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Two regular features of reporting about unions are sometimes hard to tell apart: A lot of reporters don't know basic facts about labor, and anti-union forces have a powerful PR machine tirelessly working to insert anti-union language into the media as "neutral" language. Some mistakes are just that. They're wrong but not necessarily harmful. Others may have become naturalized, repeated so often that even people who don't intend any harm to unions have picked them up. But it's important to try to get things right, and it's particularly important to combat the spread of right-wing messaging, maybe especially when it's been so successfully inserted into the discourse that people don't recognize it for what it is.

This list isn't anywhere close to exhaustive, but it features a few of the big problems I see repeated the most often.

Big labor—Ooh, scary, right? Not just labor, not just unions, not just millions of working people joined together, fighting together rather than one by one, having hired some lawyers and organizers to represent their interests, but big labor. It must be a fair fight between corporate money and Koch brothers money and U.S. Chamber of Commerce money and big labor money, right? No, of course it's not. But those are the assumptions embedded in the term, which is exactly why it's important to push back on it.

Union boss—Try this: "union leader." Though union officers are elected through different processes, some at conventions at which delegates from around the country vote, some by a vote of the union's entire membership, union officers are elected leaders. The term "union boss" is used to create a false equivalence between the boss in the workplace put there from above who holds the power to hire and fire workers, to promote or discipline them, and the elected union leader.

Merit shop—Any time you see this one, you know that the person using it is straight-up anti-union. "Merit shop" refers to non-union companies, usually construction companies, implying that workers are hired and paid according to their individual merit, not union rules. Of course, it turns out that the individual merit of "merit shop" workers leads to lower pay, fewer benefits and a whole lot of misclassification. One of the particularly Orwellian things about this term is that construction unions and union contractors typically invest heavily in apprenticeship and training, while non-union construction firms are less likely to do so.

Closed shop—This term describes something that doesn't exist under law—a workplace in which only existing union members may be hired. Not only are collective bargaining agreements prohibited from limiting hiring to existing union members, they are prohibited from forcing workers to join the union once hired. Any worker can decline to join a union and pay a fee covering their fair share of the work the union does directly representing them. Yet anti-union organizations like the Associated Builders & Contractors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will still use this term, just to see if they can get reporters to quote them doing so without challenging it.

Right to work—We've been over and over the substance of these laws, but the challenge imposed by the name deserves a word. "Right to work" is akin to "death tax" as a right-wing frame. Unfortunately, the right created this law and with it the name, so there's no formal name to call it by that isn't by design an anti-union term. "Right to work" laws don't put anyone to work and they don't give them any right except that to receive benefits that they do not pay for—which is why you'll see such laws referred to as free rider laws or right to work for less laws or no rights at work laws—but the official name they are given says otherwise, and until we have the kind of PR engine and access to powerful people using a pro-union message that has gone into creating anti-union messages, we are stuck grappling with it.

Project Labor Agreements are not union-only—But anti-union groups generally claim they are. Project Labor Agreements govern large construction projects, setting uniform terms across different contractors and different types of work being done on a project. Each PLA is specific to a project, and they can greatly increase efficiency and reduce the risk of interruptions or labor conflict. While PLAs set the same standards for union and non-union contractors on a project, they do not require that all workers or contractors be union. Additionally, they can be used for things like requiring that a percentage of the work on a project be done by local workers or by economically disadvantaged workers.

Union/labor leader—There's nothing wrong with this term if it's correctly applied. But when it's incorrectly applied, take a second to think about why. The key thing here is that only the elected leaders of a union should be called union (or labor) leaders. That's presidents and secretary-treasurers, not political directors and communications staffers. Unions are organizations of workers, and officers are their elected representatives. Staffers are critical to the function of a union, but their role is to execute the interests and the will of the workers who are members of the union, under the direction of the leaders elected by those members. So if you read an article in which someone other than a union president or secretary-treasurer or maybe vice president is described as a union leader, ask yourself: Did the author of this article not know enough about unions to know the difference between an elected leader and a staffer, or is there a political agenda involved in the error? If so, what might it be?

Top union/labor leader—A term to be applied very judiciously. If the full description is "top union leader" and the context is national politics, there's room for legitimate debate about who should be characterized as a "top" labor leader, but it begins with a core of the president and secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO and the presidents of maybe a dozen of the largest or otherwise most significant unions, and it doesn't extend a whole lot further—certainly not beyond the presidents and secretary-treasurers of national or international unions, and likely not that far. Of course, if "top union leader" is modified somehow—top Los Angeles union leader, top construction union leader—the pool changes.

The AFL-CIO is not a union—The AFL-CIO is often referred to as a union, but in fact, it's a federation of unions. It's in the name! American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. The AFL-CIO consists of 56 unions, ranging from the very large to the tiny, familiar names like AFSCME and unions you may not have heard of like, say, the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics and Allied Workers International Union. Each of those unions has its own organizational structure, and a voice within the AFL-CIO. This is why, when unions are divided between different candidates in an election, the AFL-CIO may not endorse until late, perhaps after a primary.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Maybe we can change "Right to Work" to (11+ / 0-)

    "Right to Fire." That seems more descriptive to me.

