Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Artifacts of Coercive, Collective Bargaining

In case you haven't heard, the outgoing Chair of the NLRB has declared, by regulatory fiat, that workers don't have the right to request a secret ballot for unionization. From Big Government:
Outgoing NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman and the of the Obama Appointed NLRB Board members, Craig Becker & Mark Pearce, voted to eliminate secret ballot election protections.  Now, when employers make secrets deals with a union bosses agreeing to recognize a union without allowing his employees a secret ballot vote;  employees no longer have the right to force an NLRB secret ballot election and allow workers to decide if they want the union or not.
Unable to pass EFCA, Card Check Forced Unionism,  through a Democrat-controlled congress, Obama is paying off Big Labor through his handpicked NLRB Board.  He is doing all this at the expense of worker freedoms and worker paychecks. And, the NLRB Decision is applied retroactively to bar even elections that have already been held but not counted.
This is bad news for workers and employers. It gives a handful of employees the power to assert their coercive bargaining power and hold an election wherein they are given lists of employees (from employers compelled to provide the lists by the NLRB) and have the ability to harass and intimidate workers into voting for the union.

Bad news that it is, it is not what I wanted to write about. The point I'd rather make is that the whole issue of secret or open ballots for unionization wouldn't be an issue if employers and workers rights were recognized. Whether or not the unionization election is secret becomes a serious issue only in the context that the resulting unionized employees have the coercive power of 'collective bargaining,' under which the employer is not allowed to fire union members or walk away from the bargaining table.

In a free society, outside the context of the apparatus of government, how do elections and ballots arise? Elections arise in an organized group of people that desires to or has agreed to make a decision by majority vote. A business charter might specify that the board has to vote on a budget. Or the president of a company might decide to put a Christmas party venue to a company-wide vote. It is possible that a company contemplating unionization might put that decision up to a vote by the employees. Or an employee organization primarily concerned with social events might put a vote to its membership to become a union and thereby start bargaining regarding wages, hours, etc. In each of these cases, the freedom of the employer and employees to abide by or defy the result of the vote would be specified by whatever contracts they have already agreed to. Lastly, it would be entirely up to the organization or individual initiating the election to decide whether or not the ballots would be secret.

So if the president held an open vote for the Christmas party venue, and a third of employees decided not to vote and the president decided to fire those employees, that would be within his rights. Also, if an employee disagreed with the venue and decided to quit, that would be within his rights. If the president decided he didn't like the results of the vote and picked his favorite spot anyway, that would be within his rights (unless he had signed a contract to abide by the result of the vote). The point is that there's nothing magical or sacrosanct about an election and it doesn't supervene the rights of employers and employees or their contractual agreements.

It is hard to imagine a unionization vote arising out of voluntary contractual agreements similar to what occurs today. Contemporary unionization elections could only occur under the coercive powers of the NLRB. In what world would a handful of employees be able to compel a company to conduct a unionization election, secret or not? Only in the insane world of NLRA regulation with the irrational concept of 'collective bargaining.'  In a rational world those employees might decide to form a union. They wouldn't need to vote, they would just arrange a offsite meeting and tell everyone who wanted to unionize to show up. Voila the union exists and the employees would have every right to form that union. The employers would then have the right to either recognize it as the negotiator for that group of employees, recognize it as the negotiator for all employees, not recognize it as a negotiator for anyone, or fire everyone that went to the meeting. Nowhere in this scenario is a government imposed ballot or a government decision regarding the election's secrecy.

An approach that recognizes the rights of employers and employees and doesn't attempt to compel them to negotiate with one another at the point of a gun, has no need to specify secret or open ballots. The issue just doesn't come up. Card-Check (non-secret ballots), Right-to-Work and various other measures to tame the coercive powers of unions are artifacts, half-measures to control union coercive power. When we get rid of collective bargaining, all of these other issues will disappear. An employer that can simply fire employees that attempt to unionize or refuse its latest labor contract could care less whether the elections are secret or open.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vast Majority Believe We're Overregulated

