February 13, 2007

Unions Would Have Stopped September 11!?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Look, we all have bad days as bloggers. Some are worse than others. Matt Jerzyk of RI Future clearly steps over the line today…

Today at 500pm there will be a big union rally sponsored by Council 94 AFSCME at Central Falls High School to oppose the privatization of school bus drivers expected to take place at the 600pm school board meeting....I am starkly reminded of the privatized and low-wage airport screeners who allowed hijackers onto the planes with knives and box cutters that they used to stab airline attendants and seize the planes. Put simply, you get what you pay for.
The last sentence of the post is perverse. Is Mr. Jerzyk seriously arguing that September 11 would not have happened, if only airport security had been conducted by the kind of people willing to strand elementary school children on freezing cold days as a bargaining tactic? Or, if not willing to admit that abandoning the children is a bargaining tactic, then by people that are just plain incompetent? Either way, where’s the (positive) correlation between the unionization of the Central Falls bus drivers and any sort of drive to do their jobs well? There are non-union people who take pride in their work too, you know.

Really, the problem is that because of short-sighted and self-interested leadership, you often don’t get what you pay for, once a union becomes involved.

If, on the other hand, we could get Al-Qaida to organize itself under union rules, that might be a step forward. “My CBA says I only kill Jews and Christians. Now you want me to kill Shi’ites too? Take it up with my union rep…”

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Reminds me of a funny story:

A dedicated union worker was attending a convention in Las Vegas and decided to check out the local brothels. When he got to the first one, he asked the Madam, "Is this a union house?"

"No," she replied, "I'm sorry it isn't."

"Well, if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?"

"The house gets $80 and the girls get $20," she answered.

Offended at such unfair dealings, the union man stomped off down the street in search of a more equitable, hopefully unionized shop. His search continued until finally he reached a brothel where the Madam responded, "Why yes sir, this is a union house. We observe all union rules."

The man asked, "And if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?"

"The girls get $80 and the house gets $20," she replied.

"That's more like it!" the union man said.

He handed the Madam $100, looked around the room, and pointed to a stunningly attractive blonde.

"I'd like her," he said.

"I'm sure you would, sir," said the Madam. Then she gestured to a 92-year old woman in the corner, "but Ethel here has 67 years seniority and according to union rules, she's next."

Posted by: Will at February 13, 2007 5:37 PM

MY point, Andrew, is quite simple and quite different from your rhetorical bombs: low-wage workers with minimal training and minimal investment in their job lead to SECURITY problems from buses to airport screeners. And, apparently, you haven't read the 9/11 Commission report because if you had, you would have read that some serious deficiencies in airport screening. You want good employees. Treat and train them well. It's really not rocket science.

Posted by: Matt Jerzyk at February 13, 2007 8:04 PM


How can you presume that private company non-union employees are not well trained and treated by their employer. The only difference I see in my experience is that the part time bus drivers are well trained and treated fairly; as part time employees, not eligible to enjoy the benefits of full time (that's 40 hours per week in the real world) workers. So they won't get the protection for poor performance and bad attitude, unwarranted vacation days, pension benefits, health care, etc.

Oh, btw, I always carried a knife in my pocket before 9/11. Now I can't and I actually feel less safe.

Posted by: Ben at February 13, 2007 11:00 PM

I feel your pain, Ben. My gerber has been permanently relegated to the my toolbox lest it be confiscated. I used to bring that thing everywhere.

Posted by: Josh at February 14, 2007 8:17 AM


1. I have enough respect for your knowledge of local issues to know that if you thought you had any decent argument to make on the merits, i.e. that the people of Central Falls are getting good service for what they are paying, or the Central Falls bus drivers are being treated worse than bus drivers in the rest of RI, you wouldn't have jumped immediately to the ridiculously over-the-top September 11 argument.

2. You yourself have called low-wage workers the backbone of the American economy, when it suits your immigration agenda. Now, you are calling low-wage workers security risks, when it suits your pro-union agenda. It's difficult not to conclude that contradiction is the result of support for the special interest group of the moment, rather than concern for the community good, being at the top of your agenda.

3. A group of bus drivers who leave elementary school children shivering on street corners on one of the coldest days of the year and who march around with signs that say things like "no field trips" don't inspire confidence that they see other people's children as anything more than a commodity to be exploited. The people of Central Falls should have the option of dealing with organizations that take a more humane view.

Posted by: Andrew at February 14, 2007 10:06 AM

I am always amazed by the "thinking" of those who profess that the only properly trained person is a union trained person. Those "thinkers" normally also hold as "fact" that those in management are sub-humans who are only machines of corporate greed.

So here are a few thoughts and "ponderables" for those aforementioned "thinkers" to twirl and which may challenge them to think more clearly, with more intellectual integrity using logic instead of hand fed rhetoric as the source of the basis for their "conclusions" on how the system works.

