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Wisconsin Teachers and Average Pay

The standoff in Wisconsin between the Republican governor and legislature against the public sector labor unions and their analogues in the Democratic Party has divided the OTB bloggers. That's a good thing, probably, given that there are a whole series of complicated issues at play.

One particular point of contention–mirroring the national debate–is how well paid the state's public employees are.

Alex Knapp asks, "Are Wisconsin Public Servants Overpaid?" He shows that, when controlling for education and hours worked, they actually make 5% less than their private sector counterparts.

Doug Mataconis, on the other hand, charges "Wisconsin Teachers Not Being Honest About What They Earn" and notes that, when factoring in both salaries and benefits, they actually make much more than the people paying their salaries.

These debates are always rather weird, in that they invite apples-to-oranges comparisons and one can easily rationalize to arrive at the answer that supports one's preconceived notions.

For example, as I note on Alex's post, public and private sector workers are doing very different jobs, making comparisons very difficult. For example, it's not shocking that a county prosecutor — a job that doesn't exist in the private sector — would make less money than a good torts lawyer. Or that a corporate research scientist with a PhD makes more in the private sector than someone with the same degree teaching undergraduates.

But the comparison of public sector workers with the Average Joe is even more problematic.

Yes, schoolteachers are paid out of tax coffers, which means all of us are paying their salaries. Even so, it's not reasonable to expect them to make less than the "average" worker in a state if the barriers to entry are higher.

Schoolteachers have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree. And, while I have some serious misgivings about Colleges of Education, that simply puts them in a different category than the average person.

Here's the Census breakdown for Wisconsin*:

Educational Attainment Population 25 years and older

Less than 9th grade 3.8%

9th to 12th grade, no diploma 7.2%

High school graduate (includes equivalency) 34.3%
    
Some college, no degree 20.5%

Associate's degree 8.8%
    
Bachelor's degree 17.0%
    
Graduate or professional degree 8.4%

Schoolteachers, then, are part of an elite subsection of Wisconsin workers: the 25.4% who have a bachelor's degree or higher. Many of them, in fact, have a master's degree. Meanwhile, 45.3% of the state's adults have a high school diploma or less.

 And they do a job that we all agree is very important. Further, I think we can agree that getting an education is actually relevant to what they do on the job!  Surely, then, we don't want to pay them wages comparable to the 74.6% of workers who haven't attained a college degree?

If it were up to me, we'd substantially raise both teacher pay and the standards for credentialing and performance. And doing that will almost certainly require busting the teachers' unions, who are one of the chief obstacles to reform. And I'd get rid of the Education degree as a certification requirement for anything other than elementary and special education. But what I definitely wouldn't do is pay them less than people who didn't go to college.

Correction: A previous version of this posting relied on slightly different education numbers from something called Wisconsin. gov. The analysis doesn't change but I substitued in the correct data.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jay says:

    James, I agree with regard to what we should pay teachers but at the same time I agree with Doug. They shouldn’t be on television, essentially crying poverty when they’re making a combination of salary and benefits most people would love to have. In addition, when one takes their amount of work days (180) vs the average person (260), their salaries are even higher.

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  2. Loviatar says:

    Folks,

    This is how you mainline Republican/Conservative BS.

    Take a talking point, back it up with a story from a disreputable source, then get a “Sensible Conservative” to quote that story and wallah its mainlined.

    Doug J. at Balloon Juice calls you guys the Republican party’s useful idiots, I just call you partisan hacks.

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  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Jay,
    It is untrue that teachers ony work 180 days, and I wish you would stop it.

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  4. Alex Knapp says:

    If it were up to me, we’d substantially raise both teacher pay and the standards for credentialing and performance. And doing that will almost certainly require busting the teachers’ unions, who are one of the chief obstacles to reform.

    Have teachers’ unions been offered the choice of higher pay, but stricter performance standards, and rejected them?

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  5. DC Loser says:

    The teachers I know from my kids’ schools all work very long hours, many of them uncompensated. I see them at the school on nights when they have parent teacher activities, often not leaving until 9 or 10 pm, and they’re back the next day at 6 or 7 am. Teachers are vastly underpaid, IMHO.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Alex:

    I don’t know the situation in Wisconsin. In states where I’ve lived, though, teachers unions have steadfastly fought any sort of merit standards and even merit pay. They want to be paid for attaining dubious credentials and seniority.

    DC Loser is right, too, that good teachers works a hell of a lot more than the amazingly short hours that they’re on the clock. (The same is true at the college level, too, but we at least get paid better.)

    The problem in most states is that the system conspired against good teachers, frustrating them enough that most say the hell with it and go elsewhere.

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  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    My mother, sister, mother-in-law, aunt, uncle, 4 of my good friends, and a host of friends from college are all teachers. I have yet to see any of them work 180 days. Most average 6 days a week during the school year, and have 4 to 5 weeks of the summer break devoted to summer school.

    I really don’t know what type of vacation time they get (as opposed to the breaks already worked in to the calendar), but I can attest that none of them take time off during the school year for vacation.

    So including the winter breaks, and the one week in the summer that they aren’t working summer school or preparing for the next term, they have 3 weeks of vacation.

    Better than my two, but not so much better that they deserve the scorn Jay is hyping.

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  8. Alex Knapp says:

    don’t know the situation in Wisconsin. In states where I’ve lived, though, teachers unions have steadfastly fought any sort of merit standards and even merit pay. They want to be paid for attaining dubious credentials and seniority.

    I do definitely think that the unions are wrong on that point. I just can’t recall them being offered a deal of “higher pay if you forego senority.” Seems like that’s a reasonable starting point.

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  9. john personna says:

    In my dad’s day (LA City Schools), summer school was a paid bonus option, and one that most teachers declined.

    Surely this varies even today between districts, and between semester, quarter, and full-year plans.

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  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    JJ: And you considered Mataconis’ bit of anecdotal fluff an equal piece of evidence to Knapp’s comparative study? Are you serious?. Ultimately you arrive at the right conclusiion that yes a qualified teacher should be paid more than mechanic in a tire shop or a medical receptionist, but what’s mind blowing is that anyone should think otherwise.

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  11. john personna says:

    BTW, I’m really shocked, again to see that you are looking at wages versus non-teachers, and not looking at the number of applicants.

    It is as buyer’s market, right?

    We could say that there are many selfless reasons for those applications, but we know that job security, great benefits, and great retirement are part of the deal.

    It was one of those situations where if you get it, you’re set. You may live your middle years with less wealth than your peers, but you can retire earlier and without worry.

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  12. john personna says:

    Ultimately you arrive at the right conclusiion that yes a qualified teacher should be paid more than mechanic in a tire shop or a medical receptionist, but what’s mind blowing is that anyone should think otherwise.

    Well, that’s what puts you on the left, Joe. Seriously.

    You have to be left to think that there should be some group out there setting salaries by societal merit.

    BTW, will you get the kids to agree that the latest pop star should make less than their teacher?

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  13. Loviatar says:

    Brummagem,

    James is mainlining, he is not worried about comparative studies. He is just getting the “Sensible Conservative” stamp on the latest Republican BS talking point.

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  14. Loviatar says:

    john personna,

    Which one is more important to you your car or a minority child in inner city Detroit?

    Your posts seem to say you car, I guess that puts you on the right. Society be dammed I’ve got mines.

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  15. Loviatar says:

    john personna,

    Which one is more important to you your car or a minority child in inner city Detroit?

    Your posts seem to say your car is more important, I guess that puts you on the right. Society be dammed I’ve got mines.

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  16. Thou shalt not question progressive orthodoxy. I think that’s the issue here.

