March 10th, 2011

obsess, think

What Is Collective Bargaining, Anyway?

With all this uproar in Wisconsin about the budget bill and workers losing their collective bargaining 'rights' I decided to look up collective bargaining.  What is it, anyway?

Something to do with unions, right?  The only thing I really understand about unions is that, when they don't get what they want, they go on strike and hold employers, students, whatever hostage, until they get what they want.  Seems childish and wrong, and most people wouldn't get away with that.  All the protesters and runaway Democrats here in Wisconsin have been acting kind of childish, too.  So much uproar over the loss of these collective bargaining 'rights' - what about the way the Democrats have been holding everyone hostage for all this time?  They knew they were outnumbered and wouldn't get their way, so they decided not to show up.  Sorry, but I just think it's ridiculous.

Anyway, I looked up Collective Bargaining and found this page - What Collective Bargaining Is - which is pretty interesting.  This comment especially:
I think most people don't 'get' how collective bargaining works. I have been in the business world for 25 years and until I started working for a large telecom company with a large unionized work force, I didn't understand how it works (and perhaps I still don't have a full understanding).

For friends and family, I describe the collective bargaining process using a simple buying analogy that most people are familiar with. I want to buy a used car. The unionized seller is offering his car for $13K. I tell him that I am willing to pay $10K and there are plenty of similar used cars available in the market for $10K or less. He says he will not take less than $13K. I look around and find a non-unionized seller willing to sell the exact same car to me for $9K. As I walk away from the unionized seller to purchase the automobile for $9K from the non-unionized seller, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) steps in and tells me I am not allowed to purchase the car outside the bargaining unit and I MUST come to agreement on a fair price with the unionized seller. 

Hence, you have no negotiating leverage and you must somehow come up with price even though there are other cheaper alternatives that you are not allowed to purchase. This is why you end up in strike situations. The only remaining tool in the management tool box is to staff the labor positions and let them strike and lose enough wages until they soften their position (i.e. price). Seeking a lower cost alternative from third parties is not allowed.
This concept is completely antithetical to me and most Americans. I think most people think 'collective bargaining' is when labor attempts to negotiate the price as a group and do not realize that 'management' is held hostage to the negotiation.

So, who does this collective bargaining actually benefit? Who understands it? Is it really a 'right' that people should be fighting to keep?
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