Why I Won’t Join A Union

July 31, 2009 at 2:36 pm (Family Life, Politics)

I was recently invited (again) to join the union at work.  When I declined, I was asked why.  Since my answers were so intelligent and well articulated (yeah, right), the union member asked if I would mind putting it in writing.  Here’s what I gave them:

I will not join the guild for the following reasons.

The ‘service’ that the union provides is a monopoly.  A monopoly is a bad thing, when applied to the provider of goods (Standard Oil), and services (AT&T), but it is equally bad when applied to collective bargaining.

The advantages provided by a union are an inverted bell curve, with the unskilled at one end and the obsolete at the other.  Both are afforded protections that are disproportionate to their value.

Dues for membership are based on salary, with members that earn more paying a larger share.  The lowest paid employees are charged the least, while they enjoy benefits that are significantly more than they could expect doing the same work for a non-union shop.  The membership dues should be a flat fee regardless of salary.  Or to be completely fair, inverse to salary, charging more to those who benefit the most.

In the name of ‘fairness’, the wages of less valuable employees are artificially inflated, while simultaneously lowering the pay of more valuable employees.  It is immediately recognized as wasteful and wrong when the company pays more for an item from one vendor, when the same item is available for less from a different one.  The same principle applies to salaries.

The ‘fairness’ of the wages also tends to drive the most skilled (and most valuable) employees out. It wouldn’t be ‘fair’ for some employees to receive merit pay or bonuses while others didn’t, so people who are highly skilled can get more somewhere else.

My first experience with the union at <company> was during the orientation.  While I oppose unions on principle, I attended with an open mind.  That was short lived, because I had a few questions and wanted to see how a guild meeting worked.  The short answer was that the meetings were open to members only, and that I could go if I joined.  If I didn’t like what I saw at the meeting, I was still a dues paying member until the opt-out period next year.  I believe the exact words I used at that time were ‘pig in a poke’.

Twice, I have seen employees leave <company> for greener pastures simply because their salaries could not exceed the union-agreed scale.  I have been personally told by my manager that I would have received a merit pay bonus because of my performance during the virus crisis in 04, but that they did not give them out any more because the union had filed grievances every time one was put forward.  I was given a few days off with pay instead.

I had some experience with AFSCME prior to coming to <company>, and my experience with AFSCME was no better.  On several occasions, I saw first hand how damaging unions can be.  When dealing with people, there will always be an occasional ‘bad apple‘.  Most people are conscientious workers and respectful co-workers.  In a non-union shop, the ‘bad apples’ are quickly removed.  When one of the ‘bad apples‘ turns up in a union shop, it is usually difficult to remove them.  The process varies, but it inevitably wastes the time of everyone involved, and pushes more work onto the coworkers of the ‘bad apple’ while they exhaust their levels of arbitration.  If the arbitration is successful in keeping the employees job, morale in their unit will suffer.  After all, if THEY can get away with it, why can’t everyone?  One of the extreme examples of that occurred at <company>.  Our unit (bargaining unit employees only, btw) had a ‘good riddance’ party when he was finally paid enough to leave.  The cake was bitter-sweet, because that was money that could easily have been put to better use in profit sharing.

One fo the frequent reasons given for why we need to be part of the collective (union) is that employees would be mistreated if they didn’t.  They claim that weekends, sick leave and vacations, as well as bathrooms are all a product of union efforts.  While that may be true in the strictly literal sense, much more has been gained by the skill of individual workers.  There were examples of this during the dot-com boom, where companies that couldn’t afford the extreme salaries demanded got creative with their benefits.  Movie nights in company conference rooms, guaranteed work-from-home, game rooms, and gourmet cafeterias were not uncommon.  While most of those companies failed in the crash, some survived – as did their benefits.  The Google campus is a prime example.

A skilled worker will ALWAYS be able to negotiate a benefits package that better suits them than the ‘one size fits none’ type that the unions negotiate.


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Not-so-HOT lanes

March 10, 2009 at 7:36 pm (Family Life, Politics)

I commute to DC daily, so I’m interested in anything that will have an impact on my commute.  Currently, I’m a SLUG, but occasionally take the VRE or bus.

Virginia has been talking about converting the existing HOV lanes, which only busses and cars with 3 or more passengers can use, to HOT lanes which would be open to anyone with enough cash to pay the toll.

Official information can be found at virginiahotlanes.com and www.vamegaprojects.com.

The entire process seems to have been done in a less than open and honest manner, to the point that the Prince William County board of Supervisors passed a resolution requesting that VDOT or the contractor appear before them.  It’s gotten so heated that the slug-lines forum was invaded by a troll that turned out to be Shirley Ybarra, a lobbyist and former VA Secretary of Transportation.

