Conservatives and Unions – Oil and Water?

 

union labor

In the course of my life, I’ve been exposed to the undeniable malignant effects of large scale labor unions and — whether in the form of the massive teacher’s unions, public sector unions, or countless others — they all seem to have more or less the same ultimate effect. That is to say, burdening the companies and governments with whom they “partner” with vast and unreasonable entitlements that they cannot hope to meet over the course of time.  

The influence the labor union is undeniable in today’s political landscape.  Almost every conservative campaigner has something to say about unions being an undue burden on the state and the taxpayers. This is good. Scott Walker, in particular, has some first hand experience deep in the trenches of this particular war. And he has won battle after battle in this war.  

On principle I agree but, In my work, I’ve come to realize that the idea of a union can be helpful.  Let me back up for a minute. I’m an Actor. I know for a fact that without a union backing up my efforts to work as an actor there is no way that I’d be paid anything close to a living wage for my work.  My affiliations with AEA and SAG have allowed me to make some king of a living in my business. Rob Long may have something to say about this as well, as I’m sure he is or has been a member of the Writers Guild (WGA).

Now since the recession began, I’ve worked outside my profession a number of times due to necessity. This last year I have been employed between gigs as an Uber driver. Here’s where I run into my question for the day: what should my conservative principles guide me to when I have been taken advantage of by a corporation or employer? Details? All Uber drivers are independent contractors. This gives us the ability to work for ourselves under the Uber platform, but also gives Uber the ability to not provide benefits (something that, while nice to have, isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for most people – especially since Obamacare has saved us all… er… well…) and to drastically cut our pay from time to time. Over the past year I’ve seen my pay from Uber cut nearly 55%. That pretty egregious. The problem is that the gig is so flexible and convenient between acting gigs, that it makes no sense to leave even if I have to work almost twice as much to make my bones for the week. 

On principle, I can’t argue much with Uber’s business practices as they are growing exponentially, but I can see that I’m being taken advantage of on a couple of different levels. There has been a great deal of chatter on social media about Uber drivers unionizing, and I suppose the idea sounds nice, but I can’t see it actually being a good idea in practice. 

So, what should I do? How ought I reconcile this situation in my mind? Can a conservative justify union membership or support? Where do we draw the line on unions being helpful versus harmful.  Is there such a line?

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  1. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Severely Ltd.
    @SeverelyLtd

    No public sector unions in any form. FDR and I stand in firm agreement on this.

    Private sector unions are fine as long as there is no coercion concerning membership or dues. Everyone should be free to join and everyone should be free to fire union members individually or en masse. 

    If you say that without forcibly taking union dues or forcing membership your union would lose its clout and you wouldn’t get to work as an actor, I say is it fair to force your employers to pay higher than market wages in order for you to live your dream? If you are worth what you’re asking, the market will reflect that and the union won’t be necessary. 

    Don’t divide the world into management and labor. In this country anyone can be management if they’re smart and lucky enough to grow their own company. No one owes anyone a job, we all have a shot at creating whatever we want. Unionization is another of the Left’s effort to redistribute wealth. Redistribution should be limited to helping only the truly destitute, not ensuring that employees can force employers to pay more than the marketcallsfor.

    • #1
  2. raycon and lindacon Inactive
    raycon and lindacon
    @rayconandlindacon

    You are addressing several issues.  As conservatives, we oppose the unionization of government workers.  They have a lock on the public purse through politicians with no financial stake in the deals that they make.  Public employees were forbidden unionization until JFK opened the Pandora’s box.

    Private unionization is a bit different.  Once the politicians found compulsive union membership gave them a voting constituency through the closed shop, things turned sour.  Again, as conservatives, we also oppose this.

    Now to the most important point:  Are you an free person making a deal to sell your talents and time to a company that wishes to purchase it?  If so, you are competing with others for their money.  If you and they have an agreement about your employment and their payment for your services, then either of you is free  to walk away from that deal according to the binders you both agreed to.

    Once you accept that you own your time and talents and that the studio/company are competing for them, you can operate as a free person.  This includes joining a guild or union if you choose. 

