They hate private unions too…

They hate private unions too… August 5, 2011

Let’s not forgot the latest GOP attack on the core principles of Catholic social teaching. With all the commotion over the debt ceiling deal, very few paid attention to the FAA shutdown. You will hear different things about this, but the main issue is an attack on unions and collective bargaining. Here is a good articulation of the issue:

“a provision that would reverse a regulator’s ruling that airlines can unionize if an election is held and a majority of ballots favor a union — the same procedure as in most workplaces. Previously, those not voting in airline unionization elections were counted as “no” votes, an unusual practice the House bill sought to restore.”

The result – 74,000 people furloughed, airline safety in jeopardy, $1 billion in lost revenues. All because Republicans want to impede unionization in the airline industry by cynically counting those who don’t vote as saying “no”. Maybe we should have used that standard in the “tea party election” of November 2010?

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  • Maybe that demand isn’t worth, but I don’t think that’s a bad demand. CST promotes unions, but it does not require them. I think if a union wants to have bargaining power for others, they ought to have their consent. And in reference to politics, I would very much enjoy if we put a “none of the above” or required the candidate to win a majority of the population rather than the voters, as I think that might actually cause some change in our partisan structure.

  • Maybe that demand isn’t worth, but I don’t think that’s a bad demand. CST promotes unions, but it does not require them. I think if a union wants to have bargaining power for others, they ought to have their consent. And in reference to politics, I would very much enjoy if we put a “none of the above” or required the candidate to win a majority of the population rather than the voters, as I think that might actually cause some change in our partisan structure.

  • Thales

    Voting to change the status quo of a workforce into a union is different from voting for a political representative among many candidates. In the latter, it’s normal for a representative to be elected with a plurality support. But an election to change the status quo of a workforce is different. I’m not a union-hater; but I just don’t see the travesty in requiring that a majority of employees support unionization before unionizing.

  • Thales

    Voting to change the status quo of a workforce into a union is different from voting for a political representative among many candidates. In the latter, it’s normal for a representative to be elected with a plurality support. But an election to change the status quo of a workforce is different. I’m not a union-hater; but I just don’t see the travesty in requiring that a majority of employees support unionization before unionizing.

  • Kurt

    Outrageous to count every absention as a vote for the incumbent. But then take a look at shareholder elections, where the incumbents get to decide what names go on the ballot and can spend the shareholder’s money to promote their candidates.

  • Kurt

    Outrageous to count every absention as a vote for the incumbent. But then take a look at shareholder elections, where the incumbents get to decide what names go on the ballot and can spend the shareholder’s money to promote their candidates.

  • Kurt, as always, brings up a good comparison. The Republican courts just struck down an SEC rule which would have given shareholders more sway over corporate boards. But nobody talks about that, do they?

  • Kurt, as always, brings up a good comparison. The Republican courts just struck down an SEC rule which would have given shareholders more sway over corporate boards. But nobody talks about that, do they?

  • Kurt

    I think if a union wants to have bargaining power for others,…

    A union doesn’t have bargaining power for others.

    I just don’t see the travesty in requiring that a majority of employees support unionization before unionizing…

    When using a ballot method, why take away a worker’s right to abstain? Alternatively, under the NLRA, workers can organize by petition of an absolute majority. However,that method is stridently objected to by anti-union groups.

  • Kurt

    I think if a union wants to have bargaining power for others,…

    A union doesn’t have bargaining power for others.

    I just don’t see the travesty in requiring that a majority of employees support unionization before unionizing…

    When using a ballot method, why take away a worker’s right to abstain? Alternatively, under the NLRA, workers can organize by petition of an absolute majority. However,that method is stridently objected to by anti-union groups.

  • It is true–Catholic teaching permits unions, the republicans violate it. But the dems stir up class hatred, and themselves, for that matter, one of Obama’s almost first moves, kicked the living life out of the auto unions, and others, too. The dems only talk union now, only use the
    ‘get the rich’ rhetoric, are serving the rich, the too big to fail, the same as the republicans and for that matter, the same as the greens and the rest.

    We need a third, Catholic, party, applying distributist principles judiciously (that is, in ways that will not strengthen this secular state but will strengthen private property among small owners, while calling for a Catholic state practicing religious tolerance but not religious freedom).

  • Dan

    Gotta agree with Kurt. I don’t see this particular issue as anti-union. The right to abstain is also very important and needs to be protected. I was once a member of a union that also represented the local state Planned Parenthood and had in their charter that it would promote their services. I would never have voted to be part of that particular union if I had been given the choice. The correct course of action for many who seek unionization would be to abstain from the vote and seek a different union, not to vote against it and strike down any hope of unionization.

