Sunday, November 23, 2008

Labor unions, auto industry, Rubashkins and WalMart

Interesting reading.

Ken Pool is making good money. On weekdays, he shows up at 7 a.m. at Ford Motor Co.’s Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, signs in, and then starts working — on a crossword puzzle. Pool hates the monotony, but the pay is good: more than $31 an hour, plus benefits.

“We just go in and play crossword puzzles, watch videos that someone brings in or read the newspaper,” he says. “Otherwise, I've just sat.”

Pool is one of more than 12,000 American autoworkers who, instead of installing windshields or bending sheet metal, spend their days counting the hours in a jobs bank set up by Detroit automakers and Delphi Corp. as part of an extraordinary job security agreement with the United Auto Workers union.

The jobs bank programs were the price the industry paid in the 1980s to win UAW support for controversial efforts to boost productivity through increased automation and more flexible manufacturing.


The jobs bank was established during 1984 labor contract talks between the UAW and the Big Three. The union, still reeling from the loss of 500,000 jobs during the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was determined to protect those who were left. Detroit automakers were eager to win union support to boost productivity through increased automation and more production flexibility.

The result was a plan to guarantee pay and benefits for union members whose jobs fell victim to technological progress or plant restructurings. In most cases, workers end up in the jobs bank only after they have exhausted their government unemployment benefits, which are also supplemented by the companies through a related program. In some cases, workers go directly into the program and the benefits can last until they are eligible to retire or return to the factory floor.

By making it so expensive to keep paying idled workers, the UAW thought Detroit automakers would avoid layoffs. By discouraging layoffs, the union thought it could prevent outsourcing.

That strategy has worked but at the expense of the domestic auto industry's long-term viability.

American automakers have produced cars and trucks even when there is little market demand for them, forcing manufacturers to offer big rebates and discounts.

“Sometimes they just push product on us,” said Bill Holden Jr., general manager of Holden Dodge Inc. in Dover, Del., who said this does not go over well with the dealers. “But they've got these contracts with the union.”

In Detroit's battle against Asian and European competitors that are unencumbered by such labor costs, the job banks have become a major competitive disadvantage.

And so on. Read the article. Of course, instead of getting this yucky thing out of our economy’s system, we just want to go on having it — like protesting against getting out your roundworm out of your GI tract. Who’s responsible? Liberals and unions.

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At the same time, Rubashkins that provided a great service for Jewish and non-Jewish communities throughout the US are being targeted. For what? For providing illegal immigrants a source of work at a higher-than-minimum wage? For providing cheap kosher meat? For benefiting local Jewish and non-Jewish (primarily) community? For doing lots of acts of chessed themselves?

Dina d’malchusa dina? Give me a bloody break. Come on. First of all, it has nothing to do with immigration laws — just strictly monetary issues. Second, it is not applicable to an unjust government. There is a story of the Rogachover refusing pay some of his taxes (covered by dina d’malchusa dina laws, by the way) to the Russian government — because they were not justified by Torah. Is doing chessed to people by providing them with jobs justified by Torah? How about forbidding it because of fascist unions’ influence?

But even if it was violation of dina d’malchusa dina — so what? Are you personally a tzaddik? You never do any violations? Should we be happy for every Jew who violates some area (for instance, breaks Shabbos — a much worse violation than dina d’malchusa dina) of Halacha who goes to jail? What if a Jew was taken driver’s license away for not paying a parking meter? (“Uhh... isn’t it violation of Halacha?..” Maybe, but so what? We shouldn’t protest about it? Let this Jew do teshuva and be answereable in front of Eibeshter — it’s not your stinking business, as long as his actions don’t disrupt the fabric of society and yiddishkeit.)

