Quotulatiousness

July 14, 2014

When unions took over the public sector

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:09

Dmitri Melhorn says the union movement is missing an opportunity to be more relevant in the private sector, because public sector unions don’t help poorer workers (because public sector union members are middle class professionals, not working class):

Progressive hostility to [Harris v. Quinn], however, is shortsighted. Harris and decisions like it have the potential to revitalize progressive politics by restoring the relevance and political potency that labor held in the early-to-mid-20th century. The great labor leaders of that era — AFL-CIO President George Meany, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the like — agreed with the majority in Harris: it was both impractical and inadvisable to afford public employees compulsory collective bargaining rights.

Roosevelt said that collective bargaining and public workers’ right to strike would be “unthinkable and intolerable.” Meany said it would be “impossible.” In the view of these leaders, civil service laws from the Progressive Era of the 1890s to 1920s had made government jobs good and safe. Labor and progressives, therefore, needed to focus on blue-collar workers’ need to fight collectively for basic safety, dignity and living wages. Through this focus, the United States saw historic gains in the well-being of workers and the country’s middle class.

That labor heyday lasted through the 1950s, but starting in the late 1960s labor lost ground. Public-sector unions grew rapidly, but private-sector unions shrank. By 2012, public-sector workers had union membership rates more than five times higher than rates among private-sector workers.

Essentially, the public-sector unions sucked up all the oxygen. Talented labor organizers opted to work with government workers: their members were relatively prosperous and well connected, so they were easy and lucrative to organize. As explained in Jake Rosenfeld’s book What Unions No Longer Do from earlier this year, this shift to public-sector unions meant that unions no longer fought primarily for the working poor. Instead, much of their muscle was devoted to improving the status of middle-class professionals.

July 5, 2014

So how would they react to a strong pro-liberty Supreme Court decision?

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:43

Shikha Dalmia says that the relatively mild pro-liberty decisions from the US Supreme Court in this session have driven progressives wild. It’s hard to justify going to DEFCON-5 over Hobby Lobby or Harris … isn’t it?

This week, the United States Supreme Court handed down two rulings that are a victory for the liberties of religion, speech, and association enshrined in the First Amendment. That ought to be cause for a double celebration on July 4. But instead, the rulings, issued on the narrowest possible grounds, constitute a victory so modest — and have elicited a response from the left so hysterical — that anyone serious about liberty can’t help but be a little depressed right now.

The case that has attracted disproportionate attention is informally known as Hobby Lobby, and it challenged ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate. This mandate requires all for-profit companies to provide all 20 forms of birth control approved by the FDA, including pills and “abortifacients,” even though they violate the Christian (Assembly of God, to be precise) convictions of the owners of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain in Texas, who were willing to cover “only” 16.

[...]

None of this, however, prevented the left from throwing a collective hissy-fit. Social media erupted into tiresome taunts of fascism. Ann Friedman called the ruling a “blow to reproductive rights” that made her want to issue “an outraged scream, sort of a combination groan-wail…while beating my fists against the desk on either side of my laptop.” (Hey Ann, be careful: A new laptop will cost you several years’ of contraceptive pills. Generic versions sell at Costco for $25 a month.)

Such moral huffing and puffing was also on display in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Harris vs. Quinn. That case involved the right of family members of disabled loved ones to offer care without having their state aid garnished by public unions. Harris, a mom who was providing home care to her 25-year-old disabled son, had sued the state of Illinois for forcing her to pay dues to a government union.

But what in the name of Jimmy Hoffa does looking after her son have to do with the union?

Apparently, because she receives state subsidies for caring for her son, Illinois, along with a dozen other states, considers her a “home health care worker.” This means she must submit to the exclusive representation of a government union in collective bargaining negotiations — even though she supports neither the union nor its goals.

June 13, 2014

Ontario embraces scandal, mismanagement and deficits

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:25

Well, that happened. As Elizabeth said to me when I got up this morning, at least it means we see the back of Tim Hudak. Aside from that, not a lot of encouraging news from the polls. We have set our acceptable political standards to a much lower notch, and we clearly don’t think it’s a bad thing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on party purposes. Noted.

