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Kohler, Novels, Politics, and You

Since discussion seems to be at a minimum for this blog lately (I declare everyone except Laura to be uninteresting until you prove otherwise), and since work’s got me pretty busy, three things that I’ll write more about soon:

  1. This is bad. That strike is tense, and unfortunately the union president doesn’t seem to be too good at public relations. As anti-labor as the south already is, how can a strike succeed if the union lives up to its worst stereotypes? Yes, scabs are bad, but companies that don’t negotiate are worse, and the union leadership really must be very diligent to focus the strikers’ ire on Kohler.
  2. I lean toward Gordon Wood’s skepticism that human rights only correlates with novels, but I still think Caleb Crain’s exploration of the possibility of causality is interesting.
  3. I find it difficult to put into words how amazed I am by recent events in public affairs. I am awed, for example, by myriad ways an unpopular president attempts to act as if his power is steadfast. In addition, does Alberto Gonzales have any credibility anymore that makes him stay so resolutely? I imagine him sitting in his office, twiddling his thumbs, cackling all the way to the bank at how proud he is to be instrumental in destroying Americans’ faith in government.

I’d entreat you to be witty in reply, but since I’ve already consigned you to the realm of uninteresting, I’ll just entreat you to reply.



I’ll comment tomorrow, promise.

I’m going to bed soon. I finally wrenched myself onto a normal person’s schedule. Which means I’m going to bed around the time you guys are getting home from work.

You were keeping really late hours there for a while.

I find the Union guys behavior disgusting and not at all suprising. Union workers, by design, do despicable things. Not just the violence, but the fact that they have more of a right to a job than someone who will work for less and who will do better quality work. No one is forcing you to work where you do. You can leave if you want something better. But demanding more money or vacation time, just by threatening to quit only works when there aren’t other people who need jobs. Everyone in the world can’t have everything they want. I want to make 100 dollars an hour working at a coffee shop, but the coffee shop can’t afford that. The only thing Unions do is run a company into the ground.

should read “they THINK they have more of a right…”

Disgusting? Hardly. Shameful, maybe, though I can certainly sympathize with how they probably feel. I’m sure the line is stressful, and I doubt that having to realize you’ve been run out of your job without any negotiation is a difficult one. Knowing, too, that they’re being replaced by scabs who have little enough pride or self-worth to fight for their jobs has to be difficult, too. It is surprising, too, unless you’re already disposed to discount the point of organized labor in the first place.

Speaking of, except for the fact that unions ensure that companies maintain safe workplaces, that unions prevent sexual and racial discrimination through just and fair contracts, that unions create grievance procedures that allow workers to name the problems in the workplace without fear of unjust reprisal, that unions advocate for fair wages and benefits for all workers—in other words, except for the fact that unions don’t actually do the things you say they do, Justin, you might be right that unions are bad. But you’re not.

For someone who advocates nonviolence, you’re pretty strident against the powerless.

I don’t think Unions have always been bad guess I didn’t make that clear. I do want to know why the laws that exist today aren’t good enough anymore? I mean, what working conditions are good enough? Does the air conditioner have to be on? Does it have to be set at a certain temperature? Does everyone have to have a personal cooling system built to keep their body at the specific temperature?

Thing is, since work environments are stunning compared to 100 years ago, the free market can keep those things in check. If I start working somewhere and the working conditions I put up with aren’t worth the pay, I’ll leave. I’ll go find a job somewhere else. The only way I would be completely trapped is if the unemployment rate were high to the point that it would be near impossible. And in that case… work conditions aren’t going to be the only thing people are worrying about.

And what is a fair wage? Is it fair that a college graduate who is a teacher makes 35 grand a year, while someone who just graduated high school, and works at a factory building cars gets paid what they do? 50 to 100 thousand dollars?

I don’t understand these arbitrary pay scales? You may say that if someone is willing to work fulltime, they should be able to afford to have a living wage? Apparently it doesn’t matter that a company may not be able to afford to pay someone that, because his work is not worth that much?

I just like to look at both sides. It sounds great that people should be able to live well, by our standards, if they work. But you have to ask where that money comes from? And will a free person continue operating a business where they can’t make enough money for it to be worth it? Or make money at all?

I’m just saying economic theory should be paid attention to in this debate.

Justin, here’s some reading on the subject of unions and salaries, should you be interested in pursuing the subject.

You’re suggesting a lot of hypothetical cases, Justin, and giving the benefit of the doubt to everyone but the people who actually work. There’s any number of different kinds of businesses in this world. Some are small local businesses that encourage their employees to organize like, for example, a frame shop here in IC. By so encouraging, they assert that they believe both that their workers should have a voice in the way the company is run and that it’s possible to negotiate salaries and benefits that are comparable to the area (cost of living) and to the job. Other companies, in the midst of losing $2.7 billion, pay one man $28 million for _four months’ work. Both models are (presumably) viable—though if you ask me, the former makes a helluva lot more sense than the latter.

So why don’t we move away from the hypothetical situations that “economic theory” is telling you to proffer (which economic theory are you talking, by the way?) and discuss specific cases in which a union ran a business into the ground? Alternately, we can discuss why “economic theory”—not to mention quitting a job and starting over—is meaningless when one must put food on the table and pay for the kids to go to the doctor.

Then, perhaps, we can decide which situation holds true in more cases.

Meanwhile, let’s none of us be vague about cause and effect, how about?

(P.S. Laura’s right. Being a union organizer’s a bitch of a job—they don’t get paid nearly enough for all the soul they put into it and the small thanks they get.)

Well, I see my help is not needed in keeping the discussion going, so I hereby renege on my promise.

However can I trust you again?

There have been arrests. (And Don’t miss TDC‘s comments section on the strike. Things are hot down there.)

Does anyone in Searcy know how to put together a coherent sentence? It was painful trying to read those comments due to the frequent grammar and spelling mistakes.

A few years ago we watched American Dream, an very good and very sad documentary about a strike in a Hormel meatpacking plant in Minnesota. That union was effectively busted by the fact that Hormel dragged the strike out for months on end, even into the winter, until the strikers had no choice but to fall away from the picket line. I remember vividly several scenes when people began crossing the line, and when individual strikers themselves had no choice but to do the same. They’re tense, and IIRC, fights nearly break out from both the strikers and the scabs.

These stories coming out of Searcy remind me of that film. From KAIT in Jonesboro,

The Searcy Police records show they have made arrests, and it’s not just the picketers. Replacement workers have been arrested for disorderly conduct as well.

“We’re getting complaints from both sides. We’re getting complaints filed from strikers and workers as well,” says Dillon-Bramlett, with SPD.

From harassment, to disorderly conduct, to battery, and destruction of personal property, it’s fair to say both sides of this strike are getting out of hand.

“We’ve had them to swerve and try to run over our people. We’ve had guns pulled, people spit on us, so you know, we’re probably scared on both sides,” says Smith, the Union President.

But Smith admits they aren’t innocent in the strike. As replacement workers have left the plant during shift changes, 2 wrecks have been caused from the strike distractions.

“I guess it would be pretty scary going through a bunch of people hollering scabs and stuff, but we have the right to do that,” says Smith.

The KAIT story is the only one I’ve seen that claims that any scabs were arrested—all the rest say it’s two union members (we’ll have to wait for ME’s police log post for this week to know for sure, I guess). Contra 3, it’s apparent no one’s innocent.