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Posted on Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

Labor after Right-to-Work: 'Let's take a look at the base'

By Ben Freed


Becky Rafter, left, Courtney Hanson and Emilia Kaiser protest in front of a McDonald’s on Moreland Avenue in Atlanta. Protests in front of fast food restaurants across the country have become more common in recent months.

John Spink | AP File Photo

It has been a difficult year for labor unions in Michigan.

On Labor Day in 2012, organized labor was riding high on news of increased employment and union membership, the “Protect Our Jobs” ballot initiative had been approved by the Board of State Canvassers and picket lines in Washtenaw County had been unnecessary for more than two years.

Since then, the wind has been taken out of union sails the by the failure of Proposal 2 and passage of right-to-work laws in states across the country, including Michigan.

“Labor as an institution can become weakened because of changes in politics, and the evidence is that they are very much linked to politics,” University of Michigan labor research scientist Roland Zullo said.

But — he added — that doesn’t mean labor is going away.

“When that happens is you see more of a resurgence in ‘labor the movement,’ or labor agitating with workers acting in less organized forms.”

‘Labor the movement’ has been evident over the past year largely in the form of high-visibility protests and picketing at companies that do not negotiate their contracts with established unions.

“We’re seeing a rise of worker organizations that are not tied to nationally sanctioned institutions,” Zullo said. “They don’t follow the conventions of labor law, and they push the boundaries in other ways.”

Workers at Wal-Mart stores and fast food chains across the country have been protesting low wages, with fast food workers recently picketing several locations in Michigan demanding a near doubling of their hourly rates.

“They use disruptive tactics, they generally have very few demands but they use disruptive tactics to press those demands and that’s what you’re seeing right now at the restaurants,” Zullo said.

“That form of attempting to deal with grievances in the workplace tends to emerge when you make it more difficult for workers to form bona fide unions.”

Despite difficulty of forming unions at big box stores and restaurants, the grassroots organizers often get logistic and even financial support from unions that are shifting their focus. Zullo said that help often comes even though employees and organizers have no intention of even attempting to join the established unions.

“When you have strong unions out there negotiating terms and conditions across whole industries like what we had from the 1940s through the 60s, the general strategy is that they want to set a high standard of decent wages and safe working environments that other people reach towards,” he said.

“When union institutions as we think often think of them are weakened, the strategy changes. Instead it becomes, ‘let’s take a look at the base, the workers really at the margins and try to lift those folks up.’”

The workers on the margins are often found in industries that have traditionally been extremely hostile to labor organization. Zullo said that United States labor laws allows for “concerted actions” by employees regardless of whether there is a union in place or not.

“So if I’m in a non-union setting and I walk up to the boss and I demand a raise, that’s not concerted activity because it’s just for me,” he said.

“But, if I walk up to the boss and say we’re all hurting here we all need a raise, that’s considered concerted and I’m protected and cannot be fired for that act.”

Non-union activists have been using this protection to plan and execute their protests, though Zullo said many of them are also harnessing a “can’t get any worse” attitude to spur their picketing.

“Part of what gives these restaurant workers the audacity to work for almost a double wage is the fact that they don’t feel that much risk,” he said.

“… They know the employer needs them, and at seven or eight dollars an hour that it’s very difficult for employers to find people who can come in and do the same work at that wage. There’s not much to lose at that point for them.”

According to a Labor Day study from the Michigan League for Public Policy, employees in Michigan not in the top 10 percent of wage earners have reason for their pessimism.

While the state’s unemployment rate has dipped to 8.4 percent, the study found that workers in Michigan have seen the largest decrease in median wage of any state in America since 1980.

Zullo said that the wage stagnation has less to do with union participation, and more to do with the types of jobs available to Michiganders.

“If you want a society that confers upon workers strong wages and strong benefits, workers have to be engaged in value added activity,” he said.

“They have to be taking something, whatever it is that they do, and creating substantial value. And it doesn’t matter if they’re union or not.