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  17. tom p says:

    “DC Loser is right, too, that good teachers works a hell of a lot more than the amazingly short hours that they’re on the clock. (The same is true at the college level, too, but we at least get paid better.) ”

    I have 2 sisters and a # of friends who are teachers (so yes, I am biased) The hours they work are insane. Some start their day at 5 am behind the wheel of a school bus. Then they put in 7 hours teaching. After school they quite often have to stay in their classrooms dealing with various issues that arose during the day (if they are not coaching or mentoring some other after school activity), then they get to go home with reams of tests and assignments that have to be read and graded and they will do that until 10 pm…

    Sometimes their school districts are so strapped for cash and their students so poor, that they will reach into their own pockets to purchase school supplies (the husband of one friend of mine says she gets this look in her eyes when she is about to have one of those discussions with him, and he knows he has already lost the arguement)

    They do all this for the privelage of being berated by angry parents who don’t think their precious little children should be held to any standards at all, at 8 o’clock in the evening…

    They do this for the privelage of genuinely trying to help a troubled student get on track, setting up multiple meetings after school with the parents, only to have them not show up… (because they don’t care)

    They do this for the privelage of being threatened with physical violence on a regular basis…

    They do this for the privelage of being belittled by the rest of society as only having to work “180 days” a year, when the truth is most of the single teachers have to work a 2nd job in the summer just to make ends meet.

    “The problem in most states is that the system conspired against good teachers, frustrating them enough that -most- (NOT most, just many) say the hell with it and go elsewhere.”

    Glad to hear you say that James. Now to finish that statement: The unions did not create that system, the beaurocracies did, the unions just try to help their members navigate that system.

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  18. Brummagem Joe says:

    This 180 days stuff is total bunk. The hardest working guy I know and one of the hardest working I’ve ever known is the superintendant of our local school system who before that was a head teacher and a teacher before that. He’s a former union member, thinks teachers are somewhat feather bedded and sometimes have a sense of entitlement, has to negotiate with the union which drives him crazy at times, but the idea this is an easy job or they only work 180 days a year he says is nonsense. It also ignores the fact that many teachers have to show up at out of school activities from lacrosse to band concerts (can you imagine anything more excruciating). There’s a huge effort being made to demonize teachers and JJ keeps harping on them in this dispute when in fact it’s far wider than just teachers, it’s all public sector workers except policemen and firefighters (er…why was that again?)

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  19. john personna says:

    Which one is more important to you your car or a minority child in inner city Detroit?

    Your posts seem to say your car is more important, I guess that puts you on the right. Society be dammed I’ve got mines.

    That was out of left field. I shop for cars and I shop for education. I don’t set staff salaries in either, but I pretty much accept that both are being set by supply and demand.

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  20. Raoul says:

    2/3 right 1/3 wrong. I agree with pay increases and certification standards. Busting the union? Not so much- Public unions really are a check on power, but apart from wages and benefits, hardly tie down management’s hands unless management is willing- read DailyHowler and the story of Michelle Rhee (her exaggerated resume-something she does not even dispute is a sight to behold)- nevertheless, by fiat, she manage to fire 275 teachers of which 75 got their job back because she did not follow procedure (like stating a reason for the termination)- and that is what public unions do- is more like a free association. In VA there is no CBA for public employees- but does one think there is no organization defending the teacher’s- think again. Many people in government think unions actually allows management to do their job better- instead of discussing work details and issues with each individual member-it does it through a set structure. Also unions serve as steamer release when grievances arise- to be sure- there are lot of differences between public unions and private unions- in fact, the power the unions have is totally dependent on management.. So one has friendlier relations than in the outside.

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  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 09:47
    “Well, that’s what puts you on the left, Joe. Seriously.”

    Well I also thought I should be paid more than a machinist when I was running a company…they didn’t all agree

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  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    Raoul says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 10:03

    The problem for teachers is that there are abuses. NYC is notorious and so all the hardworking, dedicated, sensible teachers, and there are certainly a lot in NYC get tarred with the same brush. So what we have here is a lot of political idealogues trying to demonize a group of workers who are kinda important to society but have given some hostages to fortune. Given WI budget problems there’s a case for squeezing publicn employees pay and benefits (Dannell Malloy our governor is doing the same and he’s a Democrat) but Walker has gone way beyond this purely on grounds of ideology. And I’m unutterably opposed to trying to crush the unions on ideological grounds because it’s basically an abridgement of personal freedom. JJ, Doug and others here spend a lot of time pontificating about freedom but in practice their principles are highly selective. In my time I’ve had union aggro but there’s no way they should not be allowed to operate.

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  23. James Joyner says:

    @BJ: But unions are the antithesis of individuality. Their very premise is that its members are easily replaceable and thus have little bargaining power as individuals, so they must band together to coerce management to pay them more than they’re worth on the open market.

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  24. Alex Knapp says:

    James,

    so they must band together to coerce management to pay them more than they’re worth on the open market

    That doesn’t make sense. Market prices are set by agreement. If you collectively bargain and get a higher wage, that IS the market price.

    What individuals lack on the open market is generally leverage to negotiate a better salary. Unions help provide leverage by bargaining collectively.

    I’m not going to say there aren’t issues with unions, but that statement didn’t make any sense to me.

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  25. Loviatar says:

    wow James, what do you teach again, I hope its not History or Political Science, because if so you’ll be shortchanging your students.

    Folks, this is the “Sensible Conservative” opinion of unions, I’m going to paraphrase something I wrote in another thread:

    – so according to James the sole reason to unionize is to band together to coerce management to pay them more than they’re worth on the open market, not for safety reasons, not for healthcare benefits, not for pay proportionality, not for 8 hour days, not for weekends off, not for paid overtime, not for anything but to coerce management to pay them more than they’re worth on the open market..

    Thanks James,

    best bumper sticker I ever saw. “If you like your weekend off thank a Union Member”

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  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 10:30
    @BJ: But unions are the antithesis of individuality.

    You could say the same of any organized group: political parties, professional associations (which are basically unions); industry trade groups; churches; bridge clubs. Are you familiar with the combination acts passed by Pitt the Younger during the Napoleonic Wars. They were aimed at any grouping that combined for purposes that were was deemed subversive to the govt’s policies. Walker is seeking to remove or restrict these people’s freedom to bargain. It’s an egregious attack on their civil rights by any standard. I’m not saying employers don’t have rights also but these don’t include a right to legislate your opponents out of existence.

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  27. john personna says:

    That doesn’t make sense. Market prices are set by agreement. If you collectively bargain and get a higher wage, that IS the market price.

    What individuals lack on the open market is generally leverage to negotiate a better salary. Unions help provide leverage by bargaining collectively.

    I’m not going to say there aren’t issues with unions, but that statement didn’t make any sense to me.

    Unions are important in a specific situation, though a situation that was common to (especially 19th century) manufacturing. That is, when workers are interchangeable cogs, the bosses can continually bid them lower in price. They can, in the modern parlance, churn them and burn them.

    Say you’ve got someone who will tighten nuts for $4 a day. You find a guy who will do it for $3, he steps in, and the line continues.

    Unions don’t work when workers are not that replaceable (you can’t swap out “an engineer” in the middle of a bridge project) or when they actually gain value from time at the job. An experienced nut tightener might have limited increase in value, but an engineer with a dozen bridges under his belt does.

    Are teachers such replaceable cogs that just grabbing one out of school is good as someone 20 years in? I don’t think so, and so I don’t think the union model is as necessary.

    (you don’t work in a “cog” role, do you alex?)

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  28. john personna says:

    “Unions don’t work when workers are not that replaceable”

    To be clear, they don’t work because non-replaceable workers have more to gain negotiating based on individual training, ability, and experience.

    I didn’t want “a programmer’s wage.” I wanted the wage it would take to get, specifically, me.

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  29. PD Shaw says:

    While I generally agree with James here, the law being proposed does not promote individuality of compensation. It’s intended to take away discretion from local government on everything but base wage. Local government will no longer be able to negotiate a contract with employees concerning “overtime, premium pay, merit pay, performance pay, supplemental compensation, pay schedules and automatic pay progressions.” Those terms are going to be set by state legislation. Base pay increases above CPI will require a referendum.

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  30. Mike Drew says:

    At some point one has to wonder whether conservatives will ever see how transparent they’re being when they use teachers’ unions as their bugaboos for why their cherished “reforms” don’t go anywhere. It couldn’t be because the ideas are problematic, and that because they transparently engage on the issue primarily from a tax-resistant standpoint, not from the standpoint of real educational policy research, they fail to win over anything like a public majority for their positions. Rather their hostility toward teachers and general commitment to limiting our overall investment in education scares away young people with kids to educate, and their one-dimensional policy solutions generally aren’t serious enough to work as good-faith proposals to bring to a real discussion of educational policy with all serious parties at the table. So it becomes the unions that are mysteriously all-powerful in preventing good policy solutions from being adopted.