    Just remember that you are entering an adversarial relationship with a cost.

    • #2
  3. Mole-eye Inactive
    Mole-eye
    @Moleeye

    OK, got the armor on, plexi-glass shield is up, guess I’m ready to face y’all.

    I am a voting member of a civil-service public employees’ union and campaigned for the institution of same.  I am also a conservative, and most of my colleagues are as well.  One of us is a well-respected blogger on conservative politics while many others are active in a variety of conservative organizations.

    At the time the union was created the head of our office was a spiteful, vindictive autocrat, who treated assignments and promotion as plums of patronage.   If you made the “in” crowd your prospects were bright, irrespective of your lack of experience or professional inadequacy.  If you were in the “out” crowd, it didn’t matter how hard you worked, for how many years, how successful you were in trial, or how well you handled the business of the office.  A union was our best hope for protection and fair treatment, and the citizens we serve get their money’s worth out of us every day.

    Many unions arise out of intolerable working conditions.  

    • #3
  4. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Mole-eye: I am a voting member of a civil-service public employees’ union and campaigned for the institution of same.  I am also a conservative, and most of my colleagues are as well.  One of us is a well-respected blogger on conservative politics while many others are active in a variety of conservative organizations.

     There are also pro-choice conservatives, racist conservatives, and big government conservatives. Having awful views in one area doesn’t prevent you from generally being a conservative. It doesn’t make that one heresy orthodox, either, though. 

    • #4
  5. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Chris Lang: So, what should I do?  How ought I reconcile this situation in my mind? Can a conservative justify union membership or support? Where do we draws the line on unions being helpful versus harmful.  Is there such a line?

     I think there probably are circumstances under which a conservative might find union membership justifiable; if there was a lot of employer-employee litigation, for instance, or if the conservative was concerned that excessively unsafe conditions endangered the conservative’s friends and workmates. Hostility to earning market wages doesn’t seem like one of those circumstances, though. 

    • #5
  6. user_526659 Inactive
    user_526659
    @ChrisLang

    Severely Ltd.:

    If you say that without forcibly taking union dues or forcing membership your union would lose its clout and you wouldn’t get to work as an actor, I say is it fair to force your employers to pay higher than market wages in order for you to live your dream? If you are worth what you’re asking, the market will reflect that and the union won’t be necessary.

    First, I agree that public sector unions are an instrument of political oppression and corruption, so we’re on the same page there.  I have another question for you – Are the perceived value of my worth as an employee (actor in this case) and the actual value of my worth as an employee the same thing?  Without union protection actors would (as was the case pre-union) be paid nothing or next to nothing for producing their art.  Actors often tend to accept this arrangement as producing the art is a reward in its own way, and artists can sometimes overlook the one low form of compensation in lieu of the other.  But how does one define “Market Value” for art?

    • #6
  7. user_526659 Inactive
    user_526659
    @ChrisLang

    raycon and lindacon:

    Now to the most important point: Are you an free person making a deal to sell your talents and time to a company that wishes to purchase it? If so, you are competing with others for their money. If you and they have an agreement about your employment and their payment for your services, then either of you is free to walk away from that deal according to the binders you both agreed to.

    Just remember that you are entering an adversarial relationship with a cost.

    Point well taken.  As an actor I understand the adversarial relationship – this is why we all have agents and managers to negotiate for us the details of the agreement.  This is essentially and accord where we each give concessions to the other party, like at a peace summit in the middle east (maybe taking the analogy too far!). 

    My question stems from the fact that I feel, and can to some extent prove that my services in another job are undervalued, and have no recourse outside of quitting the job; and that is not an option.  I guess, were I you, I’d say “tough!”  Maybe I’m too fatalistic. 

    • #7
  8. user_526659 Inactive
    user_526659
    @ChrisLang

    James Of England:

    Chris Lang: So, what should I do? How ought I reconcile this situation in my mind? Can a conservative justify union membership or support? Where do we draws the line on unions being helpful versus harmful. Is there such a line?