Premier Kathleen Wynne didn’t win the election so much as Horwath and Hudak lost it. Horwath was cut off at the knees by her own party (and organized labour), while Hudak tried on a set of fiscal conservative policies for size … and they didn’t fit at all. Things must have been more desperate inside the Liberal war room earlier in the campaign, if they felt they had to get the Ontario Provincial Police and the media unions to both declare for Wynn (if any two organizations should stay out of politics, they’d be the ones). And yet, once the votes were counted, they clearly didn’t need to force those two organizations out of their traditional neutral stances after all.

And, to top off the sudden acceptance of a much lower standard of political conduct by the provincial government, we get to watch (and suffer financially) as the province introduces a mandatory pension scheme on the false basis that Ontarians aren’t saving enough of their own money for retirement. That’s going to be fun. I wonder what the job market is like in Alberta…

Paul Wells offers his take on the election:

Kathleen Wynne’s victory is historic, it is almost all hers, and its meaning is a little opaque, because there is a tension between her platform and her record that will be resolved only by her actions, now that she has the length of a majority mandate to show Ontarians what kind of premier she wants to be.

Historic: She is Ontario’s first elected woman premier. Almost all hers: People who make a living proclaiming their knowledge of strategy said she was crazy to put herself at the centre of her party’s messaging and communication to the extent she did. She voiced her own attack ads. To voters upset about the mess McGuinty left behind, she offered her person as sufficient guarantee that the past would stay past. It’s what Paul Martin attempted in 2002-2006, but Wynne offered none of Martin’s creepy intramural fratricide and never benefited from the fast-burning personal popularity that seemed, at first, to be Martin’s greatest asset until he ran out of it. The funny thing about a cult of personality is, sometimes it works better if you don’t have quite as much personality. Rule One in Bill Davis’s Ontario is, don’t get on people’s nerves.

But there are a lot of Conservatives in Ontario who have forgotten the province was ever Bill Davis’s. There are a lot of people who accreted around Mike Harris in 1990 like barnacles — the Little Shits, Frank magazine used to call them — and they’ve never really grown up. They were at Trinity College or Upper Canada College or Hillfield Strathallan or some other dreary Anglo-Saxon dumping ground in the early ’80s when Ronald Reagan came on TV and fired the air traffic controllers, and they’ve spent the rest of their lives looking for an excuse to play Ayn Rand Home Edition. It even worked in 1995, when Mike Harris came back from his 1990 drubbing and years of the worst recession, combined with the worst government, Ontario had seen in ages. Harris’s “Common Sense Revolution” worked because by 1995, thanks to Bob Rae, common sense seemed revolutionary.

[...]

But back to Wynne. She ran on activist government, and celebrated victory by congratulating those who want to “build up Ontario.” But Ontario can’t afford the Ontario it’s got. Wynne’s own platform quietly acknowledges this. Hard public-sector wage freezes and a new program-review exercise won’t feel much like building up. If she abandons them for more spending, she simply postpones harder choices. She has proven herself a redoubtable politician; now she had better be a very good premier, because she’s put herself in a fix to get the mandate she just won.

But that’s a high-class problem, one she would not trade for the simpler life Hudak can now look forward to. (A word on the NDP’s Andrea Horwath: she is in trouble with some New Democrats for forcing this election and losing the bargaining power she had in a minority-government legislature. But the balance of power is not a comfortable place to be after a while, and Horwath was well into the zone where, every time she propped Wynne up, voters would wonder why. The NDP should cut her some slack.)

June 11, 2014

LA court delivers a major blow against tenure for teachers in California

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:14

The Los Angeles Times on yesterday’s decision:

Teachers union officials denounced a ruling Tuesday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge deeming job protections for teachers in California as unconstitutional as a misguided attack on teachers and students.

The ruling represents a major loss for the unions and a groundbreaking win by attorneys who argued that state laws governing teacher layoffs, tenure and dismissals harm students by making them more likely to suffer from grossly ineffective instruction.

If the preliminary ruling becomes final and is upheld, the effect will be sweeping across California and possibly the nation.

Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled, in effect, that it was too easy for teachers to gain strong job protections and too difficult to dismiss those who performed poorly in the classroom. If the ruling stands, California will have to craft new rules for hiring and firing teachers.

[...]

The Silicon Valley-based group Students Matter brought the lawsuit on behalf of nine students, contending that five laws hindered the removal of ineffective teachers.

