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The Teamsters announce coordinated nationwide project to unionize Amazon (vice.com)
406 points by cratermoon 44 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 375 comments



> With the Amazon Project, the Teamsters are taking a different approach that doesn't rely on the traditional National Labor Relations Board election process that allows employers to run sophisticated anti-union campaigns and involves the task of running elections warehouse by warehouse.

> Instead the Teamsters plan to focus on a series of pressure campaigns involving work stoppages, petitions, and other collective action to push Amazon to recognize a union and bargain over working conditions.

This is good. Even in the "good old days", labor in the U.S. won a rather Pyrrhic victory in that organizing became shoehorned in a narrow legal framework with narrow goals. It makes the decline of union power same rather inevitable.

This "going back to the roots", along with the tightening of the labor market we've seen lately, has the promise to attack that problem head-on rather than wishing it away.


> Even in the "good old days", labor in the U.S. won a rather Pyrrhic victory in that organizing became shoehorned in a narrow legal framework with narrow goals.

One factor in the fate of on organizing is that much of the agenda was codified into law. The 40 hour week, overtime, workers comp, etc. Not that these haven't been substantially eroded...

If they pull this off it will be remarkable. The president of the Teamsters is an accomplishment free 80 year old product of institutional nepotism that's been warming the chair for almost a quarter century.

I'm not holding my breath.


I'm not saying hold your breath either

> One factor in the fate of on organizing is that much of the agenda was codified into law.

Right so now that workers don't have much real power, it is nice we have the legal remnants of power in the past. But given what I am saying, this should be seen as a Faustian bargain: it's not worth sacrificing power now (via legalization-ossification), to have some remnant influence later. Moreoever, having complex erodable things enshrined in a law doesn't work well as a "rachet".

The most important thing is to sustain power and sustain politicization --- don't let the red scare take all your best organizers in the 1940s-1950s interested in the real goal of workplace democracy! And if you do go for laws, make them really simple things (40 hour workweek is better than NLRB recognition, but still too complex. Maybe UBI would be the best).


> The most important thing is to sustain power and sustain politicization

Union power is a function of the demand for labor. You can rah-rah all day long, but when the demand for labor is low unions have little influence. If you want empowered workers seek to increase demand for labor. If the policies necessary to achieve that are abhorrent to you; impeding offshoring, limiting immigration, reducing regulatory burden, etc. then understand that it is you that defangs unions.

As for the "real goal" workers seek prosperity which includes minimizing hours and maximizing income, benefits, safety and other quality of life factors. If your goal is "workplace democracy" or some other abstraction no one will listen. Perhaps you think they should, and you may be plausibly correct, but they wont.


[flagged]


> but "kill all the jews" merely resulted in their Head of Diversity getting reassigned

I think I’ve heard different story involving Head of Diversity, nowhere close to “kill all Jews”. Do you have source on that?


"If I were a Jew I would be concerned about my insatiable appetite for war and killing in defence of myself,"

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57342967


That's a pretty bad statement, but not close to "kill the Jews".


Start by dehumanizing, right?


"Start by breathing" would be just as applicable and useless. A necessary precursor to an offense is not equal to an offense.


HN posters whose names start with a B should be concerned about their insatiable appetite for war and killing. Is this more useful? How about the fact that the whole thing is based on a lie to begin with?


I'm not sure I get what you're trying to say, but no, that's just as useless.

What 'whole thing' are you referring to being a lie?

sfeng 43 days ago [flagged] [–]

It sounds like when someone says something bad about women you don’t care, but when they say something bad about the Jewish people you do care, and you are mad that anyone would think differently than you?


I am genially confused here. What are you trying to say?


"my insatiable appetite for war and killing in defence of myself,"

For a culture, that sounds like a feature, not a bug.

I don't hate the idea of FAANG unions, although I expect you just end up with two abusive quasi-monopolies instead of one. (Question: Why is Netflix in that group aside from the unfortunate new acronym?)


> (Question: Why is Netflix in that group aside from the unfortunate new acronym?)

Because they pay massive salaries, at the same level of the other companies.


FAANG is so constituted because at the time, all of those stocks were massively outperforming expectations, and the market in general.

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/faang-stocks.asp


“Diversity head” is a title inflation thing here. He was the titular head of some diversity research thing, not the head of Google’s diversity program; from what I remember, it didn’t seem like anyone at all reported to him.


That is pretty bad. It makes the (far-right Israeli-encouraged) fallacy of equating the desires of all Jews (who, like most people, simply want peace and prosperity) with the plainly destructive aims of a portion of the Israeli government and the Zionist diasporans who support their illegal, internationally-condemned activities.

No matter how much Likud ghouls et al. would like you to believe that they represent Jewish people worldwide, they don't, and of course we should condemn any attempt to pin on unrelated civilians, just by mere association of faith, the hundreds of killings and countless instances of human rights abuses and war crimes perpetrated by Israeli military and civil forces.


No, I don't think this person is committing any fallacies or anything else they just hate Jews.


Just because you insist on braindead reductionism doesn't mean that other people are also incapable of forming complex sentiments. Even the most abhorrent hatred can be examined for its core lie.


Except that in the long run it's the employees that get punished in overly unionised industry.


As European, where unions usually affect everyone in the industry across the whole building, I enjoy my punishment.


European unions are very different from American unions though due to legal differences. In USA they tend to have much more power over workers and many workers don't like that.


> many workers don't like that.

"many workers"? Citation needed.


If they liked having unions with lots of power over workers they would join unions. "Company propaganda" is just a cop out, companies in Europe does the same, the main difference is that unions in Europe has a lot of power over companies and very little power over workers while in USA it is the opposite.

An example of protections workers in USA lacks is "right to work", everyone has that in Europe but in USA it is said to be right wing anti union propaganda. The only one who is hurt by banning "right to work" is the worker, unions wants it though since it gives them more power over workers. Btw, saying that unions are on the workers side just because workers elect and pay them is like saying that politicians are on the peoples side since the people elect and pay the politicians taxes. It doesn't work that way, you need to protect people from politicians and also protect workers against unions.


Why do you dismiss company propaganda as a cop out so easily? Are you saying that in the Amazon warehouse example their propaganda had no effect? I'd argue that even Amazon disagrees with that statement even if they wouldn't admit it publicly. If there were no effect, they wouldn't have needed to worry about putting a bunch of time and effort into stopping the union.


Every single person I know either hated their Union because it does nothing positive for them except collect money. Or they hate it because it protects terrible workers from being fired and prevents any discipline. One of these people runs a 600 man electricians crew.

Anecdotal, I know, but the only people I know that like unions are bad employees the union is overpaying and protecting.

Example: heavy equipment operators Union goes on strike for more pay ( its already prevailing wage+++), all the other unions go on strike to show “support”, in the mean time they don’t get paid. 10 guys on my friends crew went two weeks without pay. They wanted to work and had no issue with the pay rate only the operators Union did.


I've known quite a few union members who were paid out of their unions' strike funds when they went on strike. This is not so cut and dried.

I've also known hundreds of people who love their unions, from a variety of industries and walks of life (health care, service industry, trades, heavy industry.)

This is also anecdotal, of course, but it doesn't seem right to make such broad claims with a veneer of fact or universality and then add that one little caveat, "anecdotal, I know"


It’s seems very right to share what I have first hand experience with. Seems silly to look at it any other way. I just wanted to state that I am aware these dozens of people I know don’t speak for all union members, but my first hand experience is that none of them liked anything but the job protections and ridiculous pay protected by a mafia essentially.

Also, I doubt you’ve spoken to hundreds of individuals about their opinions on their union. lol


I have anecdote as well: I built my house with union labor and am glad I did. I have worked for a company that was a union shop (machinists, welders etc) and those guys were fucking serious about their work (I was in a non-unionized role). I'd do it again.

The teamsters were famously corrupt (until containerization anything that involved materials handling was a huge opportunity for graft) and of course some cities have unions get in the way (ever do a trade show in Chicago?).

But arguments that presume the needle being pegged to "paradise" or "hell" are unrealistic.


Many people are saying this


I'm in the UK, heavily unionised and nationalised industry eventually died. See the British car industry for example.


I'm imagining margaret thatcher holding a pillow over their faces while they're sleeping saying "they just died!"


A closer analogy might be pulling the plug on a ventilator. Yes, Thatcher was the proximate cause; but those industries had been dying for a long time and only survived as long as they did because they were being propped up by the government.


The UK lost most industry independent of anything else. The service sector is 79% of GDP.

That said, the UK has the 2nd largest aerospace industry of any country and it’s pharmaceutical industry ranks 10th.


Why? I would argue rhat the consumer might get harmed (higher prices) or the business (higher wage costs) but the employee? How?


Because US-style unions are bad for top performers. Incompetent employees don’t get fired and seniority takes priority over skills.

Overall, this encourages everyone to act in the bare minimum fashion and the business will suffer when pitted against a motivated workforce at a competitor. Unless the business has a very big moat, it will collapse under the union bloat.


Unions will never take root in the tech industry because the workers see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed top performers :)

Even Amazon FC workers, and SV employees who had their wages suppressed by illegal collusion, it seems.


Would you like your us tech salary replaced by the European one? My take, as someone outside both regions is that even after medical and rental and other such fixed costs, us tech workers continue to make tons more than European tech workers. The top paying tech companies in Europe are, from what I understand, American.


With European welfare state and everything else? Yes, in a heartbeat.


Then do it. They are desperate for tech employees. As it stands, taking the European offer is not rational even after taking into account the value of the welfare from the state.

The only people it makes sense for are those with other reasons to go (culture, family, etc).