    I think there probably are circumstances under which a conservative might find union membership justifiable; if there was a lot of employer-employee litigation, for instance, or if the conservative was concerned that excessively unsafe conditions endangered the conservative’s friends and workmates. Hostility to earning market wages doesn’t seem like one of those circumstances, though.

     At what point, however, is the employer manipulating the market to set the so-called “market wage”? In my case with Uber, since it’s a market they have entirely created from day one, they control to a great extent the perception of the value of goods and services within.  And it’s mostly perceived value as opposed to actual value (Are those the same?). 

    Here’s another question? What avenues of power do I (or any of us) have  at my disposal to argue an alternative market value outside of a union of some sort?

    • #8
  9. user_526659 Inactive
    user_526659
    @ChrisLang

    Mole-eye:

     A union was our best hope for protection and fair treatment, and the citizens we serve get their money’s worth out of us every day.

    Many unions arise out of intolerable working conditions.

     Did the union change the working conditions?  Has the union lived up to its hype and promise?  Have you had cause to regret the formation of this union?  And finally, looking into your crystal ball to see the future, how do you see this union growing/changing as it adapts to your ever changing workplace? 

    • #9
  10. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    Chris Lang:

    Mole-eye:

    A union was our best hope for protection and fair treatment, and the citizens we serve get their money’s worth out of us every day.

    Many unions arise out of intolerable working conditions.

    Did the union change the working conditions? Has the union lived up to its hype and promise? Have you had cause to regret the formation of this union? And finally, looking into your crystal ball to see the future, how do you see this union growing/changing as it adapts to your ever changing workplace?

     It’s an interesting question; it sounds as if the union was built because of the intolerable conditions under one terrible boss. Once the boss is gone though, do you still need the union? If the union degrades into an instrument of oppression, how do you get rid of it?

    • #10
  11. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    Mr. Lang, how does one define the Market Value for anything? You sell it for as much money as people are willing to buy. I don’t see why art ought to be different than any other commodity. Yes, artists are often willing to work long hours for miserable wages because there are intangible benefits to doing the job. If you can’t sell at the market price and make a living, then don’t. Switch to producing something the market will pay more. If that means getting a factory job, it won’t be as stimulating but it will put bread on the table.

    Same thing with Uber; if you can’t live on the wages they give you, then your option is to walk away. If it’s still better to drive than not (you’ve evidently made that calculation), it sucks, but it’s life. There are other jobs that allow flexible schedules. None of them pay all that well, AFAIK.

    In any negotiation you’ve got to be willing to walk away. Every time your salary is cut you gotta consider that option.

    • #11
  12. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    Chris Lang:

    On principle I can’t argue much with Uber’s business practices as they are growing exponentially, but I can see that I’m being taken advantage of on a couple of different levels.

    How are you being taken advantage of?  No one is forcing you to work for Uber.  You free to leave anytime.  That is why it is called a Free Market.  Apparently it is the best option for you right now, else you would be doing something better.  I don’t call that being taken advantage of.

    • #12
  13. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Chris Lang: Here’s another question? What avenues of power do I (or any of us) have  at my disposal to argue an alternative market value outside of a union of some sort?

      1.  Start driving for Lyft, which is one of Uber’s competitors.
      2. Send Uber a nasty email, linking this post. :)
      • #13
    1. Tom Meyer Contributor
      Tom Meyer
      @tommeyer

      Great post.  A couple of quick thoughts:

      1. Unions can provide an effective check on managerial abuses;
      2. In practice, unions tend to over-correct for the problems they seek to remedy, because their interests are often insulated — if not completely separated from — the company’s success;
      3. As much as I’d be mighty annoyed in your situation, I’m not sure you’re actually being exploited.  As others have mentioned you still find the work good enough to be worth continuing, even though you are under no obligation.  Second, it may be that — while the quality of your work has remained constant or even improved since you started driving — its relative value may still have declined.  If your local market had fewer Uber drivers when you started, but is now flush with them, it’s not surprising that your wages have fallen.
      • #14
    2. Xennady Member
      Xennady
      @

      My guess: if you ever got a union you’d eventually end up paying dues to defend the one driver who drunkenly ran over and killed several pedestrians. And nothing else.

