Saturday, September 15, 2012

A little thing like workers being treated fairly....

Hello Friends;

  As one who has been in management, even at a low level, I understand the concept of workers as a resource.  The simple fact of life in business is that the workers make the money!  In my current work, we have "machine operators" as our 'common' worker... for lack of better word... who run the machines, sort and box the parts, so that they can be sold to the customers.  It matters little how many sales are made, how strategic the material and other resources are garnered, if we have no parts to sell to the customers.  So, at the top of our organization of needs is that little phrase "human resource".  But, do we value them?
   The unfortunate thing is, many employers see the 'common worker' as the great unwashed.  They may slip into the fallacy that the worker is given his job as a favor and should owe undying gratitude to the employer.  He becomes like that picture below - a tyrant.
  The opposite side of the coin, too often the employee sees himself as irreplaceable and infinitely valuable, owed every cush and deferment.

The fact of the matter, a business is a partnership between the sellers of the product and the producers of the product.  Neither side can survive alone. 

 But,  for too many, the power position of the worker is nill.  He can take what he's given, or walk out.  His only recourse is to work slower.... is that promoting good business?  Does that maintain the health of the very creature which feeds his children and pays his mortgage?  Of course not.  His other power position is collective bargaining.... but what happens when the union forgets that partnership with the business is the only means to survival, instead becoming a pariah, a leach, a parasite on the company?

MADISON, Wis. (AP) By SCOTT BAUER — A Wisconsin judge has struck down nearly all of the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
Walker's administration immediately vowed to appeal the Friday ruling, while unions, which have vigorously fought the law, declared victory. But what the ruling meant for existing public contracts was murky: Unions claimed the ruling meant they could negotiate again, but Walker could seek to keep the law in effect while the legal drama plays out.

The law, a crowning achievement for Walker that made him a national conservative star, took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers and has been in effect for more than a year.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that the law violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void.

In his 27-page ruling, the judge said sections of the law "single out and encumber the rights of those employees who choose union membership and representation solely because of that association and therefore infringe upon the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by both the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions."

Colas also said the law violates the equal protection clause by creating separate classes of workers who are treated differently and unequally.
The ruling applies to all local public workers affected by the law, including teachers and city and county government employees, but not those who work for the state. They were not a party to the lawsuit, which was brought by a Madison teachers union and a Milwaukee public workers union.

Walker issued a statement accusing the judge of being a "liberal activist" who "wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process."

Wisconsin Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck said DOJ believes the law is constitutional.
The ruling throws into question changes that have been made in pay, benefits and other work rules in place across the state for city, county and school district workers.

Walker's law, passed in March 2011, only allowed for collective bargaining on wage increases no greater than the rate of inflation. All other issues, including workplace safety, vacation, health benefits, could no longer be bargained for.

The ruling means that local government and schools now must once again bargain over those issues, said Lester Pines, an attorney for Madison Teachers Inc. that brought the case.

"We're back to where we were before the law was enacted," he said.

Pines predicted the case would ultimately be resolved by the state Supreme Court.

"What's going to happen in the interim is unknown," he said.

The state Supreme Court in June 2011 ruled that the law was constitutional after it had been blocked by a different Dane County judge on a challenge over its passage being a violation of open meetings law.

Walker introduced the proposal in February 2011, six weeks after he took office. It resulted in a firestorm of opposition and led to huge protests at the state Capitol that lasted for weeks. All 14 Democratic state senators fled the state to Illinois for three weeks in an ultimately failed attempt to stop the law's passage from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The law required public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits at the same time it took away their ability to collectively bargain over those issues. Walker argued the changes were needed to help state and local governments save money at a time Wisconsin faced a $3 billion budget shortfall.

Anger over the law's passage led to an effort to recall Walker from office. More than 930,000 signatures were collected triggering the June recall election. Walker won and became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall.  (I'm sure the Koch brothers had nothing to do with any of this.....)

The lawsuit was among several filed against the law.

A coalition of unions filed a federal lawsuit in Madison in June 2011, arguing that the law violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause because it exempted firefighters and police officers. A federal just upheld most of the law in March, but the rulings are under appeal.

Another lawsuit was filed in July 2011 by two unions representing about 2,700 public workers in Madison and Dane County. They also challenged the law on equal protection grounds. The case is pending.

Democrats and unions were ecstatic with Friday's ruling.

"As we have said from day one, Scott Walker's attempt to silence the union men and women of Wisconsin's public sector was an immoral, unjust and illegal power grab," said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

The Democratic minority leader in the state Assembly called the ruling a huge victory for workers and free speech.

"This decision will help re-establish the balance between employees and their employers," said Rep. Peter Barca.

Republican Rep. Robin Vos, a staunch supporter of the law and the presumptive next speaker of the Assembly, called the ruling an example of the "arrogance of the judiciary."
"I'm confident it's a single judge out of step with the mainstream," Vos said. He said the law is working "and we'll continue to implement it."

