Monday, December 21, 2009

Unions, Free Enterprise and Other belief systems

Background Blogs be Dominic Look At the Ways of Man ------ Cognitive dissonance ----- Grouping ----- Don't Rape our Women
I want to preface this with that I have no credentials to rant about psychology other than 68 years of existence and a personal curiosity

By DJMelfi "Runway Models" has not much to do with this blog, except it is a "GROUP" and may be my last chance to use this illustration.

What does it mean to be a member of a group? how do you identify with it and evaluate it? If we accept tenets like cognitive dissonance we know we might be capable of ignoring facts we are not comfortable with. If we are aware of cultures like Manson Family and Jonestown, we identify situations where we readily perceive that the falsehoods are easily understood, we still know that persons in these groups are totally committed and require extensive deprogramming if they are to leave these groups and re enter society at large. We necessarily understand the human condition allows for us to be totally muddled as to the truth, reality and intellectual honesty of our beliefs. Only removing us from the stream of DNA that is mankind can permit us to deny the very reality of what we believe is often erroneous and tainted.

How do we confirm and establish the roots of what we believe? One way is to study the historical record of what you believe. Another is to list the men you follow, who believe or believed the same as you, who they were and what were their credentials. Yet mostly this is circumstantial evidence, in the matters of belief systems exact proof is seldom available. Hence the need for the concepts of "Belief" and "Faith" versus Knowledge and fact.

If I use religion as an example, I can trace Christian beliefs through Pre Christ and Post Christ for 4000 years. I can establish it's force for good or evil and evaluate it's tenets through years of scholarship and discourse. Yet even then I have to confront Muslim beliefs which are newer and many beliefs which are as old or older than Christianity. There seems to be no full clarity even after 4000 years. And today man's hubris fueled by his science seems to raise him above all these traditional beliefs as archaic and out dated. As a consequence, in Muslim cultures for example, while Muslims cultures take credit for carrying man kind through the dark ages in science and other disciplines, today Islam seems to be anti-progress and reactionary. In Christian cultures a dogmatic approach to beliefs like creation seem to be opposed to modern scientific thought. It would seem that religions could have a "re sync" every 50 years or so and go through an update of thought that marries current recognized facts with the "beliefs". This would only recognize mankind's frailty to understand, not God's.

After thousands of years man's perceived success at understanding creation seems to have diminished God for many citizens and actually created new cults denying God. While atheists have always existed, they have not always been organized and vocal. It now seems that Mother Earth cultism may supplant the Almighty God as a religion. The Mother Earth as the source of all power is not a new concept and could parallel many peoples such as Native Americans whose great spirit always seemed to be connected to nature. Instead of the Christian concept of duty and responsibility to each other, the individual can and sometimes must be sacrificed for the good of the planet in these belief systems. In these systems man is not the master of the earth but a burdened guardian.

We can't prove God, it requires an act of faith inspired and supported by the Holy Spirit. So any real challenges to true believers goes unanswered. So the things we believe about God rely on Faith and not scientific facts. Truth even here seems evasive and subject to all of the group think and cognizant dissonance of any human belief system. From now on I will refer to group think as a belief system, because the new tricky shinning references seem to demean the topic.

Trying to understand the dynamics of belief systems in men can start by examining some of the characteristics that accompany this behavior in some common situations, then diametrically oppose it to the alternative concept.

Admittedly, I am having a difficult time transitioning to my point, which is that all of these allegiances seem to have more to do with the natural inclination of man to join and subscribe to groups and belief systems and that it seems to have little to do with truth or verifiable facts but is more an emotional or spiritual or mystical leap of faith. Much of this same dynamic seems to effect many of our institutions.

We can either believe that Unions such as SEIU are truly criminal organizations and actually have paid henchman to beat up tea partiers and opposing union members or that they are a cultist organization and certain over zealous members of the Union are willing to subject citizens to pain and humiliation to serve their cause. Of course, neither interpretation is flattering, but the answer to the question is rather important. I would be willing to say that at least some members fall into the latter category and are subject to cult like pressures.