And it's really too bad because in a decade or two, the tech industry will really need one. I used to be against unionizing too, but then heard this scenario: there will come a time in the near-future when the average software job starts being outsourced en masse (and I'm not talking about rote IT support). When that day comes, how will we be able to fight that?


Unions won't help that. What will help is being better, or lifting the wages of the out sourced countries. My company is finding India is more expensive than Germany right now (we are picking the best people in India which are more expensive, but well worth the additional price), and looking for other places to outsource to for savings.


What will help is being better, or lifting the wages of the out sourced countries.

That is the, as some would say, the "blackpill" that is toughest to swallow. Developers in the West need to realize their relatively high salaries are on borrowed time. It all will come to an equilibrium, but that doesn't mean we can't still fight for our collective rights to keep as much money in the country as possible.


OP is right about "lifting the wages of the out sourced countries". International workers movements really are important. We need capital controls based on labor and environmental standards not nationalism to avoid a race to the bottom.


The result is still the same.


>>there will come a time in the near-future when the average software job starts being outsourced en masse

I've been hearing this for 30 years, and went through all buzzwords: outsourcing (India), off-shoring (China) and whatever catchy name they gave Russia/Ukraine..

The world never ended, the pay never went down, and the jobs didn't disappear. The doomsayers will be right one day.. but not today :-)


How would unions fight outsourcing? Wouldn't that expedite it if anything?


A lot of outsourcing practically relies these days on very codified process maintained by software... And that software is usually developed domestically.

It wouldn't take a lot for the domestic software developers to passively sabotage such software via collective action of failure to maintain it and letting the first unexpected heavy dependency crashing bring the whole system down. Even if a lot of company ops are outsourced, having all your site reliability engineers walk off the job sets the company up for any small fire to quickly become a large one.


I don't see how that answers either of my questions, or continues the thread of discussion I was attempting to pull on. Are you saying that unions would enable sabotage to prevent outsourcing? If so, I disagree. Software used by businesses often has many external vendors (notable ones in software: GitHub, Slack, Teams...). The idea that an internal dev team could sabotage these sufficiently to prevent outsourcing sounds far-fetched to me.


I shouldn't have used "sabotage;" it has the wrong connotation.

A union can organize through collective action a walkout of software maintainers. Few organizations (big or small) run automatically indefinitely without the hundreds to thousands of changes per day such teams make. The three examples you've provided (GitHub, Slack, Teams) often grow per-enterprise integrations to make them work the right way for a given company, and when those integrations crash, who will be available to restore or correct them?

Through simple inaction, a site reliability team can "cause" a company's infrastructure to spin itself apart by simply refraining from stopping it from spinning itself apart.


Unions really helped keep factory jobs in the country, didn't they?


People here don’t seem to get the basic fact that the industrial union made off shoring more attractive, not less.


Yes, but the solution to a race to the bottom isn't to not be the top.

We need unions and capital controls based on the counterparty's labor and environmental standards.


That's a shared understanding of acceptable working conditions informing both union policy and import/export policy. Unions as an output of a much larger change upstream, as opposed to an input when talking about outsourcing.


Funny, didn't the rise of offshoring coincide with the decline of unions in the USA? So: Getting rid of unions really helped keep factory jobs in the country, didn't it?


Why will software jobs be outsourced? What will change?


Big tech companies, especially Google, are spending massive amounts of money to get everyone in the world to code. Don't be fooled by their faux-magnanimous PR bullshit, this is an effort to drive down their largest expense: software developer salaries.


I don’t buy this. I see myself as a top performer and I’m very well paid, but I know I’m not getting nearly the same amount as the investor class. I’m not greedy either—I make much more than I need, but I don’t think our society benefits when the lion’s share of compensation goes to the super wealthy. I do understand the nuance in that the investors are putting their capital on the line, and that is worth something, but a line must be drawn to avoid runaway inequality.


>I do understand the nuance in that the investors are putting their capital on the line, and that is worth something, but a line must be drawn to avoid runaway inequality.

Agreed. The significance of the capital risk loss on most investors actual livelihoods and future investments is very often over dramatized. The risk is purely capital and at a certain point, capital accumulates capital.

Once you reach a certain level of capital accumulation that your needs and even wants are met, the rest by stable low risk and nearly fully secure investments, anything beyond that can be easily risked in incredibly high risk investments (or higher risk investments) in hopes for big payoffs. Rinse, repeat, and you might become stupidly successful or might just dither around being fully financially independent.

When people talk about investor risk, they often think about Bob or Pam down the street pulling out their life savings to take a risk and put their all in the business they're going to start up. This isn't how most investors look, most investors aren't taking much of any personal risk other than the risk of not improving their standard of living beyond an already very good standard of living. This type of risk to me is overly rewarded in our financial system. If Bob or Pam fail, they're screwed. If a typical investor fails, they wait until they snowball some more capital and try again.


If you are very well paid you likely are the investor class. Nearly every tech company that pays well does so via equity.


> If you are very well paid you likely are the investor class. Nearly every tech company that pays well does so via equity.

Getting paid in equity doesn't make you “the investor class”, aka the capitalist class, aka the haut bourgeoisie.

Having the overwhelming share of your support coming from capital returns rather than pay for labor does that, but equity as a component of labor compensation doesn’t, alone, do that, or even move you out of the working (primarily dependent on labor income) class into the middle (split dependency on labor and capital with neither dominating) class.


> Unions will never take root in the tech industry because the workers see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed top performers

Lebron James and Tom Brady are union members.


If they can be, so can you.


In Europe they do.


In Europe tech workers also make ~40% less than American tech workers after taxes, retirement/pension, and healthcare. I’m sure that’s not entirely attributable to unions, (and I would genuinely be interested in understanding the full cause of the disparity) but I imagine it plays a role.


Believe me or not, I worked for FAANGs and received offers to relocate to the US, as most of my peers.

The large majority refused and preferred to stay in EU. Admittedly, my sample size is around 15, but still meaningful.


I don't disbelieve you, but this doesn't rebut my claim at all. To be clear, I didn't claim that Europeans prefer to move to the US, only that the US compensation packages are better for software professionals.


No surprise. Generally speaking nobody uproots their life by moving countries unless the upside is massive. If you're already a well compensated white collar professional where you live now the upside is not that large.


> No surprise

Apparently people are not liking my comment and it's getting a lot of downvotes.

> If you're already a well compensated white collar professional where you live now the upside is not that large.

The increase in salary can be massive, often 2x or above. Even including the increased cost of housing in large cities and health insurance.

Still, the increase in wealth hits a point of diminishing returns. Most people I know claim they have a better quality of life in EU overall.


A lot of throwaways in this thread. :)


I am quite happy with my 40h week, extra pay for overtime and weekends work, 30 day vacation, health care and retirement, no need for extra 40%.


Those are all standard benefits for tech workers in America (at least if you're willing to move to a tech hub, which is where the interesting work is anyway). Plus 50-200% more pay.

I do agree that Europe does a good job of guaranteeing decent working conditions for the bottom half of the labor market, and it's totally reasonable to prefer a society where those benefits are widely available to everyone. But from an individual comp/benefits perspective for a skilled engineer there really isn't a comparison -- the US wins hands down.


OT is absolutely not a standard benefit for tech workers in the USA; it is considered a "professional" field and is exempt from the requirement.


> it is considered a "professional" field and is exempt from the requirement.

Legally that is true. However practically only a very few tech companies don't exceed that standard. (the exceptions are mostly startups, which if things work out will make the people taking the risk worth far more in the long run - I don't think the risks are worth it but enough people have made millions on those deals to call it completely stupid)


Agreed. If you're in a startup, you can think of your stock as overtime pay, and it looks a lot better than what you would make earning 40% less with OT pay.


If it doesn't go under and one finds themselves like in great depression.


I’m pretty sure US startups still pay more in salary than the average or median European software developer salary, so in the worst case the American startup employee finds themselves in a comparable economic situation to the European software professional (except that the American can always go to a FAANG or fintech and make double). Hardly a “great depression” scenario.


Aren't most tech jobs salaried anyways?


Fair, software engineers in tech hubs universally meet the $107k minimum salary threshold which means employers aren't required to pay overtime.

That said, overtime is only expected in a few corners of the industry anyway, game development and pre-growth-stage startups being two of them. It's pretty easy to avoid those sectors if you want to maintain a 40-hour schedule. I've never been expected to put in overtime in my career, either in or out of FAANG.


A big if, and then waste those 50-200% into getting what is standard here, possibly alongside a double mortage and better never get any serious sickness, no thanks.


No, the extra 50-200% is in addition to the employer-provided healthcare benefits and retirement match.

If you get seriously sick, you're much more likely to get effective and timely treatment with the gold-plated health insurance plans provided by US tech employers than the options I'm familiar with in Europe.*

I'll 100% grant that the US healthcare system is really messed up, and if you're not in a highly-compensated field you're probably better off in most European systems. I'm socially liberal and would much rather the US system were more equitable, even if that means my own personal experience gets a bit worse. But that doesn't change the fact that if you're an in-demand engineer your personal interactions with the US system will be great.

* To be fair, I've only lived in London and Barcelona, so there may be other parts of Europe with better healthcare systems. But at least compared to those two cities, I've had much better experiences with my employer-provided health coverage in the US than in the public UK or private Spanish healthcare systems I've used.


Why didn't you choose to have private healthcare in the UK? It costs peanuts and I'm surprised big tech companies don't offer it as standard


I was working on a startup at the time wasn't making any money. And to be fair, if you have no money the NHS is pretty awesome!


Do startups in the US provide healthcare plans?


A funded startup will generally provide health insurance of some kind, although at the very earliest stages it's probably not great. As startups get larger and less cash-poor overall comp (including health insurance) increases significantly.

