Obama: The Man from Burberry's

A mostly political Weblog.
May 13 2008 4:34 PM

Don't Fear the Burberry

Where Obama buys "off the rack."

Dave Weigel of Reason describes the confident union push for "card check" legislation  in the next Democratic administration. This is a much more significant issue than the manufactured debate over a gas tax holiday (sorry, Jon!). It's a permanent structural change in the economy. With "card check," unions wouldn't have to win the right to represent workers in a regular secret ballot election. They'd merely have to collect cards from a majority of workers. ...

You can be against "card check" for all the various process reasons we normally favor secret ballot elections--privacy, freedom from intimidation--and still favor greater unionization of the American work force. That would not be my position! It seems to me that a) a tight 90s-style labor market and b) direct government provision of benefits (e.g. health care, OSHA) accomplishes what we want traditional unions to accomplish, but on a broader basis and without encouraging a sclerotic, adversarial bureaucracy that gets in the way of the productive organization of work. ... And here's an example: Ford has developed a seemingly efficient new manufacturing system at its Camacari factory in Brazil, where employees of the company's suppliers work side by side with regular Ford workers assembling cars. But there is a problem transferring the new system to the U.S.:

Ford sources said it is the sort of plant the company wants in the United States, were it not for the United Auto Workers, which has historically opposed such extensive supplier integration on the factory floor. ...[snip]

As in the United States, [Brazilian] assembly workers make more than those employed by suppliers, and the union is eager to ensure that work reserved for the higher paid Ford employees is not being done by lower wage supplier staff.

Labor expert Harley Shaiken of the University of California, Berkeley, said similar concerns are one reason why the Camaçari model is unlikely to be duplicated in the United States. He said the UAW has relaxed work rules at many Ford factories to allow workers to do more than one job, and has even allowed experiments with limited supplier integration.

But he said the UAW is concerned that giving too much on these fronts will just allow the companies to speed up production and transfer more and more work to lower-paid supplier employees.

"Clearly, what is going on in Brazil is pushing that envelope," he said. "I would never say never, but it would be a hard sell."

Even if the union would eventually negotiate a compromise, a firm that doesn't have to negotiate a compromise over every innovation is likely to beat a firm that does, no? And for the same reason a blogger with zero editors should beat a blogger with six editors: Fewer meetings! ... The Wagner Act is not designed for an era of continuous change and improvement. ...

P.S.: Alter and I have a rambling debate on this issue here. ... [via Newsalert1:15 P.M.

___________________________

Get-Up-And-Get-A-Beer Line of the Day: The Hill asked various Senators whether they would consider an offer to be vice-president. One answer stuck out:

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho): "I would say, "No, Hillary."

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I think he meant that he's more likely to be tapped at this point by the Democrats than Republicans. But there are so many other possible meanings. Let's get up and get a beer and think about them! ... P.S.: And if he's joking that only a Democrat would pick him, why isn't it "No, Barack"? ... 12:27 P.M.

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From Mark Halperin's Page  summarizing the Sunday chat shows:

Clinton campaign chair McAuliffe, who some consider the greatest chairman in the history of the Democratic Party, said the race isn't over and laid out Clinton's path to the nomination ... [E.A.]

Halperin may have been saying that ironically. But not ironically enough! ... Under Terry McAuliffe's chairmanship, Dems failed to take the White House. They lost House seats in the 2002 and 2004 elections. They lost Senate seats in the 2002 and 2004 elections. As party spokesman, McAuliffe lent a slimy money-focused veneer to the Democratic brand.  The party didn't win until Howard Dean took over. ... If McAuliffe's not the sort of Washington insider Obama would banish, it's hard to know who is.  ... 9:08 P.M.

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