The result, attorneys for the plaintiffs said, is a workforce with thousands of “grossly ineffective” teachers, disproportionately hurting low-income and minority students. As a result, the suit argued, the laws violated California’s constitution, which provides for equal educational opportunity.

The laws were defended by the state of California and the two largest teacher unions — the California Teachers Assn. and the California Federation of Teachers. Their attorneys countered that it is not the laws but poor management that is to blame for districts’ failing to root out incompetent instructors.

May 24, 2014

First US military union approved, strike imminent

Filed under: Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:29

What The Onion does for civilian news, Duffel Blog does for military news. Here’s their coverage of the US military following European practice and allowing the first military union to be formed:

Duffleblog - 1st US military union, strike imminent

In a historic move, the Department of the Army has recognized the right of service members to unionize.

“Historically, collective bargaining has improved American working conditions and made us the envy of the world economically. We’re pleased to announce that our soldiers can now have that right. In defending democracy, our service members should reserve the right to practice it,” declared Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

McHugh went on to say that the founding of a union had been under way for sometime and required lengthy negotiations with top civilian and military leaders, before an acceptable framework emerged. The first union, the Junior Enlisted Service Members (JESM), almost immediately threatened a strike.

PFC Harry Milton of the 323rd Military Intelligence Battalion is the founder of JESM. The 19 year-old soldier invited Duffel Blog into his new office in the reserve center, just outside Ft. Meade, MD, where JESM is headquartered.

April 5, 2014

Chris Kluwe’s suggestions for more constructive NFLPA texts-to-players

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

When they’re not on the playing field or otherwise engaged in preparing for the games, NFL and other high-profile sports players lead normal-ish lives. Most of them manage to blend in to the local community, but some achieve notoriety for their off-the-field antics. Chris Kluwe is still a member of the NFLPA (the union for NFL players), so he gets their occasional communications to the membership like this text message:

Mindful of the opportunity to help out some of those players whose off-the-field activities might get them into trouble, he has a few suggestions:

November 13, 2013

The NFL “closed shop”

Filed under: Business, Football, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:35

In Reason, S.M. Oliva discusses how the NFL’s exemption from normal labour regulations makes it difficult to assess the rights and wrongs in the Miami Dolphins “bullying” situation:

Many libertarians see nothing wrong with the NFL’s labor system. Even in a pure free market, employers and unions could enter into “closed shop” agreements like the NFL’s CBA. But as we all know, professional sports hardly exist in a free market. The NFLPA itself holds a government-sanctioned monopoly over all current and future NFL players. Indeed, Martin was not even a union member when the NFLPA signed the current CBA in 2011.

More importantly, in a free market any closed shop would face competition from new entrants seeking to exploit the incumbent’s labor restrictions. There’s little risk of that with the NFL given that most of its infrastructure is subsidized by government. This includes not just stadiums built with billions in taxpayer financing, but also player development, as most NFL players are the product of college football programs subsidized by state-run universities.

There’s also the perverse incentives created by federal antitrust law. The collective bargaining process creates an exemption from antitrust law. Without that exemption, most NFL labor policies, such as the draft, would be deemed illegal. Now, that’s hardly a libertarian outcome. But consider the NFL’s position. The more rules and restrictions they can stuff into the CBA, the lower the risk of future antitrust lawsuits. Thus, the exemption encourages the NFL (and the NFLPA) to centralize as much of its labor policy as possible.

That means there’s little motive to experiment with more flexible labor policies. Individual teams can’t offer employee incentives or enforce discipline in any way that conflicts with the CBA. When there are workplace disputes like the Dolphins situation, the bureaucracy acts not to “protect” employees, but to ensure nothing disturbs the government-granted authority of the league and its monopoly labor union.

QotD: Trade unions

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

If they are timid in some respects, the Trade Unions are aggressive in negotiation and cannot be otherwise. To keep in business a union has to do something. Each year there must be a fresh demand, without which the union will lose membership. Members expect to see some return for their subscriptions and union officials are not paid to be inactive. Lacking a grievance, they will have to invent one. Realizing this, the directors must make a show of reluctance, postponing the inevitable concession until it looks like a victory for the employees. If the union is quiescent it will lose membership, most probably to another union. Its officials, honorary or paid, can always gain consequence on the other hand, from their decision to do battle. Any Trade Union has, therefore, a built-in aggressiveness, without which it can hardly survive. Nothing can be more damaging to the union official than the rumour that he is friendly with the management. This can only be the result of blackest treachery, it is assumed, and the official has to stage a conflict in order to secure his own re-election. Aggressive toward management, the unions are almost as aggressive toward each other, competing for membership and staging frontier disputes over the exact territory which belongs to each. Nor is this unrest the fault of individuals. It is a characteristic of union organization and one for which there is no obvious remedy.