In my specific case though I was bootstrapping my own startup, which had no funding, revenue, or employees. (I survived by living off my wife's PhD stipend at the time.)


So in the UK you had health insurance and chose not to pay the extra £800 a year to get gold plated private stuff

In the US you wouldn't have had any health insurance at all?

Have you compared health insurance at a FAANG in the US with NHS + Bupa in the UK?


Europeans have a very distorted sense of American healthcare. Your media, like ours, is not accurate or reliable. The American healthcare system doesn’t work well for the lower classes, but it generally works very well for the professional class and up. Of course this isn’t to say it shouldn’t be reformed to be more like the European healthcare system, but it’s not because the European system is better for professionals. Additionally, the extra 50-200% (not sure about that upper bound figure) is after accounting for “what is standard for Europeans” i.e., healthcare and pension.

I looked into this precisely because I was interested in moving to Europe for a while and found it would be very difficult for me to afford for my wife and I to both live in Europe and travel Europe on my salary alone (and the odds of her finding work in Europe seemed slim).


fyi, the lower classes in the US pay nothing for health care, typically.


I think that's only true for the very poorest Americans and I don't think they enjoy the same quality of healthcare that the professional class enjoys. In general, Medicare seems to be really complicated and it varies tremendously by state, so it's hard to generalize about the kind of healthcare poorer people receive.


It’s not Medicare it’s Medicaid and the qualification can be up to 400% of the poverty line and the coverage tends to be quite good with minimal ($5) out of pocket costs. In some areas it can be harder to find a family doctor because Medicaid pays them so little for a visit, but drug coverage, for example is comparable to private plans (with way less out of pocket).

And now with Obamacare exchanges, low incomes folks can qualify for substantial premium subsidies. Deductibles and out of pocket limits can still be significant, but one could consider it catastrophic coverage.


At least in New York, medicaid is still annoying in that it's hard to schedule appointments quickly, and many procedures require submitting forms to authorize (more waiting).

Basically the general balkanized-bureaucratic chaos that affects all US healthcare is not ameliorated by medicaid being the single payer. Something simplified and streamlined like the UK NHS sounds much better.


> Something simplified and streamlined like the UK NHS sounds much better.

I have lots of friends in the UK including some who work for the NHS and none of them characterize it as “streamlined” or “simplified”. “Bottomless money put” has come up a few times. I’m sharing this out of amusement more than anything; I fully support single payer and I suspect even the UK’s NHS is better than America’s system in general.


> It’s not Medicare it’s Medicaid

Of course. I wasn't thinking properly.


You don't need to be in a union to get that though, you don't even need to be in a profession that has a union in any company to get that.


If you are lucky, here mostly everyone gets it.


Again, the benefit is standard among tech workers here as well. We can still appreciate Europe without the pretense that it is better than America for every category of citizen. No need for the defensiveness.


I believe this used to be the case (and completely agree on the illegal collusion acceptance). But as software continues to eat the world, the average software engineer reflects more the average employee.


Is the screen actor's guild a US style union? Because it seems to be working just fine for their top performers.


Top performers doesn't like SAG, they'd prefer not to be in it but SAG forces them to pay their union fees and not take non-union contracts anyway since most big budget movies are union shops.

And you can't compare professions where you get paid for fame with professions where you get paid for performance. It is really hard to prevent famous people from making loads of cash, but it is very easy to prevent high performers from getting a higher salary than their peers as both companies and unions would prefer that.


Unions for professional athletes seem to have figured out how to get paid for performance.


Every counterexample will be a special case for some reason. Police unions?


Seeing as police won't hire you if your IQ is too high, top performers aren't really a concern for them.


Police officers seem on an individual level to be quite happy with their unions.


Society on the other hand, less so.


Film stars are their own brand. People will go see the new Owen Wilson movie but they won’t buy software just because it’s built by Frank the SWE. This isn’t a good comparison IMO.


I'd buy software written by Fabrice Bellard.


I would buy software built by Frank the SWE if he was good. Why can’t I find authorship information for software?


Significant software is rarely an individual effort. Same with movies of course but a film star can have an outsized impact.

A lot of software does often have a credits splash screen somewhere, if it's open source you can probably see contributions on GitHub, etc. Game designers are fairly well known even if all the coders aren't.


why do you think you can't? people can talk about what they work on.

You can buy John Carmack products.


No, it is not.

SAG is in no way the norm when it comes to US Labor employment unions.


Why so? Is it structurally different?


> US-style unions are bad for top performers

Not necessarily. It just institutionalises office politics. If you’re in a customer-facing role, the skills that make you successful at lobbying customers and lobbying your union might be identical.


The NFL Players League and the Screen Actors Guild do not operate this way. Their top performers negotiate significantly higher salaries for themselves (check out what Tom Cruise is getting for a film) while retaining the protections of the guild.

Why wouldn't organized labor in software build their unions the same way?


I don't know how it is in the US, but here in Germany unions are democratic entities. They are pretty much exactly what (the actively voting subset of) their members want them to be.


Have you ever worked for a union? It's just another entity that you have to negotiate with, except not only are they a self interested entity like your employer, but they also average out your interests within the context of their other members. It's good if you were on the bottom half of the distribution and you don't value independence/personal leverage. If you are a talented individual who is able to make your worth known to a self interested employer, such that you can typically negotiate higher pay, or choose to work on specific things, at specific hours, etc, unions can be extremely constraining. They often have arbitrary systems in place of meritocracies, where a position you might be better suited for, which your employer would prefer to have you do, will instead go to someone with seniority, or someone who has played the union political game better than you.

In other words, it's just another interested party that gets inserted as a middle man between you and your employer. If you weren't lacking in leverage, which most engineers are not, you're unlikely to find the upside.


> If you are a talented individual who is able to make your worth known to a self interested employer, such that you can typically negotiate higher pay, or choose to work on specific things, at specific hours, etc, unions can be extremely constraining.

I’ve never worked in an Amazon Warehouse but I don’t think there’s any room to negotiate any of that - no matter how good you are, you’re still a replaceable cog to Amazon.


Which is why Amazon Warehouse workers are a good target for unions, while tech workers are not. If amazon figures out a way to measure productivity of warehouse workers and reward the better ones, then suddenly they are not a good target of unions.

Unions work when people are all equal in output. Assembly lines are only as fast the line, it doesn't matter how much faster you can put that bolt in the hole than the next guy: it just means you have more time to wait for the next widget to come before you can put the bolt in the hole, so you can't be worth more than the guy who barely gets done in time (and the guy who is a little slower needs to be fired)


Everyone is replaceable, this is fact and people need to recognize this fact

However even roles where the skill set is filled by more people a good worker, that shows up on time, has few absences, performs the job with limited errors, and has higher productivity then other members will be valued more by the company, and (in a non-union setting) often be giving more wage increased, promotions etc

In a union setting however none of that matters, everyone is on the exact same contract, and the pay is often determined by tenure not performance.


Considering people like Angelina Jolie or Dwayne The Rock Johnson are members of a union, I don't think your story holds up.


SAG is not comparable to a labor union.


SAG-AFTRA is a union.


Which operates in an industry entirely different from labor. You’re delusional if you think acting and manual labor are in the same bucket. Besides, every union differs from the next but they’re generally all cesspools of political wrangling and promotion based on seniority. Everyone I’ve known that belongs to a union is just cashing a check and waiting to retire with a pension, 0 ambition.


Exceptions do not make a rule, i am not sure why people think pointing to SAG and a few A List celebs is proof of anything other than the fact we as a society over value entertainment


And the income of the average actor in Los Angeles is…?


The average actor in LA isn’t a SAG member.


The stereotypical anti-union case are rules that are about making work for other employees rather than providing higher wages and shorter hours. Think “you’re not allowed to plug that in: that’s a job for the lighting Union”


Decreased managerial discretion and increased rigidity in assignment and pay.

Obviously this is a doubled edged sword.

As long as you hit whatever metrics the agreement says you're gonna be tracked by you'll say employed and get your scheduled raises. People can be real jerks to everyone around them and cause all sorts of problems while still doing whatever their on-paper job duties are.

The guy who wants to work his butt off make everyone happy and pivot that built up goodwill into a quick promotion or internal transfer to a different role is usually SOL in those kinds of workplaces.


Can you elaborate some? It seems to me like unions are incredibly good. It allows workers to have a stable career with pay advancement over the long run and reasonable working conditions. The alternative is Amazon warehouses where workers are pushed extremely hard and have absolutely zero job security. We are in a world with plentiful resources, there is no reason to treat the workers on the bottom like dirt and make them scrape to get by.


Without trying to go into too many details, because it would be a long discussion, unions have both positives and negatives. There are people on both sides that ignore/discount the other side, so it can be difficult to even have a reasonable discussion on it.

Some points from both sides

Positives

- Without unions, we wouldn't have the 40 hour work week or many of the safety regulations we take for granted.

- Without unions, people can wind up working long hours in inhumane environments because it's the only opportunity they have (do it or starve). That's true even today.

Negatives

- Union members consider anyone who disagrees with the union an enemy, dishing out verbal and physical abuse on those people.

- Unions sometimes prevent poor workers from being fired, resulting in certain worse conditions for everyone involved.

I'm not looking to debate any of the above, just throwing out some examples from each side. The topic of unions is far from clear cut as good or bad.


From the standpoint of union members, isn't more good than bad though? In this amazon warehouse example, in the long run, people that work in these amazon warehouses will have the opportunity to have a stable career where they chase the american dream and raise a family with relative security. The alternative without unions in this day and age with plentiful resources is just not humane to those workers.


> From the standpoint of union members, isn't more good than bad though?