  • Todd

    Republicans are willing to go to any extreme, including risking airline safety and lives, to promote their union-hating agenda.

  • Thales

    Dan and Kurt,

    Sorry, I still don’t see your point about the right to abstain. This is a situation where the status quo is being changed — and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask that a majority of people support that. Why count every abstention as a vote for change to the status quo? That sounds more outrageous to me.

  • kurt

    Thales,

    Next year we will have a national election on changing the status quo as to the presidency of the United States. Should every abstenion be counted as a vote for the incumbent?

    Catholic Social Teaching tells us worker organization is natural and positive. Why have extraordinary hurdles?

    Lastly, in NLRA representation elections, workers may organize either by petition of an absolute majority or by an election of a majority of those voting. Would you favormore use of the first option?

  • Thales

    kurt,

    Remember, we’re talking about the decision to change the status quo from not-unionized to unionized; we’re not talking about voting for a candidate. In an election between candidates, it’s not unusual for the candidate to be elected by a mere plurality. That’s no problem: there is an open position, and someone has to take it, so the person with the most votes does. But no one assumes that the abstentions were votes for the incumbent – it would be absurd to think so. If the incumbent wins, he wins with a mere plurality, not with a majority because the abstentions are counted in his favor.

    Voting for a complete change in the working conditions is not like voting for a candidate. If you want an analogous example using the US presidency, you’d have to imagine a recall or referendum scenario. I know, they’re not possible, but here’s what an analogous example would be: a referendum during the middle of Pres.Obama’s term that asks: “would you like to have the President step down?”; 36% say “yes”, 34% say “no”, and 30% abstain. It would be absurd to think that the abstentions were votes in favor of the President stepping down, with 61% in favor of the President stepping down.

    Here’s the question you have now — the employees are asked: “are you dissatisfied with how things have always been to the point where you now want to change your work situation to a very different one where you are unionized?” Suppose 36% say “yes”, 34% say “no”, and 30% abstain. It would be absurd to think that the 30% abstaining actually want to dramatically change their working condition. It would be more likely that the 30% were apathetic, forgot to vote, etc…., and the conclusion from this should be that the 30% were not very much motivated to change the status quo, not that they were actually motivated to change the status quo.

    The more I think about this situation, the more I think that Morning’s Minion, Dan, and kurt are putting forward an absurd position. I know that you’re all in favor of unionization, and I’m not against unions myself, but sorry, I think you lose all credibility with your argument here.

  • Kurt

    Thales,

    You use the example of forcing out a politician in mid-term. For those offices that have recall laws, abstentions are not counted as votes for the incumbent.

    But the bottom line is that you seem to have a presumption that worker organization is something extraordinary, extreme, and radical. That is not what the Wagner Act says and that is not what Catholic Social Teaching says. Both accept worker organization as normative and natural. And in the case of the Church, “indispensible” to justice.

    But for the third time I ask you, if you concern is an absolute majority, then why not organization by petition signed by an absolute majority?

    • Thales

      For those offices that have recall laws, abstentions are not counted as votes for the incumbent. I know… and that’s my point. When voting to elect a candidate, abstentions are not counted as votes for either person, whether it be the incumbent or the challenger. If the vote is 45.1% to 45.0% within a particular margin of error, you don’t count the abstentions as votes for a candidate and conclude that somebody won 55% to 45% — instead, you disregard the abstention votes and do a recount to make sure who is the candidate with the greatest number of votes, who then wins by a plurality.

      And we’re not talking about a vote between candidates who might be elected by a plurality; instead we’re talking about a vote to change the status quo of a workforce, which as I’ve said several times is a different type of vote. Because it’s different, it doesn’t strike me as a travesty to require that such a change be done with majority support as opposed to mere plurality support. You can disagree, but don’t insist that abstentions should be counted in favor of a side, much less that abstentions should be counted for the side that wants to change the status quo. That’s an absurd argument to make.

      But the bottom line is that you seem to have a presumption that worker organization is something extraordinary, extreme, and radical. I dunno. I’m not against unions; I just don’t see the travesty in requiring majority support for a union. You seem to be insisting on the absurd argument that abstentions should be counted in favor of changing the status quo, which betrays a much bigger presumption on your part.

