Picking Scabs and Parking Spaces
July 20, 2010 by Ben Crystal
Meet Billy Raye. Billy is a 51-year-old bicycle courier. Billy was out of work. According to Friday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, Billy has managed to find employment. Billy, who is not a member of any labor organization, has been hired by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters (MARCC)—to walk a picket line.
The MARCC is picketing outside the MacPherson building in Washington, D.C., these days. The building is home to a satellite campus of a Chicago-based school of psychology, only slightly ironic given the schizoid nature of what’s happening outside their facility.
The MARCC is miffed because the school is using Can-Am Contractors—a non-union outfit—to put up drywall. And the union boys are outraged at the idea of Can-Am using “scabs” to do work that could have been done by MARCC members at a higher rate of pay.
Keep in mind, the union isn’t so incensed that they’re doing their own picketing. Instead, they’ve hired Billy and some other less fortunate types to do their epithet-shouting and sandwich-board wearing for them. To put it bluntly, the union has hired scabs to protest against Can-Am… using scabs.
In one of the all-time great too-many-obvious-jokes moments, Vincente Garcia, the union supervisor of picketing (and irony-proofing) at the MacPherson building, said regular MARCC members can’t handle the picketing themselves because, “For a lot of our members, it’s really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else.”
Billy Raye clearly doesn’t have a problem with stowing his bike, nor, according to The Journal, does he even care why he’s there. “I’m getting paid to march around and sound off.” Such is life in the union universe.
The current national unemployment rate is hovering around 9.5 percent. Factoring in the likely 4 percent to 5 percent who are either retired, dead, not looking for work or picketing the MacPherson Building contractors, the real rate is closer to 14 percent. That’s a lot of available scab picketers.
According the article, the MARCC pays scabs to man close to 150 picket lines throughout the D.C. and Baltimore areas on a daily basis. Scab picketers get $8.25/hour to walk in circles and hurl pro-union invective at whatever non-union labor is taking place in their location.
Presuming 50 scabs per picket line (the number at the MacPherson building), working (drinking coffee and shouting in semi-unison) 20 hours a week, the MARCC is coughing up $8,250 per week, per picket line. Even if we cut the number in half, a labor union is paying non-union labor a little more than $600,000 weekly to… well… work for them.
How many of the unemployed picketers-for-hire could be turned into full-fledged MARCC members by redirecting the aforementioned sum towards job training? How many Billy Rayes could hop off their bicycles and into a job site for the kind of dough he and his fellow temporary picketers are pocketing to scream bloody murder on behalf of the union-affiliated companies which don’t hire them? Most importantly, why does someone Outside the Asylum need to point this out?
When the United Auto Workers’ massive contracts played a large part in turning General Motors into Government Motors, I couldn’t help but think that the days of unions protecting American laborers from predatory employers had faded into the swirling mists of history. When the Service Employees International Union sent its goons in to play the heavies for Democrats confronted with popular opposition to Obamacare, I realized the unions were beginning to morph into the sort of thugs against whom they were formed to defend. It’s as if the Molly Maguires bought the mine and immediately reopened the company store.
Now the unions are hiring scabs to do the work union members don’t want (or at least, can’t find convenient parking for.) Don’t get me wrong—I have no issue with what the unions call scab labor. I use “scab” not as a pejorative, but as a demonstrative. The MARCC or one of the other groups around the country who employ similar tactics could use scab-picketer money to turn scab-picketers into dues-paying workers. Dues-paying workers would boost union membership rolls, union pensions, union officials and—most importantly to union officials—union officials’ bank accounts.
Think of the major American corporations which could be turned into semi-government-controlled operations! Imagine the coordinated assaults on anti-Obamacare protestors! Visualize the Brobdingnagian brigades of union muscle, riding out like the proverbial Assyrian cohort, gleefully pounding senior citizens on behalf of their Democrat Darius.
The best part is: they already have the purple shirts.