  •  Excellent post! The subject of media coverage (10+ / 0-)

    of labor deserves a lot of attention. I recall that as late 1970 or so, most major newspapers had at least a weekly "Labor" section, similar to the "Business" section but specializing in union news. I don't know if there are ANY of these left.

  •  Another matter gotten wrong (10+ / 0-)

    Anti-union forces make a big deal about deals going to candidates without any say-so (which belies that union officials are elected).

    It also ignores that stockholders have no say as to where corporations contribute, and of course consumers also can't forbid companies from spending their earnings from our purchases from going to wherever they want.

  •  Union Demands (19+ / 0-)

    Invariably, in negotiations the media reports "union demands" and company "offers."  Even in the age of "takeaways" we still hear the old term of "demands," when the workers greatest goal is the status quo.

  •  This can be turned back on the wingers with: (9+ / 0-)

    Big Business, Money Boss, Team Shop, Right to Unite State, Project Planning Agreements, Union/Work Leader, AFL-CIO League, and, finally, there should be no such thing as a top labor leader, which should be considered an oxymoron.  It should be "labor representative" without any acknowledgement of hierarchy because that's what gives the wingers the handle they need to point at some of history's less than sterling performers as labor reps, i.e. thugs and bosses.  Bottom line is that it's language, a living thing that can be and is changing.  We must change it and stop acknowledging the terms foist upon us by the mediocre Frank Luntz.

    Romney went to France instead of serving in our military, got rich chop-shopping US businesses and eliminating US jobs, off-shored his money in the Cayman Islands, and now tells us to "Believe in America."

    by judyms9 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:21:45 PM PDT

  •  Right to work..... (5+ / 0-)

    ....for less.

  •  good lexicon.... (9+ / 0-)

    The non-1 percenters will not be able to make up for lost income (as a component of increased productivity) and job insecurity without labor unions.

    We need to expand unions into every facet of the workplace.  At the same time--we need to innovate, and in some cases, reform unions to ensure that they respond quickly and adequately to their members. (Less hierarchically bound)

    The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.

    by Agent Orange on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:23:45 PM PDT

  •  Another thing I noticed (11+ / 0-)

    Right after the Wisconsin recall went down, a lot of people on the right were claiming that the fact that AFSCME's Wisconsin membership dropped by almost two thirds after Scott Walker's law passed was proof that when people were given the option of joining a union, many of them declined.

    Uh, no.  First, they ALWAYS had the option of joining the union.  And second, the new Wisconsin law also took away collective bargaining rights.

    So, basically, the right's argument is that when you take away the whole point in joining a union, a lot of people don't join the union.  Duh.

    28, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

    by TDDVandy on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:32:42 PM PDT

  •  the massive MSM ignorance of labor history (8+ / 0-)

    remains the greatest embarrassment and the greatest role in maintaining false consciousness in the middle classes and  the non-Faux MSM needs relentless and constant criticism of their ignorance which is the best simultaneous/synchronic use of social media

    Step one: refuse to use "right to work" as an expression in everyday discourse except in terms of collective bargaining since the history of unions has been to protect the human right to work for decent wages, safety, and rights. There are no "right to work states" since that concept is one created by bosses and capitalists like rMoney just like global warming somehow became climate change

    slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare." 政治委员, 政委!

    by annieli on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:35:25 PM PDT

  •  Some other great examples can be found in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy, ManhattanMan

    this diary. The diarist is very concerned that:

    While we  readers of DailyKos regularly decry the erosion of labor unions, I expect that the general populace does not.
  •  So, in a right to work state, someone is (5+ / 0-)

    obligated to hire me?

    -- We are just regular people informed on issues

    by mike101 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:41:15 PM PDT

  •  Good work, Laura (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rbird, PSzymeczek, Dirtandiron

    "I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it." - Ray Bradbury

    by chuckvw on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:42:21 PM PDT

  •  Merit Shop (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    This is my biggest gripe with unions.  I work at a "Merit Shop" in the Software industry.  My pay and benefits are significantly higher than what I could be making at a "non-Merit Shop" where union pay scales prevent "merit" compensation negotiations.

    I worked at a union government agency for 5 years and saw the downsides of that approach.  

    I'll take my "Merit Shop" benefits and incentive bonuses based on performance (which don't exist, at least not in at the State agency I worked for) over union stability any-day.

    GOD! Save me from your followers.

    by adversus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:43:27 PM PDT

    •  Great. Good for you. (14+ / 0-)

      My former workplace (I'm retired now) is now merit based too.

      More merit if you're the bosses son, girlfriend or buddy.  For everyone else, not so much.

      The idea of a meritocracy sounds great, if it works for you.

    •  Which is great when you work in the software (5+ / 0-)

      industry in the US.  In general the "merit" that merit shops value most is low wages.  Of course, since you haven't been replaced yet you don't have a problem with it.

      If you don't mind me asking, how old are you?  I ask because I find that there is an age range in the software industry, which I have worked in for a number of years, that is always opposed to unions.  I find that age range to be those workers over 30.  For the record, I'm an exception to that, meaning I work in the industry and am over thirty ad think we should have a union.

