Labor roundup

  • Great moments in public employee unionism, cont’d: D.C. Metro track inspector charged after derailment with falsifying records wins reinstatement and back pay in arbitration [Max Smith, WTOP, earlier here (similar after fatal smoke incident) and here] Could be permanent? “Bus drivers’ union threatens strike over driverless buses” [Jason Aubry, WCMH (Columbus, Ohio)]
  • Letting guests skip housekeeping = grievance: “Union Threatens Strike over Marriott’s Green Initiative” [Darrell VanDeusen, Kollman & Saucier]
  • Stephen Bainbridge series on what’s wrong with Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposals [earlier, etc.] continues with a post on labor co-determination and employee involvement in corporate governance;
  • “Public Sector Unions Win Big at the California Supreme Court: California citizens must now meet and confer with union bosses before qualifying any compensation-related initiatives for the ballot.” [Steven Greenhut, Reason]
  • My Frederick News Post letter to the editor opposing Question D (mandatory binding arbitration and collective bargaining for career firefighters). More on mandatory binding arbitration in the public sector: Ivan Osorio et al on California, for Cato (see pp. 12 et seq.); Steve Eide, Public Sector Inc., 2013.
  • “Waikiki, Hawaii hotel workers decline to join union; the union demands they pay full dues anyway, starts process to garnish their wages. Does the union’s conduct amount to an unfair labor practice? NLRB: No, the union made an honest mistake. D.C. Circuit: That ‘makes no sense.’ The union never apologized or said it made a mistake. Its message to the workers was, ‘We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.'” [John Kenneth Ross, IJ “Short Circuit”]


  • Why are you FOR mandatory binding arbitration when it’s imposed by corporations on employees or consumers (whether they want it or not), but AGAINST mandatory binding arbitration when it’s imposed by employees on their employer?

    • Good question. It’s an equally good question why the dominant liberal-left viewpoint in labor relations generally supports arbitration in the unionized setting, but thinks it’s shockingly terrible when adopted by consent of both parties in a nonunion setting.

      Start with the question of what is voluntary. What I take as Jack’s view is that an agreement to arbitrate which you’ve signed twenty times at intervals over the course of your employment, initialing each box about how the terms have been explained to you, is *not* in the least voluntary, while a town’s being forced by some labor law to accept arbitration with police or fire employees *is* voluntary, or at least close enough for government work. If you take consent seriously, the first category will appear a legitimate choice people can make. Sometimes employers genuinely consent to union arbitration as well, which is why there is no general libertarian critique of it, but in other cases the law ties their hands in various ways and there is no way to understand how the device works without taking into account that fact.

      In both cases, if you see someone being prodded to enter an agreement about their workplace whose terms they wouldn’t want to live with, the best course is to urge them not to sign. That’s what I do when a friend is thinking of signing onto an otherwise good job with an unreasonable non-disparagement or non-compete or arbitration clause. It’s also what I do when an employer, such as a county government and its taxpayers, is being urged to sign onto a public employee arbitration measure it is likely to regret.

  • I disagree with your argument that arbitration agreements are adopted by consent of both parties. Most people do not have a viable choice but to sign these agreements, whether they want to or not. If every health care provider requires mandatory binding arbitration, should you go without health care? If every bank requires mandatory binding arbitration, should you put all of your money under your mattress? If every employer requires mandatory binding arbitration, should you go without a job?

    Once we reach the point that virtually EVERY company requires these mandatory binding arbitration agreements (and we are getting close to that point!), it is hard to argue it is voluntary, because the employee/consumer really has no alternative.