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  31. john personna says:

    It’s intended to take away discretion from local government on everything but base wage.

    That does seem odd. Is it because the local government was essentially creating obligations for the state to fulfill? An agency problem?

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  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    “What individuals lack on the open market is generally leverage to negotiate a better salary. Unions help provide leverage by bargaining collectively.”

    The problem of course is that JJ and co are all in favor of free markets or individual freedom except when they are not in favor of them. Many of the markets for goods and services in the US aren’t remotely the free markets of conservative imagination, they’re oligopolies with all that implies. Quite apart from the bizarre idea that restrictiions on worker combinations are not an assault on both personal freedom (this may be taught at the Pinochet School of Business but nowhere else as far as I know) and the workings of an open economic system, JJ talks as if we’re operating in some kind of perfect theoretical society.

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  33. john personna says:

    The two tensions are:

    – is government really a bad boss to teachers?

    – are teachers so interchangeable that union bargaining makes sense?

    My answers are no, no.

    I think government is generally good to teaches, and we want to get good teachers by individual bargaining.

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  34. wr says:

    JP — There are 45,000 teachers in the Los Angeles public schools.

    How many bueaucrats should the city hire to evaluate and the negotiate 45,000 separate contracts?

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  35. john personna says:

    Oh gosh wr, i’m sure it takes one for every contract. Isn’t that the way private industry does it?

    No wait, they don’t. They have tight little HR departments that vary the same set of contracts, mapping to job-role and experience.

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  36. john personna says:

    (lol, wr was making an “efficiency” argument to me, for the unions)

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  37. JKB says:

    Back a hundred years ago, when most labor was unskilled or semi-skilled and corporations were unregulated, unions did offer a counter balance. They did this by cornering the market on labor and then only permitting chosen purchasers (business owners) have access to that labor at higher than free market prices. There was some good at permitting this monopoly practice even though for any other element of the production it was deemed illegal. By their nature, unions are a drain on the enterprise because as constituted, they are oppositional rather than cooperative with all measures to advance the enterprise. Often as we see, they are unable to even realize when they are killing the golden goose they depend on for their livelihood.

    However, soon after and with more added every year, corporations are highly regulated by the government. No longer can they set minimum wages, hours worked, overtime rules, health and safety, etc. without consulting a plethora of government regulations and submitting to inspections. Let’s call this, to be nice, government-guided enterprise.

    So now, unions, especially those in non-right to work states, are simply inflationary. They seek advantage due to their monopoly which in turn raises the cost of the goods and services the enterprise attempts to sell. In the end, unions are a destructive force to the enterprise as well as to the nation since they use their control of a segment of population to have enacted laws that benefit them with higher wages and benefits, inhibit competition and increases prices for all citizens, even those without union-inflated wages.

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  38. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:28
    “No wait, they don’t. They have tight little HR departments that vary the same set of contracts, mapping to job-role and experience.”

    By fiat you mean?

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  39. James Joyner says:

    @BJ:

    I don’t at all argue that a truly free market exists. I’m merely arguing that unions are a coercive tool around free markets. JKB above summarizes nicely why they arose and why they’re largely outmoded. But, even in the days when workers were treated as commodities rather than men, unions were still an anti-market, collectivist force.

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  40. john personna says:

    “No wait, they don’t. They have tight little HR departments that vary the same set of contracts, mapping to job-role and experience.”

    By fiat you mean?

    You’ve never walked away from a job offer, Joe? Or switched jobs when a better opportunity was offered (by another HR department)?

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  41. Brummagem Joe says:

    JKB says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:32
    “Back a hundred years ago, when most labor was unskilled or semi-skilled and corporations were unregulated, unions did offer a counter balance. They did this by cornering the market on labor and then only permitting chosen purchasers (business owners) have access to that labor at higher than free market prices.”

    Actually there was quite a lot of manual skill around 100 years ago. And in this magical free market of your imagination employers played no role in establishiing wages and hours? How interesting. Another successful grad from the Pinochet School of Business Studies.

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  42. john personna says:

    Actually there was quite a lot of manual skill around 100 years ago.

    That’s right Joe, and that’s why watchmakers’ unions never caught on quite like coalminers’

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  43. Alex Knapp says:

    James,

    But, even in the days when workers were treated as commodities rather than men, unions were still an anti-market, collectivist force.

    And the free-markets, left to their logical end, were anti-liberty and anti-individual. Unless you think that living in a company town in virtual debt slavery, working 80 hours of hard manual labor a week in dangerous conditions is some sort of utopia. Hell, until it was outlawed, a large number of companies “paid” their workers in company scrip, which could only be redeeemed by stores owned by the company. The workers had to live in homes owned by the company, with rents paid to the company. Armed private security enforced curfews and broke up attempts as assembling for any purposes not approved by the company….

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  44. john personna says:

    Alex, be fair. Was every town in 19th century a company town? Or were they limited to specific situations, like logging towns and mining towns?

    I get that unions were a good answer to the company store, but not every town had a company store.

    Not every school teacher in 19th century America shopped at a company store.

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  45. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:37
    @BJ:

    “I don’t at all argue that a truly free market exists. I’m merely arguing that unions are a coercive tool around free markets. ”

    Aren’t trade associations, oligopolistic corporations, also coercive tools in free markets (which aren’t entirely free in fact) ? This is how open market economic systems work. Naturally you avoid dealing with the central point that labor should have the same unrestricted right to organize, bargain (or coerce as you put it) as anyone else.

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  46. Loviatar says:

    Again folks, be careful “Sensible Conservative” writing here.

    But, even in the days when workers were treated as commodities rather than men, unions were still an anti-market, collectivist force.

    So James agrees that workers are treated as commodities not men and yet he sees nothing wrong with this scenario. He sees no need for these commodities to band together to negotiate for safety regulations, healthcare benefits, pay proportionality, 8 hour days, weekends off, or paid overtime because of course they’re not men.

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  47. john personna says:

    Aren’t trade associations, oligopolistic corporations, also coercive tools in free markets (which aren’t entirely free in fact) ? This is how open market economic systems work. Naturally you avoid dealing with the central point that labor should have the same unrestricted right to organize, bargain (or coerce as you put it) as anyone else.

    Unrestricted Joe?

    Remember a little thing called the Sherman Antitrust Act?

    Geez louise, such policy built on a fantasy of the “unrestricted” enemy.

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  48. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:42
    “That’s right Joe, and that’s why watchmakers’ unions never caught on quite like coalminers’”

    Actually there’wa quite a lot of manual skill involved in cutting coal, making steel, operating lathes, casting iron, making shirts and so on. I’d lke to see you try it sometime Making watches 100 years ago wasn’t exactly a mass production industry which is why there weren’t watchmakers unions.

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  49. john personna says:

    I guess now that I know the big defense of teachers unions isn’t about teachers, it’s about unions, I can leave it alone.

    I don’t agree union stalwarts in 2011, I don’t think they address our real problems, but I also see them mired … really in 19th century argument.

    Lords save us from the company town … never mind the Chinese import, they’re ok.

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  50. James Joyner says:

    @Alex, @BJ and @Loviatar:

    An economy in which the employer holds a monopoly on wages, workers have to organize for protection. But it’s not a free economy, but rather one of cartels. I’m in favor of government breaking up both kinds of uncompetitive trade practices.

    The ultimate solution is to become marketable as an individual by attaining skills. Blacksmiths didn’t need to unionize.

    I’ve never had a union backing me but can negotiate labor conditions by offering services that are relatively hard to acquire elsewhere. (Something that really wasn’t the case when I was on the college tenure track rat race and there were dozens of equally qualified people vying for the same job.)

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  51. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 11:55
    Unrestricted Joe?

    Remember a little thing called the Sherman Antitrust Act?

    I don’t you know what an oligopoly is, or how trade associations like say the Chamber of Commerce operate, if you think the Sherman Act has remotest relevance.