C. Northcote Parkinson, “The Feet of Clay”, Left Luggage, 1967.

October 16, 2013

Cultural organizations and unions

Filed under: Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:41

Richard Epstein looks at two recent disputes between unionized employees and cultural organizations:

This past week featured two stories about major orchestras dealing with their adamant unions. The first incident occurred on Wednesday, October 2 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. A fancy opening night gala, featuring the violinist Joshua Bell and the young jazz performer Esperanza Spalding, was called off due to a surprise strike by Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The second dispute, still unresolved, involves the protracted labor impasse at the Minnesota Orchestra. On October 1, true to his promise, star music director Osmo Vänskä resigned because of the inability of the orchestra and its musicians’ union to hammer out a new contract in time to prepare for concerts scheduled at Carnegie Hall on November 2 and 3. The issues in these two labor disputes could scarcely be more different. But each of them, in its own way, illustrates the long-term toll that American labor law takes on the cultural lifeblood of our nation.

The incident at Carnegie Hall raised more than a few eyebrows when it was revealed that the strike was organized by the five full-time Carnegie Hall stagehands who were members of Local One. Their annual compensation in wages and overtime averaged a cool $419,000 per year, making them — one properties manager, two carpenters, and two electricians — five of the seven highest paid workers at Carnegie Hall after Carnegie CEO Clive Gillenson. Other union members in unspecified numbers were called in to help from time to time, presumably at rates on par with those Carnegie Hall paid to its full time workers.

As befits the sorry state of labor relations in the United States, the dispute was not about the status of these five workers. Rather, it focused on the new jobs that would open upon the completion of a new education wing in 2015. Mr. Gillenson was not exactly breathing fire when, well-coached in the pitfalls of labor law, he eschewed any anti-union sentiment and announced that he expected union workers to take the stagehand slots in that new facility. It was just that he insisted on dealing with unions that lacked the clout and the wages of the hardy men from Local One.

[...]

The bargaining dynamics could not have been more different in the Minnesota dispute. It is no secret that unionized musicians command a short-run monopoly premium for their members. The orchestra knows that it can earn back some fraction of that wage premium by securing the most talented musicians. But by the same token, any generous deal opens the orchestra up to financial ruin if its endowment shrinks or if its key donors cut back their support in hard times. But usually the large gains for older musicians carry the day.

Unions in all industries — think of the debacle at General Motors — do not do well in negotiating givebacks to management. Yet, ironically, the higher the premium that unions are able to extract during good times, the larger the give-backs are needed to bring the employer’s fiscal position into balance during bad times.

Just that dynamic was in play with the Minnesota Orchestra. The high wages before 2009 led to one round of union concessions. But in 2011, the budget was still out of balance, and management came back with a request for further cuts of about 32 percent. It later softened its demands to insist on wage cuts that would reach 25 percent after three years. Those cuts would be offset by a one time $20,000 bonus, which would, of course, not be part of the wage base in future years.

The union proposals were for pay cuts in the range of six to eight percent. This would have left an annual deficit in the order of $6 million. In the end, no deal could be reached, which precipitated Vänskä’s departure and the subsequent huge hit to prestige of the orchestra’s hard-earned international reputation.

September 24, 2013

The horrors of Greek Austerity strike!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:02

Those poor Greek civil servants … this is so hard on them:

In a sign of just how hard the austere financial climate is hitting, it has been reported that the Greek government has been forced to put an end to one of its civil servants’ most treasured privileges. We speak, of course, of the Hellenic Sir Humphreys’ entitlement to an extra six days a year paid holiday if they are compelled to work with that frightful engine of misery, the computer.

Reuters reports that the long-standing regulation, in which all Greek government workers compelled to use a computer for more than 5 hours a day get an extra day’s leave every two months, was axed in an official announcement on Friday.

September 17, 2013

A brief history of fifty years of American economic thought

Filed under: Economics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:07

Tyler Cowen wraps up the rise and fall of “right” and “left” economics in the US since the 1960s:

Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the so-called “right wing” was right about virtually everything on the economic front. Most of all communism, but also inflation, taxes, (most of) deregulation, labor unions, and much more, noting that a big chunk of the right wing blew it on race and some other social issues. The Friedmanite wing of the right nailed it on floating exchange rates.

Arguably the “rightness of the right” peaks around 1989, with the collapse of communism. After that, the right wing starts to lose its way.

Up through that time, market-oriented economists have more interesting research, more innovative journals, and much else to their credit, culminating in the persona and career of Milton Friedman.

I’ve never heard tales of Paul Samuelson’s MIT colleagues mocking him for his pronouncements on Soviet economic growth. I suspect they didn’t.

Starting in the early 1990s, the left wing is better equipped, more scholarly, and also more fun to read. (What exactly turned them around?) In the 1990s, the Quarterly Journal of Economics is suddenly more interesting and ultimately more influential than the Journal of Political Economy, even though the latter retained a higher academic ranking. The right loses track of what its issues ought to be. There is no real heir to the legacy of Milton Friedman.

July 25, 2013

Misappropriation of William Lyon Mackenzie

Filed under: Cancon, History, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:22

Richard Anderson on a recent attempt to “re-imagine” the real William Lyon Mackenzie:

Flag of the Republic of Canada 1837It seems unlikely that William Lyon Mackenzie was the chillin’ sort of dude. In fact he was a notorious hot-head. Nor was he fond of big government. During his brief and ill-starred rebellion Mackenzie actually had a flag made up with the word LIBERTY written on it. He was a libertarian avant la lettre and would likely be utterly horrified at the size and scope of modern municipal government. For a public sector union to appropriate him as a sort of mascot for “public service” is chutzpah at its finest.

One of the many things that rankled Mackenzie, he was inclined to react strongly to injustice, was tightly knit oligarchies who use government power to fleece the ordinary citizen. In his day they called it the Family Compact. Today we might call it the Liberal-NDP-Government Union Axis. Not as catchy, but again I’m not WLM. I’m omitting the provincial Tories as their haplessness renders them more amusing than contemptible at the moment.

[...]

I haven’t the slightest clue as to Mackenzie’s views on diversity, the Upper Canada of his day was as white as a lily. From the records that have come down to us he seems to have been a fairly enlightened man. What he would have made of Toronto’s demographics we can only guess at. We are on more certain ground as to government providing “assistance to its elderly, infirm and financially disadvantaged.” Mackenzie would almost certainly have opposed government involving itself in such essentially private matters. Those incapable of fending for themselves were the responsibility of the churches, private charities and of last resort the municipal government. Relief for the poor was remarkably stingy both from necessity and principle.

The solution to “poverty” in early Victorian Canada was typically an axe and a few acres of land. There is little indication in the historical record that the rebel of 1837 was some kind of proto-socialist. That CUPE is implying as much is disgraceful.

June 26, 2013

The many personae of Bob Rae

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:07

At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson says goodbye (for now) to Bob Rae:

There has, in truth, not been one Bob Rae in Canadian public life. There have been several, each slightly less obnoxious than the last. The ex-interim Liberal leader holds the rare distinction of actually having improved with age. From student radical and Rhodes Scholar, to NDP hell raiser who helped topple Joe Clark’s government, to enabler of David Peterson’s coup d’grace for the Ontario Tory dynasty in 1985. The Bob is a very well travelled pol. Few vote chaser survive this long in the game, so a measure of respect is due. I’ll measure it out by the thimble.

Yet whatever he has done before or since, Bob Rae will always be the first and so far only NDP Premier of Ontario. Rae could win the Nobel Prize tomorrow and his obituary would still mention his epic single term as Premier. While I’ve never met the man, perhaps a saving grace for us both, he is the first political figure of whom I have a clear image. There is no figure in modern Ontario politics, aside from Mike Harris himself, who was as thoroughly despised as Bob Rae.

[. . .]