If you are astute you may object that I offered false either / or choices about SEIU and am manipulating you to choose between two negatives, you would be right. I learned that from Obama. He is always offering us false choices. It is a trick. Obama constantly employs this trick and it is becoming nauseous.

I maintain that the belief of a given system isn't the main criteria by which to judge the system. The criteria is the outcomes. The Jonestown ended up in a shootout at an airport and 909 suicide murders an obvious outcome with any positives. Heavens gate ended in 60 suicides and no apparent positive outcomes. We can establish that Christianity has some mixed reviews but is accompanied by a myriad of positive outcomes.

This starts to crystallize my point to judge belief systems by their outcomes and not the veracity of their tenets, because almost no belief systems can be validated through scientific proofs. Things that are easily understood are mostly believed by everyone except some fringe elements and never have to rise to acts of faith accompanying most belief systems.

So we need to judge outcomes from systems because in most of the belief systems the actual veracity is constantly debated. Essentially doing the right things for the wrong reasons can have a good outcome, doing the wrong things for the right reasons does not.


So if I describe a Union as a group of individuals defining a process to guarantee equal outcomes from a human endeavor. This doesn't mean they don't want to compete. It means they don't want to compete individually. In some cases they may believe individual competition is less rewarding overall, in other cases they may just lack the initiative and drive to deal with additional complexities this brings, and just hand over that part of life skills to another. So there is a bargain, we will act as a collective, we will have a definition of performance and we will negotiate as a collective for compensation. The collective itself thrives from membership so there is no incentive to increase productivity and reduce membership. All of the pressures are on maintaining a status-quo thus a predictable outcome.

There are unionized systems where seniority effects compensation, mostly these are negotiated by management as a way to hire new workers at lower wages so that senior employees can be given raises. Essentially this is contrary to the union philosophy and not terribly prevalent except in last few years. Ford was one of the first major auto companies to implement a tiered salary among major unions. I followed the Ford example the next year and implemented a tiered system at the Company I worked at with 300 Union employees. This allowed us to increase wages of senior employees and save that money on new hires to finance the raise. Because we had a nucleus of 100 senior employees and a high turnover in the other 200, it saved the corporation a lot of money over a few years. This type of change can be negotiated because the "slighted" members are not yet part of the group. After 6-9 years it became harder because more members were receiving less than "senior" wages which took 3 years to reach and voting on contracts became more difficult.

These were warehouse employees and we had a quota of handling 650 cases a day. There were other warehouses in area doing 1250 and paid much more, so we tended to get the less energetic crowd to start with. Never the less, over 50% of the staff didn't meet quota and it was a constant contentious interface between Union and management to enforce even these moderate standards. New employees would come in and do a 1000 cases for a week or so before the Union explained they were taking someone Else's job away. For an individual trying to improve himself the only path was to move to a higher paying position such as fork lift driver. You couldn't promote the best workers, it was by seniority so often the worse workers moved up to more responsible jobs and did them just as badly. Your only real recourse was to get rid of workers during the first 90 days, before they got into the union, so initial turnover was high and there were very little second chances.

This was an example that worked, low productive workers, prodded by a committed supervisory staff as much as possible and compensated with low wages.

This takes a dedicated negotiating staff every 3 years or so, to keep wages in line with productivity. There are tremendous pressures to have wages increased in good years that take a knowledgeable and committed management staff to understand that the wages needed to match the value received and not the profit margins of the corporation. In reality, cost of living is the only real automatic increase that can be put on a bargaining table, unless value received increases in some way, work rule changes or something else tangible.

I have spent the time on discussing Unions because I have direct experience, our company was $150 million a year and I was Corporate IT manager. We had about 6 managers who did off and on duty during Union negotiations. During a couple of contracts I took a leadership roll.

I have a little different perception of Unions like Electrical and Plumbing, while they are just as rigid with work rules there is a little more justification for their existence because they do take an active role in assuring individuals are qualified and trained for the job. That control also guarantees them a lot of control on the job site and within their membership as well.