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  52. James Joyner says:

    @BJ:

    I’m aware that the Chamber of Commerce lobbies government and carries big business’ message to the public. Are they also conspiring to fix prices and otherwise limit commerce?

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  53. Alex Knapp says:

    @James,

    I don’t think that unions are necessary for every profession. But I don’t think they’re outdated, either. And I’ve worked a few jobs in my day that I wish had been unionized. Not for my sake — I was in and out pretty quickly to earn a few bucks. But if it was a longer-term position a lot of the conditions were simply intolerable.

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  54. Loviatar says:

    Oh god would I love to have some of “Individual Bargaining” guys sitting across from me when the time came to negotiate your next raise, contract or hiring.

    In today’s economy you’d be lucky to get weekends off.

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  55. James Joyner says:

    @Alex,

    For the most part, I’d prefer something on the order of a faculty association, rather than labor unions, form in medium-to-large companies. They’d exchange information, present a united front to management, and make sure that everyone was at least negotiating with good information about the larger picture.

    In the present environment, neither workers nor management necessarily understand what’s happening. Workers have gripes about things that might be easily fixable. Or that they’d be more amenable to if they understood the circumstances.

    Workers also have a lot of petty grievances based on wrongheaded notions of how much money other people are making, how many hours they’re working, the credentials required, and so forth.

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  56. Brummagem Joe says:

    “An economy in which an employee holds a monopoly on wages, workers have to organize for protection. But it’s not a free economy, but rather one of cartels.”

    I take it you mean an employer holding a monopoly of wages. You’re merely pointing out that there has never existed a “free economy” in the theoretical sense. Someone is always putting their finger on the scales and for most of the last 200 years it’s been employers. Your blacksmith reference btw ignores the fact the reason they didn’t need a union was because they were invariably a local monopoly. Ultimately, you’re still not addressing the issue that abridging workers right to combine is an assault on personal liberty. You can obfuscate all you like JJ with anecdotes but it’s inescapable.

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  57. john personna says:

    Loviatar, are you under the mistaken impression that HR departments pay us because they like us? lolz

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  58. Alex Knapp says:

    James,

    For the most part, I’d prefer something on the order of a faculty association, rather than labor unions, form in medium-to-large companies. They’d exchange information, present a united front to management, and make sure that everyone was at least negotiating with good information about the larger picture.

    I think for a lot — if not most — professions, that makes sense. At least in the white collar world.

    I think some professions still call for the stronger protection of a union, though. Especially for “old school” professions like coal mining, teamsters, etc. And probably a few professions that aren’t unionized now, particularly in the service industries.

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  59. James Joyner says:

    @Loviatar:

    I’m an exempt employee without a union. There’s no law or institutional force giving me weekends and holidays off. My company does that out of custom and because they wouldn’t get high quality workers without those concessions.

    And, of course, the reality of today’s white collar world is that none of us are ever REALLY off. I answer emails from the boss on weekends. I do some work while on Christmas vacation in Aruba. But I get a lot more flexibility than the average factory stiff, too, so I don’t much complain.

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  60. john personna says:

    “I think for a lot — if not most — professions, that makes sense. At least in the white collar world.”

    So, are teachers (unionized) and engineers (non-unionized) so different?

    Knowledge workers, admittedly with different degrees of people skills, but still.

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  61. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 12:07

    ” I’m aware that the Chamber of Commerce lobbies government and carries big business’ message to the public. Are they also conspiring to fix prices and otherwise limit commerce?”

    Some would say that was a matter of debate, but even if they are not, oligopolistic corporations certainly are as are specific trade associations.

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  62. Loviatar says:

    They pay you because they value your work. They give you healthcare, weekends off, overtime pay because unions demanded it in their collective bargaining negotiations.

    As to the lolz, it always amazes me how the people who benefited the most from the previous generation’s struggles always seems to be the first to be so dismissive of that struggle. I hope your children and grandchildren can have the same dismissive attitude.

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  63. James Joyner says:

    Alex:

    The lower-skilled and more replaceable the employee, the more logic that exists for unionization. But, absent a “company town” type of monopoly, I’m just not all that sympathetic to the plight of those who won’t train themselves to be individually marketable.

    I’m always amused by those, like schoolteachers, who simultaneously want to be treated as professionals and as cogs in a machine. Professionals don’t unionize.

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  64. PD Shaw says:

    Let me refine my 10:57 remark:

    Some of local government’s discretion on bargaining is being completely overriden by the state and is no longer a matter of individual or collective bargaining. These are primarily matters dealing with pension benefits and healthcare benefits, but local government is also being precluded from increasing wages beyond CPI without a referendum.

    Local government can still bargain individually on “overtime, premium pay, merit pay, performance pay, supplemental compensation, pay schedules and automatic pay progressions.” With the caveat that some of these may not impact pension benefits.

    The larger point is that there are three ways to compensate public employees:
    1. Individual bargaining;
    2. Collective bargaining;
    3. Public law.

    Even in a Democrati-dominated state like Illlinois, we are moving slowly towards 3.

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  65. Alex Knapp says:

    James,

    The lower-skilled and more replaceable the employee, the more logic that exists for unionization. But, absent a “company town” type of monopoly, I’m just not all that sympathetic to the plight of those who won’t train themselves to be individually marketable.

    Hard to train yourself when you’re stuck in low-paying job with no benefits!

    Not to mention, that some union jobs — factory workers, coal miners, etc. — are, in my experience, populated by people who love the job. I, personally, would not want to be a coal miner or machinist. But I have no problem with them unionizing so they can bargain for decent wages and working conditions.

    As an example, if the past few years of coal mining in West Virigina have taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot of folks running those companies who are still happily working with a 19th century mentality.

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  66. wr says:

    I love this myth that the unions took care of all problems of worker exploitation a century ago, so there’s no need for them now. Because there’s no way we’d ever eliminate the minimum wage or the eight-hour workday or workplace safety laws.

    Except, of course, that the same forces that are trying to destroy unions want to do all of this.

    Nevada Republicans have been trying to eliminate the minimum wage.

    Congressional Republicans want to take away OSHA’s effectiveness.

    Oh, and a Missouri state senator — backed by the bold Libertarians at the Mises Institute — wants to repeal that state’s child labor laws.

    Of course, one US Senator has already declared laws against forced child labor unconstitutional.

    So don’t tell me we don’t need unions because the government will protect us. If Republicans get any more power they will open war on working people. That’s why they’re tying to kill unions now.

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  67. Alex Knapp says:

    James,

    I’m always amused by those, like schoolteachers, who simultaneously want to be treated as professionals and as cogs in a machine. Professionals don’t unionize.

    And on this point, I think you suggest a good middle ground between unionization and individual barganing for professionals. But let’s be honest — that middle ground doesn’t actually exist. If I were a teacher, I, too, would rather have some leverage vis a vis collective bargaining than be unable to plan for my financial future because of the whims of whoever won last year’s election.

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  68. john personna says:

    I guess Alex, you have decided not to talk about teachers.

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  69. john personna says:

    Sorry, simultaneous post.

    But why aren’t teachers just “knowledge workers” and in the modern usage “professionals?”

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  70. john personna says:

    (lol, i should just go away, everybody has moved to coal miners now, because the teacher argument isn’t working.)

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  71. James Joyner says:

    @BJ: “abridging workers right to combine is an assault on personal liberty.”

    My argument is that unionization turns workers into a collective, not individuals, and thus generally a bad thing.

    We’re talking here about people who work for the government. While I think they have certain rights, they also give up some that are standard in the private sector. The right to strike against their employer is typically one of them, on the grounds that their employer is the society at large and that the services they provide are crucial to its maintenance.

    Government competes for talent like any other employer. If it offers unfavorable terms, people won’t take the jobs. And government jobs tend to be white collar and at least semi-skilled. They tend to offer competitive wages and excellent benefits. None of that would change absent the right to bargain collectively.

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  72. wr says:

    James — I’m a television writer. I think you would count me as a “professional.” And I belong to a union.

    My union negotiates to set minimum pay scales, to enforce work rules, and to keep me from being exploited. And they force my employer to pay me on time.

    I am not and have never been a superstar so in demand that I can get whatever I want. I have run a couple of shows, and I have often earned over scale for my services.

