Speakeasy forum

General discussion

This sounds like extortion to me

by Steven Haninger / May 18, 2013 1:16 AM PDT
"Franklin County officials are defending an agreement with local labor unions that would require anyone working on a $45 million renovation project to pay union dues and pay into union benefit programs, whether or not they are union members."

"In exchange for requiring all workers on the project to pay union fees, and for requiring successful bidders to recruit from local union halls if they need additional workers, the county gets a guarantee that union members will not strike or walk out and employers won't lock out workers, to ensure that the project finishes on time."

So the union agrees to not walk off the job as long as its non-union counterparts kick back some of their own pay into the union kitty from which they'll receive nothing? I'm just a dumb taxpayer that thinks this smells rotten. What am I missing here that would make the air more pleasant?
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: This sounds like extortion to me
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: This sounds like extortion to me
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Isn't Ohio a right to work state now?
by TONI H / May 18, 2013 2:07 AM PDT

If I were in Franklin County (originally from Cuyahoga myself), I would be in an uproar over this blackmail and would be picketing to insist that the job be bid on by non-union contractors and push the unions right out of it completely before any contracts are signed and made binding.

Collapse -
Ohio is not a "Right to Work" state
by Steven Haninger / May 18, 2013 2:28 AM PDT

That was shot down years ago but I think our current governor had some plans to revive the idea. He tried to overhaul the public employee collective bargaining agreements when he first took office but the unions took care of that with a roundhouse punch at the polls after voters were treated by ads suggesting that their homes could burn down or 911 calls not answered if the measure was approved. It was an ugly campaign. I know there was to be an effort to revive the right to work bill but I don't think, given recent history, it will happen anytime soon.


Collapse -
This happens in Maryland too
by James Denison / May 18, 2013 2:18 AM PDT

Even for state govt workers, of which my daughter is one.

Collapse -
Franklin County officials are extorting whom? It appears
by Ziks511 / May 22, 2013 7:36 AM PDT
they are applying pressure on both union members and contractors to ensure the completion of the structure on time, and proobably on budget though that isn't mentioned above.. Extortion has a very specific meaning which this doesn't even remotely resemble. If it were the Union who were threatening some species of work stoppage, that might be construed as extortion. It's not. It is the County officials who have proposed this compromise applicable to both sides. That ain't extortion.

The usual reason for requiring union dues from all workmen is that everyone is being paid a union wage, and is covered by union protections and benefits packages if any, rather than being employed at the least wage possible with not benefits at all.

Collapse -
Zic's hit the nail on the head
by itsdigger / May 22, 2013 8:14 AM PDT

Ohio is not a Right to work state but if non union people are employed,they have to be payed Prevailing Wage which is a real bonus to these workers. If these laws weren't in affect the non union contractor would charge union scale to do the work but pay the workers non union scale. When in Rome do as the Romans do, meaning if you work next to me , you get paid as I do...Digger

Collapse -
that's one part
by Roger NC / May 22, 2013 8:19 AM PDT

but I have to wonder about the union benefit program they're being compelled to contribute to as well as the union dues.

Are they being "forced" into the union? if a closed shop state, you have to belong to the union to work on a union job site. In that case, I guess the reluctant new members qualify for the benefits too, insurance, disability, etc., while on that job. And since a closed shop state that is the way it is, that's the way it is.

If they don't qualify for the benefits but are forced to support the program, that's a problem.

Collapse -
and what do the non union contractors do
by itsdigger / May 22, 2013 8:37 AM PDT
In reply to: that's one part

with all of the extra money they receive when they charge union scale but don't give the non union employees any of the benefits or extra dollars that were charged to do the job?

Collapse -
(NT) ain't happeningin a closed shop state
by Roger NC / May 22, 2013 8:46 AM PDT
Collapse -
The jobs are bid out, aren't they?
by Steven Haninger / May 22, 2013 10:14 AM PDT

If you look again at the article, it mentions criticism of commissioners over their being too "cozy" with the unions. It also mentions low bidders (non-union shops generally) as finding themselves often disqualified. It mentioned minor wage disputes but didn't give any detail as to what these were. Bottom line is that non-union contractors seemed to be at a disadvantage. I'd also need to think that these low bidders weren't pricing their labor at the same scale as the union contractors. If they did, their bids would be on the same level as the union contractor's bid. That's why they are "low bidders". That math doesn't work.

Collapse -
Probably true
by Willy / May 22, 2013 11:08 PM PDT

On the surface when union and non-union pay scales differ with more than likely union getting more, then the bid on that alone would be lower from the non-union bid. Excluding other factors that seems straight-forward. However, often enough unions just get the job done right from the git and non-union through its contractor may fudge somewhere, though that can happen on any job site. The point being the fudge factor can be hidden from view but really plays an important part of the overall cost if not then and now, maybe later when it collapses or similar. All are accountable but it would seem unions more so. Which brings-up the issues of the commissioners, there you have another side to look at. Whatever coziness is present plays into corruption issues and/or if the public is being served for the better. Sometimes, playing hardball doesn't work but use of honey does, if the project gets done on time and at cost, but that's unfortunately is not a given. At least this is all out in the open one way or another to debate on or even correct as the case maybe. I only have to goto Detroit to see that great city in the ruins its now how unions and corporations past actions lead to. So, whatever is done is weighted in the future if it was the right decision not only at the time but for the future as well. -----Willy Happy

Collapse -
This is the problem of lowest bid for govt work
by James Denison / May 23, 2013 2:39 AM PDT
In reply to: Probably true

Quality suffers. Those who do a better job, use better materials, will never win just on a lowest bid process.

