Over the last couple weeks I have written about unions. While the majority of comments are supportive, there has been a trend of folks using Republican talking points about unions. You know the arguments: they are corrupt, they are not needed, they have idiotic rules, and members of public employee unions get paid too much.
You can always find those exact same comments in every single post about organized labor. So let’s talk about corruption, idiotic rules, and unionized public employees.
Let's start small, with some rule breaking:
David S. DeWitt, 44, pleaded guilty in Oklahoma City federal court to a misdemeanor offense of failure to pay overtime. U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary M. Purcell ordered DeWitt pay $35,092 in restitution, as well as pay a $1,000 fine.
The U.S. Labor Department began investigating the company in 2014 to determine if employees were being properly paid for overtime as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to prosecutors.
The investigation revealed the company “had failed to pay at least 176 employees overtime pay totaling more than $157,000 for the period from May 2012 to May 2014,” prosecutors reported.
In plea paperwork, DeWitt admitted he knowingly failed to pay time and a half to employees working more than 40 hours a week.
This is not an isolated incident. Wage theft happens all the time, in every community, and in every profession.
The largest violation involved Laredo’s Mexican Restaurant, which has two locations in Madison and one in Fitchburg. According to the report, investigators say 86 employees are due a total of $402,391 in back pay.
Cocina Real, Middleton, which has some of the same owners as Laredo’s, was issued the second-highest back pay order: $118,471 for 27 employees.
World Buffet, with two locations in Madison and one in Monona, has to pay $61,131 in back wages to 17 employees.
Owner James Jiang said the order came as a surprise. He said his employees receive more than minimum wage and additional benefits, but federal officials faulted him for paying regular wages instead of time-and-a-half for those who worked more than 40 hours in a week.
The vast majority of business owners are decent people who would never think of ripping off their employees. But it does happen, and the laws the labor department is enforcing would not exist if it were not for unions, and will become weaker if unions go away.
Then there’s the allegation that unions are corrupt. For every union corruption story there are at least a dozen corruption cases in the business world, or aming folks in high places in public service—like this public school superintendent.
A former Southern California school board superintendent who made more than $600,000 in a year has been charged with a dozen counts of corruption.
The charges were filed Wednesday against Jose Fernandez, who drew the massive compensation package despite overseeing just a handful of schools in the Centinela Valley School District.
Three years after his firing, Fernandez was charged with six counts of conflict of interest, three of misappropriation of public funds, two of grand theft and one of embezzlement.
Prosecutors say he manipulated the school board and its policies to dramatically increase his pay, and unlawfully created supplemental retirement programs to benefit himself.
This story about Superintendent Fernandez also covers another argument heard against public employee unions: how they work overtime to pad their pensions. Of course that is legal, and allowed by their union contracts—but heaven forbid a bus driver, cop, firefighter, or train conductor make six figures. Let’s leave that to the school superintendents, who break the law to illegally increase their pay.
And how could we not mention the CEOs who drive companies into the ground and get bonuses, often at the expense of their employees?
While paying millions to its executives, Hostess took the money that was supposed to go into employees’ pensions and used it for other things.
Hostess just went bankrupt and got a judge to allow them to pay $1.75 million in bonuses to 19 of their executives. Yet… It turns out that Hostess took the money that was supposed to go into employees’ pensions and used it for other things. They say they spent it on company operations, but court records show them asking for permission to pay their CEO and other executives a lot of money.
Hostess took their union employees’ pension and put it into executive pay—and the courts allowed it! But bus drivers should never be allowed to pick up extra shifts to ensure they make a few extra bucks when they retire.
Last week someone mentioned that the union was charging an outrageous sum for a case of Pepsi at a large event center. That is wrong, of course, but what about the price gouging corporate America does every single day, and worse, during times of emergency?
Some major airlines are now offering fares above $1,000 for one-way tickets out of Florida and customers have taken to social media to express their outrage.
Idiotic rules are not exclusive to unions. One company I worked for in my youth required you to bring in a funeral program if a family member died. That was not only idiotic, it was cruel. How about being a salaried employee and having to do time entry? And those are just the tip of the iceberg—there is a whole list of them on Business Insider.
Of course there is always the argument that public employee union members get paid too much … so let’s just leave this here without comment.
- Dara Khosrowshahi – Expedia - $94.6 Million
- Leslie Moonves – CBS - $56.4 Million
- Philippe P. Dauman Viacom - $54.1 Million
- Mark V. Hurd – Oracle - $53.2
- Safra A. Catz – Oracle - $53.2 Million
- Frank J. Bisignano - First Data - $51.6 Million
- Leonard S. Schleifer - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals - $45 Million
- Robert A. Iger - Walt Disney - $43.5 Million
- Sandeep Mathrani - General Growth Properties - $32 Million
- Howard M. Lorber - Vector Group - $37.0 Million
As well as this:
Unions are a human endeavor. As with all things human, they are imperfect. They will make mistakes, have stupid rules, and fall victim to corruption—just as any business will. When you complain about issues with unions, you are not complaining about things that are unique to unions.