      More importantly, the reason you make more than a union shop is because there are union shops.  They set the bottom line wage.  Without them you would be making at best what the top earners in those shops make.

      There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

      by AoT on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:03:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm 32 (0+ / 0-)

        I've worked with software / data analysis / database design pretty much since I was in high school.  In industries as varied as the music/audio, financial, public pension, and now accounting software industries.

        Unions are great for a lot of things, and collective bargaining, especially in the public sector, is needed to keep the wages livable (whether they are livable right now is open to debate).

        But the thing that really grates my cheese is that I can't negotiate a higher wage based on merit when I put out 120% effort, and am stuck making the same wage as someone who's putting out 85% effort.

        It just isn't fair, it breeds laziness, and is one of the primary reasons I'm glad I went back to private enterprise.

        GOD! Save me from your followers.

        by adversus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:19:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Another old canard (8+ / 0-)

          Unions "breed laziness"...

          "It looks like how music sounds." --My four year old nephew upon looking through a kaleidoscope for the first time

          by Mote Dai on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:33:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And, another (4+ / 0-)

            "Unions are only needed by people that break the rules and don't follow the rules".  

            - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

            by r2did2 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:37:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Even stereotypes can be true (0+ / 0-)

            I'm sorry, but I worked for 5 years in a state agency that was under SEIU.  And for every employee that put out 100%, there were two that put out less.

            When a team leader who's pretty much at the highest unionized job you can get without becoming management is frustrated they can't get their GOOD employees a better wage, and get rid of under performing employees without a 12 month long progressive discipline cycle, there's a problem.

            I believe in unions.  But if you think there's nothing wrong with the current status-quo when it comes to some of these topics, you are just as blind as those who want to disband unions all together.

            GOD! Save me from your followers.

            by adversus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:48:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree with you on one thing (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annieli, sethtriggs
              I believe in unions.  But if you think there's nothing wrong with the current status-quo when it comes to some of these topics, you are just as blind as those who want to disband unions all together.
              Yes, there are problems with unions, but bashing them in general isn't going to solve those problems.  If you want to solve the problems with unions then organize your work place and form a union that does things in a more equitable way.

              I think that the software business should ignore unions and form a guild that can rank people according to what they can do ad assign them jobs accordingly.

              There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

              by AoT on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:06:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I've ONLY worked in the corporate world the last (10+ / 0-)

              few decades: big fortune 500 companies, no union positions at these companies for the most part.

              And if you think that slackers only slide by when working for the government or when there are unions, you are sadly mistaken.

              © grover


              So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

              by grover on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:08:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  And this is the union's fault?!? (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annieli, Dirtandiron, ebohlman, Kiterea, Mike08

              There were people in the office that YOU felt didn't work as hard as YOU and this is the union's fault?  

              "It looks like how music sounds." --My four year old nephew upon looking through a kaleidoscope for the first time

              by Mote Dai on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:11:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's not the unions fault, but the union... (0+ / 0-)

                ... prevents a dynamic workforce.

                If I have an employee who isn't performing, and I work with them over the course of a month to bring their performance up, and it's clear it isn't moving, I should be able to replace them.

                In the last place I worked, it was basically a 12 step process that took months and months.  There were staff there that were under "performance improvement plans" for a year or more, with the managers being frustrated the union representatives kept stretching the process out.

                I don't know if that's how it works at ALL union shops, but that's how it worked in the last one I worked at.  That's what informed my opinion of the union process when it comes to merit pay and keeping employees who aren't meeting expectations.

                GOD! Save me from your followers.

                by adversus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:25:16 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  No you do not believe in unions because you (0+ / 0-)

              have no sense of solidarity with your fellow worker. You are out for what you feel is coming to you and you trust your boss more than you trust your fellow worker. If you feel that someone is not putting in the same effort as you why do you not talk to your steward. So-called merit shops are a cover for your employer to pay the lowest wages he can get away with. Do you know what your co-workers make? What if somebody who does not work as hard as you is making better money because he is friendly with boss, or is related to the boss?

              Have you evr been in a situation where someone else took credit for your work? Or lied about you because of a personal grudge? In a "merit shop" you have no recourse but to hope that the boss will take your side. And we all know that bosses are perfect don't we.

        •  Get back to us when you are 52 (9+ / 0-)

          Unions offer security. If you can do without fine but that may not remain true particularly if you or your family develop chronic health or caregiving needs.

          •  You are right (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk, PSzymeczek, sethtriggs

            Unions do offer security.  I'm in 100% agreement.

            I'm 32, do I want a crappy paying job that's has a security probability of 95%, or do I want a high paying job that has a security probability of 75%?

            As a 32 year old, I'm going for the later, and most of the people I know are as well.  

            GOD! Save me from your followers.

            by adversus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:50:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Just as long as you understand (9+ / 0-)

              Someday maybe when your wife has cancer  or your kid just got accepted to a great school your boss is going to walk up to you with his arm around his special 32 year old techie whiz.

              •  That may well happen (0+ / 0-)

                The best defense is to save money and keep your technical skills up to date.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:28:06 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I take it you mean (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  sethtriggs

                  "Save enough money to retire at 52."

