in the southern state manage to unionize they can have something much closer to a middle class wage, and benefits that will help them if they or their loved ones get hurt or sick.

But consider that they're not choosing between working at $25/hr or $14/hr - they're choosing between $14/hr and no job at all.

They chose no job at all. Do you know what they're going to find when they look for similar jobs in the greater Wisconsin area? A whole bunch of jobs that pay $14/hr. Because that's what the economy says they're worth. Even worse, they'll [i]all[/] be out of a job, and with the sudden glut of people with the same skill set they've effectively just de-valued themselves.

The guys who take the jobs in Kentucky or Tennessee aren't bad guys - they'll make a living getting paid what other similar jobs are paying. A computer programmer is only worth what employers are willing to pay him, the same goes with a guy that works on an assembly line. By acting as outside party that artificially (that is, not market-driven) increases the wages of a VERY small subset of workers, the unions are setting themselves up for these inevitable all-or-nothing type scenarios.

Michael wrote:
NathanialG wrote:

I hear what you are saying but I can't possibly imagine agreeing to work for 60% of my former pay and a fraction of my benefits. Perhaps if the workers in the southern state manage to unionize they can have something much closer to a middle class wage, and benefits that will help them if they or their loved ones get hurt or sick.

But consider that they're not choosing between working at $25/hr or $14/hr - they're choosing between $14/hr and no job at all.

They chose no job at all. Do you know what they're going to find when they look for similar jobs in the greater Wisconsin area? A whole bunch of jobs that pay $14/hr. Because that's what the economy says they're worth. Even worse, they'll [i]all[/] be out of a job, and with the sudden glut of people with the same skill set they've effectively just de-valued themselves.

The guys who take the jobs in Kentucky or Tennessee aren't bad guys - they'll make a living getting paid what other similar jobs are paying. A computer programmer is only worth what employers are willing to pay him, the same goes with a guy that works on an assembly line. By acting as outside party that artificially (that is, not market-driven) increases the wages of a VERY small subset of workers, the unions are setting themselves up for these inevitable all-or-nothing type scenarios.

I'm curious as to what drove this drastic desire to cut all employee compensation by the company. Were they suddenly forced to compete at a lower price point or face increased materials cost, or was this another round of the primary investors/owners wanting bigger boats?

A further question: if you, personally, had to choose between taking a 50% wage cut or going to look for a new job, which would you choose? Also, have you told your employer the answer to this question? I'm sure a lot of businesses would love to cut wages and benefits if their employees would sit there and take it.

Kraint wrote:

I'm curious as to what drove this drastic desire to cut all employee compensation by the company. Were they suddenly forced to compete at a lower price point or face increased materials cost, or was this another round of the primary investors/owners wanting bigger boats?

A further question: if you, personally, had to choose between taking a 50% wage cut or going to look for a new job, which would you choose? Also, have you told your employer the answer to this question? I'm sure a lot of businesses would love to cut wages and benefits if their employees would sit there and take it.

Cost analysis is usually the reason. It's easy enough to determine what competitors have to pay for materials and labor. Finding out that you're paying twice as much for labor as your competitor is usually enough of a reason. You're certainly right though, it could be Big Bad Corporate Greed - if you're more inclined to believe that then there's probably not much I can do to persuade you.

Regarding your second question, I'm not inclined to get into that line of questioning; it won't lead anywhere productive. I work in one of the thousands of fields that aren't protected by unions, and somehow we've made it this far without dropping to $0.25/hr. It's been a down economy - I've already faced wage cuts and wage freezes. Things will pick up soon.

Michael wrote:

Cost analysis is usually the reason. It's easy enough to determine what competitors have to pay for materials and labor. Finding out that you're paying twice as much for labor as your competitor is usually enough of a reason. You're certainly right though, it could be Big Bad Corporate Greed - if you're more inclined to believe that then there's probably not much I can do to persuade you.

But of course it can be greed, though that doesn't mean that it's always the result of greed. To my mind, employers aren't the only ones who should get to decide the value of a job. Employees get to decide that they're not willing to do a given job for less than a given salary, and collective bargaining is an important force multiplier for that side of the equation. That's part of the market, too.

Small correction: in your Mercury Marine example, the union did vote (twice) to reject the contract changes, in part because they feared that the company would close the Fond du Lac plant anyways. The union did counter-offer major wage concessions, asking primarily for a written confirmation that the factory would remain in Fond du Lac, but it was shot down by the company. The union ultimately voted to accept the company offer, at which point Mercury shut down their Oklahoma facilities to consolidate production in Wisconsin.

