February 15, 2006
QotD: Sclerotic States
Posted by Nicholas at February 15, 2006 12:01 AM
In the name of social justice, personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful, paralyzing all attempts to maximize collective endeavor. Nowhere is this clearer than in France, where a survey published in the left-wing newspaper, Liberation, showed that three times as many people had warm feeling towards socialism as towards capitalism. (The ambition of three quarters of French youth is to be employed by the state). Yet French defense of personal and sectional interest is so ferocious that it renders reform almost impossible, at least without violence on the streets. Workers in the French public transport system, who enjoy privileges that would have made Louis XIV gasp, strike the moment that any reduction in them is even mooted, all in the name of preserving social justice as represented by those privileges, despite the fact that striking brings misery and impoverishment to millions of their fellow-citizens, and their privileges are bankrupting the state. The goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else, or to struggle for as large a slice of the economic cake as possible. No one worries about the size of the cake itself. Apres moi, le deluge has become the watchword not of the king alone, but of the entire population.
Theodore Dalrymple, "Is 'Old Europe' Doomed?", Cato Unbound, 2006-02-06
No one seems to think about the big picture any more… so you have these perks of the unionized job. So you’ve got your pension, you’ve got your medical benefits, and you’ve got your wages. Right. Then you have a situation: we’re bankrupting the company… shit.
Well what do we do here? Half- maybe 55% of me would say this: make a concession to a wage or benefit reduction and smarten up or you WONT HAVE A JOB AT ALL when the firm dies. It reminds me of old growth forestry- there was this brilliant statement made to me once (can’t remember who made it) that there was a membership out west scrapping with environmentalists over a plot of old growth wood- the last in the region (or something to that effect). The lumberjack membership was arguing that their members were suffering because they weren’t allowed to cut those trees down and there was no work (no $$$). The environmentalists said that they couldn’t cut down these trees because they were all that were left (or something). Then some one said this: “at present you don’t have jobs because you cannot deforest this plot of lumber. Problem. If you were to deforest this area you would still be without a job because the trees would be GONE”.
What do we do?
Then the remaining 45% of me would say this: the union cannot make a concession because if it does it loses its power with the employer and the respect of its membership. If it makes a concession, a precedent is set and (theoretically) there is nothing stopping the employer from biting down on the collective and forcing a shitty contract. One of my favourite laws of negotiation is: “if one concession is made, more concessions WILL follow”. Secondly the 45% socialist in me would say that the employer is to blame. Let me explain: by letting wages or benefits- the membership package- get out of hand the employer has been reckless. In addition, a working conditions precedent has been set and why should the collective have to accept a lower standard? is it not the duty of the employer to find ways to me the $$$ needed to pay the people who rely on them for income?This does not take into consideration the fact that industries and markets change- consumer tastes change and as an industry moves through its lifecycle towards maturity, competition will begin to stack up and price wars are inevitable, ultimately driving profits down and pinching margins razor tight. In other words, what may have been a fiscally responsible employment expense in years gone by may now be damagingly high (the present North American auto industry for example). The end picture would resemble something like this: either the company goes bankrupt and dies and the workers have no jobs or the product has become redundant, portfolio diversification was not undertaken (this would more than likely have something to do with the union in the first place), the company dies and the workers have no jobs… Call me an asshole, but it seems to me that unionized environments defend ignorance, self-service, and redundancy in most cases, and discourage the evolution of an industry towards natural problem solving and a better deal (in the end) for the customer, the labourer, and the employer… you have companies with their coffers bled dry, sitting in bankruptcy protection and the union is still at the table making demands when there is nothing left to give. The union boss will tell you: “We’ll fight for your rights!” what they are not telling you is that they will continue to duke it out with the employer on the deck as the ship goes down… rather than encouraging creative thought and problem solving they will continue to fight for a product or service that (in some cases) the public doesn’t even use anymore. While the membership is blinded by this “my dick is bigger than yours” macho bullshit, they miss the chance to create a new idea out of the ashes of yesterday’s product…
I don’t believe there is a “correct” answer to the question brought to my mind by your post, “what do you do when a union is killing its employer financially- who is wrong, the union of the employer- the membership or the managers?” this is something that has wandered through my mind for many years- more so now as I am working a unionized position. I think it would make an excellent thesis topic… probably been done before.though.
Anyway- I find it fascinating. Payroll expenses pile up as the unions get tougher and the bosses get stingier. It goes on and on until it balloons into a situation of shier and utter ridiculous stupidity- where the company is forced to offer insurance to its customers against its own workers because rendering their services has become so expensive that the consumer will not be able to afford it (or justify the expense with relation to the work provided). Bell and its technicians currently foster this type of relationship. By this situation, I remain unreservedly stupefied…