                  If you integrate fantasy with reality, you do not instantiate reality. If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse. --Mark Crislip

                  by ebohlman on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 06:18:17 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Or learn to speak another language and move to (0+ / 0-)

                  the country where your job has been outsourced. And anyway if it is all about talent and work ethic why have the bankers who tanked the economy not lost their jobs and their security. If it is about merit than why do so many corporate types who nearly destroy the company get a big payoff and a farewell party instead of being thrown out on their asses in the most humiliating way possible?

            •  So you got yours and screw everyone else? (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dirtandiron, annieli, Savage, Kiterea

              Do you work with any 52 year olds?  How secure is their job?  How much of a pay cut would you be willing to take to help a hundred other people?

              There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

              by AoT on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:58:19 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm not sure how... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk

                ....putting a mechanism in place where high quality workers can get merit increases/incentives is "screwing everybody else".

                I do work with some 50 year olds.  And a few 60 year olds.  The company I work has a pretty wide age gap.  We also have a turnover of less than 3%, in a company with 300 employees.  

                I bet that turnover rate is less than most union shops.

                If you pay your employees well, treat them well, and keep a very low turnover, there's no need for a union.  If you can point out to me how a union, in my situation, would help me, please do.

                Again, I'm FOR unions.  But I think we need union REFORM.  Somehow when it comes to dealing with the left union REFORM is akin to "disbanding" or something.  I can't wrap my head around the knee-jerk reaction.

                GOD! Save me from your followers.

                by adversus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:17:36 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I agree that we need union reform (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Dirtandiron, Kiterea, Mike08

                  And really we need broader reform.  We need unions to do a better job of supporting the people who are in the union.  But not being in a union won't do that. Not being in a union means that you are just at risk as anyone else when new management moves in.

                  If you pay your employees well, treat them well, and keep a very low turnover, there's no need for a union.  If you can point out to me how a union, in my situation, would help me, please do.
                  Well, there's no need for a union until there is.  I don't know where you work but what are the chances that you'll get bought out?  If you think that your skill somehow protects you from lower wages then you need to know that you're one in a million.  That means there are seven hundred thousand people on earth who can do just what you do.

                  There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

                  by AoT on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:31:54 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Well how about when low producing or dangerously (0+ / 0-)

                  incompetent workers get raises and bonuses? You pay is not a function of how well you work it is a function of how much the boss likes you. And the past ten years have shown how incompetence is richly rewarded.

            •  "Youth is wasted on the young," /nt (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dirtandiron

              slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare." 政治委员, 政委!

              by annieli on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:16:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Wow have you drunk the kool-aid! (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mike08, sethtriggs

              First off, no union contract ever stopped any employee from bargaining for a higher wage based on merit.  Union scale is a floor, not a ceiling.  In the unionized construction industry, employers often pay higher rates to their key employees or give them extra benefits like a company pick-up truck.  Disney doesn't pay "scale" to George Clooney or Meryl Streep.  

              The unions are there to protect the folks at the bottom, not those at the top.  Guys like you- the ones who don't really need the union- are actually the most important in ensuring unions are there to raise the standards for all workers.  

              At the risk of sounding like someone from a bygone era, you have a bad case of what a Marxist would call "false consciousness".  Google it sometime.

        •  What is stopping you from negotiating for.. (5+ / 0-)

          ..the pay you believe you deserve?
          Unions do not limit your ability to do this. If you have a special discipline/tchnique or whatever you've developed in your field that qualifies you for unique compensation for that, then you negotiate.

          Where is the problem? It seems that this is another right wing falsehood to me.

        •  you can't put out more than 100% (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dirtandiron, roadbear, Mike08

          it's impossible. :)

          "Watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal..."-7.75, -5.54

          by solesse413 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:18:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  unions do not have to be opposed to merit pay (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mike08, sethtriggs

          Union contracts and merit pay don't have to be opposed to each other.   I think a new type of contract would be needed in the IT/software field, and that an effective contract for software development would by necessity go in a different direction.  For example, union contracts don't prevent professional athletes from getting paid for performance.

          I've had to move on from a long term position because my software development job was outsourced a few years ago.  I was able to find a new position quickly, but lost a two weeks of vacation per year in the process.   I also lost retirement security in the move --  my pension was frozen at a low payout level and the new position does not have a defined benefit plan.

          There are things worth fighting for that don't involve pay or salary.  

    •  Systems engineering is like that as well (0+ / 0-)

      Good engineers generally do not want or need a union. Generally, technical specialists of whatever field (engineers, doctors, financial workers, etc) do not want unions.

      The fact is that tech specialists work at whatever company will maximize compensation. If they don't like whatever the current employer is offering, they'll just leave. Another commenter in this thread noted that if you're the bosses's son or girlfriend or whatever, you'll get "merit" compensation that others will not get. This is generally a non-issue for technical specialists because a technical specialist will simply leave for better compensation if it's available. Employers can't run their own personal fiefdoms because the workers have (comparatively) a lot of bargaining power.