I have problems with anyone messing with my commute, so I wrote the following letter to my two state representatives about it.

To: Sen. Charles Colgan

To: Del. Jeff Frederick

I am writing to you as a commuter from Northern Virginia who is concerned about the impact that the proposed HOT lanes on Interstate 95 and 395 will have.

Any additional capacity on 395 section of HOV lanes would only cause more delays.  The bridges into the District and streets surrounding them are already at or above capacity.  Additional cars arriving at these choke points will not help things.

According to an article in the Free Lance Star (http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2009/022009/02102009/444886) the re-striping of the lanes near the pentagon would result in lanes that are extremely narrow, and dangerous for busses to travel in at speed.  This is already an area of congestion, and would only get worse with narrower lanes.

An article in TheNewspaper (http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/24/2458.asp) said that Transurban/Fluor are expecting a level of revenue, and if any other road improvements are made that adversely affect it, Virginia would have to reimburse them for it.  This clause makes a lot of sense for them, but not for Virginia.  It would have the undesired effect of increasing the cost of necessary road improvements or halting them entirely.  Any improvements that Virginia would make to the roads near the HOT lanes, especially improvements in traffic flow, would cause fewer drivers to pay for the HOT lanes.  This would trigger the payment for their decreased revenue, effectively punishing success.

An article in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/19/AR2008071901651_pf.html) revealed that Virginia would have to pay Transurban/Fluor if the non-paying vehicles in the HOT lanes exceeded 25%.  Assuming that busses and carpools currently using the HOV lanes would remain, I have not seen any proposals for improvements that would increase the carrying capacity of the HOV/HOT lanes by 300%, which would be required to keep Virginia from paying.

Relinquishing control of the existing HOV lanes would also cause problems, because the State Police would no longer be allowed to open the lanes for all traffic in the event of an accident.  It would also extend the rush hours because the extra capacity would not become available at a set time.

I think that a much more sensible alternative would be to change the HOV-3 to HOV-4 requiring four passengers in each car, removing the exemption for hybrid vehicles, and building additional commuter parking spaces in Prince William County and south.  Every space in the main commuter lots in Prince William County is filled daily, with many people parking along the sides of roads or other unauthorized areas.  Every parking space built removes a car from the road.

The costs are quite troubling as well.  The total cost of the project is expected to be over $1.6 Billion.  Transubran/Fluor are only contributing $349 Million to it.  And for that, they get a guarantee that 75% of the traffic will be paying, the completely unregulated tolls are geared to maximize their profits, there is no fixed buyout price should Virginia decide to take posession of the roads again, and their monopoly will outlive children born before it starts.  Perhaps that is best explained by the illegal $177,000 donations that Transurban/Fluor has made to the Governor and legislators.

Other people have written about it as well:

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Tennessee Paper Publishes Concealed Handgun Permit List

March 4, 2009 at 10:15 pm (Guns, Politics)

Well, another newspaper has decided it would be a good idea to provide a searchable database of all the concealed handgun permit holders in their state.  This time it’s the ‘Comercial Appeal’ in Tennessee.  They try to justify it at http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/feb/15/inside-the-newsroom-case-for-gun-permit-listings/ (No links for them, sorry)

The list can be found at http://www.commercialappeal.com/data/gunpermits/ (No, I’m not linking it, copy & paste it if you want)

Feel free to express your displeasure with their decision to make the data available by calling them at 8OO 444 6397 or by their online feedback form at http://www.commercialappeal.com/feedback/

If you do, please be polite.  No sense ranting at them, it will just perpetuate the stereotype.

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D.C. Tea Party 2009

March 1, 2009 at 3:40 pm (Politics)

Friday at noon, I attended the New American Tea Party in front of the White House.

One thing that anyone who has been to rallies knows is that conservative rallies tend to be much less well attended than liberal ones.  From what I’ve seen, especially at the World Bank protests, this is because conservatives have jobs, while the attendees at liberal protests are unemployed kids being financed by their parents.

Even so, and with the short notice given for scheduling this protest, it was quite well attended.  I would estimate between three and four hundred people, counting the ones that arrived late or left early.

Here are some pictures that I took of it:

There were a few Gadsden flags, including a home-made one in attendance:

And since it was at the White House, there were the perpetual orange-clad AbuGhraib/Gitmo protesters (who outnumbered anyone watching them).

And no picture of gatherings in front of the white house would be complete without a picture of the grizzled (and probably smelly, nobody gets very close to him) No Nukes protester, who has been there since the 70s.

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Bad Moon Rising, part 2 – Disjointed thoughts on the Economy

January 31, 2009 at 12:10 am (Family Life, Politics, Uncategorized)

To me, the superbowl has really never been important.  This year, as we approach the precipice of a depression, I see irony in it.  The U.S. steel industry was once the model of efficiency and quality for the world.  Now, it takes serious thought to remember why Pittsburgh’s team is called the ‘steelers’, or where the logo on their helmets came from.