That is a matter of debate. Some say yes, some say no. The same holds true for their effect on society as a whole; some people think unions are a net positive (beyond just for the workers), some do not.


This has not been my experience.


Exactly.


>Apple will fire you for being Jewish

[citation needed]


[flagged]


You can't do this here. It's one thing to criticize Israel, quite another to make dark insinuations about a "Jewish collective". That's fucked up and a shameful line to cross.

We've had to ban you repeatedly in the past; you've mostly fixed that with your current account (though frankly not enough—please do more). This, on the other hand, was a big step in the wrong direction. Please don't do it again.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


> I was pretty pleased that Google was able to resist Jewish collective pressure for arbitrary outcomes actually.

...since when did these sort of posts pop up here?...

can I ask mods to consider a ban on this user?


If you want to ask us something the only reliable way to do that is to email hn@ycombinator.com. Everything else is random.


Seconded, I haven’t seen these kind of blatant trolls here before.


There nothing to invalidate about that post

Google obviously felt the same way as me

They rolled their eyes to placate a mob and just moved that person away from a public facing role, that mob is not placated and is just ignored

I would like to see more of that


[flagged]


[flagged]


If by "regime change" you are referring to how the latest round of elections resulted in a new prime minister along with a new, shaky coalition consisting of a motley crew of anti-Netanyahu parties...I'm curious why you believe this was driven by outside criticism of Israel.

It's hard to know why people vote the way they do, but my feeling is that if anything, external criticism and increased global isolation is good for the Netanyahu camp and plays into his political strategy. The anti-Netanyahu camp is driven by frustration with corruption (and his efforts to fight a police investigation from office) and perhaps lack of progress on domestic issues.

I don't think international criticism can take much, if any credit for the new government.


There were protests in Israel over the last month over the “damaged image” that helped emboldened the coalition to act against Netanyahu. Thats their only job and they will likely fail at anything else.


From what I saw here though, the workers don't want a union and the teamsters seem to be trying to force one in regardless? There was a vote, and from what I remember it wasn't even close. Does this coercion not impact its legitimacy in your eyes?


One vote cast in one warehouse doesn't necessarily represent the workforce as a whole.

1. That particular workforce is making above-market wages for their area. They looked at what a union might be able to deliver and decided they didn't want to rock the boat.

2. Any single location voting for union representation knows that there's a good chance management will just shutdown the whole operation. Like Wal-Mart did. Amazon could easily jettison a "troublesome" warehouse and continue doing business. Game-theoretically, it would benefit them as a message to other locations that might be flirting with organizing.

I'm not sure what coercion you're seeing in their new strategy.


It's also worth noting that the NLSB is currently investigating Amazon for illegally pressuring workers to vote against unionizing.


True. I took the Bessemer results at face value in my comment, but of course there's also that possibility. Which kind of dovetails into #2 above. ("Boss says if this place unionizes, we're all out of a job")


I'm definitely all for punitive measures on amazon if they're found guilty there. That also works invalidate the results in my book. That's an if, though.


Amazon "deciding" that warehouse needs to be relocated after a unionization vote should be an automatic 5m+ for every worker in that facility.


Amazon managed to play around a lot with the cohort deemed qualified to vote.

A lot of the people the Union convinced ended up being swapped out with newbies who had only been exposed to anti-union propaganda and hadn't seen what the job really had to offer yet.

There's always a contingent of people who are afraid that the center will close if they vote to unionize and will lose their jobs (even though it's technically illegal).


Bessemer is the type of place where fear of things being worse easily overcomes hope of things being better.

Asking the most precarious to make the first bold move doesn't feel right.


An HM commenter provided some context after the vote in Bessemer [1], equating it to a slum. Another commenter quoted from Wikipedia:

> "Crime increased following the rise in unemployment and social disruption from the decline of manufacturing industries in the area. As of 2019 Bessemer ranks first in terms of violent crimes for US cities with 25,000 or more people."

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26752316


It is hard to take such a vote seriously in either direction. The employees end up in the middle of two powers pushing and pulling them both ways.

I think you would have to ask employees what they want, union or not, and figure out if a union is the right way to achieve that.


The teamsters just want their dues, they see Amazon as a big fat cash cow waiting to be milked. They’re not even going the vote route and now just flat out threatening Amazon “force your employees to pay our dues or something may start happening to your deliveries”.


Whereas Amazon you think has a grander purpose beyond milking profits out of a monopoly?


Amazon is a for profit company, that makes having no other grander purpose way less hypothetical.


They claim to be customer obsessed but they're seemingly happy to be the conduit for overpriced fake garbage if it gins their next quarter results.

They will use their size and wealth to destroy competition like diapers.com and carve our a monopoly, presumably so they can sell worse quality crap at a higher price.

Why is it scandalous if Teamsters have a "dues motive" that mirrors (probably not even as strongly) Amazon's "profit motive" if this is the stream of wealth they're tapping? Are unions only moral if run by ascetic monks?


> overpriced fake garbage if it gins their next quarter results.

It has been quite a number of next quarters and if it is really hot garbage wouldn't people ditch Amazon? Amazon is not exactly a new entrant to the market.

> They will use their size and wealth to destroy competition like diapers.com and carve our a monopoly, presumably so they can sell worse quality crap at a higher price.

You can't have a monopoly on diapers. If diapers.com fold it would be because people don't want to know 300 websites to buy individual goods than it is Amazon. Oh, and maybe they're more expensive, not less.


[flagged]


We've had to ask you repeatedly already to stop breaking the site guidelines:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25773231

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20733119

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20537509

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18639962

Now you've done so again, and also in other places like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27235390 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26200463.

You unfortunately have a history of attacking other users and, frankly, being an asshole on HN. That's not cool. I don't want to ban you, so would you please fix this? The rules are here: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.


>>Even in the "good old days", labor in the U.S. won a rather Pyrrhic victory in that organizing became shoehorned in a narrow legal framework with narrow goals. It makes the decline of union power same rather inevitable.

The union movement completely captured US industry and extracted exorbitant benefits that crippled the golden geese of the US economy.

The only reason private sector unions declined in membership is that the industries they exploited saw their US-based operations contract, or disappear altogether.

Meanwhile, the public sector unions have steadily grown in power, and steadily increased their control over public policy, by successfully pushing for successively more left-wing governments:

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/social-spending-oecd-long...

And the result has been detrimental to the efficiency of public spending, whether you look at education:

https://academic.oup.com/qje/article-abstract/111/3/671/1839...

Or policing:

https://academic.oup.com/jleo/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jl...

Or any other public sector.


These comments highlight the need for balance between the two extremes. We are currently at one extreme, and need to find a way back to the middle.


[flagged]


Do these people genuinely have freedom to contract? If there's only one employer in town (or a range of employers offering the same conditions), then that freedom is moot.

This is the balance we need. There needs to be equal forces pushing up and down on workers' rights. At the moment, for many industries, there is too much down and not enough up.

Could you make collective bargaining work without restricting freedom to contract in some way?


>>Do these people genuinely have freedom to contract?

Yes, and if they didn't, a court, made up of a jury of their peers, would find the contract void, as contracts require informed/genuine consent.

>>If there's only one employer in town (or a range of employers offering the same conditions), then that freedom is moot.

Even in the late 19th century, workers in company towns had market options:

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/01/in...

And in any case, that situation is exceedingly rare, especially in the modern highly urbanized economy, where a large and growing percentage of the population lives in high population metropolises with thousands of employers.

>>There needs to be equal forces pushing up and down on workers' rights.

I disagree with this assessment, based on the empirical evidence, which shows wages consistently rise in lockstep with per capita GDP. What gives workers bargaining power is companies seeing their productivity and revenue rise, and as a consequence, bidding more for workers' services as they compete with other employers. That's the dynamic behind wages in China tripling over the last twenty years.


You're talking about the freedom of a wheelchair-bound person to climb any set of stairs they like, whereas I'm talking about the existence of ramps.

> What gives workers bargaining power is companies seeing their productivity and revenue rise

So where is the bargaining power of Amazon's workers right now?

> wages consistently rise in lockstep with per capita GDP.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics. The mean wage has risen for all, but that is skewed by the much higher rises for the highest paid. At the bottom, real wages have fallen. [1] As a result, purchasing power for 90% of USA population has stayed the same since the late 1970s, while for the top 10% it has significantly increased. [2]

[1] - https://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/ [2] - https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us...


>At the bottom, real wages have fallen.

Wages are not the only form of remuneration. Total remuneration is the stat you should look at, since also since 1980 a lot of law changes have made it more costly to employ, and most jobs, even low wage ones, have received lots more benefits.

Also, since 1980, wages at the low end have increased for women and minorities. Only white males at the low end have decreased.

Finally, almost no one spends a career at the low end - entry wages to the workforce are just that - a start for a career. Look at lifetime earnings to see what the lowest lifetime earners make, and then you will see vast improvements in both wages and total remuneration.

BLS tracks all of these variables. Wages, total remuneration, and total cost to employ are the relevant things to look through to get a better picture. Look through them sometime.


Agreed, real wages are not the whole picture, but any metric can be manipulated to show whatever we like. For me, the purchasing power of the median individual is one of the best 'simple' pieces of data to track over time, but that can can hide the difference between geographical areas, and how we calculate PPP is controversial.

What to do? Look at a broad range of outcomes like social mobility - indicators that can't be moved directly and themselves have an impact on future change.


>but any metric can be manipulated to show whatever we like

That's nonsense. If you believe that, then there is no worth to using any metrics or numbers to try and understand the world. It's a common defense by people that don't get the result they want when looking at solid evidence. I gave you a place to find solid evidence.