      It's harder for non-technical-specialists because they don't have a lot of individual bargaining power. An excellent engineer might be worth 2-3x the salary of a marginal engineer. An excellent financial analyst might be worth 10x a marginal one. For a lot of commodity trades, someone who is good at that trade might be worth 10-20% more than someone who is not so good, but that's about it. If they leave, you just find another one. A technical specialist leaving at the wrong time can ruin your business.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:12:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When the special techie is no longer special (9+ / 0-)

        We hope he has put away lots of bucks.  Most of us find we aren't so special sooner or later.  Sure the exceptional will always do better. Most of us aren't.

      •  Another kool-aid drinker (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mike08

        Guys like this are what liberals gets for avioding class analysis for the last 50 years.

      •  As a techie I can tell you techies are a dime a (0+ / 0-)

        dozen. If you are a programmer you can pretty much work anywhere in the world. There are eager programmers who are unemployed who would work for half of what you make. And if you are a hard ware guy they are plenty of veterans and community college graduates who are dieing for a job.

        Having a job is more complicated than a salary scale. It is about more than dollars, it is about culture, it is about how much you are liked by your co-workers. The next superviser you report to may be fluent in Hindi and decide to ship your job to Mumbai. Or he may speak Russian and ship your job to Moscow. And with telecommunications improving the need to have tech people in the US is shrinking. If I am at a support desk and I can fix your computer without having to leave my office than I really do not have to work in America.
        Same with finance and insurance. You could tomorrow open a support center in Northern Ireland and the government would subsidize you up the hilt. They would make it worth your while to leave the US. So you company remaining in the US is a matter of preference, the preference of your company's owners.

        You are not irreplacable.

    •  I worked at an anti-union company... (6+ / 0-)

      ...and they would give us the regular pitch for why "we didn't need a union".  The key part of that pitch is that they were giving us the wages and benefits that we would get if we were at a union shop, but without having to pay union dues or giving up the flexibility of a non-union workplace.

      What's left unstated in that pitch is what would happen to our wages and benefits in the absence of strong labor unions elsewhere in our industry.  In essence, we were free riders on the negotiations of unions at other companies in our industry -- and in the absence of those unions, we could reasonably expect declining wages and benefits.

      And that's the part that gets left out by those who glow on about the benefits of a union-free workplace.  

      As an aside, does your "merit shop" pay overtime?  Or do you end up working 70 hour weeks like so many in the software business do, while getting what turns out to be rather modest "merit" compensation when you divide it by the number of hours worked?

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:15:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Im salary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sethtriggs

        So no over-time.

        However, we get incentive bonuses per quarter and at the end of the year based on performance.  

        If I bill at least 50% of my time (so 20 hours a week) to clients, I get at 5.5% of my billed revenue back as a bonus.  That goes up to a max of 7.5% "Cash back", and there's no cap.

        So if I put in extra hours, considering what my billed-out-rate is, my bonus can be as much as my wife (who, by the way, is part of SEIU), makes in a whole year.

        GOD! Save me from your followers.

        by adversus on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:22:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  My Fathers Union Pension Is An Annuity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    judyms9, Eric Nelson

    He paid for it himself. It's a lousy return, and no doubt he made the person that sold it to him an actual millionaire.

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:47:28 PM PDT

  •  The big lie is about right-to-work... (9+ / 0-)

    ...being "free market".

    Right-to-work laws actually restrict the free market because they forbid a contract between Union and Employer that requires dues.

    A freely negotiated contract between 2 free parties is now illegal. What would John Galt say?

    •  Yep. (6+ / 0-)

      Right-to-work is all about bleeding the unions dry (like, well, most of the anti-labor legislation the right passes.)

      The unions are big Democratic contributors which almost assuredly has to do with it.  It's hardly about free market.  A free market would dictate that employees are free to join a union if they wish, and that the union would only represent dues-paying members.

      28, white male, TX-26 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

      by TDDVandy on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:52:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let me relate a true story (9+ / 0-)

    When I was living in suburban Chicago my neighbor was a painter. A proud nonunion painter who was raising 5 kids on $10.00/hour. Now my brother is a union painter who makes $30.00/hr plus benefits. My neighbor had no benefits or health insurance yet my neighbor argued that at least he was not captive to the "union bosses". My brother will retire comfortably at the age of 55 having worked hard all of his life. But he has the dignity and security of a union wage. Meanwhile my neighbor shopped at Aldi's and visited his churches food pantry.

    Why is it that corporate types think they deserve the huge salaries they make for doing very little constructive work but simply move numbers around while those who actually do work that benefits society are made to feel guilty for asking for some sense of security and well being.

    Oh and as far as my brother the union painter is concerned - he thinks that retail and government workers should not be allowed to organize in a union. He thinks that union representation should be reserved for the construction trades.

    So the labor movement has a lot of work to do in order to turn the tide of public opinion. And they need to start with their own membership. My wife was a UFCW member for 20 years and most of her coworkers happily shopped at Wal-Mart and did not care that the UFCW was boycotting Wal-Mart. My brother shops at Wal-Mart and is proud of it.

    PS the correct term legally to describe being able to fire at will is "At will employment". Right to work means that you get the benefits of a union contract without having to be a member of a union. My wife and I live in Florida and she belongs to her workplace union even though it is voluntary. Most of her coworkers get the benefits of the union but do not belong. The same is true of the teachers at my kids school.