    But when I work as a freelancer, I can’t be paid less than the contractually agreed minimum.

    I don’t have to negotiate my price against a multinational corporation. I have great health care and a decent retirement plan.

    By the way, I also write books. Since I’m not a superstar there, either, I get whatever my publisher, one of four multinational corporations in the publishing industry, chooses to pay me. And I get paid when they finally feel like cutting a check, generally three to six months after it’s due.

    Of course I have a choice here. I could refuse to sell my books. Or I could do what James suggests and become a superstar in my field so they’ll have to give me what I want. (Gosh, why didn’t I think of that? I guess I’m just not as smart as a libertarian.) But if I want to work in this field, I get what they give me when they give it to me. And if I complain, my agent explains I will be branded a troublemaker and no one will want to work with me again.

    I am a professional. And I am unionized. And I love it.

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  73. Alex Knapp says:

    @John –

    If James’ proposed middle ground for professionals existed, I would prefer that for teachers. It doesn’t, so if I were a teacher, I’d prefer to be unionized.

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  74. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 12:25
    “I’m always amused by those, like schoolteachers, who simultaneously want to be treated as professionals and as cogs in a machine. Professionals don’t unionize.”

    Are you serious. The most effective trade union in the world is probably the British bar. For some reason JJ has this weird idea that only trade unions constitute “combinations .” TU’s certainly are combinations but so are a myriad of other organisations for all kinds of purposes. All these Republican front groups secrretly receiving cash are combinations. However, the only type he thinks should have their freedoms curtailed (well he’d probably include Al Quaeda) are uniions. Funny that.

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  75. john personna says:

    But why Alex, doesn’t the union model bring out the wrong rewards?

    New York has its rubber rooms because teachers-as-cogs is tried, but doesn’t quite work.

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  76. Herb says:

    “And doing that will almost certainly require busting the teachers’ unions….”

    That may be true, but the Wisconsin GOP isn’t trying to bust the unions to “raise both teacher pay and the standards for credentialing and performance.” They’re busting the unions to make it easier to achieve their other political goals unrelated to raising pay or standards.

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  77. Ben Wolf says:

    Jay,

    180 is the number of instructional days, meaning days students are actually in the school being taught. Teachers, however, are required to be there for additional workdays.

    For example, as a teacher I had a full two weeks of required additional work after students left for summer break, and a week of work before they returned. A lot of holidays and student rest days are also required work days. Staff meetings, professional development, lesson planning and classroom prep are conducted when students are absent.

    Teachers do get a month and a half off for summer, but we weren’t paid for that time in North Carolina, so most of us found other work until the start of the new school year.

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  78. JKB says:

    Whoa, I guess Frederick Lewis Alien was correct in “The Big Change” he said, speaking from 1950, that when we spoke of capitalism, socialism and labor, we spoke of a time long passed. From the comments, I see lots of discussion of organized labor from the 1920s, little from 1950 and nothing that really discusses it in relation to the highly regulated enterprise of today. In 1900, JP Morgan was the powerful man in America and he was Wall Street and the corporation, by 1950, John L. Lewis of the UMW, wielded this kind of power and the corporation had been tamed by regulation. Today, this power is held by whom? My guess is Andy Stern of the SEIU given they seem to have profound influence on the current administration.

    A thought occurred to me after I posted my comment above, that with most working conditions today set by government regulation, unions really depend on their fights for higher wages and a few minor increases in perks regardless of the impact on the enterprise. Unions are forced to incite distrust in management and create a climate of fear and must always be trying to take more of the enterprise regardless of the efforts of management to be accommodating. The unions and union bosses must do this, not the members. The union bosses must do this because if it is ever conceded that the employees have the best deal they can and keep the enterprise alive, then the employees will start thinking they can spend their union dues on something they’d like more. In the public sector, this is manifested as continually higher pay, better benefits, and less accountability regardless of the impact this has on the public at large.

    I recommend The Big Change. (at the link above or via Amazon) It is a survey of the social changes from 1900-1950. The time period when America developed its social conscience, which provided ground for the welfare state to take root. I can’t help but think that we may be on or in the middle of the next big change given current events in American society.

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  79. James Joyner says:

    @wr:

    It makes sense to me for various associations to exist in Hollywood and related entertainment industries from a standpoint of establishing practices and standards. Things like forcing people to pay on time seem more than reasonable, too. (Having briefly been on the publisher’s side of the publishing business, I can attest that it works both ways: The retailers screw over the publishers, paying whenever the hell they feel like becasue they have you over the barrel.)

    But I’m not really sure that it makes sense, for example, to have some minimum salary for extras or even actors generally. When you’ve got an industry where you have five hundred perfectly qualified applicants for a job, there’s no obvious reason to subsidize those trying to break in. (Again: The same situation obtains for PhDs seeking teaching jobs in most disciplines.)

    @BJ: I can offer no opinion on the practices of the unions for British lawyers, I’m afraid. In my own country, as I understand it, the Bar Associations exist both for professional self-regulation and rent-seeking institutions trying to curtail competition.

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  80. Brummagem Joe says:

    wr says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 12:42
    James — I’m a television writer. I think you would count me as a “professional.” And I belong to a union.

    JJ has made a number of assertions that I for one find surprising since he’s a political science teacher I believe but the claim that professionals don’t unionize either overtly or under the guise of professional associations is the best so far.

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  81. Ben Wolf says:

    “I’m aware that the Chamber of Commerce lobbies government and carries big business’ message to the public. Are they also conspiring to fix prices and otherwise limit commerce?”

    I tend to agree with Adam Smith:

    “People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or some contrivance to raise prices.”

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  82. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I tend to agree with Adam Smith:”

    Adam as in most things was right. I never cease to amused at things like the conservatives assault on OSHA when in fact most of the rule setting bodies are dominated by manufacturers.

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  83. James Joyner says:

    @BJ

    I’ve never made the claim that professionals don’t form trade associations. Nor have I argued against forming associations for professional, political, or other purposes.

    I’ve specifically been talking about traditional labor unions, in which (usually unskilled) workers form cartels that withhold their services as a tool of bargaining for wages and benefits. Other sorts of associations — even labor associations — are different kettles of fish.

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  84. Alex Knapp says:

    @James,

    I feel like I should state, for the record, that I do oppose allowing public sector unions to strike. But there are lots of states with collective bargaining that do just that. If that’s the case, then what’s the issue?

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  85. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I understand it, the Bar Associations exist both for professional self-regulation and rent-seeking institutions trying to curtail competition.”

    Funny, one of my lawyer kids laughingly refers to the NY bar as their trade union.

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  86. JKB says:

    Ben Wolfe, the same can be said of Labor. We must remember that organized labor has special dispensation to form monopolies for that very purpose, ” in a conspiracy against the public or some contrivance to raise prices.”

    I guess the questions is: Is it time to revisit this dispensation or at least let state legislatures revisit it as regards public employees.

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  87. Loviatar says:

    Brummagem,

    You notice for a supposedly educated college professor, James seems to consistently make these assertions that have no sense in reality or history yet seems to fall in nicely with the Republican talking point of the day.

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  88. James Joyner says:

    @Alex:

    As noted in my very first post on the Wisconsin standoff, I actually think some form of collective bargaining makes sense for large masses of semi-differentiated workers like teachers. They’d still be paid on some sort of civil service pay scale and be forbidden from striking but negotiations and discussions would be streamlined.

    Indeed, this is the flip side of my “professionals don’t unionize” mantra. Because teachers have duties to the society and their students, not just their bosses, they need to have input into their working conditions in a way that, say, postal delivery people or the workers at the DMV don’t. And it’s a hell of a lot easier to have one face for the teachers than have to listen to them individually.

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  89. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 13:13
    “I’ve specifically been talking about traditional labor unions, in which (usually unskilled) workers form cartels that withhold their services as a tool of bargaining for wages and benefits. Other sorts of associations — even labor associations — are different kettles of fish.”