      If you objected, your union would tell you that’s why you were paying dues all along. Meanwhile, your wages wouldn’t go up, your working conditions wouldn’t improve, but you’d occasionally get an email telling you how great the democrat party is, and how much they care about you, all about you.

      Ex-steelworker speaking, here.

      Yoonyuns. May their well deserved oblivion come quickly.

      • #15
    3. user_1938 Member
      user_1938
      @AaronMiller

      Actors used to have salary jobs. They signed on with a company for years at a time and had guaranteed labor. Sure, there were complaints, but more or worse than today’s? Unions ended that arrangement, I imagine… and, as in every other industry, raised costs.

      Writers and musicians similarly have to compete with millions of people willing to do the work for cheap and even free. With such an abundant supply, there is no reason employers should pay for typical labor at more than minimum wages. Extras and bit part actors are not necessarily owed “a living wage” any more than burger flippers are, because a kid wage is justified for a position a kid could fill. Entry level jobs justifiably pay little, and especially little for labor that can be found easily for free. 

      Years ago, there was much ado in the game industry about overuse of “crunch time” and long hours which kept salary workers in the office much too long. In the end, it wasn’t unions that improved conditions. It was a media storm. The world has changed significantly since labor unions first became popular. When news media and social networks perform as watch dogs, employees can exert pressure in times of injustice. 

      There might be exceptions where unions are good, but I think they tend to be good in theory but poor in practice. They usurp the role of management, obliterating respect for private ownership, and pretend that everyone can be in charge while ignoring the trade-offs necessary for improved working conditions. There’s nothing wrong with employees organizing to lobby together for shared interests. But there’s a point at which a union isn’t bargaining so much as bullying and seizing ownership. It’s no wonder that communism became so popular among unions.

      • #16
    4. Western Chauvinist Member
      Western Chauvinist
      @WesternChauvinist

      Chris Lang: My question stems from the fact that I feel, and can to some extent prove that my services in another job are undervalued, and have no recourse outside of quitting the job; and that is not an option.  I guess, were I you, I’d say “tough!”  Maybe I’m too fatalistic.

      No worries. The cab driver’s union, in league with their bought-and-paid-for Democrat city officials will undoubtedly outlaw Uber in short order. 

      Seriously, I think there is a problem with worker exploitation in new markets monopolized by one provider. A similar problem exists with these “bundling” companies that eat up mom-and-pop resources when mom and pop find themselves doing the same job for the same customers for drastically reduced pay. 

      It’s a problem for which the conservative “free market” response seems inadequate. But, I don’t have a conservative solution.

      I would, however, suggest you try to negotiate part of your pay in stocks  in your situation. Uber is a great idea.

      • #17
    5. user_526659 Inactive
      user_526659
      @ChrisLang

      Pony Convertible:

      How are you being taken advantage of? No one is forcing you to work for Uber. You free to leave anytime. That is why it is called a Free Market. Apparently it is the best option for you right now, else you would be doing something better. I don’t call that being taken advantage of.

      Having a choice to leave does not mean that I am not being taken advantage of.  On some level I agree with you, if you don’t like it you have a choice to leave.  But I think that response, which I’ve heard a lot from others, doesn’t answer the biggest questions that keeps coming up: What mechanism allows me to argue that my market value is actually greater than the company feels it is right now outside of some sort of a union.  Saying that what you’re getting paid is actual “fair market value” simply because that is what someone is willing to pay at this one particular time assumes a lack of motive from the companies employing any of us.

      • #18
    6. user_526659 Inactive
      user_526659
      @ChrisLang

      Tom Meyer, Ed.:

      Chris Lang: Here’s another question? What avenues of power do I (or any of us) have at my disposal to argue an alternative market value outside of a union of some sort?

      1. Start driving for Lyft, which is one of Uber’s competitors.
      2. Send Uber a nasty email, linking this post. :)

      Have definitely done both!  Good advice though.