    •  Not True (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PSzymeczek, Dirtandiron

      http://stats.bls.gov/...

      In the United States, employees without a written employment contract generally can be fired
      for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all;
      judicial exceptions to the rule seek
      to prevent wrongful terminations...In legal terms,
      though, since the last half of the 19th century,
      employment in each of the United States has been
      “at will,” or terminable by either the employer or
      employee for any reason whatsoever. The employment-
      at-will doctrine avows that, when an
      employee does not have a written employment
      contract and the term of employment is of indefinite
      duration, the employer can terminate the
      employee for good cause, bad cause, or no cause
      at all
      PS the correct term legally to describe being able to fire at will is "At will employment". Right to work means that you get the benefits of a union contract without having to be a member of a union. My wife and I live in Florida and she belongs to her workplace union even though it is voluntary. Most of her coworkers get the benefits of the union but do not belong. The same is true of the teachers at my kids school.

      slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare." 政治委员, 政委!

      by annieli on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:05:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But if you are working (0+ / 0-)

        with a contract you can only be fired for cause specified in the contract. If you work without a contract union or not union you can be fired at will for whatever reason. However if you work under a union contract in a right to work state then the contract determines the conditions under which you can be terminated.

        The employment-
         at-will doctrine avows that, when an
         employee does not have a written employment
         contract and the term of employment is of indefinite
         duration,
        the employer can terminate the
         employee for good cause, bad cause, or no cause
         at all.
         Note the reference to a contract.

        My wife works in a right to work state yet her union contract determines those conditions under which she can be terminated and all other working conditions.

        Your rebuttal fails to take into consideration that a union contract is a contract.

        •  Nope, try reading this again: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dirtandiron, Eric Nelson
          Right to work—We've been over and over the substance of these laws, but the challenge imposed by the name deserves a word. "Right to work" is akin to "death tax" as a right-wing frame. Unfortunately, the right created this law and with it the name, so there's no formal name to call it by that isn't by design an anti-union term. "Right to work" laws don't put anyone to work and they don't give them any right except that to receive benefits that they do not pay for—which is why you'll see such laws referred to as free rider laws or right to work for less laws or no rights at work laws—but the official name they are given says otherwise, and until we have the kind of PR engine and access to powerful people using a pro-union message that has gone into creating anti-union messages, we are stuck grappling with it.

          slutty voter for a "dangerous president"; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Sciant terra viam monstrare." 政治委员, 政委!

          by annieli on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:45:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Okay, let's make this VERY clear here (0+ / 0-)

            North Carolina is a "right-to-work" state.  Workers here that are not unionized and do not have a labor agreement can be fired "at will" (for any reason)....except for when it violates labor laws (set forth by law).

            Workers here that are working under a current labor contract (we have many large corporations here that are unionized like Miller/Coors Brewing Co., P. Lorrilard Tobacco, Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris and so forth) can be fired for "cause" as established in the labor contract.

            I don't know how anyone can argue that point.

            - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

            by r2did2 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:55:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  You are going on about what is a language issue (0+ / 0-)

            and going on about framing. The way to properly frame an issue is to straightened out the warp made by the right, not to wrap it further. Unions are allowed in right-to-work states but membership is not mandatory on all employees. That tends to make the union in the right to work state weaker because they do not have the pool of dues and the union message is more difficult to get out. Right to work means the right to not join a labor union and not pay dues. But it does not eliminate unions it just makes it more difficult to organize and makes it easier for a company to fight.

            If you are covered by a union contract then you are not in an at will employment situation whether you live in a right to work state or not. They are two different concepts. One applies to the union organization and the other a nonunionized individual.

            The people we need to convince are not the rightwing media or the Republican Party, we need to convince working men and women that it is in their best interests to join and support the union in a right to work state or a state that is not a right to work state.

            Labor made a huge mistake by not being more aggressive since Reagan's election. Lets remember that the air controllers strike ended when the pilots union crossed the picket line. And when union members refuse to honor boycotts by shopping at WalMart it is a strong indicator that the union message is not even getting to its members.

  •  One quibble (13+ / 0-)

    I think the phrase "union bosses" is not supposed to create an equivalence with corporate bosses.  I think it's supposed to conjure up the specter of the "Mob boss," and thus link, in the public mind the idea that unions are just another extension of the Mob -- and just as dirty.

    "There isn't a way things should be. There's just what happens, and what we do." — Terry Pratchett (A Hat Full of Sky)

    by stormicats on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 01:59:40 PM PDT

  •  Another meme (8+ / 0-)

    that makes me crazy is pitting pubic union members against " taxpayers",  even though highly skilled public servants teachers, etc probably pay more in taxes than the guy whining about hand-outs.

  •  Wisconsin's "Labor History in the Schools Bill" (6+ / 0-)

    Yep, you read that right. While I was not a huge fan of Governor Doyle, I was very pleased in December of 2009 when he signed Wisconsin AB 172.  It is of course so poignant to read his words now.

    “I’m happy to sign this bill so that Wisconsin students understand how important the labor movement was in creating some of the most basic workplace rights that Wisconsin families enjoy today,” Governor Doyle said.
    Sigh.

    Read about the bill at the Wisconsin Labor History Society site.

    And see the Wisconsin DPI page on Labor History that speaks to implementation of the law.

    I have been looking to see if there's been effort on Walker's part to get the law repealed--something conservative groups started calling for almost immediately. Of course, he had bigger plans for Wisconsin labor . . .

    "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

    by thea lake on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:03:03 PM PDT

  •  Great presentation, Laura (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thea lake, Eric Nelson

    Unions have lost just so much strength and influence in the U.S. in the past few decades.  And, yes, much of it is because of the narrative that is "allowed" to get out in our various media sources.  I wonder just how many union members and prospective union members understand what you've said here.

    I do believe, however, that the "closed shop" label will continue to raise its ugly face because even though no one is expressly forced to join a union and no one must be in a union to be hired in these kinds of states, the truth is in many cases that the "penalty" cost for not being a member makes someone ignorant for not actually being a member and having a voice.  And, there's no doubt that what we used to call "sweetheart deals" are there between management and the union about hiring existing union members.  

    Thanks, though, for your insight.

    - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

    by r2did2 on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:16:51 PM PDT

  •  ILWU workplaces? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PSzymeczek

    Non-union employees are allowed to work at facilities that the ILWU is at; in the same jobs?

  •  Mr. Luntz and his ilk have been busy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PSzymeczek, Dirtandiron, Eric Nelson

    over the years. Always good to parse the terms conventionally used to frame public discourse. Thanks.

    "The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles." Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan

    by psnyder on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 02:26:46 PM PDT

  •  speaking of rw success in hijacking (6+ / 0-)

    the debate over union rights & how workers would be so much better off with right to work laws in place . . .

    why is the democratic party (apparently) averse to reminding everyone that the 1st thing the fascists under mussolini and the nazis under hitler did when they took over was outlaw unions -- ?

    i never hear anyone who claims to represent the party ever point this out.  are the d's afraid of offending roger ailes or bringing down the wrath of rush limpballz?

    i've heard bernie sanders mention it (godblesshim) but he's the only one.

  •  Only one of those really bothers me, and it's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kiterea

    "Right to work".

    "Right to Work" laws have absolutely nothing to do with a right to work -- you still have to be hired by the employer.

    What they really represent is a legislatively imposed restriction on the right of manaagement to negotiate.  It may be that most managements welcome that restriction, but I wonder if they all do.  I think of the auto industry where the union grievance procedure actually improved relations between management and employees working under fairly harsh conditions.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:05:46 PM PDT

  •  Howard Fineman (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, mike101, Kiterea, sethtriggs

    on MSNBC the other night talked about the left's "untenable position" that government workers should have good wages and pensions when private workers don't.  No, it's the unconscionable raiding of corporate pensions that should be our target.  All workers should be treated as well as government workers.

    Five years after I chose my username, happily living somewhere else.

    by Tenn Wisc Dem on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:06:07 PM PDT

  •  As I told my son.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, JGibson

     ...when he was complaining about his treatment working for Circuit City before they collapsed. Texas is a right to work state, that means you have the right to be fired, for any reason or you have the right to quit. Take your pick, because as a worker, those are the only rights you have.

        The criminalization of labor has always been there. It really got its legitimacy when Regan fire the Air Traffic Controllers and started the war against collective bargining.

  •  The thing that gets me angry is the way the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, nicolemm, mike101, brae70

    media lie about us. And the way stupid, moronic people repeat it like parrots. Also I hate the way that the media often take the total cost of the entire wage and benefit package and state that as the "wage". As if we bring all that home in our paycheck.

    Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

    by Dirtandiron on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:23:45 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for writing this (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, mike101, JGibson, Kiterea, Mike08

    It is amazing how pervasive some of this language is...even right here on this Progressive blog.  Hell, even right here in this comment thread anti-union comments are being made!  I have been shocked at the number of anti-union comments I have read on this blog over the years.  I cannot imagine if such comments were made about other such ardently Democratic supporting groups.  It is odd that many people know and take advantage of such terms as "40 hour work week" or "8 hour day" and don't even know from where they come.

    I frequently meet people that say that the time for unions is gone.  That they are an anachronism and they aren't needed any longer.  Those folks typically work in office environments that are temperature controlled and have little chance of being killed on the job.  Unions are needed more than ever to make sure workers have safe work environments and make decent wages.  Pressure is always needed as it is rare that corporations big and small will ever do these things on their own.  Some do as they see the need of a highly skilled workforce.  

    "It looks like how music sounds." --My four year old nephew upon looking through a kaleidoscope for the first time

    by Mote Dai on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:28:13 PM PDT

  •  RTW=Rob the Worker (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, Mike08

    that 's what progressives in the MN legislature were calling it when the tea party contingent tried for that this year

    -7.75, -6.05 And these wars; they can't be won Does anyone know or care how they begun?-Matt Bellamy

    by nicolemm on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 03:29:42 PM PDT

  •  Not "Right to Work" laws ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike08

    ... but "Work for Less" Laws (states, etc.).  That's simple, to the point, and not easily confused with the oxymoronic term currently in use!


