Monday, November 22, 2010

A: Morally Bankrupt. Q: What Are Labor Unions?

Inspiration for this post is due largely in part to a casual conversation with the legendary Cherry Red M&M

I hate my labor union with a passion that is unrivaled and unmatched with anything else that I don't like.

Connecticut, like most of the other blue states in this country, is deep in debt due to the plethora of stupidity that oozes from the state legislature. And like most blue states, the state legislature is dominated by 'wow-we-have-a-leftover-dollar-lets-spend-it-now' Democratic party, who for the most part are owned by labor unions.

And like most blue states, the labor unions came out with both barrels a-blazin' to get the Democratic candidate for governor Dan Malloy elected. Why? Why to maintain the status quo so that they can continue feeding at the public trough.

See, they figured that once Dan Malloy got into office, all this talk about give backs by the labor unions would cease to be.

Guess what boys and girls, it didn't cease to be.

As a matter of fact, the second they got a whiff about the new governor asking for give backs, their reaction showed just how much they truly cared about their brethren.

"We would rather see layoffs then give back another dollar to the state."

Yeah, that brings a tear to my eye. To think that my labor union, my clerical union run by AFSCME, cared that much about me that they were willing to have a repeat of 2003, in which me and 2,799 of my closet co-workers were pink slipped.

I tell ya, it touches me right here.

Seriously, our state is looking at a gap of 3.2 billion dollars and with no special gimmicks or federal dollars available to use and abuse, the governor-elect will probably attempt to deaden the pain by not only asking for yet more concessions from the state rank and file, but from the managers as well. And I'm sure that somewhere in the mix, a few possibilities that I wrote about over a year and a half ago that were temporary solutions, will probably become permanent solutions.

If the unions (plural as there are 13 bargaining units that the state deals with) hem and haw, the end result will realistically be like 2003, which will be a major whammy to the unions. Because not only will they lose a ton of members, but their wallet and coffers will take a major hit as well.

Ya know, downsizing can be a bitch, but if there is a way to lessen the pain by giving money back and saving jobs of people who really need them, it really shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

As a taxpayer, I want to see a little fiscal sanity applied by my government. I don't want to live in a mini version of a nanny state (i.e. California or New York) which is what this country is slowly turning into.

As a state worker, having been on the receiving end of the debacle of 2003, I have no qualms in doing it to others if need be. But I really don't want to exercise my contractual right to put someone else in the poor house.

So please, open your eyes to the reality of life and take a hard look at the economic meltdown plaguing this state, and for once put the needs of the members first.

Because to put it bluntly, you work for us, we don't work for you.


  1. the real workers just get caught between the fat cats on one side and the fatter cats on the other.

  2. I used to supervise hourly employees who were represented by a labor union. I hear you on all that, but they sure did go to bat for employees - even if they were clearly in the wrong. Georgia is a "right to work" state, so these guys don't even have to pay dues in order to be represented. (Clearly I have no issues where unions are concerned. lol!)

  3. Charles: To a certain degree, yes. But our labor unions have to realize that sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do what's best for your members.

    There is a lot animosity between the branch I work for (Executive) and the other two branches (Judicial and Legislative) of guv'ment, mostly because my branch has done the yeoman's work of givebacks and the other two haven't.

    I believe it is gonna get wickedly ugly by the next fiscal year.

    Lynn: I've seen both the good and the bad when the unions go to back for an employee, and I can tell you that it does truly boggle my mind what these unions can get for a bad employee.

    I'm one of those rare people who is a union member who refuses to march lockstep with what my union does.

  4. Fiscal sanity? We are all dreaming on...I don't see how the hell layoffs are preferable to furlough days (which also suck) and it makes me furious that this is done on the backs of working people. One department in my state put in furlough days while simultaneously paying consultants several hundred thousand dollars for "management training." Not to mention some of the muckety-mucks in departments that make more than the governor does.

    The public safety departments in my state that did furlough days ended up spending even more than that "savings" in overtime for the police, fire, and sheriff's deputies that had to cover for their coworkers.

    It's like my dad told me in seventh grade: everything the government touches, it fucks.

    Meanwhile we have what is called a "kicker" rebate here that people refuse to give up and put in a rainy day fund. So three years ago most of us got checks back, and now we are in a huge deficit black hole.

