no third solution

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Collective Bargaining: A One Way Street

March 28th, 2007

The Big Three auto makers and their Union counterparts are in the news again, with the typical Union rhetoric spewing forth from the mouth of UAW president, Ron Gettelfinger:

Our union does not want to strike, [b]ut when employers act as if collective bargaining is a one-way street and not a two-way street, then we will do what we have to do.

But “collective bargaining” is a farce; it is a one way street! It is a coercive power granted to workers by the government – essentially a mandate that the corporation must deal with these particular workers. Gettelfinger actually used the phrase “race to the bottom” in his speech yesterday – channeling Marx’s Iron Law of Wages and I’ve had enough of Marx to last me several lifetimes. But one point he tried to make is that beleaguered Troy, MI based Delphi Automotive is a part of some grand conspiracy to file bankruptcy, “It is clear that these bottom feeders file bankruptcy to break the union, [a]nd although this may pass for insight among knaves, nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider: the fraction of companies that successfully negotiate bankruptcy (I think it’s about 11%), the rules and order of liquidating assets, which ensure that bankruptcy is an unsurpassed destroyer of shareholder value – consider these things seriously, and then try to argue that bankruptcy is in a company’s best interest. It’s not. Bankruptcy is in the best interest (if there is a best interest, at this point) of the debtholders. Not the shareholders, not management.

Another particular concern is the development, or the move towards two-tiered wages – within a union. Older employees are essentially grandfathered under the old pay and benefit schedule, while younger employees begin working under a different schedule. Daniel Gibson, a Delphi employee voices these concerns thusly:

We’re worried about the second-tier people…

They pay dues, but they don’t get the benefits that full-time workers have. They need cost-of-living adjustments. They need better health-care benefits. They need a pension.

They “need” these things? Need implies that there is no price you’d be unwilling to pay, in order to have them. No. They want these things – so that they’ll never have to work any harder, or any smarter than they do right now; so that they’ll never have to shoulder any more responsibility, bear any additional burden, or ever be in jeopardy – and they want others to provide them. But the big three are no longer price setters, and they can no longer pass these costs on to the consumers.

According to the Free Press article,

[M]ost say the two-tier system, such as the one already in place at Delphi Corp., is a way to divide and weaken the union in less than a generation and ensure that middle-age union members won’t have secure pension and health-care benefits when they retire.

…At Chrysler, the union allowed the hiring of temporary workers at its Belvidere, Ill., plant. Those workers earn $18 an hour, can be fired at any time and are not eligible for the jobs bank.

Cry me a river. I know a lot of people working for a lot less than $18 an hour who can be fired at any time – and who have no job bank from which to draw an income. Welcome to “at will” employment. The idea that anybody deserves absolute lifetime job security is explicitly anti-freedom, and the inflexibility of a system which has endeavored to keep such a promise is the root cause of Detroit’s agonizing demise.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics