Social Question

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Denying food stamps to families of striking workers?

Asked by Dr_Dredd (10491 points ) March 25th, 2011

Not satisfied with the current measures against collective bargaining, some politicians on the federal level are now proposing legislation that would make families of striking workers ineligible for food stamps. The provision, buried in a bill about welfare programs, states: “No member of a family unit shall participate in the food stamp program at any time that any able-bodied work eligible adult member of such household is on strike as defined in the Labor Management Relations Act.”

How do people feel about this? And what will the politicians think of next…?

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77 Answers

12Oaks's avatar

Makes sense to me. You’re choosing not to work, and the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay your way because you now don’t like the job you chose to take and refuse to find a new one.

And what will they think of next? A congressman brought up the idea of a tax on…...... now get this…..... ready?.... TOILET PAPER! That dude is full of…....

ragingloli's avatar

Just one more step on the path to vanquishing workers’ rights.
Designed to discourage workers to fight for fair wages and working conditions and instead accept their fate as a wage slave.
It is a disgrace, pure and simple.

marinelife's avatar

The goverment should not be subsidizing striking workers. That’s what union dues are for.

Jaxk's avatar

Why would we subsidize a strike? How about if we compensate the employer for lost business? That would be just as crazy.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I think it’s utterly ridiculous to hold the children of the strikers accountable. The future generation should be raised to have as many brain cells as possible. This measure would further damage our standing globally.

tedd's avatar

These people paid into the welfare and social security systems for decades in some cases…. Denying them their earned help because they’re battling for their very rights?????

This is downright criminal and frankly if you support it you’re a bastard in my eyes.

12Oaks's avatar

Then I’M a bastard @tedd, a working bastard because I believe if you can work, you should. If you have a beef with your employer, fine, but that’s YOUR beef and there is no good damned reason why the taxpayer should pay for your REFUSING to earn a paycheck. If you don’t like your current job, find a new one. The employer would likely rather’s have someone on who’s willing to work hard for the company and all concerned, anyway.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@12Oaks So eff the kids of the Nation then?

tedd's avatar

@12Oaks These people PAID for those food stamps when they were working for years and decades. They paid into programs under the assumption that in their times of need those programs would be there for them. Well striking for your own damned rights is a time of need. They’re not refusing to work because they’re lazy or demanding outlandish things, they’re demanding to be given what they deserve and what they’ve earned.

But frankly I don’t know why I’m wasting my time talking to you. You have been so incredibly deluded by right wing conservative propaganda I’m shocked you’re not calling for the implementation of a caste system or serfdom…. ALL HAIL OUR NEW BIG BUSINESS KINGS!!!!!

tedd's avatar

@marinelife Your Union Dues, which pay you money during a strike, count as taxable income and would count against you when claiming food stamps. You could not collect food stamps if your Union pay during a strike put you above the already set federal limit (which in many cases it would).

CaptainHarley's avatar

Part of being rebellious is being willing to accept the hardships that come witih it. I would not want anyone on my side who was unwilling to pay the price.

tedd's avatar

@CaptainHarley Agreed, but if they’ve been paying into social security their whole lives…. it shouldn’t turn its backs on them when they legitimately need it here.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@12Oaks – the issue is not people “refusing to earn a paycheck”; it is people working together to ensure that their employer treats them fairly and responsibly.

By denying food stamps to families of striking workers, the government assumes a default position that interferes with worker-employer relations as they stand now. It’s more appropriate, in my opinion, to argue against state intervention in the economy – period – than it is to argue against the state dispensing legally-mandated benefits to taxpayers when they choose to exercise their right of free association.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@tedd

Why not? It certainly turned its back on ME when I needed it. Are they somehow better than the disabled soldier?

SpatzieLover's avatar

@CaptainHarley But if you had young kids, your kids would still have had access to food, yes?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Children have had to suffer for the decisions of their parents since the race began. Government cannot protect us from everything, including the consequences of walking off our jobs, nor should it! Don’t want your children to go hungry? Then don’t walk off the job.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@CaptainHarley – by that logic, we should just accept our lot in life and suck it up?

If the benefit already exists (whether or not you believe it to be ‘fair’ that such a benefit exists), does the removal of a certain, very specific group of people from the program not strike you as unfair and smacking of activist government?

Let the people vote on it.

WasCy's avatar

Personally, I’m mostly opposed to food stamps in any case. The sooner we can wean ourselves from “more and more welfare”, the better.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Better than ⅓ of the people in the US are now on food stamps. Something is very, very wrong!

the100thmonkey's avatar

@CaptainHarley – that’s a “what about this?” argument. It’s also known as changing the subject.

Food stamps are a fact of US life at the moment. Doesn’t it strike you as unconstitutional to remove the benefit from the specific group of people who happen to disagree with a company’s policies and behaviours, and wish to act on that disagreement?

As I said, the issue of whether the federal government should provide that kind of support is separate. The current question turns on whether the government ought to be in the business of discriminating against people because of their political affiliations and political actions.

tedd's avatar

@CaptainHarley Well frankly it shouldn’t have turned its back on you either, and its a damned shame that it did. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

tinyfaery's avatar

Wow. I don’t want to live in your world. There would be millions of people living on the streets, crime would skyrocket and the country would be in chaos. Employers could treat workers as bad as they like to. Say hello to child labor. We are supposed to think forward not backward.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@tinyfaery Employers could treat workers as bad as they like to. Say hello to child labor. We are supposed to think forward not backward.

Extremely well said. This is why I cannot fathom anyone wanting to hold striking against the children of our nation.

WasCy's avatar

We may as well admit that “for the sake of the children” is also a red herring in this argument.

I’m all in favor of people being allowed to form unions and collectively bargain with employers that way, at least in private industry. But I disagree with the practice of public support of workers who choose to strike against their employer. That means no unemployment benefits, no food stamps or direct public assistance of any kind.

If they quit the job or become unemployed for other reasons, then standard rules should apply, same as for anyone else. But while striking? Ludicrous. That’s a voluntary act by the individuals. Whether they “like” the job they have or not, they have a job that they can go to (if the union isn’t so militant, as some are, that it threatens violence against those who disagree with its leadership), except that they choose instead to strike.

It’s not as if workers are chained to their jobs and have no other choices.

And kids don’t enter into it. One of the arguments that was put forth against strong enforcement of drunk driving laws was that “he’s a family man and has to be able to drive to support his family”. That was the argument, anyway. Seems kind of ridiculous now, doesn’t it?

Jaxk's avatar

Wow, this is quite a dispute. I don’t understand why, if you are gainfully employed and choose not to go to work, you should be supported by the rest of us. Hell, even socialism requires you to contribute. Remember the old ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs’. It sounds like we now want to forget the ‘from each’ part and just give away money. Oh and we are supposed to agree that they have a right to that money. Where did that come from?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Jaxk

Mindlessness. ( Great answer! )

SpatzieLover's avatar

@CaptainHarley Better than ⅓ of the people in the US are now on food stamps. Something is very, very wrong!

Yep, if you hadn’t noticed, our economy is in the toilet. The corporate bailouts sure haven’t helped keep our citizens working.

jerv's avatar

While I agree with @Jaxk in principle, I think that he is overlooking/ignoring @tinyfaery. Or are employers totally omnipotent while those of us who are not CEOs totally at their mercy, only allowed to live at the whim of our corporate masters?

Now, here is Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 23.

* (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
* (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
* (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
* (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.“_

If employers were always on teh up-and-up, unions would not be necessary at all, but I suppose it should come as no surprise that people have forgotten history.

I might feel differently if there were actually enough jobs out there for those who are striking to just say, “Take this job and shove it!” but the truth is that that is not an option these days, and neither is quitting outright.

As for striking being a voluntary act, that gets a little fuzzy. I mean, what other power do employees really have? It seems to me that the options are striking or armed insurrection.

@CaptainHarley “It certainly turned its back on ME when I needed it. Are they somehow better than the disabled soldier?”
That sounds pretty damn bitter. What happened to you isn’t right, but that doesn’t mean that others should suffer.

@Jaxk Companies can survive at least a short-term loss of profit (at least if their finances are in order) but most families live paycheck to paycheck by necessity. For a person who has that much more to lose to endanger their livelihood to inflict minor damage on a vastly more powerful entity should tell you something. I mean, there is a reason that strikes are a last resort.
Granted, sometimes unions get a bit greedy but they don’t have a monopoly on greed either. However, strikes are about the only real check on a company’s power that most employees have. Are you saying that we should return to feudalism, only replacing Kings with CEOs? Are the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,”) and the Magna Carta (which inspired it) just wads of toilet paper? Should we just convert to a Corporacracy right now and let people get ass-raped like they did over a century ago?
Now, if workers could get some protection without union involvement or if employers treated workers fairly and didn’t give workers a need to unionize then things would be a lot different. And I don’t like unions getting too uppity either, but the alternative (complete corporate control) seems worse to me.

Leanne1986's avatar

I am so torn here. On one hand I agree with @WasCy especially when he says: That’s a voluntary act by the individuals. Whether they “like” the job they have or not, they have a job that they can go to (if the union isn’t so militant, as some are, that it threatens violence against those who disagree with its leadership), except that they choose instead to strike.It’s not as if workers are chained to their jobs and have no other choices.

On the other hand, I hear what people are saying about families and, especially, children. Now, I don’t believe that if someone chooses , when they are perfectly able, not to work that the tax payer should be the ones to foot the bill of feeding and clothing etc their family. In the UK benefits seem to be handed out left, right and centre and so people are choosing not to work because they don’t need to. The government (and tax payer) will keep them in a nice house with food on the table and decent clothes. What is this attitude teaching the next generation?

But striking is hardly done out of laziness and I am all for standing up for ones rights.

CaptainHarley's avatar

When a reporter once asked the famous labor organizer, Samuel Gompers, what it was that labor unions wanted, he simply stated, “More!” It is the nature of the labor oranizaion to continue to demand “more” even when their members are making a living wage. The responsiblity to hold labor to their fair percentage of an organization’s income lies squarely with management. Part of the problem in the past has been gutless management ( for both private and public organizations ), management which caves in when it should not.

jerv's avatar

@CaptainHarley True, as far as it goes, but that door swings both ways. What is labor’s “fair percentage of an organization’s income” anyways? Before you answer, note that many execs earn hundreds of times what the average worker does for merely coming up with ideas. (Yes, that is valuable, but without labor, those ideas are mere words.) Part of the problem in the past has been ballsy management that doesn’t cave when they should. At least they no longer shoot strikers, but I almost think we may see those days return.
Whatever happened to people being reasonable? They don’t have these problems in civilized nations, only those that are Banana Republics, Dictatorships, or otherwise either repressive or corrupt. Is that what modern-day America has sunk to? I am ashamed, and I weep for humanity.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Whether we like it or not, pay, like price, is based on scarcity and demand. The more demand there is for your skills, and the more scarce they are, the higher your pay. For the bulk of humanity, that means worker’s wages. When the going rate for labor is distorted by things like unions, the functions of supply and demand are also distorted. Eventually the market will make an adjustment that will be disruptive to those use to an artificially elevated pay rate.This is the way the market works. It has little to do with what Labor or the unions or Management wants.

Jaxk's avatar

@jerv

There are numerous laws that give unions the advantage in any dispute. And the easier you make for a union to strike the more demands they have. Strikes are a tool to make each side come to the table to negotiate in good faith. To do that both sides have got to feel some pain. If you continue to tip the scales so that unions gain more and more power, they fell less and less pain. Therefore they’re demands become more onerous. Not just salary but everything. Who can be fired, how performance is measured, closed shop rules, time off for union meetings, all sorts of things that don’t pertain to salaries. And they enforce them diligently.

A short story for you. When I was working in Chicago, I was a $1.72/hr technician. We were working at the Board of Trade installing a new office for one of the big brokerage houses. A telephone worker asked one of our guys if he was in the union. He laughed and said no. The telephone workers immediately walked off the site and from that moment on we had to work midnight to 8am so that we weren’t on site at the same time as the union workers.

This is not a rare occurrence and you want to give them welfare for walking off the site. When the government takes sides in these disputes, you will not get a fair outcome. And I might add that the ‘Golden Age’ of unions, Remember the Jimmy Hoffa era, did not have these benefits. They managed to get their rewards from organized crime and politicians (hell, still do).

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk So you are again bay the idea of unions because our country fucks them up, eh? Have you ever considered the possibility that unions are fine and it’s America that is fucked up? I mean, we have one hell of a sense of entitlement.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@jerv

“Unions are fine?” Aahahahahahahahaha!

Jaxk's avatar

@jerv

I would agree that it is the sense of entitlement that’s creating the problem. But it’s not America it is world wide. Look what’s going on in the UK or Greece, same thing. We have been legislating power to the unions for a century now. If anyone gets enough power they will abuse it. The push for ‘Card Check’ last year was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The pendulum swings and the unions are screaming about the loss of some of their power. They don’t want a level playing field they want it slanted to their side. And getting the government to subsidize a strike is just going too far.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Everyone’s got an ax to grind. : (

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk “If anyone gets enough power they will abuse it. ”
I think the power to give a living wage and insurance or boot you out on your ass is also power. Are you saying that the government should subsidize companies and allow them to pay too little to live on without benefits?
Also, why should the family suffer and starve? It’s not like you can buy a flat-screen TV (or even diapers) with food stamps. I might be more agreeable if we were talking about unemployment compensation, which should only be given to those who are unemployed through no fault of their own, but come on!

@CaptainHarley Does the fact that Obama is in the White House mean that Democracy is a failure? My point there is merely that unions can work. Then again, supply-side economics and tax breaks for the rich also look good on paper yet fail in practice, so you might have a point.

Now, it is possible for unions to get too powerful, I won’t deny that. But is the solution to give employers ALL of the power? To return to the days of Serfs and Lords? I think not; I prefer Democracy over Neo-Feudalism, Aristocracy, or Oligarchy.
Is it fair to starve the families of strikers? Definitely not! Even convicts get at least bread and water, so are you saying that people on strike are worse than serial killers and kiddy-diddlers?
Don’t get me wrong, I have seen unions pull some shady stuff too, but I think we have to face the facts that people are inherently screwy. Just as both Democrats and Republicans lie, cheat, and steal, both unions and employers want absolute power. The problem isn’t that unions exist (and I still believe that things would be far worse if they didn’t) but simply that it’s all people.

12Oaks's avatar

A union rep came to my work some many years ago. We laughed at his pitch and walked out voting no before he was done. He said we couldn’t do that—we did.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@jerv

Dude! Striking is voluntary, as is working for a specific employer.

ragingloli's avatar

The right to strike without having to fear repercussions from the “employer” is one of the basic tenets of western civilisation.
It is also a human right
To attack this, is to attack the very foundation of the western world.

12Oaks's avatar

I little to yell out the car window “Get back to work!” to strikers and cross their picket lines. That’s also my First Amendment right, to support the company and all of us who like to work hard for the best interest of the company and all involved.

jca's avatar

I say to anyone who dislikes unions “Can you say Triangle Shirt Factory?”

jerv's avatar

@CaptainHarley You must think that jobs are a lot more available than they actually are. A few years ago, you may have had a valid point. but the last five years have invalidated your argument. And employers know this and take advantage of it every day.

You realize that one of Walmart’s cost-cutting measures was to instruct people on how to game Uncle Sam for free healthcare so that Walmart didn’t have to pay a dime, right? And the often pay little enough that their employees qualify as “low income” to boot. Stuff like that happens all the time. But if you say that letting employers have that sort of power is a good thing and that they should have more power then I think I want some of those drugs you are on.

Of course, I may be idealistic by thinking that it is possible for employers to be reasonable enough to treat their workers well on their own free will, just as it’s idealistic of me to think that unions will make reasonable demands of employers and/or deal with non-unions people in a civilized manner. However, I think my delusion is a bit more harmless.

While I think that all able-bodied people should work, I don’t think that they should work just for the sake of working. I hate to go ad hominem here, but you of all people should know what it’s like to put in your time, pay your dues, and get nothing in return for it.

As for your earlier point about not rebelling unless you are willing to endure the hardships, that tells me that we should never rebel. I mean, if we do then we and our families have to starve on the streets; there is no winning, and no other jobs to be had. Given the imbalance of power here, unions and strikes are the only way workers can protect themselves.

Unless…. workers have the numbers, so are you suggesting a “Second Amendment solution” to labor disputes? It seems to me that a coup d’état is the only other solution besides submitting to our Corporate Overlords. So, are you saying STFU, or “Johny, get your gun!”? Or are you with me that there is a way to have a balance between fair treatment of workers and fair treatment of employers if only people on both sides weren’t such assholes, therefore it’s not the fact that unions exist that is the problem, but rather the manner in which they exist? Seriously, I am trying to figure out where you are coming from in a way that doesn’t make you seem callous or insane. You don’t strike me as being either of those things.

SpatzieLover's avatar

You realize that one of Walmart’s cost-cutting measures was to instruct people on how to game Uncle Sam for free healthcare so that Walmart didn’t have to pay a dime, right? And the often pay little enough that their employees qualify as “low income” to boot. Stuff like that happens all the time. But if you say that letting employers have that sort of power is a good thing and that they should have more power then I think I want some of those drugs you are on. @jerv, WELL Stated.

Walmart is a prime example of exactly why we have a great portion of the economic issues we have today.

@CaptainHarley if you haven’t already, you should either read The Wal-Mart Effect or watch WALMART:HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE

Wal-Mart employees make up a great portion of food stamp users.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@jerv

Gee, thanks… I think!

It is my considered belief that government should not side with either unions or management unless someone is going to be irretrievably damaged. It is basic to labor/management relations that the two parties should negotiate their disputes free of any sort of government favoritism. If the union wants to go on strike, that is their option. But if the government then gives aid to the union members because they are on strike, that is favoring one side over the other.

As I indicated in my first response on this thread, striking is a voluntary activity. It is not the government’s place to pay people ( whether directly or indirectly ) for that which they choose of their own free will to do.

jerv's avatar

@CaptainHarley I feel that starving qualifies as “irretrievably damaged”. If you feel otherwise, I think you should start by watching Grave of the Fireflies and then take a look at places like Ethiopia.
Companies that are big enough to have the sort of labor disputes that even involve unions let alone the possibility of strikes often pay their execs enough that you know they won’t starve, and if they are run by halfway competent finance people, they can survive, or at least have a hell of a lot better chance at it than a person that lived paycheck to paycheck and is ineligible for unemployment compensation.

Maybe it’s just that I don’t see how someone who merely wants some protection from exploitation (or anyone else for that matter) deserves to be denied their rights under the UDHR, nor do I understand how anybody can support violating those rights, especially not any decent person with an ounce of compassion for their fellow human beings.

Sure, a person who chooses not to work shouldn’t have many of the perks I have as a result of working my ass off, like new computers, broadband internet, big-screen TVs, pricey smartphones, or fancy cars, but I think that three hots, a cot, and basic medical care isn’t too much to ask, and many human rights advocates seem to agree on that one. Now, as I keep saying, some of what the unions want is ridiculous, but I don’t care how ridiculous their demands are, there are certain things that I don’t feel should be taken away from people.

It’s sad that we have to follow a code of conduct for POWs but not for poor people.

BTW, is it really favoritism if government ensures that striking workers are entitled to their human rights? IMAO, as long as the government restricts their involvement to merely making sure that those basic rights are not violated, I see no reason to object. I agree that they should not get involved beyond that, but you are sounding more and more like you are totally anti-government and pro-corporation, and that you value companies over the Constitution; I doubt that is actually true, but you are sounding like it is.

WasCy's avatar

@jerv

“Three hots and a cot” and “medical care” aren’t “rights”, no matter what any commission says. “Rights” are not something that anyone has to give you. You have rights inherent in your humanity, which no one has to “provide” for you. So, rights to conscience, assembly, speech, self-defense, security in your person and home, etc. are yours without any grant from anyone. If you’re a human citizen of the USA and living in the USA you have those rights as a matter of course. You also have a right to eat, but there is no “right” to have food provided to you. You have a right to learn, too, but there is no “right” to an education.

Yes, government does provide so-called “surplus” food, food stamps, “free” primary and secondary education (and grants for more), and is on the path to providing medical care, as it already does for the most indigent and the elderly. But that still doesn’t make those things “rights”, although as you pointed out earlier yourself the rules of those programs do make people “entitled” to them if they fall within various parameters.

You’d do your argument a lot of good if you’d stop imagining this dichotomy that all of us who argue against your point of view are automatically “on the side of the corporations and tycoons who are grinding the little people into dust”. You ought to remember that “a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it away, too”. That’s the thing we’re arguing against most of all.

jerv's avatar

@WasCy By your logic, security really isn’t a right; it’s something you have to work for or get from others, not something you automatically have. In that respect, it is no different from food.

As for the dichotomy, my take is that those who want to change the way things are running right now can’t help but favor one side or the other; a neutral change is extremely hard to do, and one that hurts either side doesn’t qualify as “neutral” anyways. Cutting off food stamps here would be the government taking sides, and I think you and I agree that they shouldn’t.

jerv's avatar

One other thing is that the First Amendment grants the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. While the original intent may have been for grievances against the government, the wording is vague enough to invite government involvement in grievances against employers if other avenues (like unions) are closed off. As uppity as unions can get, I feel they are a small price to pay to keep government out of things, or at least reduce their involvement.

12Oaks's avatar

@jerv I don’t belong to a union, never had, never will. Saying that, if I refuse to work because I didn’t get a raise last year or whatever and refuse to until I get a raise (though termination would occur first) would someone like me, who isn’t union represented and therefore not actually “on strike,” legally, would you think I, the one who essentially quit their job for whatever reason, should have the same benefits as those who lost their job due to this worst economy this country has ever seen?

jerv's avatar

@12Oaks I don’t feel that strikers should get unemployment compensation, just as those who voluntarily quit shouldn’t either if that is what you mean.

BTW, I have gone over three years without a raise before, but I tolerated it because the non-wage compensation was good. They paid more for insurance yet didn’t take any more out of my check, and that was equivalent to $2–3/hour. Now, if all employers were that equitable then nobody would have a right to bitch, but that isn’t always the case. And it was not a union shop either; the owner and GM were nice enough that the workers didn’t need protection or advocacy.

WasCy's avatar

@jerv

I’m about ready to leave this discussion. Your arguments border on the absurd, and then veer wildly off in that direction.

“Security” is what we have “from government” as a result of the Bill of Rights. I don’t have to ask for anyone to give me anything in this regard. The Constitution and BoR were set up to describe the function of the federal government and the rights that I retain under it. So “security” means that my person and my home are free from “unreasonable” search and seizure. No, it’s not a grant of “total security”; that would be impossible. Same as the idiocy of a “right to life”, which would mean that dying from any cause would be a “rights violation”.

As for the expectation of security from foreign invasion, I have implicitly “asked” this of the government, and I do pay for that willingly. And appreciate when it’s provided, @CaptainHarley, and the real cost, too.

If you want to change the way things are right now, you have every right to do that. But if you and I disagree about the way to effect that change, why should I be forced to contribute to “your way”, when I disagree with it? You can feel free to boycott industries or companies with striking workers, to contribute directly to their strike funds, and to speak out on behalf of employees and/or against the employers. You have those rights without regard to how anyone else feels – and your exercising of your rights takes nothing from anyone else. But when you ask – or more to the point “demand” – that I also fund the striking workers through my taxes, then you force me to take a side that I’m unwilling to join. And this has nothing to do with how I feel about the rights or wrongs of either side in the dispute.

Yes, we do agree that government should not take sides in most labor disputes. But when you fund striking workers with public money then you surely put the biggest player in the room on a “side”.

In addition, since you’re not a union member, you may not be aware of a lot of the political gamesmanship involved in a strike in the first place. Most strikes don’t happen in good times when workers are mostly employed, regardless of “conditions” or “wage demands”. People who are working and making an income – and by implication are relatively happy in the employment and exchange of labor for dollars and other benefits (or they wouldn’t be there) – don’t routinely strike for more. The histrionics may lead you to believe otherwise, but the fact is that strikes don’t often occur nowadays during periods of full employment.

What often happens is that unions reach a tipping point of unemployment, when enough of the membership is out of work already that those laid-off workers have nothing to lose from a strike. If I’m not working anyway, then what’s the difference whether we strike or not? The thinking is that “when I go back to work” then I’ll make more than I would now – if I were working now. So a vote to strike is a vote for pie in the sky. And union leadership counts on enough of those kinds of uninformed votes to recommend and obtain a strike vote.

The sad fact is that the US is not immune from the global economy. The rest of the world is waking up to many facts about economics and production that Americans are choosing to be blind to. The rest of the world has the same desire for a consumer-driven economy, products and lifestyles that we enjoy. Moreover, they have the determination and the means to produce and to enjoy the wages and benefits that come with production. So if global consumers can buy widgets “Made in the USA” for a $1.00 or “Made in East Nowhere” and shipped to the USA for 10¢, then they’ll happily buy from East Nowhere, and US producers of widgets will buy from East Nowhere, too, if they want to stay in business.

Unless we recognize and exploit our competitive advantages (which are narrowing year by year), then American workers in general are going to have to accept that whether their standard of living lowers or not compared to what it is now, the rest of the world will be catching up. And that means that “relative to the rest of the world” American workers will be slipping, even if they don’t actually decline. Strikes just send the work overseas faster. We don’t need to encourage them.

12Oaks's avatar

@jerv What about food stamp benefits for, shall we call them, “non-union strikers”?

It just seems a lot of this discussion is focusing too much on union, so would the same be said if the equal was going on for independent workers.

jerv's avatar

@WasCy That feeling is mutual, so I guess absurdity is in the eye of the beholder :/

Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure… unless you live within 100 miles of a coastline or international border. However, going on about that would be a digression that I don’t feel like going into, as are other instances of the government deciding to restrict/remove rights aside from those relevant to this question. As for the definition of “right”, there have been enough debates about that on Fluther that I don’t feel like getting into that one either, beyond saying that I agree with the UDHR.

When it comes to security from foreign invasion, I just look at a map and realize how little water that argument holds. And considering how much money we have spent post-9/11 (a shitload) compared to how much safer we really are (not one bit) the only reason I am not calling it all pork is that it did create jobs.

It’s not that I want to change the way things are done now. By taking food stamps away from strikers, you are the one that wants the government to interfere and change things. And as a taxpayer, I have no problem making sure my fellow American has enough to eat. I will be damned if I am going to pay their cable bill though; if they want a luxury like that then they can either get back to work, find another job (if they can) or suck it up and go without. I am in favor of providing them with the bare minimum for survival and no more. You and I may have differing opinions, but we are equal in that we each get one vote in the elections.

I have worked in a couple of union shops before, so I am not totally unfamiliar with how they operate. And it would be nice if unions were a little more considerate of the employer’s situation as well. Still, I maintain that unions are better than either no protection at all or having labor run to Uncle Sam every time they have a problem. It would be nice if unions were never needed because they do cause some problems, but not all employers are as cool as the one I have now or the one I mentioned above.

Sadly, as someone who has spent most of their adult civilian life in the manufacturing industry, I am aware of the other points you brought up too. Part of the reason I tolerate being underpaid where I am now is that the company I work for hasn’t laid anyone off in their 25 year history and, despite everything else going on, we actually have foreign customers coming to us, so I may be earning only ⅔ of what I should be, but these people will be underpaying me 5–10 years down the road too, as opposed to my previous job which disappeared after a month and shortly before the rest of the plant folded.

Personally, I think that just about any time there is voting going on, whether it be for a strike, public office, or the best computer operating system, there is a lot of reliance on uninformed votes; victory goes to the best PR and not to the side with the most merit.

I also think that it would be nice if we didn’t feel the sense of entitlement that we do. I mean, all those people claiming that they have a right to filet mignon and Escalades really bring out a pendulum reaction and those of us who are asking for government cheese and a bus pass to get to work get lumped in with the “I want more than I deserve!” crowd. Next thing you know, there are books written about how the poor choose to be poor, people not caring if their fellow Americans starve to death, and all sorts of other bad juju.

Yes, our competitive advantages have slipped away. The workers should be happy to have jobs in the first place. However, there is enough to this that warrants case-by-case decisions that I am opposed to a blanket withdrawal of benefits. Not all strikers wanted to strike. Some may be too afraid of the repercussions to cross the picket line. Sometimes strikes are justified. Not always, but often enough that it would be callous and stupid to just assume the worst. It would also shift the power balance back to the employers and while it may sound like I am against it for that reason, it is more that I do not want the government shifting the balance of power in either direction simply because they should just butt out.

@12Oaks I said it before and I’ll say it again; I am fine with them getting food stamps, but not unemployment. I reserve the latter for those who are out of work due to no fault of their own, but I feel that the only people who don’t deserve to eat are those that deserve to be shot anyways.

12Oaks's avatar

@jerv Fair enough. Just seeing if the same is said for Union and Independents. Fair is the name of the game. ;-)

CaptainHarley's avatar

No one said anything about not deserving to eat. That’s why unions have “strike funds.”

jerv's avatar

@CaptainHarley For those unions that do, then yes, strikers should be fed from those funds first before getting a dime of taxpayer money. They collect enough dues that they damn well should give something back if their actions cause their members hardship. However, not all unions operate that way; it’s kind of hard to compensate people from a fund that doesn’t exist. What those unions do with the dues that they don’t put into a strike fund is another topic for another time/place. But for those unions that do have strike funds, you are absolutely correct.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@jerv I have been following this, but have remained silent until now. The problem with your last statement is once finding that loophole, I believe most unions would figure out a way to not have their strike funds counted as income so their members could get the food stamps and less money would come out of their coffers.