      But for the third time I ask you, if your concern is an absolute majority, then why not organization by petition signed by an absolute majority? If an absolute majority wants a union, I see no problem, whether that majority be determined by petition or ballot. So I would be in favor of the petition, as long as safeguards against undue pressure and influence are in place. But that brings up a concern that I think some people have: that a secret ballot presents better safeguards to a voter’s freedom and human dignity, than a petition.

      • I think I’m seriously missing something in this exchange about the “right to abstain.”

        If abstentions are counted as abstentions, then in a 45.1 percent to 45.0 percent vote, the 45.1 percent carry the election (to unionize, to recall an incumbent, whatever). If the vote is 5.1 percent to 5.0 percent, the 5.1 percent still carry the election, though it may be one vote different. The way I understood MM’s original post agrees with this and is not supporting “that abstentions should be counted in favor of a side.”

        While it’s true that this is a significant change in employment mode for the employees, and involves collecting union dues from them, it’s also true that the only way they’ve “voted” previously is by showing up for work. That answers “do you want [are you desperate enough] to take this job” but not “do you want the union to represent you.”

        It might be reasonable to demand a re-vote if less than some quorum of employees participate, but that’s different again, and costs more time and money to carry out. With abstentions counting against the union (which is what happens if an absolute majority is required to certify as in the FAA case), the employer is motivated to promote apathy and interfere with the election process as much as possible. That doesn’t seem appropriate. It should be in the employer’s interest to have full participation.

  • Kurt

    I’ve said several times is a different type of vote. Because it’s different, it doesn’t strike me as a travesty to require that such a change be done with majority support as opposed to mere plurality support.

    I would not disagree that it is different. But I find nothing that suggest the difference requires an extraordinary requirement — other than a presumption that worker organization is extraordinary.

    You seem to be insisting on the absurd argument that abstentions should be counted in favor of changing the status quo,

    I have never suggested that. I’ve suggested that abstentions be counted as abstentions – neither for nor against worker organization.

    If an absolute majority wants a union, I see no problem, whether that majority be determined by petition or ballot.

    I think you will find the American labor movement in full agreement with you. This means of worker organization (already authorized by the NLRA) would bring together the both of us and the union movement. The labor movement’s view is that it should be up to the employees to decide if they want to organize by petition or election.

  • Thales

    Frank,

    MM said: “All because Republicans want to impede unionization in the airline industry by cynically counting those who don’t vote as saying “no”. Maybe we should have used that standard in the “tea party election” of November 2010?”

    From this, it sounded like he was saying that it was an absolute travesty that the GOP would require the “majority support for unionization” rule, instead of the “plurality support for unionization” rule, because those who abstain are somehow implicitly in favor of unionization. That latter point about abstentions favoring unionization is absurd, for the reasons I’ve already given, and I’m glad to see Kurt no longer supporting it.

    You say: “With abstentions counting against the union (which is what happens if an absolute majority is required to certify as in the FAA case), the employer is motivated to promote apathy and interfere with the election process as much as possible.”

    Again, let’s not talk about abstentions counting for any side. They don’t count for anything. The only question before us is whether changing the employment status quo should be supported by a true majority of employees, or whether it’s fine for the change to happen by only a plurality of employees. The former doesn’t strike me as a travesty. I agree with you that it is wrong for an employer to interfere with the election process. There should be safeguards against this employer interference. Likewise, it is wrong for a union to interfere with the election process, and there should be safeguards against that as well.

    Kurt,

    Fair enough. It looks like we agree on some things, and that we disagree on the main point. You think that the difference between an election for a candidate and a vote for a change in working conditions is not so significant, and that it’s fine to have a plurality (i.e., a majority of the votes cast) in order to support a working-condition change; whereas whereas I tend to think that it’s not a bad idea to require majority support before such a change. I think you’ve got a reasonable position; I hope that you can see that my position is also a reasonable one. And then maybe we can both coax MM to stop shouting “it’s a travesty!!” every time the GOP does something he doesn’t like.

    • …The only question before us is whether changing the employment status quo should be supported by a true majority of employees, or whether it’s fine for the change to happen by only a plurality of employees.

      Thales:

      I think your point is not logically self-consistent. To require an absolute majority of employees to actively vote “yes” is mathematically the same as counting abstentions the same way as “no” votes. Try it on your fingers: If there are 10 employees, 6 of them have to vote “yes” or no union. If only 5 vote “yes” it doesn’t matter how the other 5 voted or whether they voted at all. If, somehow, 6 employees have to work 20 hours mandatory overtime at a remote location during the week of the election and turnout was very low, still the pro-union faction would have to cough up 6 votes or fail certification.

