Thursday, March 30, 2006

Unions-Fer' Em or Agin' Em

Seems like most everyone is either for unions or against them. Period. Not much middle ground, and not for any particularly cogent reason they can explain. Starting, joining, leaving, backing up, or going against a union is always a Big Deal. People you thought of as friends are going to turn on you, family members will avoid you, and you are going to have unpleasant things happen. Count on it.

In Johnson County, of course, most people are firmly on the "agin" side. Except for teachers and Post Office workers, we have very few unionized jobs, although we have a few UAW and ALPA members who live here and the sports team people, of course. News of GM worker buyout offers, seen-rightly-with suspicion and some dread by most in other areas generally is discussed with contempt by Yupsonites, convinced as they are those GM workers are lazy, fat, stupid, and grossly overpaid. Why, they ought to do those jobs for a lot less. Since they don't even have college degrees, about ten bucks an hour is what they should get paid.

It's always amusing to ask, then, what doctors and lawyers would get paid if they weren't union. But, you say, doctors and lawyers aren't unionized. They earn their money because they have invested in their education, not like those fat union thugs at car plants.

Well, you might not say that, but you probably don't live in South Overland Park, either.

Doctors and lawyers earn their professional incomes partly because of their genuinely high level of training (not education, training) and experience, but mostly because they have a legal monopoly vested on them-almost always in rubber-stamp fashion by cowed or corrupt state legislatures-by the state Medical Board (often known by various names in different states) and Bar Association (there, almost always, straightforwardly, the Bar Association), respectively. In both cases they are in turn rubber-stamps for the AMA and ABA, respectively.

Unions, pure and simple.

To be sure, the Medical Boards and Bar Associations are a little smarter than, say, UAW locals, who are notorious for being perfectly willing to shut down a car plant (profitable or otherwise) to protect a brother worker busted with $5000 of air tools-the company's, and highly specialized and therefore unfenceable anyway-in his car trunk or who is observed dropping a used Tampax in a torque converter housing but who shy away from defending even the most legitimate grievance of a worker considered not really well liked by the shop stewards. But make no mistake: they are first and foremost unions.

We saw this in Kansas with the issue of a group in Wichita who decided they would start a law school. Kansas does already have two law schools, KU and Washburn, and according to the accreditation bodies that are extensions of the American Bar Association, based on the population of Kansas, that's more than adequate.

The problem for Wichita residents was, and is, that both these schools are located sufficiently far from Wichita that commuting is effectively impossible: Topeka and Lawrence, where these schools are, are a long way from Wichita. Wichita residents, particularly adults employed by Boeing, Koch Industries, Coleman, Bombardier, and the lesser aircraft companies, were denied the opportunity Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City Metro residents had to attend law school while working and/or living at home.

So, a Wichita lawyer founded a law school, the President's College School of Law. A charming little institution located on the first floors of a modest Wichita office building, in between the Century II coliseum and the Commodore Hotel where L. Ron Hubbard concocted Scientology whilst on the lam, it endeavored to provide an opportunity for accountants and aeronautical engineers and rivet pounders (assuming they already had a bachelor's degree in something, which many did) alike to enter the exalted world of esquiredom, all while continuing their regular occupations uninterrupted.

Except that despite carefully meeting every single requirement arbitrarily set by the American Bar Association's accreditation outfit, the accreditors refused to grant the school the required accreditaiton. Simply because, according to their set formula, the State already had sufficient legal school capacity in existing institutions.

Being lawyers, themselves, the School's backers filed suit against the State Bar, and after a lot of hooey a compromise was reached: the State would accredit the school. For purposes of the State of Kansas, and in those few states admitting nonaccredited school graduates (or, as in California, "readers of the law"), graduates of the school could take the Bar Exam and be admitted. But in other states President's College grads would never be bar eligible, and faced with this, the school folded shortly thereafter.

The same dilemma put the kibosh on proposals in Wyoming to open a medical school, after the AMA's pegboy minions made it clear that despite the desperate doctor shortage in Wyoming, no new medical school in that state would be accredited, under any circumstances. State legislators briefly considered a similar show of defiance against the almighty doctor union, but that petered out when they realized that no prospective doctor would pay for an medical education/journeyman card enabling him only to practice in Wyoming- a state whose doctor shortage is caused primarily by the difficulty of earning a doctor's income while doctoring there.

So when admiring the palatial Leawood homes (usually tackily constructed by illegal immigrant carpenters who use just a few too few nails, space studs just far enough off to use one less, and use the remaining lumber to tack up their own ladders and boxes to defecate in on the job) and leased large Benzes affected by your tax lawyer or allergist, remember: there go their union dues at work.

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