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Going Negative

There's an old scheme called the "negative option." You've all seen it -- "Congratulations! We've given you a membership in our widget club! Every month, we'll send you a brand-new widget. If you don't want it, tell us beforehand. If you do, we'll bill you for it!" It was used mainly for books and music, but was ultimately banned unless the recipient agreed to it beforehand.

These days, we see it most often with spam. "Congrats! You've won a membership in our web site! We'll be sending you ads as frequently as we feel like it, cramming your inbox with our crap to our heart's content, until you jump through our hoops and ask us nicely to get off our mailing list. And even then, it could take six to eight weeks to process your unsubscribe request -- if we even bother to do so." The spammers got Congress to legalize THAT scumbaggery with the Orwellian-named CAN-SPAM Act.

Anyway, there's a brand-new application for the negative option now enshrined in law: union organizing.

For over seven decades, the rule was simple: if a work force wanted to unionize, they needed to get the votes of over half the work force. Don't get 50% of the workers to say yes, no union. Simple, ethical, responsible.

But that didn't sit well with the unions, because they couldn't get that 50% plus one as often as they wanted. So they went to the Obama administration and said "look, we bought and paid for you guys. Change that damned rule!"

And they did. Now the unions don't need a majority of the work force. They need a majority of the work force that votes.

Under the old system, a no-vote" was treated as a "vote for no." It was presumed that the worker was content with the status quo, and didn't want any changes. And that makes a great deal of sense.

Now, though, a "no-vote" is counted as what President Obama used to do all the time: a "present" vote.

Gee, I wonder what the chances are that the ballots (or election notices) that are intended for known anti-union workers are misplaced somewhere? Lost before they are sent out, misaddressed, or somehow vanish upon their return before they can be counted? I can't imagine that happening. It's inconceivable!

Really, I'm not terribly concerned. After all, these elections will be overseen by representatives of the Obama administration, and they've got an absolutely stellar record of acting to ensure fair elections, free of shenanigans or intimidation or other forms of thuggery.

Hat tip: blog-buddy and former Guest Wizbanger Rob Port)


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Comments (34)

Is there some kind of quoru... (Below threshold)
James H:

Is there some kind of quorum requirement?

Yes James, I beleive at lea... (Below threshold)

Yes James, I beleive at least one union official is required to stuff the ballots.

You mean employees have to ... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

You mean employees have to actually vote no in order for them to be counted among those who don't want a union?

The horrors! Employers intimidate their employees into not voting for good reason - it saves them money.

Man, I long for the return of the Bush. Back then life was easier. If you did nothing, the vote was counted in favor of the employer. Now employees have to actually decide "yes" or "no"....

Good question, James. The a... (Below threshold)

Good question, James. The article doesn't say so, and intense, thorough research (which lasted all of five minutes) doesn't give a ready answer.

I'm going to speculate no, though. That would be in the spirit of the old rule, counting no-votes as votes saying no, and that was the whole point of changing the rule.

Of course, I could be wrong...


Epador -- Unhelpful snark.<... (Below threshold)
James H:

Epador -- Unhelpful snark.

Jay Tea:

I think you know where I'm going with my quorum remark. I think that a blanket rule counting non-votes as "no" votes is just as nonsensical as a rule that totally discounts non-votes.

You know where I'm going, but to illustrate:

Assume a workplace in which 100 workers are eligible to vote "Yes" or "no" on a union.

In this, let us also assume that 90 workers choose to vote.

And in the final vote, let us assume that 48 workers vote in favor of the union and 42 vote against.

To my mind, if 90 percent workers voted one way or the other, in the election, that should be enough workers voting to assume the empower the union to bargain on workers' behalf.

From this point, my understanding of union-voting gets hazy, so I won't comment there.

But I would point out that this quorum rule is entirely consistent with how deliberative bodies function. Ahead of time, they determine what percent of members present and voting is required to do business ... and if somebody skips a meeting that otherwise has quorum, well, tough noogies. The deliberative body conducts business without him.

