Unions: there’s dumb, and then there’s malevolent

September 19, 2011

Yesterday, I posted an example from Southern California of unions threatening a strike against the interests of their own members. This morning there comes another example of labor-union perversity, this time crossing the line from stupidity to maliciousness. Per “Bookworm” at Pajamas Media, we learn that nurses in northern and central California are planning to walk out on the hospitals that employ them not because of unfair working conditions, but in sympathy with another union’s strike:

Thousands of registered nurses plan to walk off the job at 34 hospitals in northern and central California on Thursday in one of the largest such labor actions here in years.

Up to 23,000 nurses could be involved in strikes at Children’s Hospital Oakland and the large Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente systems, union leaders said.

The hospitals plan to bring in replacement workers and remain open, though many are postponing elective surgeries.

[…]

The walkout has been organized by California Nurses Association/ National Nurses United.

In addition to Children’s Hospital Oakland and Alta Bates Summit, affected institutions include Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Mills-Peninsula hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo, Sutter Delta in Antioch and Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo.

Kaiser nurses signed a contract earlier this year, but they plan a sympathy strike Thursday to support members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, who will walk off the job at Kaiser facilities in a separate contract dispute.

So, even though the Kaiser nurses have a signed agreement, they don’t feel bound to it. Nice to know just what their word is worth. I’ll point out that the CNA is known for being politically active and aggressive; they lean well to the Left, are closely tied to the Democratic Party, and are not above a bit of thuggery, including putting patients at risk. Bookworm explains:

Things are even more complicated than simply finding replacement nurses at incredible expense. Most of the hospitals involved now have very complicated computer systems that are custom designed for each hospital chain. These computer systems control everything: nurse’s notes, doctor’s notes, pharmacy, lab tests, treatments, billing — you name it, it’s all computerized. What these means is that hospitals are no longer fungible. In the old days, a chart was a chart, and that was true whether you were in a hospital in Schenectady or San Francisco. Nowadays, though, nurses have to understand computer systems that are unique to a given hospital. That nurse who’s been flown in from out-of-state doesn’t know Kaiser’s or Sutter’s computer system. For those nurses, it’s like having to fly a 747 when you’ve only flown a Piper before.

In other words, the chance for potentially harmful, even life-threatening error goes up measurably because nurses who already have a signed contract are going to strike anyway. And even if there are no computer-related snafus, many hospitals will be working at less than peak efficiency, being staffed with replacement workers, and patients may have to travel further to find the care they need. As the PJM post points out, this strike will leave Marin county with just one fully-functional hospital.

All because of a strike by nurses who have no grievance. This isn’t about wages or working conditions — this is a an act of intimidation, plain and simple.

“Angels of mercy,” indeed.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


You want to know how dumb unions can be?

September 18, 2011

This dumb. Southern California grocery workers are set to walk out as soon as tomorrow and shut down hundreds of stores over, at most, $23 a week:

Now, as in 2003, one key sticking point is healthcare. What’s at issue is a painfully common refrain in corporate America: medical costs are rising.

Under the latest offer from the employers, grocery workers would pay $9 a week for individual coverage and $23 a week for a family, company and union officials said.

The grocers say these premiums are necessary to help offset rising healthcare costs and augment the amount Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons are agreeing to pay into a trust fund that purchases healthcare for workers. But union officials say that what the employers have proposed to pay during negotiations on the complex deal is far short of what is necessary and would ultimately gut the trust fund. Instead, union officials say, the employers need to pay more in order for the fund to be viable long term.

Consider that California has unemployment of at least 12% and that many, many people are experiencing tight wallets these days. And the union bosses think it’s a good idea to put their own people out of work? Do the unions really expect sympathy from the public when all they’re being asked to pay for healthcare is $36 per month for a single person and $92 for a family? Do they really expect people facing far more onerous financial conditions to say “Oh yeah, man. You’ve got a real grievance here. I’m totally willing to drive 20 miles to find a non-union store while you fight to save 36 bucks a month!”

Really? I expect instead you’ll see a lot of people crossing the lines as the strike goes on, and plenty of “scab” workers — people who need jobs.

I supported the strikers back in 2003, because I felt they had a real grievance. Contrary to the article, the real issue then was management at Safeway trying to forcing workers to pay for management’s poor business decisions.

But this… this is dumb.

via Pirate’s Cove

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


An infantilized society

September 7, 2010

The economic troubles in Europe are leading to public unrest, as EU governments try to pare back their bloated public sectors, in some cases trimming wages and benefits, in others by delaying access to them. In France, plans to save the national pension system by raising the retirement age from 60 (!) to just 62 has lead to a massive strike of over one million people:

French strikers disrupted trains and planes, hospitals and mail delivery Tuesday amid massive street protests over plans to raise the retirement age. Across the English Channel, London subway workers unhappy with staff cuts walked off the job.

The protests look like the prelude to a season of strikes in Europe, from Spain to the Czech Republic, as heavily indebted governments cut costs and chip away at some cherished but costly benefits that underpin the European good life — a scaling-back process that has gained urgency with Greece’s euro110 billion ($140 billion) bailout.

In France, where people poured into the streets in 220 cities, setting off flares and beating drums, a banner in the southern port city of Marseille called for Europe-wide solidarity: “Let’s Refuse Austerity Plans!” The Interior Ministry said more than 1.1 million people demonstrated throughout France, while the CFDT union put the number at 2.5 million.

(…)

French protesters are angry about the government’s plan to do away with the near-sacred promise of retirement at 60, forcing people to work until 62 because they are living longer. The goal is to bring the money-draining pension system back into the black by 2018.

As debate on the subject opened in parliament, Labor Minister Eric Woerth said the plan was one “of courage and reason” and that it is the “duty of the state” to save the pension system. He has said the government won’t back down, no matter how big the protests.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon reminded the French that it could be worse: In nearly all European countries, the current debate is over raising the retirement age to 67 or 68, he said. Germany has decided to bump the retirement age from 65 to 67, for example, and the U.S. Social Security system is gradually raising the retirement age to 67.

That sense of perspective was missing from many of the French protests, where some slogans bordered on the hysterical. One sign in Paris showed a raised middle finger with the message: “Greetings from people who will die on the job.”

Nothing like Gallic hysterics, eh?

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised at this: statist societies like France and much of the EU use ever-expanding government-provided benefits as bribes to buy social peace, making dependents out their citizens and, in effect, infantilizing them. It’s no wonder, then, that the public then throws a tantrum when the state is forced to cut back.

But before anyone indulges in some schadenfreude at French expense, bear in mind that President Obama and his progressive allies want to take us down this same statist, dependent, and infantilized social-democratic road. (And, to a lesser extent, big-government Republicans have been willing to accommodate them.) We’re already seeing that with the growth of public sector unions in the US and their outlandish benefits*.

While Europe seems to be in for a season of unrest, the problem isn’t yet so bad in the US and, importantly, many people agree that it is a problem in the first place. Hopefully we can make the necessary reforms before we have our own mass tantrums.

*(For the record, I’m a member of a quasi-public union, and apparently it’s one of the dumber ones; we’ve never received the over-the-top wages and benefits the other unions do. I tell ya, it ain’t fair…)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)