Example of Electrical Qualifications:

(c) Has completed a two-year electrical construction training program as described in RCW 19.28.191 for journeyman electricians, and two years (four thousand hours) of work experience in new industrial and/or new commercial electrical installations (excluding work described for specialty electricians or electrical technicians) under the direct supervision of a journeyman electrician while working for a general electrical contractor in the proper ratio, per RCW 19.28.161. See WAC 296-46B-971 for additional training school information.


The result of that discussion should be that we can agree that many belief systems and institutions in our society support and pursue uniformity as a "Holy Grail" it is really odd man out in that the individual who diverges from the norm Handles too many cases thus causing different outcomes is chastised.

Definition of Union means:
a. The act of uniting or the state of being united.
b. A combination so formed, especially an alliance or confederation of people, parties, or political entities for mutual interest or benefit.

But it often results in UNIFORMITY. In fact it glorifies and honors uniformity. If we look at organizations like SEIU and their purple shirts and ACORN and their orange shirts you can see this uniformity is accentuated in many ways. Once this "SAMENESS" is emphasized and defined it is easier to alienate the members to other groups.

For example, during union negotiations it was hard to deal with the Union representatives distrust and suspicions of management. It easily drifted into animosity and boisterous behavior. Even Union stewards who dealt with management all the time seemed to be able to keep a constant chip on their shoulders.

It is easy to see ACORN and groups like that are built on the Union model with THE MAN and the FAT CAT substituted for management. Particularly when you know Union organizers founded groups like ACORN. I'm not sure how much equal outcomes are part of the ACORN scenario but I would guess it is high on the talking points.

I don't know if the conflict with the man or management is a required part of Union philosophy, but if you want to control the workplace in order to create political change it becomes a useful technique to demonize the beliefs and those that believe them that contradict your goals.

Our warehouse manager made $80-90,000 a year and 4 or 5 supervisors made $40-50,000, the 300 warehouse employees made from $20,000 to $30,000. That is a huge discrepancy. Mostly a non skilled laborer making $450 a week can not be bluntly told he isn't worth more, he just doesn't have enough added value. It is easy for the Union to keep the members jinned up with false issues like the Union members do most of the work and the warehouse manager is just a clerk pushing around papers but gets paid 3-4 times more..

Excerpt from 1987 UAW contract with GM
Eligible employees cannot be laid off because of:
  • Introduction of new technology (such as robots)
  • Sourcing decisions
  • Company-implemented efficiency actions
  • Thus guaranteeing outcomes for workers at a very high cost to GM, It is work rules like this that cost the future of GM. Liberals like to say GM failed to modernize and keep up with the competition. Fact is there was no incentive for GM to modernize with contracts like that above. These contracts, negotiated by putting the companies under tremendous duress by selective strikes and pitting GM, FORD and CHRYSLER against each other had every thing to do with their failure.

    The next thing you hear is they built the wrong cars, while the facts are that the Toyotas and Nisans et al started to build Vans and Suv's to compete not vice versa. The reputation of shoddily built Detroit cars was a liability of a Union employee who distanced himself ftom the company's success and clove to UAW success.


    The major tent in all unions is seniority, seniority gets you first choice on job openings, either promotions or work calls at the union hall. Seniority also confirms a built in racism and carpet bagging. In Philadelphia they are building a new sports center with city money, but all the senior union member are white and in the suburbs so the population of Philly which is 50% black gets only a 5%-10% black working and most of the money leaves the city to Union members 50 plus miles outside. Outcome is institutionalized discrimination and carpetbagging. OH YOU THOUGHT UNIONS WERE HELPING MINORITIES? Forget it, that's why they invented ACORN to control that population as the unions were leaving the inner cities.

    Judging the outcomes of Unions is a mixed bag, the individuals seem to benefit in the short term but the union itself is destructive. Its is like the fruit poisoning the main plant. Evidence is unions due to their combined inherent power and political support and constant adversarial positions will overburden the companies, cities and states they deal with until these entities fail. I have no reason to believe otherwise. Unions are self destructive because they wield too much power and eventually and seemingly inevitably consume more wealth than they produce thus creating a drain on the system.

    The Opposite of Uniformity and Equal Outcomes
    Free Enterprise non union employees.

    One thing you don't have is Union Stewards. You don't have intermediates that determine most of what you do all day long. You don't have intermediates that will represent your gripes and complaints. You have to represent yourself. Negotiate your value and compensation. This can happen in a couple of ways. First you can choose a company and industry where you know the policies and conditions suit your needs and you can prepare yourself as best possible to win employment there. For example Computer Technology, then a more definitive skill, and maybe even a Corporation you would like to work for.

    As you increase your skills, you are either in an organization that aggressively rewards those skills and pursues excellence, or you need to learn to market and remarket yourself and negotiate for your compensation. This can be a continuous and unending process that requires you to hone your skills and except new challenges every day of your life.

    A couple of things happen in this environment that doesn't happen in the Uniform outcome environment often.

    1) You can over reach your peak level of competence in an area, for example given a management position over 10 people you find you can't cope with their issues and feel trapped in an unwanted advancement.

    2) You are technically and skillfully capable and excel your fellow workers but you lack the skills to negotiate for yourself and keep giving more value for the same compensation. In most environments this person would just leave if he had the skills to negotiate for himself, he would become an independent contractor or find other ways to fulfill his potential.

    What we can easily determine is this person in this system has a substantially different set of experiences than if he was in the Uniformity system. The Unequal outcomes system is chaotic and needs to be tamed and controlled by each individual experiences. The other thing is that you probably belong to no "WORK GROUP", you are independently responsible for yourself. You compete strictly for the value you can establish for your services.

    For example take a waitress where the majority of income is from tips. She utilizes charm, friendliness and attentiveness to get the most from her clients. When she realizes she has exceptional abilities to do what she does she moves to a higher class establishment and for the same effort serves $100 meals instead of $20 dollar meals thus increasing her income 500% for the same physical effort. I want to make it clear that this unequal outcomes system isn't limited to some elite class of citizens.

    Lets take an immigrant who maintains lawns for a landscape company, he learns a real skill in how and when to do what and can produce a great lawn for his clients, He leverages his competent and responsible skills by going into his own business and supervising 4 or 5 teams training them to do the job as well as he himself learned to. In this manner he moves up to a middle class income, where as by cutting lawns himself he could never do that. A person like this needs to negotiate prices, supervise workers and control the outcome of many aspects of his own life.

    I have a nephew in Oklahoma, he worked for a few years refinishing floors and installing new ones for an independent contractor. He finally felt he had been given enough broken and empty promises by his employer and wanted to try starting on his own. This would require an initial investment of around $10,000 for equipment. He approached me for advice more than anything. I said get a local banker and we will make some arrangements. He found a local banker who would work with small business so I deposited $10,000 in escrow to back up a line of credit for him. This is a young man of 24 at the time. He proceeded to build his business and in a few years was billing about $600,000 a year with 2 or 4 crews working and had doubled his take home pay. Now at 30 he is a successful and respected contractor employing 6-8 workers. This is an example where sometimes it takes just a little help for someone to get something off the ground. A few years later I got my escrow back with the interest and it cost me nothing to help my nephew get started. I took a small risk, but the lad was made of the right stuff and had a chance coming. For a while he would call me up and discuss situations. My advice was always pretty simple, always keep your integrity and give as much if not more than you get in every deal.

    Another thing that is MISSING from the variable outcome system is the CONTROLLERS, those who are committed to defining the outcomes and systems that guarantee outcomes. Here the equivalent of controllers would be numerous regulations and responsibilities of running a business.

    Another thing that happens in a Uniform outcome system is that people leave. Maybe a worker starts his own business and leaves the Union. Maybe they go to a different job that isn't in the Union. This means that the Controllers have less than perfect control. The most important thing for them is membership, and all of the opportunities presented from the other system generating undetermined outcomes represents a lost opportunity for a union member.