This is all besides the fact that Rubashkins are being treated unfairly even within the system: all California farms are run by illegals, and Rubaskin is not allowed bail because he is supposedly a risk flight? (Hirshel Tzig may be criticized for a lot of things, but I agree with his opinion on the situation and all the little dogs that thought it their ingrate business to bark). Our cooperation with the government as Jews in this society rests on the assumption that we will be treated fairly and justly and that Torah observience will not be messed with. Here we have a case of a Jew who’s done a lot of chessed being treated poorly, and an ease of following the mitzva of kashrus (think of all those borderline baalei teshuva, for whom cheap kosher meat is important for keeping kashrus) is being endangered. Think about it this Thanksgiving — and influence the government whatever way you can.

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For a long time, I had problems with WalMart. As it turned out, all the problems (doing business with China, importing goods from China, low pay, lack of benefits, forcing local little stores out of business) are all not problems at all. Yes, these things happen. So what? People are free to work wherever they freaking want. If there is no demand for their unskilled labor, this is how much it costs — with these many benefits. Otherwise, competitors would snap those people up. Doing business with China helps Chinese people by introducing capitalism to their country (to the point that even their socialists are more capitalist then our capitalists) and allowing capital to spread amongst masses. Little business should adapt by providing unique or better services or goods or get the hell out back into the workforce. What, every time a way to mass-produce and mass-sell something is introduced we are going to have Luddite uprising?

But the last thing that I never had a problem with is refusal of WalMart to deal with union mobsters. To quote an anti-WalMart web-site:

Wal-Mart Anti-Union Policy

Wal-Mart closes down stores and departments that unionize

  • Wal-Mart closed its store in Jonquierre, Quebec in April 2005 after its employees received union certification. The store became the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America when 51 percent of the employees at the store signed union cards. [Washington Post, 4/14/05]
  • In December 2005, the Quebec Labour Board ordered Wal-Mart to compensate former employees of its store in Jonquiere Quebec. The Board ruled that Wal-Mart had improperly closed the store in April 2005 in reprisal against unionized workers. [Personnel Today, 12/19/05]
  • In 2000, when a small meatcutting department successfully organized a union at a Wal-Mart store in Texas, Wal-Mart responded a week later by announcing the phase-out of its in-store meatcutting company-wide. [Pan Demetrakakes, "Is Wal-Mart Wrapped in Union Phobia? Food & Packaging 76 (August 1, 2003).]

Wal-Mart has issued "A Manager's Toolbox to Remaining Union Free,"

  • This toolbox provides managers with lists of warning signs that workers might be organizing, including "frequent meetings at associates' homes" and "associates who are never seen together start talking or associating with each other." The "Toolbox" gives managers a hotline to call so that company specialists can respond rapidly and head off any attempt by employees to organize. [Wal-Mart, A Manager's Toolbox to Remaining Union Free at 20-21]

Wal-Mart is committed to an anti-union policy

  • In the last few years, well over 100 unfair labor practice charges have been filed against Wal-Mart throughout the country, with 43 charges filed in 2002 alone.
  • Since 1995, the U.S. government has been forced to issue at least 60 complaints against Wal-Mart at the National Labor Relations Board. [International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in the United States: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of the United States (Geneva, January 14-16, 2004)]
  • Wal-Mart's labor law violations range from illegally firing workers who attempt to organize a union to unlawful surveillance, threats, and intimidation of employees who dare to speak out. [“Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart,” A Report by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, 2/16/04]
Good job, WalMart. At least it does not want to bend over in front of the fascist mobsters, like the car industry did.

More on the effect of labor unions.

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On a final note: say Tehillim for Rubashkins. Reishis goyim amalek, but they are nothing but a tool in the hands of Hashem — we can influence on high by praying down below and doing acts of goodness and kindness, which are infinitely more important than all this b.s. Rubaskins certainly did enough chessed themselves.

Of course, when it’s the Jews that are in the government or are scheming against other Jews… Woe to us all. Trees in the forest are not fallen unless one of them donates wood for the axe. Every single anti-Jewish event in the Jewish history, starting from the first slavery (resulting from Yosef’s successful transformation of Egypt into a slave society) till our very days had Jewish hand in it. Then we must pray double and do acts of ahavas yisroel triple. It was causeless hatred that sent us to golus; it will be causeless love that will send to towards Mashiach and geulah, when even liberal Jews will come back to emes.

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