    As I’ve said all along JJ your definitions of freedom to organize are entirely personal and political. Organization A (a trade association or political group) should be free to organize to achieve collective goals by pretty much any means it wants but Organization B (a trade union) should not. I know it’s an exaggeration but it proves the principle, the guy in Germany made no such distinctions, because there aren’t any, he suppressed trade unions, employers associations, religious and fraternal societies, and the boy scouts. Freedom is absolute not conditonal.

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  90. ponce says:

    The Tea Party’s Waterloo?

    According to this poll the Wisconsin Republicans are in trouble for their union bashing:

    http://www.politico.com/static/PPM152_110221_wi_memo.html

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  91. Ben Wolf says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with that JKB. But things like a forty hour work week, weekends off, benefits and the right not to have your labor stolen are the result of union members who spent decades being beaten, jailed and even massacred.

    Prior to their existence we had Sweatshop America, and our friendly neighborhood oligarchs are pushing us that way again.

    This will not end with public service unions. It is the nature of capitalism to try and subjugate labor in the pursuit of greater profits, and private unions are slated for liquidation next.

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  92. James Joyner says:

    @BJ “the guy in Germany made no such distinctions, because there aren’t any, he suppressed trade unions, employers associations, religious and fraternal societies, and the boy scouts. Freedom is absolute not conditonal.”

    Even aside from your move into Godwin’s territory, that’s nonsensical.

    Organization to express political ideas is completely protected. Organization to fix prices is typically illegal, with some exceptions made for public policy purposes. And there’s a whole lot of gray in between.

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  93. Loviatar says:

    Ben Wolf

    To further your point Kay at Balloon Juice has been writing about the attempt to break the private sector unions in Indiana.

    Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin

    Divided we fall

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  94. Brummagem Joe says:

    Loviatar says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 13:21

    I’m afraid a lot of his assertions do not pass philosphical muster. Essentially he thinks freedom is divisible and it’s not. I’m of a broadly liberal disposition and generally pro business but you can’t lose sight of first principles.

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  95. Dave says:

    “- is government really a bad boss to teachers?

    – are teachers so interchangeable that union bargaining makes sense?

    My answers are no, no.”

    The only reason government is a good boss to teachers is because its afraid of the collective power of the teacher’s unions. Without that power, the government would be a lousy boss.

    Busting the unions might be good in theory, providing more flexibility for performance pay, letting schools drop ineffective teachers more easily etc. etc. In practice it’d be terrible for the kids; cash strapped school districts would fire any teacher over the age of 30, with little regard for merit, because a teacher in his 20s with no experience is a whole lot cheaper and therefore a whole lot better for the district’s bottom line.

    This is why all this talk of hiring and firing teacher’s based on market forces doesn’t really pan out. How do you quantify the cash-money value and economic impact of a good teacher? I’ll tell you one thing, it’s a whole hell of a lot higher than $100,000 per year.

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  96. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    ***The Tea Party’s Waterloo?***lol, more like the unions first last stand…….

    Can please get a series of post on how the liberals act exalty x1 million the way that they lied about the T.E.A. Party acting?

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  97. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 13:36 “Organization to fix prices is typically illegal…Even aside from your move into Godwin’s territory, that’s nonsensical…”

    I knew you’d seek you’d go the Godwin route which is why I heavily qualified what I said, but I guess when your basic thesis won’t stand up to examination a debating point might work.

    If you don’t think oligopolies, trade associations, political fronts are not able to fix prices or otherwise limit commerce while operating in that “grey area” then you are either deeply disingenous or naive. Basic freedoms as long as they are not homicidal are not negotiable.

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  98. Dave Schuler says:

    Should teachers make more than police officers or firefighters? That seems to be the thrust of the argument for rates of pay relative to credentials.

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  99. Brummagem Joe says:

    ponce says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 13:30
    The Tea Party’s Waterloo?

    Interesting poll but not surprising. This is WI a basically blue state with a long history of unionism. It’s been fairly obvious to me as I’ve said here that Walker has over reached on what is clearly a ideological crusade. This has a long way to go but he’s miscalculated.

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  100. Stephen Conway says:

    I have been working at Blue Cross for almost 13 years and up to 15.19 an hour. Blue Cross has been talking away our benefits for years – no more retirement (only 401K), less vacation days, less holidays, paying for our meical insurance and no raises for two years.

    What I am trying to say is that teachers have had a really good thing going for years (3 to 4 months off a year, free medical and retirement).

    It is time to make them responsible for their own retirement and medical expenses because the people of the United States are tried of paying all the benefits to teachers that no one else receives.

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  101. Brummagem Joe says:

    Stephen Conway says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 14:04

    “What I am trying to say is that teachers have had a really good thing going for years (3 to 4 months off a year, free medical and retirement). ”

    So envy is the basis of your complaint against teachers? Perhaps you should join a unon.

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  102. Loviatar says:

    Stephen

    Teachers do NOT have “3 to 4 months off a year” they have unpaid leave, they are furloughed, call it whatever the hell you want to but it is not time off. They are not paid

    Also just because you are in a shitty situation with your company does not mean all should join you in such shitty situation. Why don’t you looks at it from the other direction and say, hey why do I only have a 401K, hey why am I losing vacation/holidays, hey why am I paying more for healthcare and have not had a raise in two years.

    Hmmm, maybe if I was part of a origination that was dedicated to fighting for my well being I might have kept some of the things I’ve lost over the past few years. Instead you seem to be using the sour grapes argument – since I can’t have it no one should.

    What I see in a lot of these comments are the rich defending there interest by breaking the union and the “useful Idiots” defending the rich’s interest through sour grapes or plain stupidity. Which one are you>

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  103. wr says:

    Hey Conway — Instead of trying to make your neighbor suffer, maybe you should have fought for your own pension and benefits. Maybe you should have had the guts to stand up and join your fellow employees to demand better treatment. Maybe you should have risked firing to help not only yourself but everyone else in your field.

    But you didn’t.

    You sat by and let them steal your labor. You let them take away the fruits of your work.

    And because you were a coward and refused to fight, now you want to screw over other working people who aren’t afraid.

    You want to work for free for your multinational employer? Be my guest.

    But how dare you try to make others suffer for your cowardice?

    I’ve been on strike three times. I’ve fought for what I earn. And I stand with real Americans who are willing to do the same, not creeps whose envy makes them try to hurt working people because they didn’t have the guts to stand up for themselves.

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  104. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler: “Should teachers make more than police officers or firefighters? That seems to be the thrust of the argument for rates of pay relative to credentials.”

    If you’re referring to my arguments in the post itself, I’m simply arguing that teachers and the general public have wildly different barriers to entry, so the latter isn’t a good point of comparison.

    There are obviously a lot of factors, aside from credentials, that go into determining compensation levels. There are plenty of jobs requiring little education that pay more than I’ll ever make as a PhD, and there’s no inherent problems with that. I very seldom fall into the “deserves” trap when it comes to salaries.

    Firefighters and cops are likely to command more money than teachers because their jobs are more dangerous and physically demanding and higher salaries will be required to attract enough qualified applicants.

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  105. James Joyner says:

    @BJ:

    If you don’t think oligopolies, trade associations, political fronts are not able to fix prices or otherwise limit commerce while operating in that “grey area” then you are either deeply disingenous or naive. Basic freedoms as long as they are not homicidal are not negotiable.

    I think price fixing is generally bad and should be scrutinized for government intervention. That associations have the potential to engage in bad practices isn’t in and of itself a cause to ban them, however.

    We limit “basic freedoms” all the time when they infringe too significantly on the freedoms of others. We negotiate them all the time.

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  106. ponce says:

    “It’s been fairly obvious to me as I’ve said here that Walker has over reached on what is clearly a ideological crusade. This has a long way to go but he’s miscalculated.”

    The Marxist were stuck with Joe Stalin ruining their ideology’s reputation.

    The Tea Partiers have Scott Walker…

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  107. PD Shaw says:

    Dave Schuler, I have no idea who should be compensated more; my impression is they are compensated close to the same.

    I suspect as a matter of policy, we are over-compensating teachers to the extent we are requring a bachelor’s degree, instead of maintaining something closer to a vocational program for students graduating from high school with good grades.

    We are similarly over-compensating police to the extent we have started requiring a bachelor’s degree, though the last I look the college requirement was still a minority one.