    The Problem Is

    We probably need both systems. But the problem is the system allowing for controlled outcomes is aggressively committed to attacking the system of unequal opportunities and the employers. There is no sense of joint destiny. Unions need to restrain themselves they cannot consume all of our wealth.

    Just last couple of months, at the height of our rescession Mercury Marine in southern Wisconsin made a final offer and threatened to move to Arkansas, The offer was marginal but they guaranteed to keep the plant open for 4 years. There were, I believe 2000 jobs at stake, but estimates were that other fallout with suppliers and other support obs would cost the state 10, 000 jobs. the Union told their employees it was a bluff and reccommended they vote it down. They Did and Outboard Marine announced they were closing the plant. The rank and file rebelled, organized against the Union and petitioned Outboard to allow another vote. Outboard seemed reluctant but finally agreed and the Union accepted the contract.

    I believe there are a lot of citizens that should receive a decent wage for tasks such as picking up garbage or driving buses and teaching. However these compensations need to represent some standard versus the value supplied. The value cant be some philosophical nonsense like well nothing is as important as teaching your first graders, the value needs to be established based on the rarity of that skill in the society. Not picking up garbage can cause filth and disease and given a plague may be the most important thing on some matrix, but the skill is marginal and payment should be based on the skill level. High paying low-skill jobs just keep citizens in under performing roles and deprives society of their possible more valuable contributions.

    The system of unequal outcomes which we christen as the free enterprise system does try to control some of the Uniformity seekers to keep the outcomes within the Free Enterprise system's definition of happiness. However, all in all, the free enterprise system is in a defensive posture not an aggressive one towards the equal outcome promoters.


    Just like NATO and other alliance the power in our society is distributed among a number of groups. One citizen could be a member of multiple groups.

    A) Liberals pro uniform outcomes
    B) Conservatives pro un-uniform outcomes
    C) Uncommitted Independents
    D) Black Caucus
    E) Unions
    F) Christian
    G) Non Black Minorities
    H) Pro Life
    I) Pro Choice

    I am not comfortable that Black Caucus and Abortion are major political issues on the National scene but the reality is that it is so.

    Currently the alliance between Liberal and Unions and the Black Caucus and parts of the independents has created a political majority, in essence these people are going to promote equal outcomes for the entire population. That is their fondest dream. I call it communism. I have no other word for it.


    Not all citizens need be required to accept either system as a inherent part of their lives. A fluid society where one can chose either system that suits them at the time fits the free enterprise system. In fact we probably need a third system which caters to those who cant meet the demands of the equal outcomes system of providing simple skills for a living wage. This is the so called safety net. A safety net that doesn't include the assumption you can at least progress to exchanging simple skills for a living wage is dehumanizing and unacceptable.

    Self Sufficient WORK FARM/RANCH

    A detailed discussion of the safety net problem is warranted, I am somewhat in favor of volunteer farms and ranches where a community provides it's own livelihood through it's own efforts. Flow from and to these establishments should be free and easy, Someone who just needs to simplify their life for a year or two could have a way to move himself and family to an environment where a simple 8 hours of honest effort would provide for their well being.

    You might say we would need 20 million people in work farms. Not really so. Each person removed from the "Rat Race" reduces competition for other jobs, so there is an exponential impact. There is a potential need for a few million, this will create a different kind of economy for them, mostly we would want them to produce their own food and clothing. I visualize something like the Amish model without adherence to a non-modern philosophy. Some craft and other items including perhaps limited organic crops could be produced to be a cash crop to allow purchases of items produced outside of the commune. We don't want to produce a subsidized competition for other workers.

    In these communities health care and energy might be provided free, but if designed correctly private transportation and other expensive trappings might be disallowed. Certain conditions would have to be agreed to, no drugs, controlled alcohol usage, no firearms. Communities would supply their own childcare and lower grades education.


