Thursday, September 20, 2012

Coca-Cola Workers: "NO!" To Teamsters

Reject Unionization Again.

How many times does this make?  I think I heard (though I can't find a link, so take it with a grain of salt) that it's number 3 in 5 years.  Maybe Unionization should have a three strikes rule- you can try to unionize a shop three times, and after that you don't get any more tries.

I didn't talk about this while the talks were going on for two reasons: one, I think a private shop unionizing is stupid, but perfectly fine as far as it goes.  Second, I don't have a dog in this fight beyond my general disdain and distrust of unions.  Now, however, I will talk about it.

I work as a software developer.  Several times over the last five or six years, people have advanced the idea of creating a software developers' union.  It has been roundly rejected, cruelly ridiculed, and viciously mocked.  Software developers understand something that, apparently, some people do not.  We're all mercenaries.  Not just software developers- everybody.

When you work for an employer, you are looking for the best nexus of home/family time, pay, benefits, work environment, and other "intangibles."  Everyone does.  Similarly, when an employer hires you, they're looking for the best nexus of cost, performance, reliability, and a different set of intangibles.  That's how commerce works, and being an employee is nothing short of selling your labor as a service.  Just like any other commercial transaction, laws of supply and demand apply.

Now, when a worker is faced with the option of voting "yes" to a union, they are often lobbied by the union (the employer is prohibited from directly lobbying against it) to vote for the union.  Often they're promised "better working conditions," "better pay," "better benefits," and all sorts of pie-in-the-sky nonsense.  And, indeed, the union can often deliver those in the short run.  What they're leaving out (it's in their own best interest that workers never think of these things) is the costs.

Those costs can be on the employer, or on the employee.  Employer costs include greater labor costs, including compliance with a whole new "collective bargaining agreement," higher facilities costs, and greater administrative costs (over and above higher pay and more expensive benefits).  Costs on the employee, besides the union dues themselves, are things like favoritism of tenure instead of merit, and a worse work environment due to slacking and lazy coworkers.

When a shop unionizes, it is not representing the best workers.  They didn't need representation anyway.  The best workers were already getting raises.  They were already getting to take vacations, because they weren't calling in sick a day here and a day there.  They already had a relaxed, enjoyable work environment- such goes with knowing your boss is happy with your work.

When a shop unionizes, it does not even represent the "average," or middle tier workers.  They weren't in any danger of losing their jobs.  If they weren't getting raises all the time, they were getting them some.  If they're good at their jobs and the raises aren't coming, they could be fairly certain of finding gainful employment elsewhere.  They may or may not have been getting to take real "vacations" but they were being good enough with their time off to make sure they could at least take the occasional 4 day weekend.  Their work environment, if not jovial, was not bad- again, if it were, they could find gainful employment elsewhere.

No, when a shop unionizes, it represents the bad workers.  It represents the lazy and incompetent.  They are the ones who need union protection.  They are the ones whose jobs are most tenuously held, and the ones least likely to get another job in the same field if they're let go.  They are the ones who don't get vacation, because they're playing hooky every third week.  They are the ones with a "hostile work environment," because their bosses and coworkers know they're useless louts.

If you're a good worker, or even a mediocre one, and you vote for unionization, you're really voting to support the jerk next to you who takes seventeen "smoking breaks" during the day.  A vote for unionization, if you're a good worker or a mediocre one, is to say that some other worker- who is just showing up for his pay check, should have more perks than you just because he has "seniority."  A vote to unionize, if you're a good or mediocre worker, is a vote to allow the already lazy and useless to be insulated from their poor work habits.

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