“In Michigan we’ve traditionally had the auto industry. Workers take steel and glass and rubber and plastic and make it into a product that fetches a strong price on a market. It’s the ability for them to do that that allows for the wages paid. It doesn’t matter if the workforce is union or not but the value added by the workers have to be there.”

Between 2000 and 2010, Michigan lost 46 percent of its manufacturing jobs, and according to the MLPP report, two of the top three jobs in the state are now ‘retail salesperson’ and ‘cashier.’

Zullo said that moving forward, unions will likely look to continue their role in the non-union organization of employees in service sector and other lower-wage jobs.

“It all goes back to the shift in strategy,” he said. “They went from trying to create a model that everyone would reach for to directly lifting up the base.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

The plight of documented workers: Labor is looked on as the common lot of man as a result of the God's curse(Genesis 3:17-19) and man is condemened to lead a life of bitter servitude. At the same time, in the Third Book of Moses, Leviticus, Chapter 25, verses 35 to 55 God gives some guidelines:"If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you." God has not excluded the alien, or a temporary resident from receiving help. There are nearly 10 million or more documented alien workers in this country who pay into the system as per the provisions of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act or FICA through payroll deductions. These contributions fund Public Programs to provide retirement insurance and health insurance benefits to people at 65-years age, or more. Labor consumes time. Labor consumes the short days and years of human life. These alien workers who pay into the system must be helped to receive the benefits in their old age as they have labored on this soil.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

Last time I looked Gramhom somebody and the democrats were in charge of the state during most of the time that the writer below is blaming Snyder for. Guess he doesn't need to be bothered by facts if you have your head buried in the dirt that far down. "The study found that workers in Michigan have seen the largest decrease in median wage of any state in America since 1980. Thanks Snyder!"


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

@ incubo734 - Gramhom is teabagger spelling for Granholm. Most Tea Party members barely have a high school diploma. Have you seen those misspelled signs at tea party rallies? Ignorance on display! library/bl-tea-party-signs.htm?PS=849%3A6


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Look again. Blanchard- dem Governor 1983-1990 Engler gop- Governor 1990-2003 Granholm dem- Governor 2002-2010 Snyder gop Governor 2011- Senate- GOP 1985-2013 House Dem 1969-1992 split party control 1993-4 GOP 1995-6 Dem 1997-8 GOP 1999-2006 Dem 2007-2010 GOP 2010-2013 Attorney General - GOP 2003-2013 Sec State GOP- 1995-2013 Bothered by facts?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Who is Gramhom?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

By all means, look at Flint and Saginaw, see what kind of society low wages create.


Wed, Sep 4, 2013 : 7:16 a.m.

AMOC: With all due respect, it is not a matter of skills we are talking about in most cases. It is about who is willling to do the job for less. As long as an engineer or Programmer in India, China, or Indonesia is willing to work for $5,000 a year, there is no guarantee that getting the skills and the college degree will lead to a good job. A lot of the 20-somethings you see waiting tables or working at Best Buy are college grads that cannot find a job.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

Flint and Saginaw are such economic wastelands because for decades, up until the late 1970's, the auto industry provided generous pay and benefits to tens of thousands of semi-skilled workers. When the US automakers lost market share and started to automate their plants to save money, there was no longer the income to support the infrastructure in those areas. Most o fthe residents of those areas have yet to embrace the new reality that says you need a good education and skills that add value for your employer in order to earn money like what used to be handed out in auto factories just for showing up conscious.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

Where do I go to get one of these jobs that I have a RIGHT TO WORK at? Job growth since the passage of RTW legislation?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

The best thing that could happen to this state is the death of the labor union.


Wed, Sep 4, 2013 : 7:12 a.m.

@John: I agree, but the goal of many of the companies belonging to Alec is to destroy unions as a part of their plan. Caterpillar and Wal-Mart are notoreiously non-union. And the Koch Brothers funded the Americans for Koch Brothers minions that were anti-union and caused all of the violence in Lansing last December.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

@ dsponini - Here are more GOP reps paying their ALEC dues with taxpayer money! Michigan, Fire them all! Rep. Dave Agema (R-74) – paid ALEC dues with taxpayer funds in 2008. Sponsored House Bill 4305 (2011). Compare to ALEC's model "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act." Rep. Judson Gilbert (R-81) – paid ALEC dues with taxpayer funds in 2005 while a state senator. Rep. Gail Haines (R-43) – Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force. Rep. Ken Horn (R-94) – paid ALEC dues with taxpayer funds in 2011. Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-44) – paid ALEC dues with taxpayer funds in 2011. Rep. Kenneth Kurtz (R-58) – Health and Human Services Task Force. Rep. Matthew Lori (R-59) – Health and Human Services Task Force. Rep. Pete Lund (R-36) – Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force. Rep. Tom McMillin – sponsored House Bill 4050 (2011) and House Bill 4453 (2011). Compare to ALEC's model "Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act" and "Competitive Contracting of Public Services Act." Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-80) – Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. Rep. Amanda Price (R-89) – Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. Rep. Mike Shirkey – paid ALEC dues with taxpayer funds in 2011.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

The death of the labor union and the rise of the corporate 1% union known as ALEC. Coincidence? We have state GOP representatives paying their ALEC dues with taxpayer money!!!! Sen. Darwin Booher (R-35), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005, 2007 and 2009 while a state representative[2] Sen. Bruce Caswell (R-16), Health and Human Services Task Force[3] Sen. Mike Green (R-31), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2011[8] Sen. Goeff Hansen (R-34), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005, 2007 and 2009 (twice) while a state representative,[2] Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force member[9] Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-29), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005, 2007 and 2009 while a state representative,[2] and in 2011 while a state senator[8] Sen. Mark Jansen (R-28)[10] Sen. Rick Jones (R-24), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005 while a state representative[2], told Detroit News in August 2012 that he was no longer a member because "I thought (attending ALEC conferences) would be looked at by my constituents as a junket."[11] See Legislators Who Have Cut Ties to ALEC for more. Sen. Mike Kowall (R-15),[10] paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2009 while a state representative, and in 2011[2] Sen. Arlan B. Meekhoff (R-30), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2009 while a state representative[2] Sen. John Moolenar (R-36), Member of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force[4]. Paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005 and 2007 while a state representative[2] Sen. Mike Nofs (R-19), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2008 while a state representative[2] Sen. David B. Robertson (R-26), paid ALEC membership dues with taxpayer funds in 2005[2] Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-20), State Chairman[12]; Civil Justice Task Force [13] Michigan_ALEC_Politicians

DJ Earl

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

Stop hating the rich. It will get you nowhere. You are not where you are because there are other people who are rich. If you believe that, you guarantee yourself that you will go nowhere. Except down.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

GRYE, do some research, learn how union wages lift all wages. Hint: stagnant wages, less union membership, recent history.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

All those jobs throughout the country where employees are making huge amount of dollars without union representation, how could that have ever happened?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

"Destroy unions and the good wages that they have negotiated for their members, non-union organizations will simply follow. The driving down of wages is what is destroying this country economically." ALEC, the union for corporations and the 1% are responsible. Like someone else said. Read about this union for corporations and the Romney's of the world! They are the ones destroying America all for greed


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

We can see this by looking at recent history. Union membership has dropped dramatically in the last decades. Wages have remained stagnant for the last decades. Clearly the death of unions would be good...for whom again? As "Trickle down" economics has been shown to be a failure (record deficits, low wages, less spending by consumers due to low wages) how do you think lowering wages even more will help our economy?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:21 a.m.

If you are going to trust business and management to give out a fair wage, good benefits, and fair treatment in exchange for hard work, dedication, and performance, I have a bridge I would like to sell you. Globalization simply means getting the labor at the lowest cost- period. Destroy unions and the good wages that they have negotiated for their members, non-union organizations will simply follow. The driving down of wages is what is destroying this country economically.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:30 a.m.

Dave; You forgot about Flint, Pontiac and Highland Park. What else do these cities have in commone? When the unions got done fleecing everyone, and ran out of other peoples money, they fleeced the populace for an additional income tax. Then that ran out too.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:16 a.m.

Unions have done so much for this state!! Have you been to Wayne, Redford, Taylor or Inkster lately??? These towns were built on the backs of the UAW. Look at them! Model cities for places that embrace unions.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

Thanks to the for all the Labor Day coverage in the Sunday print edition. Oh wait, other than the Macy's Labor Day sale ad and a few others, there was ZERO mention. I guess the print edition had lots more important stories to feature. Was this a local decision or someone higher up the corporate chain involved in the editorial process?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

All covers is football. Why bother with real news?

Ed Davison Jr

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

Lyn Barron

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

Matthew 21:12 Jesus used physical force to 'cleanse the temple.' I do not know if you are for or against Unions. We have to stop being so apathetic. Nothing shocks this nation anymore. I have written here so many times about things that have happened to me, and I am sure to a lot of other people that should NOT be tolerated in a civilized society. It never surprises me when someone goes 'postal.' It is very difficult to get justice when you go up against people with power like major hospitals or Unions. We DO have to speak up to prevent other people from being hurt and taken advantage of.

michael Limmer

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:05 a.m.


Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

"The study found that workers in Michigan have seen the largest decrease in median wage of any state in America since 1980." Thanks Snyder!

Basic Bob

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:58 a.m.

Click the link, read the graph. The first 20 years were stable. The decline started in 2002. Thank the lady who presided over the Single State Recession. And the percentage of workers earning below the poverty wage increased at the same time. What caused it? The loss of unskilled jobs in the state. There are just too many unskilled and uneducated workers in Michigan.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

Snyder continues to transfer the tax burden from corporations on to individual workers, while implementing the GOP's "Michissippification" of Michigan.

L. C. Burgundy

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

I hadn't realized Governor Snyder had been governor since 1980...


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

Gotta love the unions, Detroit even has a horseshoer with nothing to do, thanks to the unions. But they have plenty of money to go around, so no worries.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Still makin' stuff up there, Clownfish? I see nothing about moving building or $29k/year in the Freep article either. Still wondering about that plumber turning off the valve - but don't bother speaking to that either. BTW, I didn't go to the Superbowl last year, but I know who won, so I'm not sure a field trip is in order to see that nothing is happening in the D. Do you hold yourself to those standards as well? Do you personally visit the site of every story you comment on? So, to recap: Still wondering about the plumber? and, since you brought it up - Do you visit the site of every story you comment on, or just criticize other for not doing that? Signed; Still Waiting for Answers in the Deuce.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

What is the inconvenient truth, that a person was moved from one facility to another and retained his classification while performing tasks as needed at the new facility? Or that this greedy person is going to make $29,000 and get health insurance, paid vacation and sick time this year? Or that you have never been to the Central Services Building and have no idea what is done there?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

Of course everyone keeps ignoring the "inconvenient truth" of the Freep Article. If you don't like the info, criticize the source. Who did you learn that from, Saul Alinsky?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

EyeHeartClownfish. :-)


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

EYHEART is not FOX News, he just plays them on Ann . Who needs detailed reporting when we can have partial information based on incomplete data with which to make uninformed decisions?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

Good one eyeheart. Trying to link a story from MSN when the source is Capitol Confidential, right wing think tank brought to you by the Mackinac Center! A NEWS SERVICE FOR THE PEOPLE OF MICHIGAN FROM THE MACKINAC CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

EYEHEART linked the story from MSN, but the SOURCE is the MI CAPCON, the mouthpiece of the radical right in Michigan. If you bothered to read the whole story you would have found this: "Daniel Edwards, a construction contracts manager with the DWSD, said the employee was transferred from the Detroit Police Department five years ago. The police department has horses, though the DWSD horseshoer no longer works with animals. "DWSD has a blacksmith shop in our Central Services Facility," Edwards said. The shop "also ... repairs equipment and works with various metals and welding for the department when needed." The horseshoer now works at the Central Services Facility." And, for an experienced, skilled welder, he makes a whopping $29k a year. He must be GREEDY to want to make $29k a year breathing toxic fumes, getting burned, cut and scraped and crawling around dirty dangerous machinery keeping clean water flowing to people sitting in their air conditioned offices whining about people that work for a living.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

