Supreme Court Rules podcast

Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast (number 181!!!!) it’s the Supreme Court Rules edition of the show with your Lunch-loving hosts radio guy Todd Feinburg and California dreamin AI guy Mike Stopa. This week, we have an enormously important show with an enormously significant week in American (and dare we say it Trump) history. We will discuss the historic ruling of the Supreme court in the case of Janus vs. AFSCME and the body slam that those august judges have given to public sector unions. Then, we will talk about the fracturing of the Democrat Party, OMG. As Stephen Miller said, the liberals are the most outraged that they’ve been…since yesterday. And with impeachment in the air (I *told* everyone about this in March!!!) and the Democrat adults realizing (because I told them so) just what a trap it all was, and with Maxine Waters now taking her rightful place as one of the leading lights of the left, well, are the Dems going to split in two? We will see.

We will have our shower thoughts, yes! And our hidden gem this week (a propos of the newfound liberty of public sector workers everywhere to belong or not belong to the union) is I’m Free, by the Who! Enjoy!

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Published in: Culture, Law, Politics

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  1. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Mr. Stopa’s understanding of private labor unions is historically naive.* First, closed shops are an intrinsic part of the labor movement, not just an incidental unpleasant footnote. The reason labor unions are so hostile to right-to-work laws is that compelling workers to join the union and to support it financially is the principal power they have. Nothing prevents workers from gathering around the kitchen table to discuss issues of mutual interest. Redefining unions as coffee klatches misunderstands the history of the movement. It is, and has always been, about the use of force, sometimes mediated by government and sometimes outside the law. Even excluding the extra-legal parts, compulsion has played a central role.

    Second, the federal government has broad oversight and rulemaking power of labor relations, as Mr. Feinburg noted. The NLRB, whose jurisdiction is limited to the private sector, controls union certification and a host of other labor practices. There’s a reason that appointments to the Board are so politically contentious.

    Third, there are dozens of federal and state agencies charged with ensuring worker safety (e.g., OSHA), protection from discrimination (EEOC), and from any number of other real or perceived ills. There’s even a cabinet department devoted to labor issues that promulgates its own regulations. If these entities did not exist, Mr. Stopa might have a point. In the libertarian utopia, perhaps unions have a role. Get rid of all those federal and state agencies and we can talk. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we inhabit.

    It’s surprising to hear a self-proclaimed libertarian favor unions since they are counter free association. As a near-free-association absolutist, that’s the part I find most obnoxious about unions: they interfere with the right of individuals to freely engage in labor arrangements with each other.** One would expect a libertarian to favor at-will employment. The whole compelled-behavior thing is also pretty-much antithetical to libertarian principles.

    *I’m being kind here because I like Mr. Stopa.

    ** When, as a child, I first heard that certain jobs required union membership I thought, “This, in America?”

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  2. Michael Stopa Contributor
    Michael Stopa
    @MichaelStopa

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Mr. Stopa’s understanding of private labor unions is historically naive.* First, closed shops are an intrinsic part of the labor movement, not just an incidental unpleasant footnote. The reason labor unions are so hostile to right-to-work laws is that compelling workers to join the union and to support it financially is the principal power they have. Nothing prevents workers from gathering around the kitchen table to discuss issues of mutual interest. Redefining unions as coffee klatches misunderstands the history of the movement. It is, and has always been, about the use of force, sometimes mediated by government and sometimes outside the law. Even excluding the extra-legal parts, compulsion has played a central role.

    Second, the federal government has broad oversight and rulemaking power of labor relations, as Mr. Feinburg noted. The NLRB, whose jurisdiction is limited to the private sector, controls union certification and a host of other labor practices. There’s a reason that appointments to the Board are so politically contentious.

    Third, there are dozens of federal and state agencies charged with ensuring worker safety (e.g., OSHA), protection from discrimination (EEOC), and from any number of other real or perceived ills. There’s even a cabinet department devoted to labor issues that promulgates its own regulations. If these entities did not exist, Mr. Stopa might have a point. In the libertarian utopia, perhaps unions have a role. Get rid of all those federal and state agencies and we can talk. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we inhabit.