      • #19
    7. user_526659 Inactive
      user_526659
      @ChrisLang

      Tom Meyer, Ed.:

      Great post. A couple of quick thoughts:

      1. Unions can provide an effective check on managerial abuses;
      2. In practice, unions tend to over-correct for the problems they seek to remedy, because their interests are often insulated — if not completely separated from — the company’s success;
      3. As much as I’d be mighty annoyed in your situation, I’m not sure you’re actually being exploited. As others have mentioned you still find the work good enough to be worth continuing, even though you are under no obligation. Second, it may be that — while the quality of your work has remained constant or even improved since you started driving — its relative value may still have declined. If your local market had fewer Uber drivers when you started, but is now flush with them, it’s not surprising that your wages have fallen.

      Good points, all.  Though I certainly feel exploited to some extent, your point is well taken.  It is perhaps a perceived exploitation on my part, rather than an actual one, but I think it’s hard to tell the difference most of the time, especially in an economy where finding any kind of work is hard.

      • #20
    8. user_526659 Inactive
      user_526659
      @ChrisLang

      Xennady:

      My guess: if you ever got a union you’d eventually end up paying dues to defend the one driver who drunkenly ran over and killed several pedestrians. And nothing else.

      If you objected, your union would tell you that’s why you were paying dues all along. Meanwhile, your wages wouldn’t go up, your working conditions wouldn’t improve, but you’d occasionally get an email telling you how great the democrat party is, and how much they care about you, all about you.

      Ex-steelworker speaking, here.

      Yoonyuns. May their well deserved oblivion come quickly.

       You are probably quite right!  My affiliations with the actors’ unions have, over the course of time, reaped such benefits, though I have to say they have also really been a boon to my working life in a lot of ways too.  Not knowing much about your union, I wonder what the difference is? Undoubtedly AEA and SAG/AFTRA have become large, bloated and cumbersome.  Bet they also provide great benefit to a lot of working actors.  Thoughts?

      • #21
    9. user_526659 Inactive
      user_526659
      @ChrisLang

      Aaron Miller:

      Actors used to have salary jobs. They signed on with a company for years at a time and had guaranteed labor. Sure, there were complaints, but more or worse than today’s? Unions ended that arrangement, I imagine… and, as in every other industry, raised costs.

      True, to some extent.  Also, there used to be a large studio system that contracted actors for years at a time.  This is not longer practiced, thanks in part to SAG.  A lot of my colleagues and I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to go back to a version of that system. 

      The grass is always greener… right?

      • #22
    10. user_526659 Inactive
      user_526659
      @ChrisLang

      Western Chauvinist:

      No worries. The cab driver’s union, in league with their bought-and-paid-for Democrat city officials will undoubtedly outlaw Uber in short order.

      Seriously, I think there is a problem with worker exploitation in new markets monopolized by one provider. A similar problem exists with these “bundling” companies that eat up mom-and-pop resources when mom and pop find themselves doing the same job for the same customers for drastically reduced pay.

      It’s a problem for which the conservative “free market” response seems inadequate. But, I don’t have a conservative solution.

      What’re you talking about?  The cab companies LOVE us!!!  [wink, wink]

      I agree with your statement above about ‘free market’ response being inadequate. Here’s a question for ALL the readers of this thread: Do you also agree? And if so what, and if not, why not?  Is there a moral argument to be made?  An ethical one?

      • #23
    11. Mark Belling Fan Member
      Mark Belling Fan
      @MBF

      Some questions to consider:

      If your neighbor is willing to drive an Uber car for X, why do you deserve more than X?

      If you unionize, demand higher wages, and Uber says no, then what? If you strike, should Uber be able to fire you and hire anyone else willing to work for X?

      My problem with unions begins and ends with their attempts to use government to limit free association of individuals. By all means persuade your fellow drivers to stand with you and bargain with Uber as a collective group, but if your bargaining position isn’t very strong, you have to be willing to risk the potential outcome that leads to you being replaced.