    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.—Carl Schurz
    Give 'em hell, Barry—Me

    by KingBolete on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 04:04:08 PM PDT

  •  Glad to see the light coming thru at last (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike08

    An important part of the right wing's control of America's media channels is to negatively name ANYTHING that they are opposed to. They use their control to continously drive their misnames into the national dialog so that reporters and other workers in the media industry unconsciously start to use the Republican created misname instead of the real name.

    Another example of this Republican
    propaganda "misnaming" technique is their attack on the essentially bland word "liberal". The only group in America who viewed this word as HIGHLY CONTROVERSAL were the right wing Republicans. So they set out to use their propaganda channels to demonize the word liberal by associating it with the inflamatory name "communist". Since the right wing Republicans identified themselves as "conservative" (in respect to tax policy and the size of government) they likewise programmed their propaganda channels to couch the word conservative in the arena of reasonable respectable conversation. As a result of at least a decade of propaganda programming the word liberal is one of the most hated words in the public discourse. It has reached a point where people who once identified themselves as liberal have shied away from using that label, and now prefer to call themselves "progressive" instead.

    The Right wing Republicans have turned the Nazi propaganda machine of the 1930's into a science, and continously upgrade to include the modern techniques of digital technology and slick video messaging. Since they control all of the American Main Stream Media (MSM), they have unlimited access to apply their brainwashing propaganda 24/7 across the entire nation.

    Many pundits and commentators have remarked how puzzled they are over the fact that predictably a majority of white working class men will vote Republican when the Republican Party is openly cutting all of the benefits targeted for this particular demographic (white working class people). Well it is a no brainer. The scientific development  of the work of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels by the right wing Republicans has been proven time and time again to be the instrument responsible for convincing these "low information" voters to proudly go to the polls and vote for the individual Republican candidates - in spite of the well publicized disclosure that these candidates  have sworn to enact draconian cuts to federal spending that will ultimately take money out the same voter's pocket, take food off his/her table, and deprive him/her family from medical care even in the midst of a life threatening situation. One and one makes two in my book, and the political culprit clearly at work here is the brain washing propaganda used by the Republican MSM propaganda machine. The power in the Republican propaganda messages due to its persistent repetition easily triumphs over well published factual information which appears only once as a single isolated event in the public discourse.  

    It should be noted that it took the Republicans decades to develope the Goebbels techniques to the science that it is today. The lack of political will on the part of the Democratic Party to strongly oppose the Republican mass mind control initiative essentially enabled the Republicans to continue their venture completely unimpeded.

  •  pay a fee covering their fair share (0+ / 0-)

    When I had to join the union when I worked for Verizon ( riddle me this, why was I an IBEW, and not CWA member even though I did the same job a landline operator did, and was represented by the CWA) I too could opt out of the union and pay a 'small' fee.  Great!  Esxcept the difference between union and non union fees was pennies, so of course I stayed in the union.

    They were great though, a coworker's husband had a heart attack and she was of course allowed to go to his side, at the cost of 2 demerits for leaving a shift early.

  •  Thanks for the tutorial! nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

    by msmacgyver on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 07:40:29 PM PDT

  •  Defined Contribution (0+ / 0-)

    Forget defined benefit.
    Dead and dying.
    The future is defined contribution.
    Unions need to embrace this.

  •  Finally addressing this, eh? (0+ / 0-)

    took you long enough. Maybe next time you won't walk away from me the next time I'm addressing media issues.

    Catch St. Louis' progressive talk show, The Murdock Report, every Tuesday @ noon! Stream or download it: www.wgnu920am.com I do the twit thing too @SmokinJoesTruth

    by Da Rat Bastid on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 08:20:24 PM PDT

  •  Labor needs more media outlets of its own. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike08

    Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune. Walt Whitman

    by Sacramento Dem on Sun Jun 10, 2012 at 10:09:03 PM PDT

  •  "Gold Plated Pensions" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, Mike08

    Another anti-union meme that drives me crazy.  We need to replace it with "retirement security".

  •  Right to be Fired states, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    that's what we should be calling them.

    Everyone will know exactly what we're referring to.

    Thanks for this. Framing is so important.

  •  Another one: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, Mike08

    "Union thug".

    We heard much of this from Scott Walker, and it hearkens back to the mid-20th century, when several prominent unions were infiltrated by the mob--who would "assist" with both collective bargaining and recruitment, and skim a piece of the dues in return.  (Union workers were often victims in this arrangement).  Today, both due to decreasing union power and various laws designed to counteract this, the presence of organized crime in the labor movement is practically nil (there's no money in it any more).  The worst perpetrators of violence in the history of organized labor have long been management, often assisted by the State, but the imagery of the pipe-wielding hardhat coercing young prospective John Galts to join a vast conspiracy of obstruction and unproductivity, has long persisted.

  •  Right to work ideas (0+ / 0-)

    Disunity law (allows scabs to disunite those in the union, diluting its bargaining power)

    Disloyalty law (same explanation)

    Anti-assembly law

    Work-for-less

    The only place where Republicans are anywhere close to responsible is in the dictionary.

    by DemDachshund on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 08:34:25 AM PDT

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