Thursday, December 22, 2005


The Taylor Law

So I hear the strike is over: my wrap up?

The MTA really should receive some of the blame for trying to use these negotiations to make a point about pension spending. It really wasn't that much money at stake -- they just wanted to set a precident. And perhaps the governor was pushing them to do so. Given that the governor may have been a wanker here (no surprise), why was the union so stupid to ask him to come to the table?

But the local union didn't seem too swift: The union thought it could convince people how necessary their members are by going on strike, but in going on strike to prove a point, they merely lost the support of most people in the tri-state area. After all, their strike wasn't just hurting their employers' ability to make a profit, but, heck, it was, at least as reported on TV (which makes it the reality), keeping cancer patients from receiving chemo. Which, of course, is why the Taylor law (or something like it) is needed.

But, while people have tried to convince me the Taylor law is above-board and Constitutional, I still don't buy it. If a strike is "illegal", certainly the employers' can just fire workers for not showing up and, if the contract actually has not yet ran out, seek redress for breach of contract. But they must do so in a fair way. If they cannot replace all of their workers with what they are willing to offer scabs, then they should pay their union employees more -- that's the free market at work.

But the Taylor law fines people for not working. How can that be? This isn't the old Soviet Union where it is illegal not to work. We have the 13th ammendment, you cannot punish people to force them to work. If a strike is "legal", then striking workers do and ought to receive certain protections (getting their jobs back, etc.), but I fail to understand how "illegal" strikers could be punished in anyway other than potentially not getting their jobs back ... and, the decision as to which striking workers to keep on the job and which to fire must be made in some fair manner (seniority, documented before-the-strike performance metrics, etc.) lest the employer be discriminatory in the workplace.

So, I still don't get how fining people for not showing up to work is within the framework of American laws and customs. And given that, how is it any conspiracy for the union leadership to call upon people to do something they have a right to do -- that is not show up to work unless they have a contract obligating them to do so.

If the contract is up, the obligation to work is over, nu? And the obligation for an employer to keep the worker is over, nu? This alone should provide incentives for both sides to negotiate. If one side doesn't have an incentive enough to keep bargaining ... well, then, doesn't that mean someone is not bargaining in good faith?

The MTA should not have pushed to fine the strikers: merely said that if they don't come back to work, they will not have jobs to come back to. If the MTA couldn't hire enough others to take their place under the terms they were willing to offer, well, from a free market perspective, the MTA was not offering enough, now were they.

In a sense, strikes are not against the American, free-market way ... they are part and parcel of it. A flexible and free labor market (or capitalist system in general) cannot thrive unless work is somewhat voluntary (with a safety-net to catch those at the bottom and no laws mandating work). When work becomes too involuntary, incomes reach an equilibrium distribution, the economy as a whole equilibriates and thus "dies" -- it is no longer capitalist but feudalist.

So why do some want to undermine our capitalist system? And in the name of the free-market no less?

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?