Every bad practice benefits someone, a business school professor once told me. I thought about that as I read the recap of the firing of the two sanitation workers, Kerry Bigelow and Clyde Clark, in the Independent last week. The day before, I’d been driving through Ohio and heard a news report about some of the underhanded tactics being used to ensure that the state’s anti-union law would remain on the books.

The anti-union sentiment sweeping the country recently seems to coincide with the rise of the tea party movement. From a business perspective, anti-union laws make sense. Unions would rally for living wages for the working class and agitate for safe, humane treatment on the job. That would increase expenses for businesses, which would cut into shareholders’ profits and management compensation. Money tends to empower people, making it harder to push them around.

Things soured for Bigelow and Clark after they began pressing for safer work conditions and supporting unionization. They appealed their firings. The personnel appeals board, whose members all had risen to the management level in their careers, upheld the firings.

Town manager Roger Stancil could have overridden the appeals board’s decision, but he didn’t. Stancil has worked to keep the town living within its budget, except for going into maximum debt to expand the library. Unionizing town workers held the risk of shooting big holes in his budget. Sacrificing the careers and financial stability of two workers certainly must have seemed worth it to him, given the potential for budget chaos should the two workers remain on the job. In that sense, all town taxpayers benefit, as long as we don’t mind destroying the well-being of the two town workers and their families. Two town workers who were pressing for changes that would make life better for all working class town employees and their families.

Bigelow and Clark have sued the town and Lilly Langer, the woman who supposedly filed the complaint against the workers that the town used as rationale for hiring union-busters to “investigate” the sanitation two. Bigelow and Clark are not looking to get rich off compensatory damages. They just want their jobs back.

Now it’s the town’s turn to respond. What will the decisions made by those in charge say about what we stand for?

Tomorrow is Election Day. Vote for people who will listen to and value all town residents, not just their tight circle of Twitter friends.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. John Kramer

     /  November 7, 2011

    Business bashing is always good sport, especially in a liberal town like Chapel Hill. And Unions are always about protecting the worker from that big, evil business.

    What about all the labor laws that protect all workers? Minimum wage? OSHA? I could go on and on. IMO the usefulness of unions is long gone, except perhaps for training in trades. Of course, public schools could also provide that, if they weren’t so busy with designer courses like Chinese immersion.

    The best part of liberals crowing about how great unions are, is in the same breath they will talk about how great their “Toyota Pius” is. Uhhh- not union built. I have always believed that the best way to show support of something is with your wallet. Yes, voting in elections is important too. But I can vote with my wallet every day.

    To me, anyone who “supports the union” and then buys non union cars etc is a hypocrite.

  2. So, John, you don’t buy anything that is union-made?

  3. Tom field

     /  November 7, 2011

    The incredible income ratio changes of the last 30 years neatly correlate to the effective union-busting of our wonderful corporate giants. Anti-business movements make no sense in a capitalist environment, but that is far different from attempting to break up huge multi-nationals along with restoring a sense of morality to all management/labor arrangements.

  4. Former Indy investigative reporter Barry Yoeman directed my attention to this interesting analysis of growing income disparity (not wealth) http://www.propublica.org/article/the-u.s.s-growing-income-gap-by-the-numbers/single

    Based on the Gini index of populous counties, Orange County ranks in the top 2% in terms of income disparity.


  5. John Kramer

     /  November 7, 2011

    Well, George Entenman, not sure how you deduced that from my comment. I did not say I am anti-union, only that much of their usefulness is past. The Chinese could use a few unions, however.

    I have always purchased American cars. They are the best made, and best engineered. And all those evil profits go back into American soil, not overseas.

    Since our tax structure has made it favorable to send jobs overseas, there is not a heck of a lot else made over here any more, sadly. Ever hear the song “Can’t make it here any more”?

  6. John Kramer

     /  November 7, 2011

    Well, Will I guess we can blame George Bush for the income disparity. Poverty is at record levels, no way that could be Obama’s doing, right??

  7. Started in the Clinton era with some very poorly thought out trade policies, reduction in regulatory control of the finance industry and the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999.

    Bush threw gas on the fire by slashing executive branch oversight of the finance industry, overseeing the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the uber rich in history and an outrageous of stew of bungling, cronyism and revolving door corruption.

    Obama inherited a mess which his administration, in kowtowing to Wall St. and many of the same interests that the Bush administration answered to, has made that mess even worse. I’d have a bit more respect for his effort if he had pulled out of the wars immediately, hadn’t staffed critical agencies with Wall St. insiders and had his Justice department pursue financial corruption with the same zeal they show for shutting down medical marijuana and groping kids at the airport.

  8. Mark Marcoplos

     /  November 8, 2011

    Dang, Kramer, I thought James McMurtry would be thrown on your immense scrap heap of derision. But I am impressed that you at least recognize poor corporate behavior.

  9. John Kramer

     /  November 8, 2011

    Shocking, I know Mark but I heart James McMurtry. He is one of the best.