>the purchasing power of the median individual is one of the best 'simple' pieces

If that is eroded by legislation making it costlier to employ, then this is just as valuable, because then instead of spreading rage against employers, it's the people and the government that is causing wage decreases, not employers. Ignoring relevant factors makes "solutions" unusable because you're not solving the problems.

>Look at a broad range of outcomes like social mobility

Well, then you're in luck. Social mobility has not decreased in the past 50+ years [1]. This was done using all tax records from all Americans by a group that wanted to show social mobility had declined, but they could not do so once given all the data.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/economic-mob...


If we’re not allowed to debate the veracity and interpretation of stats, then I guess I’m done here.


>If we’re not allowed to debate the veracity and interpretation of stats

That is a long way from your claim that all stat "can be manipulated to show whatever we like".

The way to show some stat is false, or even manipulated, is to demonstrate that claim by using better evidence or stats. The way is not to simply hand wave that all stats can be manipulated to "to show whatever we like".

If you want to claim BLS stats are not true (debating the veracity), then provide better sourced ones. I am unaware of any agency that does a wider, longer running, better sourced, better documented system for the relevant stats I mentioned. If you have one, provide it. If you cannot, then accept the BLS as the best available and create a belief based on that evidence.

You claimed wages have fallen. I pointed out quite valid reasons for that using relevant factors that are counter to the narrative you want, and, that taking more factors into account, this is a not unreasonable outcome.

Simply implying that I or others are manipulating facts to reach any conclusion we want, without perhaps providing yet more factors or evidence, is not debate.


>>You're talking about the freedom of a wheelchair-bound person to climb any set of stairs they like, whereas I'm talking about the existence of ramps.

But the analogy fails given the example I provided. As I demonstrated, even in the 19th century, when transportation options were far more limited, the typical worker in a company town possessed effective mobility, which gave them the power to reject the work being offered in the company town in favor of a better offer in a different locale.

>>So where is the bargaining power of Amazon's workers right now?

How does the situation of Amazon's workers contradict what I said about bargaining power for workers rising when companies see their productivity and revenue rise?

The fact that they are paid more than minimum wage proves they have bargaining power. Amazon is forced, by virtue of the other opportunities offered to these workers by other employers, to pay more than minimum wage.

If the US economy saw further productivity growth, and with it revenue growth for its companies, then wages would rise further as well.

>>At the bottom, real wages have fallen. [1] As a result, purchasing power for 90% of USA population has stayed the same since the late 1970s, while for the top 10% it has significantly increased. [2]

EPI is heavily funded by public sector unions, which are rent-seeking institutions who extract wealth through involuntary wealth transfers.

The statistics they provide are based on using a different standard for inflation when measuring productivity, than when measuring labor compensation:

https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/sources-of-real-wage-stag...

For years, I trotted out the same graph you're linking to, in debates on the internet, until I found out that the apparent divergence between wages and per capita GDP was actually just statistical manipulation. As you say: "Lies, damned lies, and statistics."


workers' rights isn't the same thing as wage. People in western-Europe are happier than folk in the US, with more worker's rights and less wages.


Western Europe countries (per CIA definitions) are Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, and United Kingdom.

Belgium and France rank below the US [2], Monaco is not listed, the other 4 are close to the US, except the Netherlands.

Also, Monaco (population 38,000) has the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world. They're not the usual workers and union type of country.

I suppose you mean the Nordic countries are happier as a group, which is true, but World Happiness Reports explicitly do not list your reasons as the cause of Nordic happiness [1], instead listing other factors.

Do you have a source showing their happiness is caused by the factors you listed? I can find none. All list things like lack of corruption, belief in government, etc., as the reasons for their happiness.

[1] https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2020/the-nordic-exceptional...

[2] https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/happiest-...


Is there any reason to believe that the famous welfare state, and thus broad workers rights, is not a large contributor to the fact that the same set of countries seem to be the happiest?


Yes ,I just pointed it out. The places that create the happiness indices, which is where the information comes from that give you the evidence these places are happiest, lists the reasons for this happiness, and the workers rights are not listed as the cause.

You cannot on the one hand claim these are the happiest places and ignore the same source for the reasons.

And, as I pointed out, a significant amount of countries beyond the few considered western European perform worse than the US, even though they have more workers rights. And the reason for the US being lower than many is the lack of faith in government, as stated in the reports by the people that measure happiness, not weaker workers rights than Finland.

An interesting test would be to find a ranking of countries by workers rights, and use the ranking by happiness, and see if there is even strong correlation between these.

Read the reports. I provided the links.


If you think these things don't overlap you're ideologically blind.

From the introduction in your first link:

Through reviewing the existing studies, theories, and data behind the World Happiness Report, we find that the most prominent explanations include factors related to the quality of institutions, such as reliable and _extensive welfare benefits_, low corruption, and well-functioning democracy and state institutions.

Under Welfare state generosity:

In a longitudinal study of 18 industrial countries from 1971-2002, Pacek and Radcliff examine welfare state generosity by using an index capturing the extent of emancipation from market dependency in terms of pensions, income maintenance for the ill or disabled, and unemployment benefits, finding that welfare state generosity exerts a positive and significant impact on life satisfaction.[21]


Your top claim was:

>People in western-Europe are happier than folk in the US, with more worker's rights and less wages.

That's two factors you linked. Let's look at them:

You imply that "workers rights" and "less wages" are perhaps major causal factors for happiness. Despite the fact you misapply western Europe, and ignore those countries in western Europe that don't fit your claim, even the part you quoted is a tiny part of the reasons listed, they do not state a single thing about workers rights (you mean legal rights like unions or contracts, or simply welfare state, which is not so much workers rights as citizen rights) and not a mention of lower wages.

What in the stuff you quoted support "workers rights" being a major cause? Or lower wages? Every single factor in there are largely or completely state functions. Let's list them: pensions (perhaps unions, definitely not stated, most Nordic have large state pension funds), income maintenance for the ill or disabled (almost certainly all state functions), unemployment benefits (state functions), the finding that "welfare state generosity..." (also completely state functions).

And this is a 1/4 of the larger reasons: (1) welfare benefits, (2) low corruption, (3) well functioning democracy, and (4) well functioning state institutions.

So - of 1/4 of the possible reasons, you quoted a statement with another 4 components, and the two you listed are not mentioned.

Are you claiming "workers rights" are a major causal factor for (not Western Europe, but Nordic) countries happiness?


This is pointless, you are just honing in on specific words and are for whatever reason unwilling to "read between the lines". The labour movement in Sweden (and other Nordic countries) was the root cause of welfare state. Workers' rights overlaps with other rights that are in the interests of the common man. These combine to create a dignified life for all. Thus better average happiness.

> Are you claiming "workers rights" are a major causal factor for (not Western Europe, but Nordic) countries happiness?

Yes, and like rings on the water organized labour creates the other ones. Why do you think even rich corporations like Amazon fight against them otherwise? Organized labour can combine their forces and make universal demands, like they did in the Nordics. Glad midsommar!


The data shows that the Scandinavian region, which is the poster child for social democracy, has suffered for it, in being surpassed by low-tax Hong Kong and Singapore in life expectancy, despite the latter coming from a position way behind them in the 1960s, and this is a result of the Scandinavian region's stagnation versus less social democratic economies:

http://iea.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/files/San...

• Scandinavia is often cited as having high life expectancy and good health outcomes in areas such as infant mortality. Again, this predates the expansion of the welfare state. In 1960, Norway had the highest life expectancy in the OECD, followed by Sweden, Iceland and Denmark in third, fourth and fifth positions. By 2005, the gap in life expectancy between Scandinavian countries and both the UK and the US had shrunk considerably. Iceland, with a moderately sized welfare sector, has over time outpaced the four major Scandinavian countries in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality.

• Scandinavia’s more equal societies also developed well before the welfare states expanded. Income inequality reduced dramatically during the last three decades of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th century. Indeed, most of the shift towards greater equality happened before the introduction of a large public sector and high taxes.


There's not a single respectable historian that would support your revisionism. Only the type of reactionary orgs that you always link to.


Without the legal backing of a recognized union, what prevents the company from firing anyone that declines to work like this?


Before unions were ever legal or recognized, they worked because of the force of solidarity, collective action and bargaining. You just simply couldn't fire and replace everyone at once.

It created a bargaining entity that the owner was forced to deal with because the alternative was closure.

EDIT: Frankly, if a union is relying on its legal recognition and backing for survival, it's already a zombie, dead-man-walking structure that is just going to fall apart in the long run. Unions must maintain solidarity and collective action and a healthy internal democracy and vibrant participation, or they'll just become a bureaucratic husk. Like most of the North American labour movement.


Don't forget good relations with the local community to deter scabbing.


I know there's a lot of hate for the Teamsters union in particular. Corruption exists in every human institution. But in the modern oligarchy that is the US, where politicians are completely bought and paid for with corporate money, organized labor is literally the only tool we have left against a capitalist dystopia. It's easy to forget that we had to fight literal wars in this country to gain things like the 8 hour work day. This stuff doesn't come without a fight. And you can nitpick about the quality of an organization, but you go to war with the army you have.


The unions also buy off politicians to disastrous effect. In California, you can’t win an election unless the teachers union or the police union backs you, which has led to all sorts of insane policies.

Even with that, teachers and police officers are terribly underpaid and also mistreated by the California government.

Unions might be the answer. However, the US has a closed shop system where a few unions have a monopoly on labor relations.

As a result, the existing national unions have repeatedly demonstrated that they’re not interested in improving working conditions for their members.


I was a union member for many years. I’m in management now in the same org and am no longer represented.