    Basically this remains unchanged but needs to change it's goals to embrace those who make that choice. Their is no reason that a Union needs every employee in a corporation before it can represent a member in wage negotiations. There is no reason a union cant represent an employee in a negotiation with an HR department, a employee should be entitled to representation if he feels inadequate in negotiating his own salary and benefits.

    This may not be a union function but it is a needed service in the unequal outcomes community. An agency public or private who can make judgments to equivalencies and establish a skill based value for an employee could be a useful entity. Today this takes place when a person decides to change jobs, it should be a process available to the employee. Some enlightened employers do provide assistance in helping employees transverse skill levels and negotiate for themselves.

    However the aggressive demonizing of corporations and unequal outcomes should be toned down. We must make it clear that our society will not except equal outcomes be forced upon everyone. We must also establish methodology that allows unions to be voted away. It should always be a choice and never imposed on anyone. Health Care workers in California tried to bring in a new union and were terrorized by SEIU. This cant happen in a free society.

    If unions are engaged in an unending spiral of higher wages for the same work they have an overall negative outcome of destroying wealth and jobs.

    federal labor board decision this week has given a major victory to a breakaway union vying with the giant Service Employees International Union to represent tens of thousands of California healthcare workers. On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board called for elections to determine who has the right to represent some 2,300 Kaiser healthcare workers employed at various sites in Southern California. An SEIU affiliate currently represents the workers, but the breakaway group filed a petition in February challenging the SEIU. The balloting, likely to be held in January, will give employees a chance to choose between the two unions. WHOLE STORY


    As I review my life, 2 years in Army, 10 in private industry, 25 independent consultant, 10 in private industry, I believe a lot of it was too hard, too stressful and in some ways devastating. Much of it was unneeded stress, A small amount of preparation for the chaotic world of free enterprise could have gone a long way in easing the stress.

    A kinder more gentle government would have made my 25 years of running my own business much easier.

    Almost everything I have done with government agencies has been needlessly aggravating. Mostly it is I the citizen is the enemy and they are haughty and overbearing. Even the last possible transaction, I found $130 the government owed me from an overpayment to one of my corporations by searching the Internet. I sent photo copies of those tax returns and complete information with two signatures of officers notarized by my bank to certify my identification. After repeated incoherent form letters from them I gave up as too painful.

    Instead of teaching our college attendees the glorious merits of equal outcomes for the average citizens , why cant we teach and educate citizens how to succeed in a free enterprise system. Then we need to modify our governments from the local neighborhood to the federal to be kinder to and to embrace free enterprise, not make it impossible to do business. Probably every start up business in this country is forced to break some law or another to exist. In the very least if at all possible they will hide money from the tax collector.

    We need to be educated in how to make the free enterprise system work. How to develop expertise, market that expertise, build a reputation, start a consulting business and how this works in almost all endeavors from computer technology, auto repair, and machine parts. Valuable skills and expertise can be leveraged exceeding by many magnitudes what can be achieved by equal outcome systems.

    Many of us follow these paths by trial and error, it doesn't need to be that chaotic.

    If we want to run a free enterprise system we need to start learning just what that takes.

    Failure needs to be less dramatic, a fallback option to retreat to a work commune would give that overall sense of well being that can remove the worse of the stress. It may also be true that it will cause some lessening of effort as well, but effort that results in illness and unbearable stress may not be a positive outcome either.


    Supporting a free enterprise system takes a lot more education preparation and effort than we have been putting into it. We educate our generations in communism but not capitalism and how to make it work. We also need to recognize that competing in a free enterprise system can be a demanding stressful experience and isn't suitable for everyone and we must provide enough alternatives to give a close fit for all members of our society to be successful.

    And perhaps we should spend less time analyzing belief systems and more time evaluating results and outcomes. This is particularly true in education. We seem to enthralled in educational systems while results and outcomes deteriorate at an alarming rate.

    Perhaps some combination of systems for our society and human endeavors is a dynamic approach that works. But if you don't have a free enterprise system as a large part you will not create innovation or add new wealth.

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