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  108. john personna says:

    The Dave who said our society and our goverment only value teachers because the unions make them is nuts. But that’s the kind of bent thong you need to believe, to believe we are oppressing teachers … as if they were coal miners.

    That’s the other thing i’ve learned today, teachers = coal miners

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  109. john personna says:

    Other Dave and PD, teachers and police/fire are not comparable, because of the risk difference. (Yes, my dad did face risk in inner city LA, but a good notch below police/fire)

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  110. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 14:48

    “We limit “basic freedoms” all the time when they infringe too significantly on the freedoms of others. We negotiate them all the time.”

    Not freedom to associate and promote our own agenda. The fact is that any group that comes together to advance it’s own interests is serving a fundamentally similar purpose whether it’s a trade union or a trade association. Why else would they exist? The issue is not association but that any group exercising monopolistic or quasi monopolistic power tends to abuse its power and the unions certainly have done so. But for every NYC teachers union I’ll trade you a Wal Mart who has had to pay hundreds of millions in legal settlements. Since the unions are already signalling a willingness to negotiate on items affecting the deficit which is what it’s supposed to be about, what’s the issue?

    And since when did I suggest banning trade associations. I’ve actively participated in them. Outlawing or unreasonably restricting their activities would be as bad as doing the same to unions.

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  111. spencer says:

    James Joyner says that teachers union prevent reform because they oppose the deal of accepting higher “merit” pay as a trade off for tenure.

    The only time I have ever heard of this actually being offered was right there in you home town of Washington, D.C. and the teachers union actually jumped at the offer.

    Surely you have not completely forgotten about that deal haven’t you, James.

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  112. Brummagem Joe says:

    john personna says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 15:39
    Other Dave and PD, teachers

    Teachers aren’t at risk from violence? I actually think in broad terms the police unions leave the teachers unions in the dust when it comes to abuse of power. And abuse of power that extends well beyond matters economic and extends into matters operational and legal. There are at least three egregious cases going on in our state right now.

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  113. James Joyner says:

    @Spencer: The DC teachers’ union fought the proposal for years, finally buckling down when Michelle Rhee basically forced it on them under threat of massive layoffs. They then rebelled against Rhee, who’s now gone.

    And, even in DC, it was a farce. Teachers got a massive pay increase, retroactive for three years! Yet to be seen is whether any actual accountability comes for all that.

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  114. DC Loser says:

    And, even in DC, it was a farce. Teachers got a massive pay increase, retroactive for three years!

    And why was that? Because Rhee fired teachers without cause or explanation. Her deliberations were closed to the public and the city council. She was obsessed with secrecy. I think we should expect the teachers to have rights to due process and appeal under these circumstances.

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  115. R_Dave says:

    James Joyner wrote: But unions are the antithesis of individuality. Their very premise is that its members are easily replaceable and thus have little bargaining power as individuals, so they must band together to coerce management to pay them more than they’re worth on the open market.

    Shouldn’t that same analysis apply to the employers, though? If 1000 would-be employers pool their resources together in a single collective entity (i.e. they form a corporation) in order to increase their bargaining power and coerce workers into accepting lower pay, why is that not also “the antithesis of individuality” and a distortion of “the open market”? At the risk of channeling Marx, why is it ok for capital to bargain collectively, but not ok for labor to do it?

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  116. James Joyner says:

    @R_Dave:

    If employers pool to form a monopoly or otherwise such market power as to dominate the market, it is a violation of free trade. But a union ALWAYS creates a monopoly on labor, since the employer can’t go elsewhere. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to work for Microsoft or IBM or Walmart, you can find hundreds of other employers.

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  117. john personna says:

    Hah, I don't think you finished reading my comment, Joe.
    (I don't like "paste" that pastes with style.  Not sure if that is the new editor, or my browser (chrome) interaction with it.)

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  118. john personna says:

    Oh, the style didn't stick.  Odd.
    The earlier "bent thong" versus "bent thinking" was a (humorous) phone issue.

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  119. R_Dave says:

    In industries with really strong union cultures – e.g. construction in NYC – it might be true that there's a monopoly on labor, but I think that's the exception rather than the rule.  Generally speaking, it's a lot easier for an employer to replace an individual worker than it is for an individual worker to find a new job.  There may not be a monopoly either way, but the bargaining position generally favors the employer to a huge degree. 
    In addition, the sheer size imbalance between modern day employers and (non-unionized) employees makes a big difference.  If Joe Blow tries to negotiate a raise from his boss at Ed's Hardware over on Main Street, maybe he can get it; at the very least, he can talk to Ed himself about it.  If Joe tries to get a raise from Home Depot, on the other hand, he's completely out of luck, because Home Depot's pay scales are set at the corporate level, not the local level Joe has access to.  Home Depot is simply too big to bother with individual negotiations like that.

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  120. Dave says:

    The Dave who said our society and our goverment only value teachers because the unions make them is nuts.
    There's a diference between "valuing teachers" and "being so afraid of them we give them whatever the hell they want." 
    I never said teachers wouldn't be "valued" without the unions, the government would just no longer be the benevolent boss it now cowers in fear to be. Great teachers would get fired by cash-strapped governments for no reason other than that they're experienced and expensive, leaving a bunch of 20somethings dabbling in teaching before they can figure out what they really want to do. Hell, it happens now: superintendents and principals put a lot of effort into pressing accomplished older teachers to retire early so they can replace those $60,000 salaries with a handful of kids making $30,000. 
    That's not sustainable: the economic benefit of a great teacher and great school is too difficult to quantify for the market to work efficiently.

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  121. R_Dave says:

    Sorry, to clarify that last point, what I'm getting at is the idea that by pooling capital on the employer side, Home Depot has become so large that employees can no longer negotiate with it in any meaningful way and have no choice but to either accept Home Depot's take-it-or-leave-it offers or pool their own resources in the form of a labor union.

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  122. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 18:05
     
    "But a union ALWAYS creates a monopoly on labor, since the employer can’t go elsewhere."
     
    JJ why do you talk nonsense. Walker can fire all the public workers in WI if he wants to as can any employer faced with worker demands. It's called a lock out.  Your debating points are often specious but you've definitely set a record today. My favorite Blacksmiths didn't go on strike. They didn't go on strike because they usually had a local monopoly do you know why?  

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  123. john personna says:

    <blockquote>I never said teachers wouldn't be "valued" without the unions, the government would just no longer be the benevolent boss it now cowers in fear to be. </blockquote>
     
    But, we've had Presidents making banner efforts to improve our schools.  Obama has introduced special measures to pay for teacher's education.
     
    Are you saying that comes from Obama's fear of the unions?

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  124. Dave says:

    Are you saying that comes from Obama's fear of the unions?
     
    Yes. In large part.

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  125. john personna says:

    I guess that quote method didn't work.
     
    Anyway, this is where I see teachers in a sense wanting both sides of the bargaining table.  They want (and certainly deserve) Presidential drives on their behalf, but at the same time they want a union to force even more.
     
    This is something none of us in industry have.  We don't have the CEO campaigning for our interests, and then unions to double-down on a good thing. 
     
    There are actually a handful of companies where the CEOs have gone the extra mile for the employee, but they are rare enough to be a big story.  Kingston Memory and its bonus, etc.
     
     

    http://articles.latimes.com/1996-12-23/local/me-12009_1_sun-and-tu-kingston-technology-kingston-bonus

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  126. john personna says:

    "Are you saying that comes from Obama's fear of the unions?
     

     
    Yes. In large part."
     
    Sorry, that's not something I can believe.  Nor would many average folk, I think.

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  127. JKB says:

    JJ why do you talk nonsense. Walker can fire all the public workers in WI if he wants to as can any employer faced with worker demands. It's called a lock out.  Your debating points are often specious but you've definitely set a record today. My favorite Blacksmiths didn't go on strike. They didn't go on strike because they usually had a local monopoly do you know why?  

    What?  A lock out is the employer version of a strike.  The employer can, if permitted, under the law stop workers from performing work.  The employer cannot hire new workers during the job action.   Brush up on your collective bargaining law.  In addition, these are government, civil service employees and cannot be fire at will.  They have rights under the civil service regs and can appeal any adverse action (although I will admit I'm not up on Wisconsin civil service law).  But ultimately, the governor cannot fire all the employees and hire new ones as this action would immediately be stayed while the courts dealt with the issue.
     