Rae Days were a sincere attempt to be politically Left wing while also fiscally sane. Roy Romanow was doing similar things in Saskatchewan at the time. But Prairie socialists seem to be saner than Ontario socialists. Perhaps it’s something in the water. An intelligent labour movement would have recognized that Bob Rae was trying to save their necks. The blockheads running the public sector unions in the early 1990s did not realize this or did not care to acknowledge fiscal reality. These were the sorts of people who refer to their fellow union members as “brothers and sisters.” They hadn’t gotten the memo about the failure of socialism. Judging by their successors the public sector union movement still hasn’t.

It’s believed that at some point in 1993 or 1994, looking out of his office at Queen’s Park toward a sea of protesting civil servants, that Bob Rae realized he was a Liberal. His brother was a Liberal. Many of his friends were Liberals. From time to time Liberals were known to balance the books and speak in coherent sentences. The Liberals were the party of sane statists. Since he was the NDP Premier of Ontario he decided to ride the whole thing out, delaying the election until the last possible moment. Mike Harris won. Bob Rae went into exile for eleven years and the rest is history.

With the Bob gone Justin is now left without adult supervision. Certainly Gerald Butts & Co are there to direct their ward, but they’re not grizzled old veterans. In his short stint as interim Liberal leader Bob Rae showed himself as smooth, graceful and facile. A long haul from the awkward socialist geek who stunned the country by winning power a generation earlier. Politics is a game won by professionals. For all his many sins and occasional virtues, Bob Rae was a professional politician. Justin Trudeau is not. There is some hope in that.

May 9, 2013

Let ‘em strike!

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:00

We’re in the final week before the LCBO is threatening a strike. Michael Pinkus suggests we should let ‘em walk:

For the third time in a decade the LCBO is holding Ontario hostage — and just like they did in 2005 and 2009 when the threat of a strike was on the table, they’ll be an 11th hour (more like on the 11th hour and 59 minute mark) resolution where the LCBO employees get everything they want because the province does not want to lose the revenue the LCBO brings into the province. Screw the teachers, they take money out of the system, but the LCBO brings it in, so they should get whatever they ask for, right? It’s the approach taken by every government who has “stared down” the LCBO, and lost. Not that I’m necessarily for the teachers, but if it’s a choice between educating our youth or feeding our appetite for liquor I know which side I fall on … and so would any right minded Ontarian — it’s the booze that wins out every time.

And just like in 2005 and 2009 the LCBO will make a ton of money in the days before the “strike”. It’ll be a feeding frenzy of mammoth proportions in the aisles, right up to the last hour. Shelves will be decimated as people stock up for what surely will be touted as long, drawn out labour strife … that’ll never come. And why do I say that? Because any right thinking Ontarian knows that if the LCBO goes on strike it means more than loss of revenue to the province, or an inability to get out of country booze … it means the end of the LCBO (and everyone involved knows that).

Take a peak around us privatization is today’s buzz-word and it’s all around us. In our own country, to the south, in Europe — at corner stores, in supermarkets and in specialty stores … heck even Pennsylvania is getting into the act of loosening their liquor laws (and nobody thought that day would come) — but not here in NO-FUN-Tario, a have not province … we sit under the rules and thumb of the Liquor Control Board. If they go on strike questions will be raised as to why we have a provincially run system, why we support unionized workers, or why we can’t be more liberal with our booze (plus you just know some idiot will want to declare it an essential service). So it does not behoove the LCBO to walk off the job and the government won’t allow it because they’ll be tough questions to answer. So don’t go betting the farm on a labour dispute and seeing picket sign toting employees at the local Board store — this one will end like all the others, with the LCBO threatening to walk out, a mass throng of buyers the day before, and the sun rising to a new dawn the next day with a new deal for LCBO employees … and all will be right in Ontario for another 4 years … when we’ll do it all again.

Update: A report in the Toronto Star claims that Ontario could earn a $1 billion windfall by allowing private liquor stores into the province:

“If the Ontario liquor industry mirrored ours in B.C., instead of $1.6 billion going to government, that number could be around $2.7 billion,” he states in his 15-page speech, which highlights the pluses for locally produced wines, beers and spirits.

With 635 stores and 219 convenience store locations in rural and northern Ontario, the LCBO last year reported net sales of $4.71 billion — up $218 million — and handed over to the Ontario treasury an all-time high of $1.63 billion, not including taxes.

