Via Betsy the AFL-CIO is demanding that the Democrats withdraw their 2008 convention from Denver because Governor Ritter (D) vetoed Colorado House bill 1072. The unions are losing membership. They want more members (more dues to spend). They are trying to get the state and federal governments to ease the voting rules for unionization.

WASHINGTON National AFL officials seem determined to remove any remaining doubt in anybody’s mind that Gov. Bill Ritter did the right thing in February by vetoing Colorado House bill 1072. That hurriedly approved measure repealed a long-standing Colorado law requiring that, once a company’s employees approve a union, they have a second, secret-ballot vote on how dues will be assessed, with a 75 percent supermajority required for approval.
Why is the AFL-CIO so worried about an obscure Colorado bill? Because the vetoed measure was of a piece with the “Employee Free Choice Act of 2007” now being rushed through Congress by national Democrats, led by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. That bill abolishes all secret ballot voting in union representation contests. Doing away with workers’ right to cast a secret ballot when voting on whether to unionize is the AFL-CIO’s top national priority because union leaders think it will help them reverse their decades-long slide in membership. Less than 10 percent of all private sector workers now belong to unions.

The main problem the unions are having is really that they are pretty much obsolete. Way back when, the unions got workers the 40 hour work week, better working conditions, worker safety, breaks, overtime pay for more than 40 hours, they got children out of the workforce.

Since then, however, the state and federal governments have legislated and regulated what the unions had previously negotiated. Employment of minors is regulated. Children must be a certain age and there are jobs that some children are not permitted to do. Your typical 17-year-old generally doesn’t work in the deli of the grocery store because that 17-year-old is not permitted to work the slicing machines. The hours a week a teen works are limited as well as the hours of the day. Some can work no later than 7 p.m., some no later than 9 p.m. Teens can also be required to obtain a work permit in order to work.

Go into any place of business and look at the Department of Labor posters (or just click the link and you can see the posters and regulations as to which are to posted where and by whom). These are mandated to be posted to ensure that all employees are aware of their rights. The law mandates overtime pay for work over 40 hours, the law mandates breaks. OSHA was established in 1971 ensuring (perhaps over-ensuring) worker safety.

There seems to be a general feeling that the unions have outlived their usefulness. Unionized employees are more difficult to fire, even for cause, than private employees. Private employees still have recourse if they feel they were fired unfairly. Private employees still have recourse if they feel they were unfairly treated or discriminated against.

Private employers, however, don’t have to keep nonproductive workers on the payroll such as the teachers in New York City who are paid to come in and sit in a “rubber room” all day because the system can not trust them with the very children they were supposed to be teaching.

In New York City, it’s “just about impossible” to fire a bad teacher, says Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The new union contract offers some relief, but it’s still about 200 pages of bureaucracy. “We tolerate mediocrity,” said Klein, because “people get paid the same, whether they’re outstanding, average or way below average.”

Here’s just one example from New York City: It took years to fire a teacher who sent sexually oriented e-mails to “Cutie 101,” a 16-year-old student. Klein said, “He hasn’t taught, but we have had to pay him, because that’s what’s required under the contract.”

Only after six years of litigation were they able to fire him. In the meantime, they paid the teacher more than $300,000. Klein said he employs dozens of teachers who he’s afraid to let near the kids, so he has them sit in what are called rubber rooms. This year he will spend $20 million dollars to warehouse teachers in five rubber rooms. It’s an alternative to firing them. In the last four years, only two teachers out of 80,000 were fired for incompetence. Klein’s office says the new contract will make it easier to get rid of sex offenders, but it will still be difficult to fire incompetent teachers.

And the GM Job Bank where autoworkers come in every day and just sit around for $31 an hour.

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.

Add in the defined benefits programs that the unions still insist on even though defined benefits programs can bankrupt companies (and governments).

Unions are obsolete. The market does a good job of setting wages. If someone doesn’t think they are being paid enough, they can go for another job, or learn new skills to get a better paying job. Like WalMart, if people didn’t want to work there they wouldn’t apply. WalMart would have no workers and would go out of business.

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