Monday, July 19, 2010

Union hires scab protesters

Greg Mankiw linked a surreal story on unions hiring non-union workers to protest for them.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the non-union for-hire protesters are picketing a building because non-union workers are performing drywall work inside.

"For a lot of our members, it's really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage—$8.25 an hour—to walk picket lines. Mr. Raye says he's grateful for the work, even though he's not sure why he's doing it. "I could care less," he says. "I am being paid to march around and sound off."

The end of the story is just as amusing:

The union's Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.

He says the pickets are not only about "union issues" but also about fair wages and benefits for American workers. By hiring the unemployed, "we are also giving back to the community a bit," he says.

One of the slogans the protesters shout is "Low Pay! Go away!" By law, the drywall workers must be making at least minimum wage. But the protesters themselves are making exactly minimum wage. So at the very worst, they make the same amount of money.

If it counts as "giving back to the community" and hiring the unemployed to pay people to shout and march, than it must also count to give them jobs putting up drywall. In both scenarios, they are doing work cheaper than the union members are willing to. There is no world or economic model that would value the first job but not the second.

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