From HotAir, Poll: Vast majority believe businesses and consumers are over-regulated:
The president was three-quarters of the way through his jobs speech last week before he explicitly mentioned the word “regulations” — and, when he finally did, it was to disparage concerns about over-regulation, to suggest that those who advocate regulatory rollback don’t care about safety or honesty in business.
But the American people perceive the regulatory environment somewhat differently than does the president. Three quarters — 74 percent — of voters throughout the country believe that businesses and consumers are over-regulated, according to a Public Notice poll released today. And they strongly suspect that much of that over-regulation has been implemented recently: 67 percent believe that regulations have increased over the past few years.
In fact, they’re right. The rate at which regulatory burdens are growing has accelerated under the Obama administration, according to a Heritage Foundation backgrounder. During its first 26 months, the Obama administration imposed 75 new major regulations with reported costs to the private sector exceeding $40 billion. During the same period, six major rulemaking proceedings reduced regulatory burdens by an estimated $1.5 billion — for a net increase of more than $38 billion.
“No other President has burdened businesses and individuals with a higher number and larger cost of regulations in a comparable time period,” Heritage’s James Gattuso and Diane Katz write. “President Bush was in his third year before new costs hit $4 billion. President Obama achieved the same in 12 months.”
Read the rest, especially the plug for the REINS Act.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

San Diego Blackout, Deregulate Electricity

Electricity (lights) in regulated N. Korea vs. relatively free S. Korea
Everytime there's an outbreak of salmonella or even speculation of some minor crisis in an unregulated market, the statists come out of the woodwork to discuss 'market failure' and the need for more regulations. But when a heavily regulated industry fails--an industry who's regulations were supposed to make it cheaper, more efficient and safer--those statists are silent.

From one who knows that reason, freedom and happiness are intertwined, I'll say that the blackouts show that heavy energy regulation doesn't lead to cheaper or more reliable energy. Heavy regulation leads to the more expensive and unreliable energy. The San Diego blackout that left 1.4 million homes and businesses in the dark and shut down the government schools is reason to doubt the goals of regulation. The blackout is reason to deregulation. Just like supposed 'market failure' prompted regulation, government failure begs for deregulation.

P.S. Keep this in mind over the next few years as California water regulations destroy California farming.

(HT HBL  for the article on government failure. See also wikipedia: Government Failure, though the latter has a strong collectivist slant.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tea Party Founder Rick Santelli Discusses Ayn Rand

Dennis Miller interviews Tea Party founder Rick Santelli, who recommends reading Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. I've often thought that the moral fire, the righteousness, behind the Tea Party comes from Ayn Rand's uncompromising moral defense of capitalism. Rick Santelli is a prime example. (HT Randex.org)


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Democrats and Republicans, Totalitarian Tag Team


This history of American politics for just about the last century has been a slow descent into totalitarianism. By the time of Hoover, the old conservative (monarchist) vs. liberal (freedom) distinction was gone, swept out by a wave of irrationalism, altruism and statism. The new distinction was between rebranded 'liberals', essential Marxist progressives, versus Republican 'conservatives' part pro-capitalist and part fascist. The 'liberals' advocated compulsory wealth redistribution, business regulation, union power and wished to protect freedom of speech and association. The 'conservatives' defended economic freedom (excepting cartellization and import restrictions) and were indifferent to the freedom of the press. In brief 'liberals' wanted controls in the economic realm and freedom in the intellectual, conservatives wanted freedom in the economic (mostly) and control in the intellectual.

While in power each party advanced its favorite controls and did little to roll back the controls of the other party on the complementary realm. It was as if they were working as a tag team, battering a defenseless American citizen who only wanted to be left alone. The Democratic 'liberal' would jump on him, beating him about the body, imposing new regulations, new entitlements and new taxes. The Republican 'conservative' would call out and say that he'd reduce taxes and regulations. The citizen would consent to be in the ring with the Republican, who would then proceed to beat him about the head, wire tapping his phones and teaching creation 'science' in his compulsory schools. Neither did anything to treat the wounds inflicted by the other.

This totalitarian tag team acted to slowly ratchet up the controls to the point we're at today, where Congress acts without any awareness of limits, government agents take nude pictures of innocent citizens, no action is uncensored by some regulation and the government calls citizens concerned with their constitutional rights 'terrorists'.

We should really break up the tag team. The natural division in politics is not between left and right but between statism and individualism, between the idea that the state owns you and the idea that your life is your own. We should separate into corresponding political parties. All the power hungry, meddling politicians could join the American Statist Party, with its left-leaning, former Democrat wing and its right-leaning, former Republican wing, each stressing the controls that are their favorites and being content in the other wing's controls as well. The American Statists would have a platform of total control of your life, property to thoughts. Then the rest of us could join the American Individualist Party in support of a limited, secular, small government that protects property rights, the freedom to contract and take on risks as reasoning adults, as well as privacy, freedom of speech and freedom to privately practice whatever religion we might be interested in. Within the American Individualist Party there would be former 'fiscal conservatives' who stress economic freedoms, and former 'blue dog Democrats' who stress freedom of the press. Both wings would be united in defending liberty and in recognizing that each kind of freedom is integrally related to the others.