1: Detroit does still use horses, the police have a mounted unit. Horses need to be shooed. 2: Industrial blacksmith is a highly skilled position, still needed in industry. As the story states, this person fills multiple needs of The City, fabricating, forging components for final machining and maybe even shoeing the Cities horses. The complete ignorance of this shows why some people should not comment on things they have no knowledge of, like working for a living, not siting behind a desk commenting on those that actually do and make things.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

My New Username: So your beef regarding this post is over a mislabeled job title in an organization that you dont work. Your life must outrageously splendid to get worked up over this topic.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:27 a.m.

@Nicholas Please re-read and address the other points. Fox News? Where? Still making that one up? How about the plumbers? Unions really helping out there as well? Where are your sources, or did you make that up as well?

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:15 a.m.

That was an awfully long-winded way of admitting that he is indeed actually a welder and that the horseshoe hype was just hype.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:07 a.m.

Hey Nicholas; Let me explain how this interwebs thing that Al Gore invented works: You can look at the URL (URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator) and see where the SOURCE was. In this case it was MSN. I looked at the URL thingie again, and I didn't see any mention of Fox News, so you just made that up again. Very naughty. If you want to read that bastion of conservative writing called the "Free Press", you will see that they mention that he can also do welding - but in total are not too complimentary towards unions: "Brian Hurding, vice president of EMA, the firm that did the study, said the department had 257 job classifications, including "horseshoer." "We didn't find any horses," Hurding said. "That's the strangest job classification I've ever seen." He noted later that the person in the job also was classified as a welder, which was his main job. Under the reorganization plan, the number of job classifications would fall to 31. Hurding said employees are hungry for changes. He said he interviewed a plumber who was sent to fix a broken pipe. "He had to wait half a day for an operator to come to shut off the valve so he could fix the pipe," Hurding said." Also, note that the above URL (which I actually cited, as compared to your quote from nowhere), isn't from Fox News either. But nice deflection. Keep up the good work.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

Why do you feel it is necessary to distort the truth in order to make a point? This is not fox news, it is I suppose clinging to the notion that the position only shoes horses, rather than the truth that the position does fabrication, repairs and welding, is much more exciting to some. Or maybe you just don't know that even the most historic notions of blacksmiths did far more than shoe horses. Surely you can find something more truthful to cite? "DWSD has a blacksmith shop in our Central Services Facility," Edwards said. The shop "also ... repairs equipment and works with various metals and welding for the department when needed."

Lyn Barron

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

from Axe to Grind My e xperience has been that the Unions help those they want to anyway. I paid thousands of dollars to the same Union and did not get my RN job back. The Union Pres. even printed out the page in the Union guidlines, gave it to me and said this states you should have your job back. The Unit that I worked at for many years- sometimes in charge- had just gotten a grant and was hiring RN's. I had successfully worked on that same Unit since 1986 with only great evaluations. I had maintained my senority, CEU's, and license but still did NOT get my job back. My former head nurse was dismissed from the hospital but was able to get a job in the HR- hiring. It is all about who you know and who can pull for you. Save your dues. Please look up the Michigan Summit on Workability final report 2009 and some of their sponcers. page 42-52. There you will find how your employers are trying to pay doctor's and reward supervisors to get you back to work before you are ready. Remember Michigan is a fire at will state. Unions may try to convince you that they can protect you.

Lyn Barron

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Some of the 'multi-stakeholders' of The Michigan Summit on Workability are investigative servvices, insurance companies, law firms, and hospitals. I have to correct my above statement. I am not sure what the head nurses made in 2005, but I know they were not in the Union. I know this person now makes way over $130k and is not in the Union still.