Everyone rags on unions. But you know, I have great healthcare at a fair price, salary is good, protection from management fads like stack ranking, etc. The only real downside IMO is the focus on seniority.

The big argument is usually that unions breed mediocrity and incompetence. My staff and colleagues are good at what they do and deliver. I regularly work with contract and consulting companies… they don’t consistently outperform our folks.

My sister works at a big tech company. Her negative experiences with idiots, bad managers, etc are pretty similar, and consistent with my past Fortune 50 experiences. Big orgs always have that.


When you can't fire bad apples, you end up with problems like the police force having violent cops or racist cops that make everyone look bad. Or you have teachers that refuse to go back to work even though there are vaccines available to them.

I think unions make sense in circumstances where a company has a monopoly granted by the government... For example Boeing. Boeing has completed a regulatory capture that makes it nearly impossible to launch competing airline building companies.

Unions do not make sense where they do not have a counterparty to negotiate against... Basically there should be no unions for government employees because politicians generally already are willing to do the will of the workers over that of the best interests of the citizens. Unions also do not make sense in highly competitive spaces where if a company underpays or mistreats its employees, those employees can just switch jobs immediately.


The reason why cops don't get fired isn't just unions. Union workers get fired all the time for much less. The reason cops don't get fired is political.

If you fire a cop for a reason that the cops don't like, their political connections will come breathing down your neck.

For some weird reason I "can't quite put my finger on", it's almost as if cop unions are uniquely different from other unions.

Perhaps reading into why Union Federations never take in cop unions will help.


In my home school district, it took years (and many months of formal observers) to fire teachers who habitually came to work drunk or simply didn't do their job, and pre-tenure teachers would all get axed when the economy went downhill. Cop unions aren't that special.


You're just describing tenure?

If your high school has a tenure system, it's not a teacher issue, it's a systemic issues.

Cop unions are incredibly special. The thing about cop unions is that they're the same everywhere, there is no city where cops are fired adequately for cause. There are plenty of cities where teachers can get fired.

There is no profession with the same universal tolerance for abuse anywhere as cops. The reason has to do with their function as cops, not their labour union.


Tenure and firing protections and procedures are negotiated with the union. Unreasonable protections can be a concession to union bargainers in lieu of pay, and are common in union shops for that reason.


You keep claiming everything else is an issue where the common denominator is unions themseleves.


No? It isn't?

Cops everywhere in North America have the issue of being unfireable despite literally committing crimes.

Electricians don't have this issue.

Both of them are highly unionized.

So clearly the common denominator isn't unions. Even before their mass unionization cops were able to get away with far too much and they get away with far more than any other profession, unionized or otherwise.


Because cops work for the government, which has a monopoly on policing services and the tax revenue that pays for it. The unions can therefore be far more abusive, as their patron and customer, which is the taxpayer and resident, respectively, is captive, absent these two groups being able to successfully organize a strong enough political coalition to counter the Democrats in the electoral process.


There is a causality issue in this thread. Folks that are anti-union overly focus on police unions as a metric.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Target_fixation


Public sector unions, particularly those in essential services, are very different from private sector unions. If the cops go on strike, the city falls apart. If Amazon’s workers go on, it creates a competitive opening.

When parents can take their kids out of public schools more easily, the teachers’ unions lose power.


I’m a union public school teacher. I am not protected from being fired, I simply must be given a PIP and I can request a Union lawyer help represent me in disciplinary meetings. This is after several years of at-will employment. If my boss wanted me gone next year, I would be.


The statistics in New York at least are not encouraging:

https://www.the74million.org/article/investigation-nyc-tried...

Going off-tangent: collective bargaining for teachers is also correlated with decreased lifetime earnings for males:

https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/pol.20170570


I agree those numbers seems low for such a large staff, but the country is big and broad.


Assuming that unions are actually bad for the economy at face value

Is union is doing wonders for the officers and teachers the actual workers ? Making sure their rights and preferences are catered to ? Then the union is doing it's bloody job.

If you are an employee at big co that is abusive or exploitative earning minimum wage then the government has already abandoned you . Should you then see the wider societal implications and scarifice your needs for greater good or actually say fuck that and unionize and try improve your quality of life and not have to pee in a bottle during work,(Amazon) or catch COVID-19 and die cause your company doesnt care (meat packing)?

Even if it is bad for the economy/society unions still have been good for the actual workers as a group. We still have lot of work related deaths, long term issues and basic hygiene requirements missing, you absolutely need unions.

The competition is not with low paying jobs in cheaper areas of US or cheaper countries like mexico or china. It is with automation and robots, you can't compete with that. Without strong worker representation employees of unskilled workforces like Amazon are going to face worsening conditions in the future as they are made to compete with automation


> Everyone rags on unions. But you know, I have great healthcare at a fair price, salary is good, protection from management fads like stack ranking, etc. The only real downside IMO is the focus on seniority.

I have those things (well not “protection from stack ranking” but my employer doesn’t do it) without the focus on seniority. A union is not requisite nor sufficient for those things.


They are not terribly underpaid. They take home about twice the median income after retiring as early as 50 years old!

https://californiapolicycenter.org/evaluating-public-safety-...


> Even with that, teachers and police officers are terribly underpaid and also mistreated by the California government.

The average police salary is $104k in California [0], 35% above the national average. In 2018 at least.

And then the pension is 50% after twenty years or service or 90% after 33 years [1], in LA at least.

This is one of the best jobs in the country, pay wise. So it’s unusual to hear someone say that police officers are underpaid.

[0] https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/police-officer/salary... [1] https://www.lafpp.com/post/tier-5-pension-plan-information


Voters like police unions and teachers unions, but what they don't like is paying more in taxes. As a public employee, I make $74k a year while living in the Bay Area. I'm at the top of my salary band. Sure, I've got pretty good health insurance, but no better than I would get in tech. I've got a pension, but it will not be enough to live on, and CalPERS has huge liabilities because the voters are unwilling to actually fully fund it. I get three weeks of vacation. I guess that's pretty OK.

The one thing I have (besides a job I absolutely enjoy doing), is job security and stability, and that is thanks to my union. It sure would be nice to have a higher salary, but someone has to be willing to pay for it, and nobody wants to do that. Instead, public employees get things that only indirectly cost money, or that don't have to be paid off until sometime in the distant future when the politicians and union bigwigs who agreed to all this stuff are no longer around.


> The unions also buy off politicians to disastrous effect.

Any sufficiently entrenched bureaucracy is indistinguishable from corruption.

With apologies ...


The union I'm in repeatedly demonstrate they ARE interested in improving working conditions for our members in California. Perhaps AFSCME and AFLCIO are different than the unions you are talking about.


Teachers and police officers in California make salaries well above the state median and are entitled to eye-watering pensions as well


The average income for teachers seems to be $67k in California? That doesn't really sound eye-watering.


There's a lot of people who say "teacher and police unions" or even "public sector unions" when they really mean "just, exactly, police unions."


“Pensions” is the eye-watering part. The retirement programs are great.



Yes, when you consider how little relative time has to be put in to earn that.


>As a result, the existing national unions have repeatedly demonstrated that they’re not interested in improving working conditions for their members.

It always comes down to this. And you can argue endlessly about the various failings of modern organized labor. But ultimately it's all we've got. The capitalists have demonstrated for centuries over and over again that left unchecked they will always take capitalism to a level of borderline subsistence for the working class to maximize profits. Your boss is not looking out for you; ever.

To have an organization with funding and influence that has at least professed to defend your rights gives a more realistic chance of having your voice heard, no matter how slight.


So if they say they'll help and then make things worse, you'd gladly support them?

Because that's the impression I get from the other comments that you're responding here; That they have negligible impact on member welfare, but introduce a pile of corruption and bureaucracy into the mix.


> That they have negligible impact on member welfare

That is some -really- strong hyperbole, especially against teacher and police unions as the parent is referring to.

I would argue that the benefits teachers get and the relative job security of police offices is a good indicator of a strong labor union for both roles.

Sure, pay sucks, but teachers would probably be treated worse than amazon workers at this point if they didn't have them.

Source: worked for ed tech startup that supported teachers. Also dated a few.


I'm not American, so I've little personal interaction with these. This is just the impression I get from here, as well as other American core communities I frequent.

That I frequently hear how public school teachers are unable to do anything about literal abuse and such does give them credence though.


> I get from the other comments that you're responding here

You should be better off ignoring comments from people you do not know, with unknown agendas, and without sources.

Amazon is well known for astroturfing and creating "fake" profiles: https://boingboing.net/2021/03/30/twitter-bans-fake-amazon-w...

That does not mean that your fellow commenters are Amazon infiltrates or the like, but they can just be repeating misinformation from Amazon anti-union campaigns.


What type of person puts words in someone else's mouth? Nothing you say seems to have any basis in reality.


I find the idea of closed shops insane, like all employee have to be union members and there can only be one union


Then you'll be glad to hear these were forbidden in the US in 1947.


And so where are coming from the "closed shop" the parent was talking about?


No idea, I can only imagine they redefined the word. Closed shops were made illegal by the Taft-Hartley Act. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taft%E2%80%93Hartley_Act


The teamsters earned every bit of that distrust.

Successfully representing their members would go a long way to helping earn it back.

Generally though the Pinkerton's beating on union guys or the union guys dealing with scrabs resembles a gang war more than a "literal war"


>Generally though the Pinkerton's beating on union guys or the union guys dealing with scrabs resembles a gang war more than a "literal war

I assume they were mentioning the regular use of the National Guard against strikers, like in the Ludlow Massacre.


Good point.