“If Ontario allowed private liquor stores, consumers would have access to hundreds of new VQA wines, craft beers and spirits.”

His comments come at a time when the LCBO plans to spend $100 million on expansion, including express outlets in 10 large grocery stores and expanded VQA sales, and while Tory Leader Tim Hudak calls for the booze monopoly to be privatized and for beer and wine to be sold in corner stores.

“A bit of competition makes the world go round . . . I think now that we are (in) 2013 it’s time for some change,” Hudak told reporters at Queen’s Park.

B.C. has had a mix of private and public liquor stores “to create better choices for producers to sell and for consumers to buy,” Baillie said.

Ontario currently does allow a tiny number of private wine stores to operate, but under incredibly restrictive conditions. For one thing, they’re only allowed to be located in areas the LCBO has determined are “underserved”, they may only sell wine from a single winery or winery group, and the number of stores is limited to the licenses that were granted to certain wineries before 1993.

Oh, and the kicker to all those restriction? If you manage to put in a store in an “underserved” area and make a profit? The LCBO can then turn around and re-designate your area to invalidate your license or place one of their own stores in the area and take away the business you’ve built up. Catch-22.

April 14, 2013

An alternative Britain would be “Cuba without the sunshine”

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:06

Dominic Sandbrook recounts the history of a slightly different Britain: one where Margaret Thatcher lost to Jim Callaghan in 1978:

As historians now agree, Mrs Thatcher never really stood a chance: Britain was not ready for a woman prime minister. As she herself had remarked only eight years earlier: ‘There will not be a woman prime minister in my lifetime — the male population is too prejudiced.’

In her place, the Tories turned to the bumbling figure of Willie Whitelaw, an old-fashioned patrician Wet whom they decided would connect better with the British electorate.

In the meantime, the country was reeling from crisis to crisis. Scarcely had Callaghan returned to No 10 than his premiership was consumed in the notorious Winter of Discontent. As one group of workers after another — lorry drivers, railwaymen, bus drivers, ambulance drivers, caretakers, cleaners, even grave-diggers — walked out on strike for higher wages, the country ground to a halt.

Buoyed by his election victory, Callaghan was in no mood to compromise. Rather than break his declared 5 per cent national pay limit and risk higher inflation, he declared a State of Emergency and summoned the Army to drive Britain’s petrol tankers.

It was a catastrophic mistake. On February 12, 1979, a date that has gone down in history as Black Monday, fighting broke out between pickets and soldiers at one depot outside Hull.

In the chaos, one soldier — carrying live rounds, in contravention of orders — opened fire and killed five people. It was one of the most shocking moments in modern British history.

Callaghan resigned the next day, the last honourable act of a decent man overwhelmed by events. But contrary to his expectations, the Labour Party did not turn to his Chancellor, the bushy-browed Denis Healey.

Instead, they lurched to the Left and elected as their new Prime Minister Michael Foot, with his flowing white locks, walking stick and impassioned socialist rhetoric. The real power in the land, however, was Foot’s colleague Tony Benn, who replaced the disgruntled Healey as Chancellor. And in the next few years, it was Benn who presided over the most sweeping socialist measures any Western country had seen in living memory.

To the horror of many in industry, Benn insisted that Britain’s declining economy needed a dose of shock therapy. The top rate of income tax went up to 98 per cent, and the government announced a one-off 5 per cent ‘equality levy’ on households with income over £50,000 a year.

As frightened investors began to withdraw their money from the City of London, Benn introduced sweeping exchange controls. He also, in an attempt to shore up Britain’s crumbling manufacturing base, introduced the most stringent import tariffs in the Western world.

The reaction was pandemonium. As inflation shot over 25 per cent and unemployment went above two million, horrified European leaders insisted that Britain’s new policies were incompatible with membership of the Common Market.

But Benn was adamant. ‘You turn if you want to,’ he told his party conference in 1980. ‘Labour’s not for turning.’

The following year, as the economic picture continued to worsen, the Government introduced controls to stop people taking sterling out of the country. As a result, the foreign package holiday market collapsed — although landladies in Blackpool said they had never seen more business.

There were rumours that Foot was planning to move his turbulent Chancellor, but they were blown away when, in April 1982, Argentine forces landed in the Falklands.

H/T to Roger Henry for the link.

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