  Collective bargaining was provided in the National Labor Relations Act, below....  Many of the current laws we enjoy are a direct result of the unions.  A 40-hour work week, worker safety laws, and wage laws.  Even unemployment insurance.  The historic need for unions, some would argue, have passed.  But, be it need or right - the concept of collective bargaining is in our culture by law, and just because some politician decides it goes against the needs for the moment does not remove it. 
  What happens when our other rights are stripped by "necessity"?  Oh yeah, "Patriot Laws"... forgot.
___Collective bargaining consists of negotiations between an employer and a group of employees so as to determine the conditions of employment. The result of collective bargaining procedures is a collective agreement. Employees are often represented in bargaining by a union or other labor organization. Collective bargaining is governed by federal and state statutory laws, administrative agency regulations, and judicial decisions. In areas where federal and state law overlap, state laws are preempted. See, U.S. Constitution, Art. VI.

The main body of law governing collective bargaining is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It explicitly grants employees the right to collectively bargain and join trade unions. The NLRA was originally enacted by Congress in 1935 under its power to regulate interstate commerce. See, U.S. Constitution Art. I, Section 8. It applies to most private non-agricultural employees and employers engaged in some aspect of interstate commerce. Decisions and regulations of the National Labor Relations Board, which was established by the NLRA, greatly supplement and define the provisions of the act.

The NLRA establishes procedures for the selection of a labor organization to represent a unit of employees in collective bargaining. The act prohibits employers from interfering with this selection. The NLRA requires the employer to bargain with the appointed representative of its employees. It does not require either side to agree to a proposal or make concessions but does establish procedural guidelines on good faith bargaining. Proposals which would violate the NLRA or other laws may not be subject to collective bargaining. The NLRA also establishes regulations on what tactics (e.g. strikes, lock-outs, picketing) each side may employ to further their bargaining objectives.

State laws further regulate collective bargaining and make collective agreements enforceable under state law. They may also provide guidelines for those employers and employees not covered by the NLRA, such as agricultural laborers.

Arbitration is a method of dispute resolution used as an alternative to litigation. It is commonly designated in collective agreements between employers and employees as the way to resolve disputes. The parties select a neutral third party (an arbiter) to hold a formal or informal hearing on the disagreement. The arbiter then issues a decision binding on the parties. Both federal and state law governs the practice of arbitration. While the Federal Arbitration Act, by its own terms, is not applicable to employment contracts, federal courts are increasingly applying the law in labor disputes. Fourty-nine states have adopted the Uniform Arbitration Act (1956) as state law. Thus, the arbitration agreement and decision of the arbiter may be enforceable under state and federal law.

  What falls into the proverbial loophole, in Wisconsin, though is that state workers are not covered under the act.  This is fundamentally unfair.  The state, which controls the laws, also is an employer - exempting itself from following the very laws it requires of other employers is beyond hypocrisy.

  My father's workplace had a union.... that workplace is gone.  It now operates in Mexico, India, China, and some southern states.  Oh, the corporate headquarters are still in America - the higher ups don't want to live in those places.
  Was it necessary to move in order to break the union?  Yep... the union forgot that it was a voice for the resource, there to ensure that those members were treated fairly and with dignity.  Instead it became power hungry and lost.  Lesson learned?  Well, if not for the union officials, certainly for the corporations which find the OSHA laws and the Environmental Safety laws much less concerning in Mexico, China and India - and there are so many people there willing to put up with anything to have a job no matter if it maims or kills them, they've gotta eat.  And hey - there's a billion of them waiting to take over where that one fell.  Right?


Scottie said...

Hello Randy. I think the problem has become one of scope. Yes upper management and the bosses use to make more than the "floor worker" or the laborer. However it was with in a reasonable percentage difference. Then greed took over and the upper management started getting huge, beyond reason, of benefits and bonuses, and wages while the worker was being told he needed to take cuts and loss of jobs. If a CEO caused damage to a company he got a golden parachute and millions in severance pay as he was let go, the worker who screwed up simply got fired.

It is the same idea as the 47% thing Mitt came out with. Very misleading and a "pity me cry" from the rich. I watched a breakdown on it and of that 47% only a little over 7 percent actually did get government assistance. The rest were retirees, low income workers and military personnel. Also Mitt made it sound like the rich were paying for all of them, all costs, but sadly he leaves out all the other taxes we all pay, from sales tax to payroll taxes, social security taxes, and state and local taxes. Plus the truth is many very wealthy corporations and rich people manage to use both the tax systems and corporate welfare to get out of paying any tax at all. They game the system and then cry it is unfair they have to pay at all.

This country is not over taxed, the tax rates are the lowest in over 50 years. It takes money to care for the country, which is government's job. Also remember, a person making say, 25,000 dollars a year pays a higher price in lifestyle costs when they are taxed than a wealthy person will ever pay. If I lost half my income I would lose all most all I have. But I doubt the same is true for Mitt, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. See the big difference in costs.

Lets work together, to those who much is given, then much is expected to be returned. Hugs

randy said...

Hi Scottie;
You are right... the true answer is for the people on all levels of the corporation to respect the efforts and to give good effort. Some forget that the health of their company is what feeds their children, pays for their roof, puts gas in their car. And, the only way to have a truly healthy company is for all to recognize that need and respect everyone.