    Blacksmiths had a monopoly.  Really, you shouldn't get your ideas from TV westerns.  There were lots of blacksmiths in urban areas.  Who do you think repaired locomotives, built bridges, etc.?  Even today, a form of blacksmith, farriers provide services to horse owners and compete without unions.  I knew a man who trained as a blacksmith on a dam construction and ended his career by doing the timing rods on the last steam locomotive to operate out of the city.

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  128. TG Chicago says:

    James, you appear to have a major omission in your census data.

    I found it highly implausible that over 1/3rd of Wisconsin residents have less than a HS Diploma, so I checked for myself. Here are the numbers for Wisconsin (James’ number in parenthesis):

    http://tinyurl.com/4vayapj

    Less than 9th grade — 3.8% (not specified)

    9th to 12th grade, no diploma — 7.2% (not specified)

    High school graduate (includes equivalency) — 34.3% (34.6%)

    Some college, no degree — 20.5% (*none listed*)

    Associate’s degree — 8.8% (7.5%)

    Bachelor’s degree — 17.0% (15.3%)

    Graduate or professional degree — 8.4% (7.2%)

    ******
    I’m guessing the reasons our numbers didn’t match perfectly is that we used different years. My link goes to a 2005-2009 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate. Perhaps James pulled data from 2010, accounting for some discrepancies.

    But James did not include the category of “Some college, no degree”. If you add that 20.5% to the 3.8% “Less than 9th grade” and the 7.2% “9th to 12th grade, no diploma”, you get 31.5%, which is fairly close to the number James said lacked a H.S. diploma.

    I think you left out “Some college, no degree”. And I’d say the true number of Wisconsinites with less than a HS degree or equivalent is closer to the 11% mark than 35%.

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  129. anjin-san says:

    > But a union ALWAYS creates a monopoly on labor, since the employer can’t go elsewhere
    I know a LOT of non union contractors and construction workers. The unions don't like them, but they certainly exist. What are you talking about?
     

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  130. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago:
    I got sloppy.  I did a search for "Wisconsin demographics education" and my first result was Wisconsin.com, from which I pulled the numbers. I assumed that was the standard state site that comes up, but it's a dot.com rather than a dot.gov. I'm not sure where they pulled those numbers.

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  131. JKB says:

    I know a LOT of non union contractors and construction workers. The unions don't like them, but they certainly exist. What are you talking about?
     

    Then I'm afraid you don't understand organized labor.  Once an employer is forced to recognize a union, he may only negotiate with that union.  Any employee in the collective bargaining unit will be represented by the union and in non-Right To Work states, the employee will be required to join the union.  In multi-employer union representation, the employer is required to hire the next union member on the union's list and cannot select someone outside the union or lower on the union roll regardless of reason.
     
    That there a non-union workers who can work in non-union shops doesn't mean that an employer whose employees have selected to be represented by a union has a choice in whom he hires or can go out side the union.
     
    Here, this will be fun.  Hire a ship and try to hire non-union labor to handle lines when you tie up a a State of Hawaii pier in Honolulu, say at Aloha Tower.  No, go ahead, what could happen.  Longshoremen are known for their kind, aloha dispositions.

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  132. Brummagem Joe says:

    Has there been some change in the comment system?

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  133. Brummagem Joe says:

    Blacksmiths did not build bridges or repair Locomotives. Bridges were prefabricated in steel millls and assembled on site by contractors, Locos repaired in machine shops or foundries. Tolerances!

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  134. Brummagem Joe says:

    Lockouts happen from time to time, I'm not disputing it's extreme but then so is removing workers rigjht to bargain. So Walker can't fire these workers because they have contracts but he can tear up their contracts. What is wrong with picture?   

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  135. Brummagem Joe says:

    Under a spreading chestnut-tree
    The village smithy stands;
    The smith, a mighty man is he,
    With large and sinewy hands;
    And the muscles of his brawny arms
    Are strong as iron bandsÉ
    – From "The Village Blacksmith" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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  136. JKB says:

    Yep, forged iron just dropped right out of the furnace.  No need to hammer it to shape and  work out the imperfections.  Today we use drop forge technology but steam engines were built and parts crafted by blacksmiths.  And machining?  Machining is a fine technique for finishing a part but it can't forge it or temper it or move large masses of hot iron into shape.  See first you use the fire, hammer and tongs, then you use the vice and file.  And yes, advancements have replaced the blacksmith with the drop forge and machinist.  But do you really believe that in say 1910, Baltimore had so few blacksmiths that they were a monopoly?  That they weren't used in the shipyards, heavy manufacturing, etc.  As you say it is Tolerances that made them highly skilled and thus prized and not readily exchangeable.

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  137. JKB says:

    If Walker were to tear up the contract, something not ever part of this matter, the teachers would still be covered by civil service laws.  Laws established to provide protection to government workers from arbitrary adverse employment actions due to changes in political power.

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  138. Brummagem Joe says:

    JKB:Your response demonstrates you know zippo about the difference between craft industries and mechanical engineering. Yes blacksmithing has existed from the iron age and it was probably at its zenith when Longfellow wrote his poem in 1841, it was a low productivity, craft industry, with high barriers to entry, conducted in a society with very low mobility even in urban areas. An almost perfect monopolistic environment in fact for the smith to shoe horses, make/repair domestic untensils, repair carriages/wagons, make wrought iron gates and other artifacts and make farm implements. The metalworkers in the Sparrows Point shipyard or steel mill in Baltimore were not blacksmiths. They were drop forge operators, riveters, iron/steel puddlers, machinists, metal press/guillotine operators.     

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  139. Brummagem Joe says:

    "If Walker were to tear up the contract, something not ever part of this matter,"
    If proposing to abrogate the teachers conditions of work is not tearing up their contract what is it? 

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  140. Brummagem Joe says:

    JKB: and btw the workers at Sparrows Point were unionized. 

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  141. wr says:

    JKB — Once he breaks the unions, why wouldn't Walker go ahead and wipe out the civil service laws?
    All it takes is one more call from Daddy Koch.

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  142. JKB says:

    wr – why would he wipe out the civil service laws? They are simply management controls over the administration of government workers enacted by law to avoid the problems endemic with cronyism and other political violations.

    One thing that seems to be lost here is that the Federal government does not enter into union contracts. Federal employees with collective bargaining right cannot negotiate over pay, benefits or pension. They can enter into collective bargaining agreements that govern work rules. And yet, all those federal union employees do not suffer adversely in pay or benefits.

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  143. JKB says:

    BJ – let’s skip over your errors in the history of Blacksmithing.

    In you last, you make James’ point. Blacksmithing had “high barriers to entry”, i.e., skill level, which made unionization undesirable to blacksmiths who could command their employment conditions due to their uniqueness. They were replaced in the early 20th century by machine operators who were less uniquely skilled and thus interchangeable. Who sought to band together to create cartel to limit supply and increase cost of a necessary resource, i.e., unionize.

    But you are correct that the advent of machine tools and interchangeable parts reduced the uniqueness of the blacksmith, farrier, cabinetmaker, woodworker, etc. This change permitted a less skilled worker to produce and assemble parts with a lot of the skill controlled by the machine. Thus the worker became less uniquely valuable in manufacturing and more replaceable. The same cannot be said for many government workers. A good teacher is not interchangeable with a median teacher without a degradation of outcome. A good cop is not interchangeable with an rookie without a degradation on service and outcome. And often the median worker cannot be trained to a level of the highly proficient worker in such fields.

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  144. james says:

    I am retired i make $30,700 per year I pay $6400.00 per year for health care Igive 10% To my church $420.00 to missions.I own my own home and i pay all of my taxes .WE help take care of our grandson .Iam 80years my wife is 77years old . my wife is very sick .My snowplower broke.I clean my 150 foot driveway with snow shovel.Thats pretty good for a old man .I say to the teachers, gov,unions A person who gets paid with tax money should never be a union member and never walk off the job

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