Lyn Barron

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 9:04 p.m.

I forgot to mention that the head nurse that was fired and got a job in the same hospital in HR, was NOT in the Union. She now makes about $70k more than she did as a head nurse.

Jack Gladney

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

Markets always act rationally and when given time, always settle at their natural equilibrium. Let's all pretend that entry level service jobs are in fact skilled labor and raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour. In five years, let me know how that works out for the workers. Then tell about the days when you had the luxury of a cashier at the supermarket, or a human taking your order at a fast food dive. See how fast you will have driven innovation. And don't forget to press "Yes"on the screen for salt and catsup, as you won't have the skilled labor at the drive-through to go back and yell at for not putting them in the bag.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

Sorry, here's the link I forgot to add:


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Michael Limmer, I gather I agree with your political points and I think there is far too much wealth concentrated at the upper ends of the spectrum, but your quote about the six Walton children having as much wealth as the bottom 40% is pretty silly. Don't get trapped into repeating. Take this article from 2011, for example. As of 2009, a quarter of the country had zero or negative net worth. So you YOURSELF are probably worth more than the bottom 25% of the nation. So your statement is not false it's just meaningless. As of 2011 the six Walton children were collectively worth about $100 billion, which is an astronomical number. But the collective US household wealth is close to $70 trillion, so the Walton kids owned about 0.14% of it.

michael Limmer

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:01 a.m.

Markets always act rationally-more Ayn Ranrdian pomposity. The truth is employers alway maximise profits. The perfect example is WalMart. The six Walton children have as much wealth as the bottom 40 per cent of America. Is that "rational"?

Laurie Barrett

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:45 p.m.

After reading your argument, I conclude the problem is not with markets, or unions, but with capitalism itself. It seems to be saying that for capitalism to work, we must have a permanent underclass. We need to change that. That's what a lot of people are saying here. If capitalism exploits its own populace (the disparity between haves and have nots in the United States has never been larger than it is right now), we the people must fix that. That's why we're celebrating Labor Day. We value giving everyone a decent salary and working conditions in this country.

Jaime Magiera

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

"Markets always act rationally and when given time, always settle at their natural equilibrium." Define "rational" and "equilibrium" - particularly in regards to people having a living wage. Various markets have taken advantage of workers and the buying public for extended periods of time. The notion that things will eventually reach "equilibrium" doesn't really say much to the people who get crushed in the meantime.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:36 p.m.

Today is "Labor Day." Thank You Teaps for leaving this board to the working class to discuss the Revolting Developments in Lansing. Most of the Teaps are probably out playing golf or up in Petoskey shopping for end-of-summer clothing "bargains" in the $100+ price range . . .


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

And the low information voters where ? At the library! Or at the gravel pit!


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:31 p.m.

If the minimum wage had risen each year over the last 15 years, it would be at $13 - $14/hr, which is where it should be. It only seems abrupt and dramatic for these strikers to demand $15 now because it's been suppressed for so long.

Jaime Magiera

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Ric, who made a bad decision? and how?

Jaime Magiera

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:59 a.m.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10 p.m.

These people made a lot of bad decisions and now want to be baled out.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

Worse is on the horizon. Its really disgusting when the property tax bill comes in twice every year and continues to go up. Robotic and automation have replaced millions and millions of jobs. Now all your left with is low wage/temp jobs. But people's housing, medical, clothing needs still remain, even though a robot took all their ways to make a living. So what do people do now. Well we better change policy. Get rid of that oppressive property tax system we have – or taxed out of your home all of us will be. Better get a way to find these people a way to solve their medical issues. THE ROBOTS HAVE TAKEN OVER. According to MLLP industry has shed 46% of manufacturing jobs. That's not true. Robots have replaced %46 of the workforce. The work is still there – its just robotic automation is doing it now. That leaves us all without work or money to pay our oppressive property taxes.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

Just think how many jobs there would be if we didn't have farm equipment or trucks or any mechanical devices. There'd be plenty of work in the fields, carrying things, etc. Death to the robots!