      • #24
    12. user_137118 Member
      user_137118
      @DeanMurphy

      Free markets are not perfect.  If someone is offering a new service or product that is unique, initial demand can be high causing high prices; but those high prices should attract competition.
      It also takes time for a competitor to arise, delaying the moderating effects of a free market.
      Once competition arises, the price negotiation tends to drive prices to artificial lows; due to the influx of new supply without an increase in demand.  The low prices drive some competitors out of the market, moving toward an equilibrium of suppliers and demand.
      There *will* be winners and losers, and demanding that there be *no* losers is often the impetus for the aggrieved parties to seek government protection.

      I do see the need for some mechanism for employees to get redress for their grievances, or else we end up with the horrid working conditions of the early Industrial Revolution; but standing unions and never ending collective bargaining agreements have their own temptations to overuse, as we have seen.

      Maybe single issue organizations, which dissolve after the issue is addressed, are the answer.  Realistically though, the power of a large union extracting dues from captive workers is irresistible.

      It may just come down to an issue of education: teaching basic economics and personal responsibility.
      Hah! I just made myself laugh.

      • #25
    13. user_526659 Inactive
      user_526659
      @ChrisLang

      Dean Murphy:

      Maybe single issue organizations, which dissolve after the issue is addressed, are the answer. Realistically though, the power of a large union extracting dues from captive workers is irresistible.

      It may just come down to an issue of education: teaching basic economics and personal responsibility. Hah! I just made myself laugh.

       Interesting solution.  Single issue committees of sorts.  I suppose that if you could convince the teacher’s union to agree to teach basic economics and personal responsibility we’d… oh well, I just started laughing too!

      • #26
    14. user_512412 Inactive
      user_512412
      @RichardFinlay

      Re: single issue organizations.  The March of Dimes was a single issue org whose single issue was resolved.  In accordance with Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy they did not dissolve; they picked another issue which was unlikely to ever be resolved.  Organizations may begin as problem-solving public service entities, but they always evolve into self-serving entities.

      • #27
    15. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
      FightinInPhilly
      @FightinInPhilly

      Essentially you’re getting a market signal. Wages are declining for Uber because more people are willing to do the job. When Uber was unique and different, they had to pay up to attract drivers. Now that it’s more common, they can reduce their costs. (or perhaps their costs have gone up in some other area- I’m just speculating.)  It’s certainly no fun to be on the receiving end of a market signal, but unionizing would simply short circuit the market. The union may temporarily increase wages, but will kill the market long term because pricing will go up and people will use Uber less. To be fair, per Dean Murphy above, free markets are not perfect. I had a boss that would always underprice the salary requirements for a certain job in our company. Only people completely desperate or unqualified would accept the pay, and thus we always had poor performance in that role. He never understood he was getting a market signal.

      • #28
    16. Severely Ltd. Inactive
      Severely Ltd.
      @SeverelyLtd

      Chris Lang:  Are the perceived value of my worth as an employee and the actual value of my worth as an employee the same thing? Without union protection actors would (as was the case pre-union) be paid nothing or next to nothing for producing their art. Actors often tend to accept this arrangement as producing the art is a reward in its own way, and artists can sometimes overlook the one low form of compensation in lieu of the other. But how does one define “Market Value” for art?

       Market value for anything is what someone is willing to pay for it. The reason that so many artist are starving is because their offerings are not desirable enoughor what they offer is too widely available. I’d like to be paid to surf, but my skill level doesn’t prompt anyone to pay to watch me.
      I don’t believe that actors that have worth, that is someone people will pay to watch, would get low wages without a union. Even bit players are necessary to make a feature film.

      Again, entirely voluntary unions are fine by me. Laws that allow unions to force themselves on employers, No.

      • #29
    17. Severely Ltd. Inactive
      Severely Ltd.
      @SeverelyLtd

      Western Chauvinist:

      Seriously, I think there is a problem with worker exploitation in new markets monopolized by one provider. A similar problem exists with these “bundling” companies that eat up mom-and-pop resources when mom and pop find themselves doing the same job for the same customers for drastically reduced pay.

      It’s a problem for which the conservative “free market” response seems inadequate. But, I don’t have a conservative solution.

      —————————————————————————————–
      Why do you think anyone has a right to work in a new market monopolized by one provider? Why are some people owed those jobs at a generous wage? Where does this entitlement come from?

      • #30
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