Nobody seemed to be concerned that a ‘service economy’ just can’t exist stably.  It translates to ‘consumer based’ economy.  If all we do is consume goods created elsewhere, eventually the ‘elsewhere’  has collected all of our capital.  That leaves us with broke, but with lots of stuff.  It’s a bit like the star-bellied sneeches from Dr. Seus.  Except that they didn’t have jobs, apparently.  Don’t worry, we’ll get there.

Knowing what lies just around the corner for our country, I can’t help but think of Rome.  They continued to enjoy their circuses and gladiatorial holidays while their empire crumbled out from underneath them.  Our beloved government is going to try to borrow their way out of debt, which will only give us double-digit inflation for years.

And for a comparison between this depression and it’s place in U.S. history, here’s a video from itulip.


From the International Herald Tribune:

He now estimates that $2.2 trillion in new government debt will be issued this year, assuming the stimulus plan is approved.

“You either crowd out other borrowers or you print money,” Ferguson added. “There is no way you can have $2.2 trillion in borrowing without influencing interest rates or inflation in the long term.”

“This is a crisis of excessive debt, which reached 355 percent of American gross domestic product,” he said. “It cannot be solved with more debt.”

“People are not stupid,” Zedillo said. “They see the huge deficit, the huge spending, and wonder what comes next.”

To that last I would add that he is referring to economists that are NOT in the U.S.  Nobody around here seems to have gotten that far … yet.

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So where do I fit in?

December 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm (Family Life, Politics, Science)

I’m an efficiency nut.  Not nutty, just really interested in getting the most ‘bang for the buck’ so to speak.  As such, we’ve replaced all the lightbulbs in the house with compact fluorescent ones.  My wife can tell you how much that saved on our electric bill, but it was significant.

The next major breakthrough for lights will be LEDs.  Currently they’re very expensive, but use roughly half the power of the compact fluorescent ones.  EarthLED does make a socket compatible series of lights, and once the prices come down, they will be a very viable choice.  They also don’t suffer the warm-up time or strobe-effect that some fluorescent bulbs do.

I’m always looking at new stuff relating to efficiency.  Most things I find are only simple and inexpensive if you are building a new house.   If our energy prices go up much more, I’ll probably consider retrofitting the house with a GFX heat exchanger.   It’s a really slick device that uses the hot wastewater from the shower drain to preheat the water going to the water heater, or cold water to the shower.  Many studies have shown a significant savings of energy with it.

Now, where do I fit in?

Most people who are interested in efficiency seem to be zealots about it.   I’m not.  I drive a truck, eat meat, refuse to pay more for organic food, and think that the poor children of Southeast Asia are better off making cheap clothes that I buy at Wally-World than they would be if everyone wore only hemp clothes made locally by hand.  It’s really hard to talk to off-the-grid types who think that you should use a composting toilet and grow plants with your own urine about anything.

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2nd Thessalonians 3:10

September 19, 2008 at 6:16 pm (Family Life, Politics, Religion)

It won’t come as a surprise to you, but when we go against what the Bible tells us to do, bad things happen.

We all recognize the bad things, but not always the Biblical guideline that, if followed, would have prevented it.

I give you the ‘Shameless’ family from Chester, England. Ten people, 5 of which are adults, exist entirely on welfare benefits.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Legislation that NEEDS to pass

March 21, 2008 at 5:15 pm (Politics)

Those who know me, know that I feel there are already too many laws. BUT, this is one that everyone needs to call or write their legislators about.

It will require that ALL bills be read before being voted on, and make it perjury to vote on something that they haven’t actually read or heard read.


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More from my visit to the Supreme Court

March 20, 2008 at 7:32 pm (Guns, Politics)

 I’ve found some people with pictures. Clayton Cramer has a few from the night before, as well as the day of the hearing. Unfortunately none of those pix have me in them.

The guy who was FIRST in line blogged it – also with lots of pictures.

I did find one at the Brady Bunch. I refuse to link to them, but if you go to bradycampaign.org, the slideshow on the left has me in the 3rd frame.

I emailed them to see if I could get a better picture – we’ll see.

I copied out just that frame – I’m the 7th person from the left in the black suit & tie.

Edit: – Odds are available (and favorable) at INTRADE.

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DC V. Heller – debriefing

March 18, 2008 at 6:25 pm (Guns, Politics)

Well, I went. I got up early, caught the very first bus available, and arrived at the steps of the Supreme Court promptly at 6:00 this morning. I thought it looked promising, because the only people I could see were the news crews (5 of them) on the right side of the stairs to the plaza. I asked one of the guards where to go for the full session, and he pointed me to the line that was behind the news people. It was worse than Best Buy on Thanksgiving. As I walked down the block and around the corner, I guessed that I passed about 150 people. Apparently I’m not the only person interested enough to get there early. These people had been in line since Sunday night!