1. The US Military is non-union and there is no dispute the level of training that non union entity gives those non-union workers. (By the way for all those who really believe that unionized entities always provide superior training and results than non union groups: Do you really wish the military was union???? Just wondering)

2. There is a union in Rhode Island that just recently began unionizing telecommunication technicians and who has no adequate training programs for the workers. Yet for the past 30+ years highly sophisticated and complex networks have been designed, installed, engineered and certified by workers and laborers who have been trained by the companies they work for long before the union targeted them.

3. There has never been an industry that a union started. All industries have been started by entrepreneurs who then built companies to perform the work. These companies and their workers had to learn how best practices to insure success and their continued existence. The companies then documented these practices and began to spread that knowledge to workers throughout the company by training them.

All of the knowledge that sourced the training and all of the original trainers originated from non-union companies. Then once a union came into that preexisting and profitable company the unions then took that knowledge and made their own training programs. So logic dictates that the companies trained the unions. With that being said it is ludicrous to think that A. Companies are incapable of training their own people. B. Unions provide superior training than companies, especially since it is the companies that provided the knowledge that the unions use. C. Unions are the source of training..

4. We all know that most companies are not union. We all also know that if a company is not union its workforce cannot receive the training a union provides. It is also an undisputed fact that the US has created one of the highest trained workforces the world has ever seen over the past 100+ years. It therefore is an undisputed fact that the vast majority of this highly trained workforce has been trained by non union people in non-union companies.

I could go on and on and debunk many more myths perpetrated by those who look to scare people into unions by demonizing corporations by revealing a few of the “dark secrets” of the unions such as”

1. Unions are multi-million dollar international corporations that are run by very highly paid and compensated corporate executives.

2. Unions do not generate any money of their own. Their business model calls for them to get paid via an involuntary and non-negotiable tax put upon every worker who works for a company once the union secures a contract.

3. Unions are corporations who's product is to serve as an agent for people who, after a one time vote, have no freedom of choice to refuse its services and its fees. Therefore unions are corporations restrict worker rights in that instance. Hmmmm isn't that something that is considered reprehensible?

4. In Rhode Island if a company has a union contract in place people are forced to join the union even if it is against their free will. Is that representative of an organization that is truly for "workers rights" or is that an example of a corporate entity forcing its will on the working man and woman?

5. If management is considered to be inherently manipulative and against the working man and management is identified as those who oversee the actions and work of others as well as having the responsibility to make the corporation profitable then those who run the unions, i.e. the president, the business agent are management. By definition they then must be considered equally inherently manipulative and against the working man as well.

But I will stop there. By the way I am not against unions. They are part of what has made America the most powerful economic power the world has ever seen and they are responsible for the creation of the middle class and for insuring workplace safety. However, they are not for the working man any more than a corporation is “for the customer”.

Just as a “corporation” is in it for the corporation and is smart enough to know that it has to have a stable workforce, provide a good product, with lots of promises and marketing, in order that the customer will voluntarily pay for it so too does the union have to provide a good product, with lots of promises and marketing, in order for people will vote for them.

The only difference is that customers can always chose to not pay a corporation its money. A worker can never refuse to pay its union, even if the union isn’t doing a good job representing the worker.

But no corporation is perfect, not even a corporation who happens to call itself a union.

Posted by: Outside the Box at February 14, 2007 10:09 AM

Outside the Box says: "The only difference is that customers can always chose to not pay a corporation its money."

Is this really true? In a real-world sense? If the airlines going to a city I need to travel to are equally bad, I'm stuck paying a corporation my money. If I don't like my cable company, but live in a place a satelite dish will not work, I'm stuck paying for things I don't want to get even basic service. If all the banks and credit card companies are using profits to pay lobbyists to pass bad consumer protection laws, but I want to write checks or use an ATM or have a credit card, I'm stuck again. Corporate funds from so many day-to-day activities are used to lobby against the interests of the consumers who use those products.

And, you missed the ultimate irony in your anti-union diatribe - since you believe that we all have economic choices to make, then your hypothetical worker who does not want to be represented by a union and choose to work in a non-union environment (and possibly get worse pay and benefits and protection).

Posted by: Jake at February 14, 2007 11:34 AM

{OT comment deleted. And if you're going to attempt irreverent humor, try to make if funny}

Posted by: Lombardo at February 14, 2007 12:43 PM

You linked Unions to killing Christens Jews and Shiites?

Posted by: Lombardo at February 14, 2007 3:35 PM

Take heart, Lombardo. The section of the original post that’s upsetting you is based on the fact that Al-Qaida (which can be fairly linked to killing Christians, Jews, and Shi’ites) is not run like a union.

Here’s a simple rule for future reference: Obviously untrue stuff about real people will get edited out.

Posted by: Andrew at February 14, 2007 5:17 PM
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