James, I THINK I found the ... (Below threshold)

James, I THINK I found the ruling, but it's some pretty intense legalese.

Lee, if you can't get 51% of the employees to express interest in a union, then maybe it's not such a good idea. I know that you like to tell people what to do because you, obviously, know what's better for them than they do, but not everyone wants to embrace your benevolent dictatorship.

Which is why Wizbang Blue is now pining for the fjords.

And I'm still waiting for your apology over the whole Bizilj incident, when you LIED and said I never gave Christopher's name -- when I had given his full name on first mention and last name on second reference.

Please, Lee. Just admit that you let your pathological hatred of me blind you momentarily and you didn't see it, didn't thoroughly verify it before you tossed out your accusation, figuring you'd finally "got" me.

You really picked the right name for yourself, Lee.

You are consistentLEE wrong.

You are reliabLEE wrong.

You are defiantLEE wrong.

You are obsessiveLEE wrong.

You are flagrantLEE wrong.

You are blatantLEE wrong.

You are fierceLEE wrong.

You are militantLEE wrong.

You are hystericaLEE wrong.

You are hypocritcaLEE wrong.

You are frothingLEE wrong.

And by your own definition, that an incorrect statement is a LIE, you're a LYING LIAR as well.

Man, Lee. You were wrong about the Times Square bomber being a Tea Partier, you were wrong about my mentioning Bizilj by name... when the hell was the last time you were right?


Wow, Jay Tea, didja have en... (Below threshold)
James H:

Wow, Jay Tea, didja have enough Snarky-Os this morning?

Incidentally, I puttered through the ruling, but it applies (apparently) only to those industries regulated by the railways act. I'll have to look more closely at it later. The legalese doesn't seem that thick.

if you can't get 51% of the employees to express interest in a union, then maybe it's not such a good idea.

I still disagree with this, Jay Tea, for reasons I outlined above.

"Employers intimidate their... (Below threshold)

"Employers intimidate their employees into not voting"

Since it's still a 'secret ballot' - no thanks to Card Check - would you care to give examples of "employer intimidation"?

Of course not! I'm Lee BULLSHIT Ward. I spout the Democratic Union Line! I've memorized the Talking Points.

"Man, I long for the return... (Below threshold)

"Man, I long for the return of the Bush. Back then life was easier. If you did nothing, the vote was counted in favor of the employer. Now employees have to actually decide 'yes or no."

Blaming Bush and always telling everyone else what they have to do, exactly what we'd expect from those who are

liberalLEE minded.

James, I understand where y... (Below threshold)

James, I understand where you are coming from on wanting to go with the majority of those who voted decision. However, having seen the bullshit that unions engage in when it comes to certification votes, there is no way in hell I would ever consider an election decided this way to be legit.

Unions have really done themselves a disservice over the past several decades in the way they have conducted themselves. With few exceptions, notably in fields such as mining and logging, they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. And that's strictly based on their own actions.

James, for Lee "Lying Liar"... (Below threshold)

James, for Lee "Lying Liar" Ward, there simply isn't enough snark in the universe. It's a law. Look it up.

But as for the quorum rule... that would be a good idea. In your example, 90% turnout would be impressive, and the 48 votes would equal about 53% in favor (53.33 repeating, to be precise...).

But unionizing is a HUGE thing, and not one readily overturned. If half the work force won't go on the record as supporting it, I think it should fail -- even if they do win a plurality of the work force, and a majority of the votes.

We don't live in a pure democracy, and we have a lot of things that require a supermajority. I think that this is on the same magnitude as those other matters (ending debate in the Senate, amending the Constitution) within this area, and as such a requirement of an absolute majority is reasonable.

If that makes me sound a bit paranoid, consider that a fallout of the push for "card check," which would strip employees of their right to a secret ballot in matters like this.

After all, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there aren't people out to get you...