I wish this could be done on a strike case by case basis rather than a sweeping national policy, as some strikes are definitely justified while others are just a play for… more. My gut reaction was if you strike, you should not get food stamps. Perhaps if the issue is that important to union members, they should cut off their internet, cable and all the extras so they can afford food. Perhaps those who agree with the union position should pitch in and help out. Money has been raised for many, many things including tsunami victims. If Americans felt the union was right and should be aided, I am sure many would donate.

jerv's avatar

@optimisticpessimist My gut reaction is that people will always find some way to bend the rules for their own benefit. And it doesn’t matter which side you are on or what the cost (in money or lives) is, that is a sad fact of humanity.

I agree that cable, internet, and other extras should go so that you can afford food. How do you think I survived after I was laid off? However, that also assumes that there is some income coming in, and that is not always the case. Not all households are dual-income. No wages, no strike fund, and no unemployment compensation means no way to buy a loaf of bread. My income is barely above my rent and my wife’s is less than mine, so if something happened to either of our jobs (or to either of us) then not only could we kiss our luxuries good bye, we would have to choose between rent or food. Now, do you consider housing to be a luxury? As a person who has spent most of their life within 100 miles of the Canadian border, I feel that shelter (with heat!) is a necessity. Spend a few days out in the snow and I think you’ll agree… if you survive.

As far as leaving it to fundraising efforts, my problem there is that it would all boil down to PR and I am equally sure that that wouldn’t work. I can see a couple of scenarios here. One is that some companies would put out counter-ads or do something else to try and make sure that the unions don’t get the power of sympathy on their side; the money spent would be an investment to prevent a long-term loss of power. Maybe they would just hire scabs. Who knows?

More likely, there would be the same apathy that there is for the uninsured working poor only moreso. Either way, I don’t see Americans passing the hat the same way they did for 9/11 or the tsunami. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that sort of thing been successful for anything that didn’t kill at least a few hundred people outright. Anything less is too local for anyone to care and local food banks and such already have their hands full with the homeless, unemployed (the regular kind), and the low-income under-employed; so much so that some of them turn a lot of people away already.

If you want to assume that such a fundraising effort would work then I will be equally optimistic and assume that labor and management can compromise and make mutually acceptable/beneficial deals without either unions or government regulation/interference. If you want to be cynical and assume that unions will stop doing strike funds, well, now you’re thinking like me :D
Seriously though, I think that any union that doesn’t provide strike funds but collects more than token dues anyways is just taking advantage of workers at least as much as (if not more than) the employers that the unions are supposed to protect them from. The solution there is for the workers to realize that they are getting a bum deal and either change the union or find a way to deal with management without that union (possibly forming a competing union if need be).

Regardless, I stand my my assertion that if a person doesn’t deserve to be shot, they don’t deserve to starve. If that little bit of humanity makes me a bleeding heart Liberal then so be it; I would rather wear that label than be a callous, heartless bastard.

Jaxk's avatar

@jerv

If the point is they shouldn’t starve, then go back to work. They have jobs.

WasCy's avatar

I give up, @Jaxk, and I suggest all of the other callous, heartless bastards like you and me should, too.

Let’s see how things play out when the NFL players belly up to the Food Stamp bar later this year. After all, they’re not just on strike, they’re being locked out. And I wouldn’t want to see Tom Brady starve, after all…

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk Not always that easy. If this were an ideal world, I might agree with you, but it isn’t so I can’t.

@WasCy They can’t. Too many assets to qualify. Even if they don’t earn any income, they would have a hard time getting them for that reason alone; they look at more than just your income.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@WasCy And I wouldn’t want to see Tom Brady starve, after all Again, that’s not at all what this question is actually directed at.

Now, if Tom Brady were an Algebra teacher from Milwaukee, and he was on strike for over a month with a few kids at home? That’s the question at hand.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@jerv and why would you assume that I live in a dual income family. I don’t. At the times we have had dual income, we based all of our bills off of one income and treated the other as extra income for the stuff we wanted not needed so we would not be in a pinch when (not if) the second income was lost. We have, in the past, lived years without even a TV let alone internet or cable, turned in rolls of quarters for gas and had only one car, walked instead of drove when possible and our entertainment was going to a drive-in once a month cause it was cheap.

No, I have never been in a union nor has my spouse so I don’t know much about them. I know unions were started for a good purpose. I know that many of them became greedy just like the corporations they were fighting against. Two wrongs don’t make a right and perhaps if people had to really dig deep and determine if what they are fighting for is worth fighting for then there would be a better outcome all around. With the way people feel about the ‘big, evil’ corporation nowadays, there would probably be backing behind the workers if they had legitimate reasons for their strike. Yes, the corporations have the money and the power for publicity; however, who do you really think the American public would back?

Maybe I have more faith in the American people than you do. ‘cause in the court of public opinion, I believe if the people felt the strikers were right in their demands they would back ‘em.

Jaxk's avatar

@WasCy

I find it interesting that Adrian Peterson (from the Minnesota Vikings Called it ‘Modern Day Slavery’. That is of course after he signed a $40 million contract his rookie year. Everyone wants to think they are entitled to more and if they don’t get it, they’re victims. If they don’t get a hand out, then you stole it from them. What a weird mentality.

jerv's avatar

@optimisticpessimist I don’t recall making any such assumption about you.