So, I got in line. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to view the entire hearing, I got in line. It was cold, but not too bad, as there was a construction barrier on the other side of the sidewalk that blocked the wind. One lady (who had been camping up front – from IL or IA if I remember correctly) walked back and was asking people their views. According to her, there weren’t more than 2 or 3 people in line that sided with DC.

About 7, security moved the front of the line from where the news crews were to the base of the steps leading from the plaza to the court building. That shifted my place from East Capitol Street to First street, next to the news crews. There were now 7 of them. That pleased the head of security for a little while, and then they shifted the entire tail end of the line from East Capitol St. to Maryland Ave. At this point, there were about 75 people in line behind me. This wasn’t a good choice, because the wind had picked up, and it was quite cold without the barrier blocking it. A single guy with a sign (actually several that he flipped through) was there. One of his signs was:

Gun Murders
1900-2000 = 500,000
2000-2100 = 1.3 million

Feel free to critique on your own…

While I was standing literally on the corner of Maryland and First St, the grounds crew was cleaning trash. One of them in a Cushman drove up and honked at the other, who was on the sidewalk. Apparently he had found a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels. Both of them had a good laugh, and then dumped it down the storm drain before throwing the empty bottle away. I assume that it came from the hedges where the overnight camping had taken place.

About now, a lot more security became apparent. The number of officers tripled to about 15. The move to Maryland Ave only lasted a little while. About 30 more people had shown up, and it was obvious that the line would quickly block the employee entrance to the court. We were shifted around one more time, and I ended up back near the news crews again.

By now, another guy with a sign was there – his sign said

McCain says Guns for DC – But No Vote

I think (from a conversation he had later) that he thought that DC should have a vote, but still no guns.

About 8:45, the 2nd Amendment Sisters unfurled their banner. They had been joined by a group Maryland Shall Issue, who were easily spotted by their distinctive blue hats. Shortly after that, 8 DC police cars pulled up across the street, and remained there throughout the morning. There were two new guys with a signs, which were:

Criminals Prefer Unarmed Victims


Don’t Kill DCs Gun Ban

About 9, the Brady bunch showed up with 5 or 6 people. One of them had a canvas bag with 30-40 of their placards. Shortly after they showed up, another guy with a jacket with ‘Tyrany Response Team‘ and a sign that read ‘Ban the leaders in Washington, Not Guns!’.

About 9:30, I thought that the rest of the Brady bunch had arrived, as the guy was passing out placards, but it appears that it was just a tour group passing by, leaving only about 6 with signs there.

About 9:45, another group (sorry, didn’t get the name) showed up with a banner and had a discussion with security about the use of the boards & PVC pipe for their sign supports. Their sign read:

Firearms = Safety, Security, Freedom

The first group, which was seated for the entire session, was about 70 people. Fortunately everyone who had camped out overnight was in that group. That moved me up to about halfway to the door – on the plaza. About 20 minutes later, a second group of about 40 was taken in for 5 minutes in the gallery. Another 15 minutes, I was # 34 of the next group of 40 and I was inside the atrium to the Court. It was WARM (Yay!). The guard gave us a brief lecture on what happened next, where the lockers & coat check were, and then we went through the first security check. I dumped everything in a locker (no cell phones, cameras, pagers, etc) allowed in the courtroom, and then got in line to go through the second security check to go into the courtroom.

I was seated in the gallery at about 18 minutes into the hearing. When Chief Justice Roberts was questioning Mr Dellinger about how a total ban can be considered ‘reasonable regulation’. The seat gave me a view of Chief Justice Roberts and everyone on his right.

The transcript of the oral arguments is available from the Supreme Court in PDF format. An video version with slideshow is available from c-span.org (RealPlayer)  For the extra scholarly (or if you just have trouble sleeping) the NRA has made all of the amicus briefs in the case available at http://www.nraila.org/heller/.

I really must commend the Supreme Court staff, who obviously went to extreme lengths to seat as many people in both the observer’s gallery and the temporary gallery. It appeared that extra chairs were in the regular gallery, and it looked like they had to scavenge other offices to find chairs to put in the temporary gallery.

When my time was up, I went downstairs to the museum and giftshop. After I left the building, I talked briefly with a few of the Maryland Shall Issue, and then headed home.

I was surprised that I didn’t see any obvious representatives of the NRA, GOA, SAF, JPFO, PinkPistols, or anyone else there.

If you were there and noticed a man in a black suit and tie, wearing a red-white-and-blue tie-die button down shirt, that was me.

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