>Generally though the Pinkerton's beating on union guys or the union guys dealing with scrabs resembles a gang war more than a "literal war"

That's the quaint history book narrative we like to think about in relation to the labor struggles of the 19th/20th century in the US. But the reality is that men, women and children were mowed down with machine guns and sniper fire. It was a struggle for life and death between two classes.


What should I read to learn more about this?




The first aerial bombing on US soil targeted striking coal miners, at the Battle of Blair Mountain:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain

That seems more like "literal war" than a gang turf war.


Teamsters has a lot of baggage to bring to the table. Brand power for sure. Not sure Brand Power > Baggage though in this case.


The unions didn't stop a capitalist distopia, they carved out a portion for themselves and their cronies. Doubly so in large cities.


Well, it's more complicated than that. Anti-capitalist unions were cracked down upon, often violently. The unions that agree with you tried what they could and it took violence to stop them.


Sorry to disappoint you, but there's hardly a more capitalism-friendly organisation than a union. Their whole existence depends upon capital-based enterprises requiring labour. By seeking to standardise the units and price of work, they fall right in line with classical Adam Smith.

This is hardly surprising; the first priority of any institution is to perpetuate its own existence, so far from being at war with capitalism, unions are locked in a symbiotic embrace with it.

They may sing along to the Internationale but the lyrics are the Wealth of Nations.


Semi-related: "Amazon burns through workers so quickly that executives are worried they'll run out of people to employ, according to a new report"

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-warehouse-turnover-wo...

(HN comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27524637)


I think that's pretty related. Unionization efforts would be unlikely to succeed if there were so many people lining up for work that Amazon could lay off entire warehouses. Tightening of the labour supply should create a much better bargaining position for workers.


With the Amazon Project, the Teamsters are taking a different approach that doesn't rely on the traditional National Labor Relations Board election process that allows employers to run sophisticated anti-union campaigns and involves the task of running elections warehouse by warehouse.

Instead the Teamsters plan to focus on a series of pressure campaigns involving work stoppages, petitions, and other collective action to push Amazon to recognize a union and bargain over working conditions.

Faced with workers who don't want to join a union and laws which protect them, the Teamsters plan a series of coercive measures which will force workers into a union whether they want it or not.


It's not quite that simple. In a push for unionization it isn't rare at all to see management come down hard on those that favored it, so unless there is an overwhelming chance of success there could easily be a large chunk of people who abstain from voting. Otherwise in the next round of lay-offs your number could easily have a higher chance of popping up, and as the organizers it isn't rare at all to be fired on some pretext. The reported outcome is typically only for those who did vote.

Personally I think that unions should be open to membership regardless of whether the company has a majority of the people there that want to be part of a union, and that companies should never be able to deny employees the right to unionize.


A set of workers can always form a union. A recent example of this took place at Google.

The only time there's a vote is when they want to force all the other workers to join the same union.


I don't think that's ok, you should never be forced to do business with a particular party, even if that party is a union that ostensibly works to your advantage. Here in NL there are multiple unions and people can join or abstain on an individual basis. I do think people should not be able to join more than one union.


I'm so torn on this.

On the one hand Amazon and its bad labor relations and squeezing the last drop out of everyone and discarding ones who have no juice left. Looking the other way on fraud in their marketplace. Copycatting brands and underselling them with inferior copies (the camera bag[1] for example but many others).

On the other hand, organized labor and its infamous corruption, bullying, and drive to have everyone do as little as possible (sorry, it's 5:01 and the contract prohibits me from turning that screw, I'll be back Monday morning to do that for you) totally undermining progress, improvement and development.

It's hard to pick sides on this one. Both are quite bad and unlikable.

[1]https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26545421


> undermining progress, improvement, and development

An honest question - whose progress? Whose development? Do workers benefit by turning that screw at 5:01?

There are many companies where laborers do benefit by having the freedom to work outside the box to benefit their careers, learn, take pride and ownership in a long-term project, foster their own creativity, and in aggregate lift the local community. I’d fully understand your point in such circumstances, and agree that certain unions work against those less-tangible benefits for their members, at times in excess.

But Amazon specifically has designed itself to destroy alignment between warehouse workers and company goals. Promotion from the warehouse floor is actively discouraged (this is well documented), turnover is expected and encouraged well beyond industry norms, tasks are rote and automatically fed, no project is long enough to foster ownership, no operating procedure or penny of local profit not controlled by corporate from afar. Does this sound like an a situation where labor and company interests are at all aligned?

Amazon will not change this status quo at the behest of any single individual at any level; it sees no strategic value in empowering any such individual. Organizing is the natural consequence of such a situation.


>An honest question - whose progress? Whose development? Do workers benefit by turning that screw at 5:01?

Yes these sort of tropes are being brought out repeatedly, is there any evidence they actually exist? Let's talk teachers union who people like to criticise a lot. There's still plenty of excellent teachers around who go above and beyond for their students (and if you are invested in what you're doing teaching is definitely not a 9-5 job). So they are not prevented by their union from doing that?

I think this is all from the expectation of employees to go above and beyond for their employers. Just do this 10min extra unpaid work because it really needs to be done... On the other hand, no company or contractor will do that, they will charge you handsomely.


Depends very much on the locations.

I've worked in union shops where I wasn't union, and I was warned to ensure nobody is watching when I plug in my test equipment for the embedded system I was working on. In a different location for the same company the union guys were cool and would pretend not to see me do that (same union, just different workplace culture in different cities).


> An honest question - whose progress? Whose development? Do workers benefit by turning that screw at 5:01?

Companies provide service to society. They don't exist in a vacuum. Hence it'd be good if workers are aware of the big picture and don't just stubbornly antagonize their own employers, as if they're in a battle against one another, rather than in cooperation.

In Japan when Fukushima blew out, old employees where there to contain the disaster. Do you think they did it for their personal benefit? How far would we go as a society if we're complete egoists? Not that far.


>Companies provide service to society.[...] How far would we go as a society if we're complete egoists? Not that far.

And yet publicly traded companies are legally bound to maximize the profit for the stock holders.


They’re not.


There is a difference between operating a nuclear power plant and stuffing random shit into a box. I'm not really sure the latter contributes to any measure of "progress" beyond Amazon's bottom line. It's a weird position to take that unionizing Amazon warehouses would detract from society. I'd say that for the thousands of warehouse floor workers, who are also members of society, it would move things very much forward.


What about 2-day or next day deliveries? Would unions agree to the change in work necessary to achieve these SLAs?

Do we need shoes or screwdrivers delivered next day? Doubt it. But that's only one aspect. These innovations allow for other things to be possible (grocery delivery, time sensitive deliveries, lowered costs, due to efficiencies, innovations in alternative delivery methods, etc.)


They’re still possible. Not everything has to be done at the lowest possible poverty wage. It’s not as though those savings are being passed on to you in the first place.

Staff up, and pay staff appropriately.


> There is a difference between operating a nuclear power plant and stuffing random shit into a box.

Are you under the impression that running a power plant day to day is a glamorous job? Funny.


No, the difference I’m alluding to is regarding the criticality of the power plant vs. stuffing shit into a box. Amazon can pay its workers more to fix the shortage without detracting from some notion of “progress.”


Japan has a different corporate culture to the US. Lifetime employment is still attainable, and company loyalty goes both ways. It's not really fair to compare that to the US, where it's primarily about the bottom line. In this culture, you can't fault workers for looking out for their own interests first.


So the argument that it should be all about the bottom line in the US is that in the US it's always all been about the bottom line. Circular argument is circular.


It's really hard to change a culture because of the vicious cycle that you have pointed out.


> sorry, it's 5:01 and the contract prohibits me from turning that screw, I'll be back Monday morning to do that for you

Alternative view: "I have a life outside work, now I am free to enjoy that life as a normal human being."

It is devastating to me to see people thinking that to go home and take care of yourself and your loved ones is "undermining progress, improvement and development".

Your family and friends are important, your company is going to fire you just to make share price go up before the end of the quarter. Even if firing you is hurting "progress, improvement and development" of the company in the long term.


Which is why I sometimes leave early. The union guys who finish early stand at the door until the 5:00 bell rings because they are not allowed to leave early even if their work for the day is done, while as a non-union employee if I'm done a bit early I get to leave. Sometimes I work until 5:30, sometimes I'm out at 4:30. It all works out.


We are talking about Amazon warehouse and logistics workers here. They wear location tracking smartphones and get fired by text message if their bathroom breaks are too frequent.


You are describing the difference between hourly and non-hourly employees, not union vs. non-union. Many companies won’t let hourly employees work past the end of your shift because of overtime rules regardless of whether or not there’s a union.


If it's an emergency, pay overtime for that screw. If you regularly need a second shift, hire one. Understaffing is a problem caused by management and it's not the worker's fault or their family's fault if you can't make 40 hours of use out of them in 40 hours or pay a little overtime.


> sorry, it's 5:01 and the contract prohibits me from turning that screw, I'll be back Monday morning to do that for you

Honest question. If you're paid hourly and have job security, what's wrong with saying that? Pros don't work for free, right?


I’ve worked in a union shop before, and that’s not how it worked. When push came to shove people would work overtime (and actually be paid for it!). I remember one department was under intense pressure for months, and the people there were literally running around to get their jobs done.


That was my point. Union contracts generally have an overtime clause. If they don't then saying "See you Monday" a completely rational thing to do.


I think it's more the fact that there aren't alternative options.

Other comments have already explored how America has a "union monopoly" system for lack of a better term: where unions exist, the labor pool that is non-union is often extinguished.

> what's wrong with saying that?

If the alleged screw is flooding your home and you're on the phone with a contractor who says "it'll be Monday morning", it's safe to assume that the contractor feels safe because there's no competition out there that will come out to finish the job due to the union monopoly or other rules/regulations that the unions have established to make them the only turn screwers.