      If a shop is already unionized, would you demand an absolute majority of employees to vote “no union” for de-certification to take effect or for a different union to take over representation? I’ve never heard of such a thing, and it wouldn’t seem fair.

      If plurality voting is not acceptable, the only fair alternative is to re-run the election until you get a majority for one position or another. That could be worse for the employer than running a union shop, and it gets nothing for the employees. Hence I conclude that requiring a quorum for the election to be valid, and then letting the plurality of votes cast from that quorum “dictate” the result even for those who didn’t vote is as close to “fair” as you can have. Requiring an absolute majority only for certification but not for de-certification is asymmetric and obviously unfair.

      • Thales

        Frank,

        I’m no expert on unions. I don’t know how certifying and decertifying works. I’m just coming from this simple position: if someone wants to change the status quo of working conditions for him and his fellow workers, he should get a majority support. I think that makes sense for both certifying and decertifying, so I would say in response to your question about decertifying, that similarly, I think it makes sense to have an absolute majority to make a change. I’m not sure why you say that wouldn’t seem fair. (I don’t know how decertifying works in actuality, and I’m definitely not saying that you need a majority to certify, but not a majority to decertify.)

        Re: abstentions: Sure, mathematically, in a vote to change the working conditions, an abstention is similar to a “no” vote. But it’s not a vote for any side, and shouldn’t be thought of in that way. Again, let me illustrate why this election is different from voting for a candidate.

        In an election for a candidate, pluralities are normal. In this type of election we have to have a representative- — we can’t not have a representative, because someone has to do it — so whoever gets the most votes will be the representative by necessity. Suppose 3 people vote for A, 2 people vote for B, and 5 people abstain. It doesn’t bother me that A becomes the representative with a mere plurality. That’s just the way elections work – someone has to be elected. But the 5 abstentions are not counted as votes for A, nor are they counted for B. They simply aren’t counted. A is elected by a plurality.

        In action to certify a union, it’s a different situation. We currently have working conditions that some like and some don’t like. If a vote doesn’t happen, nothing changes, things continue like they are. So if a vote is undecisive, there is no problem — the status quo can continue. Suppose people who don’t like the working conditions organize a vote. Again, 3 people vote for a change, 2 people vote against, and 5 abstain. I see this election to be different from the candidate election. The status quo can continue as is — the election doesn’t need to have a definite result like the election of the representative. What I think one can assume from the election is that only 3 people really want a change, and 7 people don’t want a change or aren’t sufficiently motivated to have a change. And so, I don’t see it as being unfair to require the 3 people who want a change to try again later after they have convinced a majority of their coworkers that a change would be a good idea.

  • Kurt

    Thales,

    I really can’t judge your position as reasonable or unreasonable because you have given any reason as to why representational elections should have an extraordinary majority. You say its different, but don’t say HOW it is different and why the natural law and normative right of workers to organize should be subject to this additional burden.

    I do appreciate your concurrance with me that one way to to achieve both of our principles is to utilize the petition method. There is legislation before Congress towards this end and I hope as Catholics we can do what we can to promote it. I also apprecite your statement that whatever the merits of this proposal, it is not appropriate to block the FAA reauthorization to force the railway workers to use this more difficult standard for worker organization.

    But even accepting your personal sincerity, I would note that none of the proponents in Congress of stopping simple majority representational elections in the railway industry have any record of ever supporting the workers in a representational election. I find that a heavy indication that this is an anti-union initiative.

    • Thales

      Kurt, see my reply above to Frank for how it is different and why I think it’s reasonable for the 2 elections to be treated differently.

      • Kurt

        Thales,

        I see your point that how if a union was not allowed even though more workers voted for it than not, the company would not collaspe. What I don’t understand that why the fact the company could continue to operate is teh standard to measure by.

        You correctly note that in “an election for a candidate, pluralities are normal.”

        In union representation elections, pluralities are normal as well. The one exception had been the railway industry. The Labor Board decided that the Railway Labor Act did not require this and voted to therefore stop requiring it, bringing the railway industry into line with the rest of industry.

      • Thales

        Kurt,
        Ah, then you know more than me about unions. I was unaware that it is normal for employee pluralities to decide in favor of union organization.

      • Kurt

        Thales,

        Well, it guess it shows the benefit of civil dialogue. And I hope I have been polite and civil towards your inquiries and comments. It certainly has been an oddity that only railway labor had this practice. My best to you and your family.

        Oh, and another oddity is that the airlines are considered railway labor — don’t ask. And Fed Ex is considered railway labor but UPS is not.

  • Thales

    Kurt,
    Yes, you have. All the best to you too.