Juvenile comment warning:</... (Below threshold)

Juvenile comment warning:

ManLee was the only one you got wrong, Jay. Oh, I see the comma now! ;)

I'm sneaky that way, Imhote... (Below threshold)

I'm sneaky that way, Imhotep. Made ya look twice!

OK, it was inadvertent. But I'm going to claim I did it on purpose, because it makes me look smarter.


<a href="http://en.wikipedi... (Below threshold)
James H:

Wikipedia to the rescue.

It gives a bit of information.

I can't immediately say whether I'm in favor of card check or against it. Pardon me while I sort through a few thoughts in this comments thread.

First, I don't trust management very much in a unionizing scenario. Around 2000 or 2001, employees at Journal Newspapers in the DC area started considering a union. They'd long thought of unionizing, but things finally came to a head and reporters and junior editors decided to agitate for representation by a local journalists' union.

Newsroom personnel in the Maryland offices were generally pro-union, while those in Virginia were anti-union to neutral. As the union campaign proceeded, the newspaper's management responded by hiring a consultant to study newsroom operations. Lo and behold, the consultant recommended shuttering Maryland newsrooms and firing all employees there. At the same time, Virginia employees were retained and given raises.

All of which, of course, is on page 1 of "What Not To Do When Your Employees Want To Unionize" because it's all kinds of illegal.

In an interesting coda, members of newspaper management got in a spitting war sometime after this (including an musing sidelight that involved a manager putting his mistress on the payroll) and the whole chain got sold eventually.

(Full disclosure, I worked at this newspaper for a while, but left about a year or so before the union drive).

Admittedly, this is anecdotal. But it gives a specific example of how an employer might misbehave during a union election by, for example, firing or threatening the jobs of employees who are in favor of the union.

On the flip side ...

... I'm not comfortable with the idea of card check. Signing the union card strikes me not as a vote for the union, but rather as a vote to have a vote for the union. I'm OK with the campaign going forward if as few as 20 percent of workers want to do so. After all, voting on whether to vote is not dispositive of the ultimate question.

And even if you can get 99.9999 percent of employees in a workplace to sign the initial union card, I can't agree with the idea that this should automatically lead to unionization. As you say, Jay Tea, unionizing is a big step.


So ... on balance ... no, I can't support card check because it trivializes what should be a well-thought-out decision and short-circuits what should be a democratic process.

That said, If current law is insufficient to prevent employers or union reps from intimidating or coercing workers into voting one way or the other, then the law schould be revised.

OK, I have a question. Why ... (Below threshold)
Jeff Medcalf:

OK, I have a question. Why should it be that this is properly a subject for the law at all? The employer has the right to hire or not anyone he wants for any reason whatever; it's part of freedom of association. The employee has the right to employ an agent on his behalf, or not, as he chooses; it's part of his right to representation in contractual issues.

The only involvement of the law should be to assist in the enforcement of the contract.

Unions NEVER intimidate. </... (Below threshold)

Unions NEVER intimidate.

Damn. I just broke my bullshit meter.

Try and fire a union government employee or a really incompetent teacher. Try and eliminate an unnecessary production line job at GM. Try and eliminate the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary government jobs.

Been following Greece lately?

Dammit, James, stop being s... (Below threshold)

Dammit, James, stop being so reasonable. You're ruining a whole bunch of people's stereotypes of you.

I'm no lawyer, but it's my hunch that it isn't a matter of the current law being insufficient to prevent intimidation, but the current law being insufficiently enforced.

The example you cite was, as you noted, very illegal. So it wasn't a matter of the law being inadequate, but the enforcement thereof.

Maybe a little tweaking of the law, tightening up the enforcement provisions, but overall it sounds like the law is OK as it is.


Jay Tea:In point o... (Below threshold)
James H:

Jay Tea:

In point of fact, the law there was enforced ... rather after the fact. Under a settlement with the NLRB, the newspaper company ended up paying fines and restitution. But I've seen scattered reports of other situations where the law is insufficiently enforced.