Collapse -
The bid specs, if written properly,
by Steven Haninger / May 23, 2013 3:24 AM PDT

should take care of material quality and many other issues. Unfortunately, they can sometimes be written in such a way that only a specific vendor can meet those specifications be they they best choice or not.

Collapse -
and often any attempt to specify that closely
by Roger NC / May 23, 2013 11:36 AM PDT

ends up a complilcated nightmare that increases all bids and still manages to overlook some very important factors.

another catch 22 I guess.

Collapse -
It may be true that union scale does much to set the bar
by Steven Haninger / May 22, 2013 8:40 PM PDT

for wages in states where unions dominate certain work forces but earnings on ones W-2 are by no means cost to employers for their service and are by no means the total benefit a worker may receive. Another charge an employer must absorb is that of the administrative costs of dealing with government regulations, tax accounting, etc. Such is one reason why many have turned to independent contractors for some of their needs. It's not just the lower labor costs. In fact, I'd think an employer could pay a higher labor wage to independent contractors and still be better off financially. They'd be relieved of not just the high priced benefits packages but a lot of administrative and accounting expenses. Of course there are those who condemn employers for turning to this practice rather than allowing government and unions to dictate their personnel decisions.

Collapse -
Sorry to say that the pressure sound to me as

coming from the unions. County officials aren't applying pressure on anyone. They're just defending a plan that is being questioned.

Extortion usually involves some forced payment. In this case, any non-union workers are being forced to pay union fees as well as to pay into the union benefits programs as a union appeasement. Otherwise, they could not be hired and earn a paycheck at all. In exchange for that appeasement, the unions promise not to let a strike delay completion of the project. Sounds like veiled extortion to me.

"Don't make non-union workers pay into the union kitty and you might just see picket lines instead of building construction". What could be less clear?

Collapse -
How does a Union insist that *it* not interrupt a piece of
by Ziks511 / May 23, 2013 12:52 AM PDT

Construction, and simultaneously insist that an Employer not lock them out? Your statement makes no sense. The Union is losing one of its levers, the Employer is losing one of its levers, and all of this is being dictated by the County Council/government which you want to see as an arm of the Union. There is no evidence. There is no There there..

If Unions were that powerful, then there'd be a lot more jobs and a lot more Infra-structure work..


Collapse -
Forget about my statement. Your question opening question

makes no sense to me. This paragraph from the article says about all you should need to know but I would agree that it's not written without some ambiguity in spots.

"In exchange for requiring all workers on the project to pay union fees, and for requiring successful bidders to recruit from local union halls if they need additional workers, the county gets a guarantee that union members will not strike or walk out and employers won't lock out workers, to ensure that the project finishes on time."

This is an agreement that is not popular with some taxpayer watchdogs but what the county commissioners seem to be doing is covering all bases in order to avoid a labor dispute that could occur if non-union employees were needed to supplement union employees to ensure the project deadline was met. These commissioners must have experience dealing with unions in order to be this thorough so as to not find themselves in a hostage situation. They are acting preemptively to avoid it and taking some heat for doing so.

Collapse -
one point
by Roger NC / May 23, 2013 11:43 AM PDT

You attribute it to commissioners having experience with unions, apparently implying they have had unions hold work up. Possibly so.

But given county contracts it to a company, and the company (depending on the set up there) either contracts with the local union hall for needed help or hires employees, union in this case.

Lockouts by the company may or may not be justified by some action of the union, just as a strike may be a reaction to a serious problem or something else.

Not experienced in either, but the few times I remember reading or news about lockouts, it's usually in preemptive action to a strike threat because of a total lack of agreement on a negiotioation. Or it can be in retaliation for a strike by one union to put everyone out of work to pressure the union to accept the company position. Lockouts and strikes both can be regarded as trying to force the other side to accept your terms.

Collapse -
Both a walkout and a lockout are trump cards
by Steven Haninger / May 23, 2013 9:08 PM PDT
In reply to: one point

In this local situation, it appears that the county commissioners want those cards removed from the deck in order to get the work done on schedule. What I read is that no non-union hires are yet involved but that county officials just want that option kept open should deadline become jeopardized or some part of the project not have qualified union labor available. To me that seems very reasonable. Who wants to lock themselves into a single source without some backup method?

Popular Forums

Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Your favorite shows are back!

Don’t miss your dramas, sitcoms and reality shows. Find out when and where they’re airing!