    I say we whack the upper management a bit. Who knows what they do anyway?

  5. R: Honestly, that is one of the ideas being bandied about. We are very top heavy with management, and I while I personally know a couple who are very good at what they do, overall there are redundancies in each and every agency (about 90+ at last count).

    I know fiscal sanity is a pipe dream on any level beyond municipal, but I am willing to give our current governor-elect the benefit of the doubt. The guy ran a major city (Stamford) and from most accounts, did a good job in running it.

    I very rarely vote Democratic (moderate Republican I is) but this guy seems to be the better choice. Only time will tell whether or not he can make a difference.

  6. I like the classic old Reagan quote: "The scariest sentence in the English language is 'We are from the government. we are here to help." (not an exact quote but close enough)

    I always laughed at the union my first wife worked for. She got in trouble for, on her own, unpaid time, volunteering for a Christmas Santa thing...for another department.

    Uh..volunteer. unpaid. Just sayin'

  7. Darth: Nice.

    My courier, who brings me my stuff from my facility, told me once that he offered to help put a small piece of furniture together for someone, but was prevented from doing so by union rules.

    Took the facility's maintainence dept a week to find the time to put it together.

  8. Like Glenn Beck says, it's gonna get a little worse before it gets better. But it will get better! Gov't spending has to end.


  9. Jannie: I hope so.

    I'll be happy for it to start on the state level for now.

  10. Hard to believe a union rep said that!

  11. I guess you're right they could totally abrogate your collective bargaining agreement and privatize your job. Then have three people working it part time less expensively than you with no benefits, no paid days off, no pension accrual. No nothing except about 2/3 the wages you make for the hours they put in. And of course a healthy profit for the agency that supplied the at will work force.

    I mean if your contractual protections and already given backs aren't enough where are you saying the line should be drawn?

    Just, as a taxpayer in CT, how much more of your gross pay do you wish to contribute to your states mismanagement? You pay taxes and fees up the ass and have toll roads to boot, fees for this and charges for that.

    How much more do you want to pay because you are free to give them whatever extra you want to help fill the hole that the US House dug and the US Senate approved.

    Your Lieberman is just a sold out lacky to the insurance industry that has the other 49 states paying his masters as dearly as you. Not to mention he should be registered as an agent or lobbyist for the Israeli government.

    The problem lies with the activist SCOTUS,(re: Citizens United V People of the United States) and the legislative and the financial arm of the administrative branches on the federal level Not AFSCME.

    Unions built this country, unions built the middle class you're losing because of greed from the financial sector, among other places.

    Unions put an end to child labor and made it so a 40 hour work week was possible. Unions made it so a person could afford to purchase the product they made which expanded the economy.

    Unions made it possible for you to afford to send your kid to college (until government got involved and colleges and banks saw a golden teat to suck from in the form of financial aid)

    What job again did your union outsource?

    Unions did not make paper markets (CDO's, CBO's, Sub-Prime mortgages, un regulated hedge funds) to suck wealth out of the middle to enrich the 2%ers's at the top.

    You need to learn a bit about the blood unions spilled at the hands of company thugs, private armies hired by Ford and the rest so men could organize. That would have been during your dad and granddads time.

    Yeah you're a clerk and you lose a day or two worth of pay a month and that is a bad thing but you tell me please how is it that the union decided your states budget again, because I don't understand anything other than you hate your union and blame it for drawing a line that says

    "when you, governor, legislator, judges, do your share we'll consider giving more back."

    You're a funny guy when you write but from where I sit here in a Detroit that has been decimated for decades I think you need a bit more knowledge on what exactly unions did for the nation and look at what times were like when 73% of the workforce was unionized as opposed to the 23% now.

  12. Snaggle: Not so much as a single rep as its the prevailing wisdom among the yahoos who negotiate all of the contracts for the state.

  13. Walking Man: Apologies for not answering sooner, but your thoughtful comment got labeled as "spam" by Blogger.

    While I agree that the labor unions that you speak of did an admirable job over the decade, I see a major difference between the labor unions of your current life and the white collar labor unions that I'm an unfortunate part of.