... and the fines and restitution are of little comfort to people who were essentially fired for exercising their rights to unionize.

If this passes, I'd be real... (Below threshold)

If this passes, I'd be really interested in the response it generates from employees and unions. Employees obviously NOT interested in unionizing would have to show up and vote NO!

Now if the employee's majority vote is still NO!, what is the union fall-back position? Card check?

Union membership has been FALLING for years. There's an economic reason for that.

OK, I have a quest... (Below threshold)
James H:
OK, I have a question. Why should it be that this is properly a subject for the law at all? The employer has the right to hire or not anyone he wants for any reason whatever; it's part of freedom of association. The employee has the right to employ an agent on his behalf, or not, as he chooses; it's part of his right to representation in contractual issues.

To smooth over differences in unequal bargaining power, for one.

Let's try a hypothetical. We're going to posit a fairly free marketplace for labor, with a minimal role for the NLRB. Specifically, the relevant law recognizes that employees may form a union and prescribes that they may vote to do so. However, neither unions nor employers are proscribed from intimidation tactics or coercion(though violence and threats thereof along with similar are off-limits, along with other behavior that is illegal in a non-labor context).

In this hypothetical, let's say that I run a company with 100 employees in a range of low- to medium-skill jobs. Of those employees, 40 are strongly in favor of a union. Of those 40, 10 are actively speaking with other co-workers and encouraging them to unionize. Another 20 employees are sympathetic to the idea of a union. Twenty more are neutral. The remaining 20 range from "weak" anti-union to "strong" anti-union sentiments.

To review:

10 pro-union agitators.
30 "strong" pro-union
20 "weak" pro-union
20 neutral
20 "weak" or "strong" anti-union.

Now, I'm the employer, and I gain word of this pro-union sentiment. I want to quash this movement before it has a chance to start. How will I do this?

The natural inclination is to fire all the pro-union workers, but that's not feasible. For one, I probably can't run my company with 60 percent of my workforce gone. And even if I confined my actions to the "strong" group and the agitators, I still lose 40 percent of my work force. Still unacceptable.

But, there's another way. If I want to keep the union out AND keep my company functioning, I don't have to turn everybody anti-union. I just need to move them to the neutral camp ... and the most fertile ground for that is among the "weak" pro-union group.

How do I do that? Show consequences.

As union talk builds, I let the agitators start their agitating ... and then I fire all of them. Publicly. Loudly. Without remorse, and one at a time. I make it known that they have been fired because they wanted to form a union, and I'm not going to tolerate that sort of thing at my company.

Obviously, workers could put me over a barrel by forming the union. After all, if they can unify and strike, I'm out 80 percent to 100 percent of my employees. But by firing people individually, I create an specific, individualized disincentive that can override the collective impulse to unionize ... and thus, I can move "weak" pro-union to neutral, and perhaps shift neutrals to anti-union. After all, they individually want to keep their jobs.

As the law stands now, employers are not allowed to dismiss employees solely because they want to organize a union. Without that law, employers can deploy their superior bargaining position to squelch any unionization attempt before it even begins.

Lee, how many unions have y... (Below threshold)

Lee, how many unions have you participated in again? Last I checked, it was 0.

James H,I see your... (Below threshold)

James H,

I see your Union story and raise you one. In the late 70 my father worked at a Hotel chain as Chef in one of the kitchens. He was hired and over 3 years worked up to the top position. He made menu ran the Kitchen and would consultant at two other locations a few times a month to bring their kitchens up to par.

A Union movement was started. The Union was succeeded. The workers received a pay raise. The collection of dues dropped the hourly take home pay of workers. My father had to train an an assistant because of the new seniority rules so that person became the Chef. Over time they lost business because of all the new rules and the quality of service diminished. . It took 5 years but the employees fought to end the Union.

After 6 months my father left and went to work at non union kitchens. When Unions tired to come in he would fight against it and the Unions accused him of working for management and poisoning the well.