I can say that my wife and I have never been in an position where we could do that until very recently. I haven’t walked to work in a long time as I have not worked within 15 miles of home in over a decade, though I am all too familiar with having to skip meals in order to buy enough gas to work the next day after running out of quarters. As for TV, the internet is more practical and also has videos, so we haven’t had TV for years, and it often has been our entertainment. Now that we are a bit better off, we splurge a little but still make sure to prepare for a rainy day (or year).

You are correct that unions were started for a good purpose, and for one of the two union shops I was in, that was still true. The other… well, lets just say that there is a reason I prefer taking it case-by-case instead of blindly supporting unions.

As for having more faith in the American people than me, that really is a low bar :D

@Jaxk Everyone? You just proved my point about how some people’s wrongful sense of entitlement ruins things for those who are truly needy. As long as we are painting things with such a broad brush what other sweeping generalizations do you want to make? How about some racism?
Seriously, I know you are better than that so I am going to chalk that one up as you having a bad day and wait for you to return to your normal, insightful, rational self.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@jerv You are correct you did not mention me specifically. The line, “Not all households are dual-income” made an implication that I may be unaware of this fact. I do apologize for taking it all so personally. I thought about it more as I was trying to fall asleep last night and realized passing the hat would probably not work for two reasons. 1) People would probably feel that it is the government’s responsibility to assist not the general populace. That is what we get for living in a day and age where the government is expected to take care of the people like a parent. 2) People have cried, “Victim!” so much we have become more jaded. I am very cynical about anyone who does this and tend to take it on a case by case basis. Take the housing market crash for example. The banks/lenders did some nasty things; however, the borrowers also chose to do some stupid things. In some cases the borrower was lied to and cheated, in many more, they just made stupid decisions but play the victim card like they were forced to buy a home which cost much more than it was really worth.

In an ideal world, it could be done on a case by case basis, but since it is not an ideal world, I stick with not giving food stamps to striking workers. To be fair, all these types of programs need to be re-vamped drastically anyway. People get too comfortable in them and spend their energy and initiative learning how to work the system instead on actually working to their full potential. We have some really intelligent people living on government programs if only they would use their power for good:)

jerv's avatar

@optimisticpessimist If it weren’t for little things like almost being denied food stamps because I had just over $1,000 dollars in the bank two days before rent was due, I might agree with you more, but I think you are largely correct in that some people will game the system the same way that corporations game it come tax day, and that the system needs revamping, but I have a hard time hurting innocent people just because some other people are not so innocent.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Wow, great discussion. I mostly agree with @jerv, because in general, the deck seems to be stacked against the individual worker and their banding together at least levels the playing field a little.

@WasCy: “But when you fund striking workers with public money then you surely put the biggest player in the room on a “side”.”
Maybe, but when many corporations don’t even pay taxes, I’d say that the biggest player in the room is definitely on their side.

12Oaks's avatar

Seems to me the less the company you work for pays in taxes, the more they have for payroll. I’d rather the money I work so hard for to earn for the company then be given back to me in the form of better wages and the such then be given to the government to hand out to others who had nothing at all to do with earning that money in the first place.

Oh, and even if the extra money doesn’t get back to me, but is either reinvested into the company, or the owners pocket the money, it’s still in my best interest for that to happen then for it to go to Uncle Sam. Companies don’t stay in business by not making money, and the more that Uncle Sam takes, the lower the profit margin. It’s really simple math.

Still, all that is being said here is good information for someone who is going into the working world and have a choice to be Union reresented or independent, pick independent. It really is, in the long run, the better way to go. In the short run, as well.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

How is the owners pocketing the money better for me as a worker? I’m not seeing that money, and if it went to taxes, at least I might indirectly benefit if I ever qualified for Medicaid or other benefits.

jerv's avatar

@12Oaks I will say that I have had better luck in non-union shops, but that may be because those were the employers that treated their workers well enough that they didn’t need unions to butt in. In other words, if unions are involved in the first place then something may be wrong with that employer.

12Oaks's avatar

@Dr_Dredd Oh, it’s so simple. You are seeing the money, with the company still being in business giving you job security. If companies get overtaxed, like they have recently in Illinois, a lot of companies will either move or be taxed out of business, like what is happening in Illinois. The idea is to keep businesses in business. I’d like to ask Quinn how is him taxing companies out of business, causing less companies to be able to pay taxes, helping. If the companies stay in business by larger profits (ala employers pocketing the money) then you won’t be out of a job making it so you need those benefits that you so graciously were forced into paying for in the first place.

I work hard every day to do my best to see that the company makes every cent plus in profit it could. That way, when the annual terms of employment meeting takes place, I could negotiate more of a salary for myself. Funny how that works.

@jerv I’d agree with that with one correction…. you said ” if unions are involved in the first place then something may be wrong with that employer.” I’d change that to ” if unions are involved in the first place then something may have been wrong with that employer sometime in the past.”

jerv's avatar

@12Oaks I will go with that correction. I think the moral there is “Never be an asshole or you will pay for it forever.”.

12Oaks's avatar

@jerv ^5 on that one!

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