On a slightly different note, fun facts about WI public sector jobs:

* 40% of public employees in WI don't have college degrees, and their median income is about 11% higher than private sector workers without a degree.
* 60% of public employees in WI have a college degree, and their median income is about 9% less than private sector workers with a degree.

New York Times[/url]]IMAGE(http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/02/19/us/19union_graphic/19union_graphic-popup.gif)

NathanialG wrote:

I hear what you are saying but I can't possibly imagine agreeing to work for 60% of my former pay and a fraction of my benefits.

The question is how much concession the companies actually asked for. $25/hr down to $16/hr is a very steep drop, but keep in mind that now not only does Mercury Marine have to drop wages to offset the problems they were having anyway, but now they also have the extra incurred expense of building an entirely new factory and shipping or replacing all of the equipment from the old one, not to mention training replacements for all the workers. This is not something that will come cheaply.

I wouldn't be surprised if they asked for concessions that were significantly less drastic - e.g. perhaps a drop from $25/hr to $23 or $22, and less of a cut in benefits. But if the plant was losing money, concessions had to come from somewhere, and neither side was willing to make enough of them. Now they're even more in a hole, and they have even less money to spend on their workforce because of the expense of moving their facilities out-of-state.

NathanialG wrote:

Perhaps if the workers in the southern state manage to unionize they can have something much closer to a middle class wage, and benefits that will help them if they or their loved ones get hurt or sick.

And perhaps if they all go on strike demanding $25/hr then this new plant will have to close as well, because the factory will not be sustainable. But I personally don't think that will happen, because I honestly think at this point in the economy that the workers in the southern state will mostly just be happy to actually have jobs at all.

Please note: I am not against people unionizing to protect themselves. I am not against workers demanding a fair wage. I am most certainly against large corporations exploiting their workers for low wages and no benefits while their CEOs and top executives pull in eight and nine-digit salaries.

I do not think a union should unilaterally make concessions and say "okay, we'll all cut our wages and lose all our benefits just so we have jobs". But I also don't think a union should declare that they will never take cuts in wages or benefits, even when the company is bleeding money. I think in an ideal scenario the union and the company should work together and make concessions on both sides to attempt to solve the problem. I think if a company shows that it is making a good-faith effort to cut expenditures in all its areas and not just payroll - and also is willing to cut payroll to executive personnel as well as rank-and-file workers - that a union should at least consider being willing to make similar concessions for the good of the company.

I don't know anything at the situations at Mercury Marine and Harley-Davidson other than what has been posted already. I don't know what kinds of concessions were offered and what were agreed do, and I don't know what the companies offered to and actually did give up on their own. I know that a lot of people lost their jobs because a union and a company, for whatever reason, could not manage to come to an agreement.

To attempt to re-rail this thread, the government of Wisconsin, and the governor in general, is asking demanding that the union make concessions, but rather than attempting to decrease expenditures and increase income in other areas, is actually going the opposite way. This is in no sense bargaining in good faith, and I don't hold anything against the unions for standing their ground in this case.

According the Wisconsin State Journal, 60,000 people should up today to protest (both for and against Walker). No arrests, no injuries. More people are arrested after the typical Badger football game.

More fun labor facts:

Economist Menzie Chinn[/url]]
IMAGE(http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2011/02/wisc1.gif)
Figure 1: Annual wage for full time employees, by level of education attainment, in private sector (blue) and public sector (red). Source: Keefe (2011).

IMAGE(http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2011/02/wisc2.gif)
Figure 2: Annual total compensation for full time employees, by level of education attainment, in private sector (blue) and public sector (red). Source: Keefe (2011).

Clearly, the public employees are paid too much, so they don't deserve the right to organize. They're ruining the country anyway, going around enforcing regulations against business and killing babies and stuff. Might was well get rid of them and make them work like ordinary people.

Robear wrote:

Clearly, the public employees are paid too much, so they don't deserve the right to organize. They're ruining the country anyway, going around enforcing regulations against business and killing babies and stuff. Might was well get rid of them and make them work like ordinary people.

I was seeing that and thinking we should privatize government, and then everyone would make more money.

sheared wrote:
Robear wrote:

Clearly, the public employees are paid too much, so they don't deserve the right to organize. They're ruining the country anyway, going around enforcing regulations against business and killing babies and stuff. Might was well get rid of them and make them work like ordinary people.

