The Missus ganked the iTrip out of the truck and as such I
was stuck listening to regular radio the other day. Rather than run the risk of
hitting the CD button and accidentally turning on The Midget’sLaurie Berkner CD,
I let the radio play.
Charlie Sykes, resident conservative curmudgeon, was
blathering on about something before he shifted to the hot-button topic of the
Mercury Marine company’s demand for union concessions and the union’s most
recent vote to reject the proposal.
The union has said it will not vote on the package again
without drastic changes and the company has said it has offered its best
package possible. If the concessions are not met, the company will transition
the jobs out of state to Stillwater, Okla., where it has operated a facility
under much better tax laws for about 30 years.
One of the key sticking points is a pay cut that would
reduce the called-back workers and new hires from $20 per hour to $13 per hour.
To say that’s the only issue would be overly simplistic and reductive, but here
are some of the deeper looks the issue.
For once, though, I managed to tolerate Sykes, who is
usually so over the top and full of himself it’s impossible to hang in for more
than six minutes, unless you’re the kind of person who thinks Glenn Beck is
right on, Rush is God and an embryo’s life begins when the man unhooks the
He made several points I couldn’t dismiss out of hand, which
made me shudder, considering that it felt a lot like the early stages of how
they hook you into a Hitler youth rally. It starts with the old “Don’t you feel
like you aren’t getting your fair share?” or “Don’t you believe people should
be judged on their merits?” Then, wham, you’ve got no hair, a swastika tattoo
and you’re humming Wagner tunes at work.
In any case, here’s what he said that seemed to make sense:
– A job at a lower wage is better than no job in a lousy
economy. There are a ton of people without jobs right now who would beat your
ass to take $13 an hour. Families are being propped up by Dads driving for
Domino’s and Moms working graveyard shifts at diners. You’re not going to have your
pick of jobs if this job goes away.
– These people make boats, boats require people with money
to buy them and last time anyone looked, we’ve got a pretty shitty economy.
Even if the economy recovers by the time the union contract runs out in 2012,
the company might not last that long if it doesn’t start transitioning to
– Wisconsin has a comparatively shitty tax structure for
businesses when put up against Oklahoma. (Obviously, a race to the bottom isn’t
going to help anybody, because Mexico will win, but still.) The company is
still keeping the jobs in America and isn’t carpet bagging, as it has a
presence in Oklahoma.
– For all the people in the Fox Valley who are screaming at
the union to take the deal so Mercury can remain a key financial engine and
keep all of their businesses humming along aren’t offering the Mercury workers
a discount or something from their businesses if they take the deal. (A call
brought this up; Sykes asked if other businesses should be subsidizing another
business. No one came to a conclusion. Par for the course.)
–Many of the
callers kept talking about “sticking it to the fat cats” to which Sykes noted
that most of the fat cats will survive. They’ll be on a golf course in
Stillwater. The people you’re sticking it to are your coworkers who want to
work and other people who need you to work so you can buy stuff from their
places of business and keep the economy moving.
What I kept waiting for was the Sykes rant. I was waiting
for the shift to “this is Jim Doyle’s fault as a liberal governor scumbag”
argument so I could turn off the radio. (Even Berkner would have been better…) I
wanted to see the moment he shifted from the “calm guy” recruiter tothis guy.
It didn’t happen. In the 20-minute car ride, this is what I got. The closest he
came was the argument that the union mentality was driving people toward a bad
decision that in the end was going to do more harm than good.
I spent my life in and out of a union family. Dad was in one
and eventually he ended up in management, so he saw both sides of the strikes.
Mom is still in one and sees the good and bad of the process. I’ve never been
able to join as a prof, although the recent budget flips at the state level
will now allow professors at the U to unionize. (It’s unclear how that’s going
to work, or if it will create a pure union shop.)
The question I have, especially for those of you in unions
or those of you who deal with unions is this: What’s wrong with those
arguments? Other than the slippery slope argument in which we go from
concession X to concession 2 times X to we’re moving to Mexico, what am I
missing here? (BTW, I hate slippery slope arguments in general. It’s always
what people break out when they’ve got nothing else. I hear it all the time
about “civil unions.” It’s how we have idiots who would have us believe that if
gay people are allowed to marry, the next thing you know we’ll have guys
banging corpses and farm animals while violating a cross Linda Blair style at
the service counter at Hardee’s.)
What is it that I’m not seeing here?