    My cynicsim and hatred about my labor unions come from a combination of having been laid off in 2003 and having a ringside seat on what they've been doing for the past six years.

    Granted, the union did draw a line in the sand, but honestly, for them to not give a thought about their members by making the statement of we would rather see layoffs then give back any more monies is simply foolish.

    Honestly, I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want to see a percentage of my fellow co-workers get laid off due to such short sightedness.

    For the time being, I am willing to give the current gov-elect (who was backed by union money btw) a chance to see what he can do to solve the current budget mess.

  14. Addendum:

    How my union determines the state budget is directly tied in to the wages, bonuses and other fringe benefits (like health insurance) that were last negotiated in 2006.

    About two months before the end of the contract in FY2009, negotiations were started that were specifically geared towards the current economic meltdown with the rest of the negotiations completed by the September for FY10.

    Overall, the state guv'ment workforce (which is what I'm part off) totals about 50K and accounts for well over 60% of the budget dollars spent.

    And my state legislator has been dominated by one party, the Democrats, who up until now have not been able to make the hard choices about spending.

    You really want to know where the current uproar originated from?

    The legislature in the fall of 2008 had an golden opportunity to reduce an abritrated contract awarded to the NP-4 & NP-8 bargaining units, who cover about 85% of the rank & file for the Dept of Corrections from 6% (which was also retroactive) to something less.

    They chose not to and that more than anything else has contributed to the current hostility towards state labor unions in this state.

  15. I was fortunate that when I blew my back out and could no longer repair police cars for the city (Yeah AFSCME) that there were rules and procedures in place that made me a not at will employee. I was a shop steward and fought many fights for my crew and won some lost some but I did get my shift working in a cohesive way that upped production lowered costs and had the most productive shift on the 9 spread among three garages.

    I agree AFSCME and many other unions still had 1950's attitude of hey we work we deserve yearly raises in our contracts and that they were VERY slow in coming round but in MI the state pension plan for state employees was raided by the legislative branch with promissory notes and is no longer fully funded.

    In Detroit believe it or not our two pension plans are fully funded and now the state wants to merge our plan with theirs and it just ain't going to happen.

    But the problem in my mind is that our generation (boomers) have been always taught to look for the easy way out and not the hard but productive way. We have to learn that there is no easy solution to a 14 trillion dollar debt but you and I didn't dig the hole and we can't be expected to be the only pile of dirt that can fill it in because G it isn't going to happen without massive reform on them who got the money we earned for them.

    That includes both public and private sector management coming to realistic decisions, which they are politically afraid to do. Unions are men and women who yes have a bit of benefit non unions folks don't have but...there is fat in other places besides the workers backside.

    I could go on but I only want to wish you a very good and well deserved day off. Without people like you doing a drudge job like yours life would be harder, THANK YOU.

    Be Well


  16. Walking Man: Unfortunately our state has done similar damage to the two main pension funds for state workers, and has given such a generous benefit package to retirees that now all new employees with lesss than five years of service now have to contribute 3% of their bi-weekly gross wages for up to the next 10 years to help fund it.

    I agree that tough decisions have to be make which are very politically unpopular to make (the running joke for the past year or so is that the next governor will only be a one termer because of the current budget mess he/she would be inheriting.

    And yes, there is a lot of fat that can be trimmed that shouldn't come from the rank & file.

    Honestly, all I'm looking for is a happy medium for the next few years, because as both a taxpayer and as a worker who directly benefits from the state largress anything else will simply make we want to get dressed in a straitjacket.

    Have a great Gobbler day Mark.



Go on, give me your best shot. I can take it. If I couldn't, I wouldn't have created this wonderful little blog that you decided to grace with your presence today.

About that comment moderation thingy: While yes, it does say up above I can take it, I only use it to prevent the occasional miscreant from leaving thoughtless and/or clueless comments.

So remember, all of your comments are greatly appreciated and all answers will be given that personal touch that you come to expect and enjoy.

G. B. Miller

The Legal Disclaimer

All the content that you see here, except for the posting of links that refer to other off-blog stories, is (c) 2008-17 by G.B. Miller. Nothing in whole or in part may be used without the express written permission of myself. If you wish to use any part of what you see here, please contact me at