I was seeing that and thinking we should privatize government, and then everyone would make more money.

Fine by me. I hear Tessier-Ashpool has a wonderful retirement package.

I was seeing that and thinking we should privatize government, and then everyone would make more money.

If the invisible hand sees a need for government, private enterprises will create it

...And they did. Many of the Founders were what we'd today call "war profiteers". Actually, some were called that back then.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/02/22/wis...

Internet blocking. Egypt. Libya. Wisconsin?

Dirt wrote:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/02/22/wis...

Internet blocking. Egypt. Libya. Wisconsin?

Heh. I saw this on CNN. Talk about inflammatory titles. This "union website" was hours old and the filter software that the capital uses blocks all new sites before they can be analyzed by the filter. Standard operating procedure for any type of web filter like that. I'm sure it gets people to click on the news story though. Stay classy CNN.

Nomad wrote:
Dirt wrote:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/02/22/wis...

Internet blocking. Egypt. Libya. Wisconsin?

Heh. I saw this on CNN. Talk about inflammatory titles. This "union website" was hours old and the filter software that the capital uses blocks all new sites before they can be analyzed by the filter. Standard operating procedure for any type of web filter like that. I'm sure it gets people to click on the news story though. Stay classy CNN.

I'm not sure that using scare quotes in a post criticizing bias makes quite the point you'd hoped.

The symptoms were actually slightly different than the Republican spokesperson would have you believe. The site was accessible immediately after launch for a period of time (24 hours or so, I believe), then was blocked entirely (traceroutes were timing out on a box in the 10.144 subnet, which was the local/capitol network). At the time I was looking with the TAA folks (probably 4:30pm or so local time yesterday) users were not being served a "blocked page" message, but were having those requests time out. I was able to access the site repeatedly during this testing via my cell phone, without incident.

It's certainly possible that this software checked for new sites on a periodic basis and then blacklisted them. It's also possible that a person made that decision - either on purpose, or blindly by looking at other criteria (hey, there's a brand new site which is getting some surprising amount of traffic).

Scare quotes? Not sure I understand.

Can you link some sources? Your post is the first I've heard of some of those things. I read that 30 minutes after the complaint of blockage the site was unblocked.

Since you are there, can you verify if the site is still blocked? (tomorrow or whenever)

Nomad wrote:

Scare quotes? Not sure I understand.

Can you link some sources? Your post is the first I've heard of some of those things. I read that 30 minutes after the complaint of blockage the site was unblocked.

Since you are there, can you verify if the site is still blocked? (tomorrow or whenever)

Scare quotes.

It's entirely possible that, once the TAA was able to find the appropriate party to contact, it only took 30 minutes to unblock. It is false to say that users were served a "blocked page" for the entire time the site was inaccessible.

One of my friends (we'll call him JB) is a member of the TAA. On Monday, JB saw on Twitter that I was at the capitol for the protests again, gave me the office number the TAA is using during the protests, and asked me to say hi. I stopped by the office, we chatted for a bit, and JB mentioned that their new site (http://www.defendwisconsin.org/) had stopped being accessible via the Capitol's network. I offered to take a look, and at the very least give him a better problem description for their technical resources, who were off-site at that point (I believe doing the phone bank setup). Here are the symptoms I was told:

* The website was launched on Sunday, in a quick / ugly format just to get something up. It was accessible via the Capitol network at this time.
* One of the TAA kids pulled an all-nighter redesigning the site. It was accessible via the Capitol network throughout this process.
* At some point during the day Monday, the site became inaccessible via the Capitol network. The TAA initially thought either the redesign had an issue, or that the server was overloaded, but then started getting reports that people were accessing it fine from outside the Capitol network.

Now, I trust JB because he's a friend. Even if he wasn't a friend, I'd expect him to describe these symptoms as accurately as possible because he was seeking my assistance in troubleshooting the problem.

As noted above, the symptoms I saw when looking at the issue were:
* Browsers attempting to load the Defend Wisconsin site would time out. They were not served a "blocked page" message.
* All other sites tested loaded without issue
* downforeveryoneorjustme.com reported the site was up
* traceroutes to defendwisconsin.org were timing out on a box in the 10.144 subnet, which was the local/capitol network
* I was able to access the site on my iPhone the entire time. Pages loaded well and I could navigate around without any problems.

[size=9]Source: Patterson, Christopher. "Stuff that happened to me this week" My Life Magazine. February 2011[/size]