mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Maybe I need to go on strike...

I've never been a big fan of unions - I think that they have have hurt the flexibility of a lot of American companies (ie pretty much the whole auto industry). There's a reason a lot of American nameplate cars (including MadAnthony's '02 Chrysler) are built in countries like Mexico. What unions tend to do is make a few people very well off in the short run, but leave a bunch of other people worse off in the long time as companies have an additional incentive to move jobs abroad or replace them with automation or other technology.

So I wasn't exactly expecting to be sympathetic to the striking MTA workers in NYC. But then I read their list of demands, and I went from disagreeing with these people to thinking that they are f'ing insane nuts with no grasp on the real world.

From the NY Times

The authority dropped its demand to raise the retirement age for a full pension to 62 for new employees, up from 55 for current employees. But the authority proposed that all future transit workers pay 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions for their first 10 years of employment, up from the 2 percent that current workers pay.

They are striking over having to actually fund their retirement - like pretty much everyone else in the world? Sure, 6% might be a little more than most people contribute to their 401K, but this isn't a 401K. They get to retire at least 10 years before most people, and they get a pension - guarenteed money until they die. That a sweet deal that most people in the real world would love to have.

But when you are government monopoly, you can pay your employees that much.

Mr. Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, announcing the strike at a 3 a.m. news conference, tried to portray the action as part of a broader effort for social justice and workplace rights.

"New Yorkers, this is a fight over whether hard work will be rewarded with a decent retirement," he said. "This is a fight over the erosion, or the eventual elimination, of health-benefits coverage for working people in New York. This is a fight over dignity and respect on the job, a concept that is very alien to the M.T.A

So what about the dignity of the working people who can't get to work because of your strike? Who don't get strike pay, and either didn't get to work today and thus don't get paid, or who had to walk for miles in the cold because you don't want to fund your own retirement. You call that dignity? You call that justice?

These guys have a pay, pension, and benefit package that most of America (and the rest of the world) would kill for, and they still aren't happy, and are trying to cast themselves as the victims. I don't think it's going to play out that way. People are going to look at their demands, look at their own paychecks and benefit and retirement packages, and wonder what planet the TWA union people are from.


At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is past the time for the other states to pass "Right to work" legislation similar to Florida's. Everyone should have the right to refuse to join a union and not worry about being killed or fired for leaving a union. The unions in the beginning were a necessary evil, but now they need to be reigned in. If they are allowed to keep demanding more and more, no one will be able to afford products or services thier members provide. We are heading towards a have and have not society. There will soon be no middle class to pay for everything the poor get for free and the rich avoid paying taxes for.

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Eye-P said...

Actually the problem that General Motors has is the skyrocketing cost of healthcare. Additionally, Toyota just announced that they would be taking more jobs to Canada due to the better educated workforce and lower healthcare costs.

No mention of Unions.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger mad anthony said...

First of all, do you really think many car companies are going to admit that unions play a big role?

And secondly, do you think that healthcare costs have nothing to do with the union? Gm employees get unlimited healthcare, no deductible, and pay only 7% of their costs - thanks to their union contracts.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Eye-P said...

No, I dont think that unions have ANY SAY in how much Kaiser charges GM for healthcare.

While the union clearly negotiates how much their members will have to pay, the healthcare companies are charging outrageous premiums.

That is the problem.

At 10:56 PM, Blogger mad anthony said...

Hmm, lets see. Most companies offer health insurance. Only GM is having it have such a significant cost impact that it's threatening to put them into bankrupcy. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Health care costs are a big deal because of the gold-plated coverage that the UAW has gotten, which is way better than pretty much every other company - and thus way more expensive.

And I wouldn't blame the high cost of health insurance premiums just on evil insurance companies. It's also caused by things like the high cost of malpractice insurance, government regulation, and the plain fact that people are living longer than ever and getting expensive treatments for diseases that were previously untreatable.

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Eye-P said...

1. Non sequiter here. GM is not the only company having these issues. Ford is having the same problems. Toyota and Nissan are moving operations to Canada- where there is free healthcare. In fact, CIO magazine released a survey which showed the biggest impact to IT budgets in 2004 was the cost of health care. The 300% increase in per capita costs over the last 5 years can not be explained by anything other than greed.

2. The AMA cliams that malpractice insurance premiums are responsible for 5-10% of the increase in healthcare costs. The government over the last 5 years has completely de-regulated the health care industry, while at the same time giving them record tax breaks and incentives. Lets not even talk about the medicare bill which does not allow for the government to negotiate with the drug companies. Did you know that we pay more for our drugs than any other country? How is that possible?

3. People living longer does play a role in the escalating costs. No question about it. Well, at least you were right about something!

Look, the America you love so much was built on the backs of union workers. The only reason there are any worker protections at all are because of unions.

I personally am not in a union. I am in no way affiliated with organized labor. I do work that is far removed from what a union job would be. However, we need a full, robust, diverse workforce and the only way to help ensure that is to help organized labor. We need more than just the top and the bottom.

WalMart isnt going to look out for its employees.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger mad anthony said...

Gee, Ford is having the same problem. Thus it must have nothing to do with the fact that Ford and GM are both under UAW contracts. It's interesting that the car companies that are under UAW contracts (ie Ford, GM))are closing plants and fleeing the US, while companies that don't have UAW contracts (ie Hyundai) are opening plants.

Unions probably did have an impact on improving worker conditions years ago, although I think many of those changes would have happened eventually come about. In the past few decades, as jobs have moved to requiring more skills, skilled employees have more bargaining power even without a union. Unions had a role when employees had to work 12 hour days 7 days a week in dangerous conditions with no laws protecting them. That is not the working environment of today, and I would argue that unions have done little beyond making companies less flexible and competitive in the last 50 years or so.

I don't really feel like turning this into a debate about healthcare. Personally, I would like to see health insurance go more towards an "catastrophic care" type insurance, where people pay normal costs (like checkups) out-of-pocket and use insurance for emergencies, in the same way that your car insurance covers accidents but not oil changes. But that's an issue for another post.


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