    It’s surprising to hear a self-proclaimed libertarian favor unions since they are counter free association. As a near-free-association absolutist, that’s the part I find most obnoxious about unions: they interfere with the right of individuals to freely engage in labor arrangements with each other.** One would expect a libertarian to favor at-will employment. The whole compelled-behavior thing is also pretty-much antithetical to libertarian principles.

    *I’m being kind here because I like Mr. Stopa.

    ** When, as a child, I first heard that certain jobs required union membership I thought, “This, in America?”

    Thanks for your kindness, Dr. L.,  the sentiment is mutual.  I suspect I am more of a libertarian than you think. But I admit that I might also be even more naive than you think.

    I was displaying ignorance, and not craft, when I asked Todd which regulations in particular the government enforced on private companies in favor of labor unions. And his one concrete answer, the closed shop arrangement allowed in most states, was a good one. And I agreed with him that it was the kind of compulsion that I opposed. 

    You suggest that there are far more such government compulsions and that they are endemic to the whole organized labor system. Fine. I would suspect that if you enumerate them then I will agree that they, too, have to go.

    And here, I could equivocate on things like workplace safety and diversity/anti-racism regulations since in the first case (like, for example, labeling laws) I am not so much of a libertarian that I lose sleep at night over OSHA and in either case the regulations are not specifically related to the unions/collective bargaining nature of the companies. (i.e. many hiring requirements on companies are bad, but they do not per se relate to the closed or open shop or whether a company has a union at all). But as I say, I start from the presumption that any interference of the government in the private sector is destructive.

    But I still maintain (in my utopian libertarian world) that there is a legitimate place for collective bargaining and it emerges naturally from the structure of the contracts which workers engage in with employers and the nature of power. 

     

    • #2
  3. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Michael Stopa (View Comment):
    …his one concrete answer, the closed shop arrangement allowed in most states, was a good one. And I agreed with him that it was the kind of compulsion that I opposed. 

    OK, but my point was that this feature of trade unionism is intrinsic and fundamental, not just a footnote. Take away the closed shop and unions are defanged and defunded. Believe me, they know this; remove the compulsion and they are out of business. It’s also noteworthy that unions enjoy exemption from anti-trust laws: another form of government intervention that tips the balance in favor of unions.

    Michael Stopa (View Comment):
    I am not so much of a libertarian that I lose sleep at night over OSHA and in either case the regulations are not specifically related to the unions/collective bargaining nature of the companies.

    I brought up OSHA et al. not to question your libertarian bona fides but rather to point out that these mechanisms are already in place to serve the key functions you attribute to trade unionism: worker rights protections. That was also Mr. Feinburg’s point. As I noted in my previous comment, if these agencies didn’t exist, you might have a point. But they do and are largely here to stay.

    The libertarian utopia will never be attained because the vast majority of people are against it. Unlike other systems (e.g., communism) which allow, even celebrate, the use of force to achieve utopia, coercion goes against the whole idea of libertarianism.

    Michael Stopa (View Comment):
    But I still maintain (in my utopian libertarian world) that there is a legitimate place for collective bargaining and it emerges naturally from the structure of the contracts which workers engage in with employers and the nature of power. 

    Fair enough but it’s misleading to equate collective bargaining with trade unions. People have long been free to get together and exert influence as a group; they don’t need the NLRB’s help for that: craft guilds existed centuries ago. The trouble is that unions do much more than bargain. Much of their power derives from those other things they do.

    We don’t live in a world of free association and liberty. Once we do, let a hundred flowers bloom. Given that the libertarian utopia is unlikely to arrive anytime soon, discussion of the merits of trade unions seems premature. First, throw off the oppressive state; then, let’s talk unions – not the other way around.

    • #3
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