Unions in the United States gained a bad rap from things like this, and I think that's what the OP's intent was with their comment.


> If the alleged screw is flooding your home and you're on the phone with a contractor who says "it'll be Monday morning",

Free market would dictate you say back: "double pay" or hire another contractor.


Which you can't do because the rates are established in law and the only people who are allowed to do the job are people with a certificate that is only provided by the union. Regulatory capture happens with unions as well as with bosses.


Who told you that?, sources?

Overtime pay is a thing everywhere including union jobs.

I'm based in Europe and i get overtime pay if I'm forced to work late/weekends. One of the nice things of unions everywhere.

If i dont want to or cant work late, there are colleagues that will jump at 150% pay rate.

Companies can hire contractors at any point but these expect much higher wages to deal with the almost no protections and doing their own taxes.

Otherwise employer could hire a second shift as they do with manufacturing and pay normal wage there.

There is no such thing as union certificate or things of the sort. Union is there just to negotiate basic contract applied company wide and make sure you are not abused.

Working in software.


You are going to deal with overtime for one screw that takes you 30 seconds? Sure if we are talking about a lot of time, but one screw is a few seconds and you go home.


I thought we were talking reasonable people. No reasonable person would do what you said - leave a 30 second task to put in one screw for another day.

And even if they did, if it only takes 30 seconds and no extra effort... why can't the person asking do it or get someone else?

Also, if you need to leave on the hour to make other commitments why should boss be able to force you to stay without compensation? (bus schedule, pick up children and spend time with them, pick up spouse, go to concerts, meet friends etc)

Taking it to the extreme is what you already see in shops and warehouses, etc, where they need to stay, unpaid, for a couple of hours to secure things and clean up...


> No reasonable person would do what you said - leave a 30 second task to put in one screw for another day...why can't the person asking do it or get someone else?

From what I've heard of US unions (never been in one myself) they're quite strict about not allowing this kind of thing. Certain tasks can only be performed by particular union employees. I suppose they consider it a slippery slope. But again, it's also possible that in the story we're discussing the union member just didn't like this person enough to do them a favor.


So if I'm not in a union (salaried or hourly) I can do someone a favor or someone can do me a favor.

Union members get "ratted out" by others if they go "above and beyond". There is no flexibility.


Depends on the Union and local work culture. Just like if you aren't part of a union (Amazon workers get "ratted out" by others if they "go on a bathroom break", as a hypothetical).


> There is no flexibility.

That's fair. The "I only sweep floors, if you want mopping it's another department" type of union inflexibility is terrible for productivity. But I think your scenario is an example of inflexibility that's completely warranted.


What you describe is a fallacy... it's more like: "I'm a heavy machinery operator, not a welder; if you need a weld, you'll need to requisition a welder."


I've been in places where you can't move your PC to the other side of your desk.


A long time ago in grad school I had a administrative assistantship in the university's physical plant. My boss (basically the head of IT for the department) and I moved a couple of computers between buildings as they had actively used applications on them (this was before the web) and we couldn't wait for someone from building services come and do it.

The next day I was in his office when we got a nice visit from the Teamsters steward flanked literally by two huge guys glaring at us. The steward told us not to do it again. He did back off when we told him we walked the computers between the buildings - if we would have drove them between buildings he said they would have filed a union grievance.


Amazon could avoid this by not squeezing so hard.

Over squeezing labor leads to pushback.


Amazon _has_ avoided this by not squeezing so hard. They have no unionized employees. The latest vote lost by a 75-25 margin, humiliating the union organizing the process.

The Teamsters wants to force this issue in the political arena because they can't win votes.


There are a lot of reasons not to take much away from the Bessemer vote. Well ahead of the vote there were lots of signs that the organizers hadn't, you know, organized.[0] Humiliated, absolutely, but by their own ineptitude.

[0] https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/bessemer-alabama-...


If they can't organize a vote campaign, do you really want them negotiating your employment terms against a company like Amazon?


Yes? Organizing is very very hard. There are lots of people bad at organizing who still are capable negotiators and who understand my interests as a worker and how to protect them.


The union in this case isn't some cash-poor startup with people filling multiple roles that they aren't qualified for. They certainly have more than enough resources and experience to do much better... or, as the case may be, to start with a different location that would have been more receptive.


Resources maybe, but not necessarily experience. Very little actual organizing has been done over the past several decades. McAlevey's book No Shortcuts is worth a read on this front.

Also, the RWDSU is not affiliated with the Teamsters. This is a different (and much better-resourced) union looking to step up and do the work better.


Really? This was national news for weeks. President Biden flew down there and talked to them!

I cannot possibly imagine what more organizing could have accomplished.


Organizing involves building close relationships amongst a larger and larger network of people. The President flying somewhere doesn't do that. The article describes this.

The Democratic party often confuses activism and media presence with organizing, and focuses on get-out-the-vote and media strategy without having done the work of organizing strongly-tied networks on the ground. The Obama campaign was the exception, because Obama had worked as an on-the-ground organizer.


i think the public media publicity campaign was well organized but the on the ground campaigning to the actual warehouse workers themselves was not. IE there were more interested in a national story and just assumed they had the workers in the bag.


In this community, I think you can say, "The more you tighten your grip, Bezos, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."


The 5:01 is probably exaggerated a bit, most people won't be too anal about doing a little overtime if they're nearly done for the day.

But having those protections in place is important, because an employer may start taking advantage of it - slippery slope argument, but bear with me.

A common example - not just in the US but on my side of the pond as well - is closing time. There's a lot of people that get paid until closing time (e.g. 9PM in the DIY store I worked at as a part-time job during my college days), but, nobody goes home until the last people are out and the day's take is put in the (time locked) safe (and there'll be a security guy waiting outside to make sure it's safe, then he'll drive around back to make sure everybody's out and safe). If all goes smoothly, that's 20 minutes of unpaid overtime - but it can be more.

That's just one example, but I'm sure it's relatable to a lot of people. Think kitchen staff who work until close, but have to clean up and prepare for the next day outside of their normal working hours.

TL;DR: Don't work for free, your employer is not your friend, your time is worth more to you than his and his business is.


I'd err on the side of Amazon because the free market is more likely to address their practices.

My hunch is that corruption, bullying, etc don't go away. Organizations don't stop doing those things unless they lose their power.

On the other hand, if a company like Amazon is treating workers poorly, then a competitive environment should fix that in the long run. E.g. if Amazon overworks its people while other companies don't, either Amazon has to pay more and more if its working conditions are worse and worse (relative to peers), or it'll have to improve working conditions to keep its workers.


Except the harm is not theoretical, and such a market correction doesn’t happen overnight. People don’t deserve to be ground to a pulp while your simulation plays out.


> People don’t deserve to be ground to a pulp while your simulation plays out.

IMHO you're making a judgment about what other people want, but those people's actions suggest otherwise. Amazon doesn't have a monopoly on its workers, and those workers are free to work at other places: a different company's warehouse, a non-warehouse job, etc. They are choosing to stay at Amazon for some reason, so it seems like the bundle of Amazon's work intensity and its wages & benefits is worth it to a lot of people.

As an analogy, if Google hypothetically paid $200k to engineers for 40-hour weeks while Amazon paid $400k to engineers for 70-hour weeks, then there would be engineers that prefer one and engineers that prefer the other. But these engineers are not forced to work at either of those companies. In this scenario, an engineer at Amazon might complain about 70-hour weeks and poor work-life balance, but if they're working there then they find those negative conditions worth the compensation.


Your analogy is useful, but the numbers have a lot to do with the conclusion. We're not talking about people choosing a Tesla or a beach house, we're talking about people choosing between living in section 8 + riding the bus, or living in a one bedroom + owning a vehicle.

I grew up (middle-class) in Alabama, in a smaller town than Bessemer; I have known people in these situations. Warehouse workers there are paid $15/hr, double the minimum wage. That warehouse employs thousands of people. Folks stay in these jobs because, if they left, they would drop (far) below the Federal poverty line. There aren't enough $15/hr jobs elsewhere to go around. So, enduring the hard working conditions is a very different choice for these workers vs. someone making $400,000/year in an engineering role.

Everyone has a right to make this call for themselves, but there are limits.


Unions are the product of free markets.


So there were no unions in the Soviet Union and no unions in North Korea?

That’s good to know.


You're being obtuse. Unions in the USSR and unions in a free market capitalist system serve different purposes.

There is some truth to what you're saying though: unions exist where there is a struggle between labor and private ownership. The existence of them in a "socialist" mode of production (barring some kind of syndicalist setup in which economic governance happens specifically through unions) seems superfluous and suggests that private ownership had not been abolished but was relegated to the state/bureaucracy instead of wealthy holders of capital.


Except Amazon is a monopoly, that all but obliterated all major competitors. They need a much bigger workforce, can afford to keep their wages comfortably higher, while extorting whatever conditions for it.


If Amazon has a monopoly on something, then what is it? I can not think of anything.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that Amazon has a monopoly on online retail: If prices are low and wages are high, what is the problem?


> sorry, it's 5:01 and the contract prohibits me from turning that screw

If you're getting paid for 9-5 with no overtime, why should you put in unpaid effort if you don't want to?, if you want to, all on you.

Rephrasing would be: what would happen if your boss asked you to work a few more hours overtime unpaid?


> sorry, it's 5:01 and

You are entitled to your time. If you're set to work til 5, then your employer should pay you a minute's overtime if they need you to turn that screw.

Why would you volunteer for someone else's money-making venture?


> "corruption, bullying, and drive to have everyone do as little as possible" <-- this exact same verbiage could be used to describe the current state of affairs sans unionization.


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