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 6:27 p.m.

LABOR DAY - EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION: On January 01, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation introduced a new era of freedom from slavery, serfhood, and servitude. It intends to protect the rights of workers who must be treated as equals and must be shown some respect to defend their human dignity. It is my impression, that United States must truly strive to abolish slavery, serfdom, and servitude and must uphold the moral, and ethical values enshrined in its Labor Law.

Laurie Barrett

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Where I work, there are many divisions of staff. Most of them are unionized, and all of those groups have better working situations than the non-unionized staff--even the least well off unionized staff are better off than the non unionized staff. My group is the largest staff group of all and in some ways the backbone of the institution yet we are not unionized. We are lowest paid in the whole organization, at an average of less than 10$/hr take home, and we are quickest to be exploited when it comes time to skirt labor laws etc. The company makes extremely high profits and the top tiers take phenomenal salaries. My peers and I have a decent working environment, as good or better than a lot of non unionized people, better than fast food, but who knows what's best? Sometimes I wish I had a union to advocate for me and my peers.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:12 a.m.

They are quick to take your money but will turn on you in a second.

Lyn Barron

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:24 a.m.

I believe that every company should have a place where people can go to voice their concerns and mediate a solution. Even if you were in a Union that does not mean that they will advocate for you. I paid thousands of dollars to my Union at Umich and did not get my job back. Try getting a lawyer to go against a Union or Umich. You will have a hard time finding one. It has already cost me over 10K to a lawyer that cost me another 7K because he did not turn papers in on time (so Umich said). No lawyer wants to go against the high powered lawyers that Umich hires. Good luck with everything. Sincerely, Sheri Barron


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

Let's get something straight here- it's not "Right to Work"- it's latitude for big business through bought and paid for lawmakers to make it easier to stop people from organizing.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

You are correct. It should have been called "Right not to be required to join a union" as opposed to "Unions have greater rights than US Citizens".


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

Exactly right. Bought and paid for by Koch and ALEC. Read about ALEC, we should be shouting them down at every opportunity


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

The lawmakers aren't "bought and paid for." Those lawmakers were already pro-business before they ran for office. They didn't need a bribe to convince them to vote a way they already would have.

Elijah Shalis

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

The Min Wage should at least keep pace with inflation. The minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be $10.56 today when adjusted for inflation [see the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

In 1968, only some workers were covered by the 1938 law. For others, the minimum wage was $1.15, which is $7.60 today. Many workers were not guaranteed a minimum wage at all. Not so far off, are we?

Silly Sally

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

This is a classic swings of the extremes of a pendulum. On one side you have Henry Ford's Mr. Bennett with thugs, on the other you have union bosses who demand not just sky-high wages but feather bedding so that many extra workers are needed to do a task. As an example, they require an electrician to unplug a machine before a mechanic can begin to fix it. THis drastically raises the costs to the employer and is a strong reason why no new auto plants have been built in union states like Michigan. But without unions, some employers such as Walmart can take advantage of workers. If unions had never existed, what would the present work week be like and wages? This author mentions "..1940s through the 60s,.." that wages were good. There is a strong reason, after WW2, America was the only player left standing and had no real competition. Unions got way too greedy and employers started to look to first southern states and then over seas for lower wages. Exacerbating this situation is a twofold blow against lower skilled workers; 1) high immigration, especially from Mexico that drives down wages by increasing the supply of low wage workers and on the other end, 2) technology has reduced the need. One only need to look at how the PC has eliminated the need for secretaries, or how many factories are now automated. The workers left are much more highly skilled, needing computer programming skills, not a strong back.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

Pass the immigration law, open up the borders, and see what happens to jobs and wages. A lot of our problems begin and end at the ballot box. We keep re-electing guys like John McCain and Carl Levin and wonder why we continue our slide................