There are lots of rules to protect unions. I say enforce the rules on the books.

James H-"Assume... (Below threshold)

James H-

"Assume a workplace in which 100 workers are eligible to vote "Yes" or "no" on a union."

Why would one be ineligible? They pay taxes regularly?

914: Because I said so. <... (Below threshold)
James H:

914: Because I said so.

Democracy has sometimes bee... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Democracy has sometimes been described as two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

Socialism is more like two wolves running the election, and inviting all the sheep to come to the polls.

There was certainly cause for concern about workers' rights to unionize decades ago, but more than half a century of federal supervision of elections ended that. The real complaint here isn't that workers aren't free to choose, but that not enough of them choose unions to suit the unions and their paid-for water-carriers in Washington.

This is why they wish to change the way votes are counted, and to institute "card check" - where a union thug, er, "representative," can come to your house at night with two other big "representatives" slapping baseball bats into their palms, and say, "Nice house and family, pity if anything should happen to them, oh by the way sign this card."

#24Ha ha, Ok... (Below threshold)


Ha ha, Ok

hcddbz:That's a fa... (Below threshold)
James H:


That's a fair story.

"Please, Lee. Just admit... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

"Please, Lee. Just admit that you let your pathological hatred of me blind you momentarily and you didn't see it, didn't thoroughly verify it before you tossed out your accusation, figuring you'd finally "got" me."

You're so consistently wrong, Jay, that claiming you got it wrong is an easy bet. I almost always win with that -- but even when I don't it's a pleasure to see you frothing at the mouth.

By the way - you used so many sock puppets at Wizbang Blue that I lost count -- and your claim that you only used one is just another lie. Just curious - do you get paid to lie? Is it more than the minimum wage job you have?

Like I said - at least you're consistent - kinda like a two year old who cries out in the middle of the night.

PS - You lied on the cross/Taliban post. You better hurry over there and avoid the question with some personal attacks. You're late! lol...

Lee, I can cite chapter and... (Below threshold)

Lee, I can cite chapter and verse, with supporting links, to the times you were just plain wrong. But when I challenge you to do the same, you run away -- presumably to play "hide the filibuster" with Larry Sinclair.

All you have are your empty accusations and repeated charges you never can back up. And they're never anything new, just the same old tired bullshit, over and over again.

You gonna come up with a new shtick any time soon, or you gonna keep pounding these right into the ground, right next to the grave of Wizbang Blue, which you killed through your own sheer incompetence?


Moron Lee is a textbook exa... (Below threshold)

Moron Lee is a textbook example of a lib idiot. Amazing that he actually can get through the day without hurting himself.

so with the change in the r... (Below threshold)

so with the change in the rules now, if i don't want things to change, and i don't want to unionize, doing nothing isn't good enough? that just seems wrong to me. especially considering that in a lot of states once a shop unionizes, everyone is in the union. or they are fired.

i'll tell you what, if i have the choice to work without being in a union, i won't object to other people joining one.

#28 Hey Pud, been a... (Below threshold)

Hey Pud, been awhile, too bad you can't give me the heave ho just for old times sake. Lee, I believe your main purpose in life is to try and piss in as many sand boxes as possible just to see the reactions of the normals. Please try to find a hobby where you won't have to interact with people, because you absolutely suck at it.

Seriously Lee, if union mem... (Below threshold)

Seriously Lee, if union membership is so wonderful and righteous, why have you never belonged to one?

The fact is that these rule... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

The fact is that these rules have been in place and observed as fair by both unions, employers, and the government for over half a century should tell us something.

That "something" is that the union thugs can no longer offer anything to workers in the private sector, and so need to change the rules to force more workers to pay them dues they can use to elect Democrats who will change the rules so they can force more workers . . . well, I suppose you get the idea, unless perhaps you were an Obama voter, in which case you are too stupid to "get" anything of practical value.






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