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

SONNYDOG, you don't know much about industrial facility management. Blacksmiths are still used to forge components, especially for old machinery. They were never used to make horseshoes at the water plant.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 11:12 a.m.

Nick, work rules that were negotiated in to a contract forty or fifty years ago may have made sense then. But, the unions typically will not negotiate their removal, because that would be seen by their membership as a "concession" to management. They expect to get something for making that concession. Times change.

Jaime Magiera

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

The Hostess union thing is anti-union propaganda oft espoused by Faux News. You can't blame unions when the CEO gets a 300% pay increase to $2.2 million before the company goes bankrupt. The workers had taken concessions at the first bankruptcy 9 years ago and in negotiations before the second bankruptcy. The average Hostess worker was making $43,000. Hostess went bankrupt because billions of dollars that should have gone to infrastructure and product development was siphoned off to executives. When the junk food market shifted, Hostess was ill-prepared with new products.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

"union work rules require it." You must be referring to the terms of the contract that was agreed to by both parties. "The contract both parties agreed to requires it" would be more accurate.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

NIck, the problem is that the work rules that are valid for a press are not valid for a copy machine. But, Unions do not see it that way. Hostess went bankrupt, in part, because union work rules required that bread be delivered by a separate truck from twinkies. Union work rules also prohibited the truck driver from unloading stock, so a separate person had to ride along to do that. So, instead of one truck and one driver/unloader, union work rules required two trucks and four employees (two drivers and two unloaders). This is similar to the Detroit Water and Sewage Department still having a blacksmith on the payroll, long after the horses have been retired, because union work rules require it.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

"Are you referring to the practice of requiring a professional to certify a dangerous piece of equipment has been rendered safe before a person is allowed to risk their life working on it? " Safe work practices require posting clear instructions and following them. This does not require a "professional" to "certify" that it is safe. Risking your life at work is forbidden! One does not need to be a "professional" or an "electrician" to understand how to lock out and verify that the equipment is in a safe state. In many cases, unions have concocted local work rules that go beyond unusual circumstances to cover the usual. This does not enhance safety, it makes it less safe because the tradesman *assumes* the electrician has assessed the working conditions for him. This is a dangerous practice. Personnel and their supervisors are responsible for their own safety, which is why everyone who is authorized to enter a potentially dangerous area gets their own personal lock.

Laurie Barrett

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

True we live in a different world than we did when we were manufacturing based. But today's educated technically skilled workers, etc, can still be exploited by the hiring class. Collective bargaining helps keep more people in the middle class either directly or indirectly. If we're going to have a "minimum wage," we should all be working for it.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

"As an example, they require an electrician to unplug a machine before a mechanic can begin to fix it." Are you referring to the practice of requiring a professional to certify a dangerous piece of equipment has been rendered safe before a person is allowed to risk their life working on it? That typically requires padlocks be installed on shutoff switches. It would only require an electrician in unusual circumstances. Those requirements keep people from getting killed and injured in pretty horrible ways.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

You don't have to go to college to understand collective bargaining. As an employee I can bargain with my employer for a pay raise. Or, if I were a professional baseball player I could pay an agent to do the bargaining for me. The idea is to get the employer to pay for what my labor is worth. Thus, ball players earning millions of dollars. With a union, all the workers hire one bargaining agent. This results in an economy of scale for the employer; she just has to negotiate with one person (worker's agent) instead of negotiating with hundreds of employees. Save your Confederate money boys, the South shall rise again!


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Apparently you do have to go to college to understand "collective".


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:09 a.m.

Unfortunately, that view is rather idealistic. An employer can promise you the moon to get you on board, but without a contract he/she can unilaterally cut wages, benefits, and hours. Even if there is a contract in a non-union environment, there is always that "catchall" phrase thas stacks the decks in favor of the employer.

Stupid Hick

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

If you were a professional baseball player, besides having an agent, you would also be represented by the Players Union.

Silly Sally

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

Very true, but the stakes are much higher as the workers are all banded together, losing one employee out of 100 and then needing to hire and train another is just not the same as losing ALL.