Business: Financial: Stock Market
Right to Invest law   (+2)  [vote for, against]
Allow investors to opt out of corporate political spending

Indiana just passed a "right to work" law under which workers now have the "right" to work at any business without joining a union, which inevitably has the result of weakening unions and lowering the income and benefits protections they offer.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I currently have thousands of dollars invested in various company stocks, but have no significant say in whether any of my investment money, or the corporates earnings on it, will be diverted to political campaigns to influence the future of our nation, a problem made worse by the "Citizens United" Supreme Court ruling a few years ago. I could of course vote against such actions at corporate meetings, but that depends on most other shareholders agreeing with me, just like getting effective union representation under "right to work laws" depends on most workers voluntarily joining unions, which is not necessarily rational if union benefits (concessions from owners) ends up benefitting union & non-union workers alike.

I want the same benefits as an investor. So let's give investors the right to opt out of corporate political donations; all money spent in this way will be divided by the number of shares of investors who opted into such donations, and deducted proportionately from their dividends alone. Of course the base dividend is unchanged, just as the base pay for working is the same for union and non-union workers at any business. Give me the right to invest my money in any business which takes my investment, and the right to opt in or out of political influence, while of course retaining any benefits such influence perhaps brings to the business. And see how long it takes to possibly get our country back away from domination by monied powers and back to the democracy it once was.
-- scottinmn, Jan 26 2012

Union Maid
So where does Arlo stand ? [popbottle, Apr 06 2016]

There are two sorts of company, with reference to this idea - public and private. With public companies, if you bought your stock in the company in the market then the company sees this much if your "investment" in it: heehaw, which means you have no bargaining power with respect to what a company does with its funds. If, on the other hand, you acquired stock at an IPO or a share issue, then maybe you have the beginnings of a mechanism (which I will think on). For private companies, you can do this already, by taking a sufficiently large stake (which could easily still be a minority stake) and imposing conditions on your investment. This method of control is older than Darien.

To be honest, though, what seems to be proposed is a system whereby you can enjoy the fruits of unappetizing political bribery without having dip your hand in your pocket. This might be because I am misunderstanding what you propose: money spent on political donations is just that - spent. It can't be deducted from the dividend because it could never have been distributed to shareholders (following it having been pissed against the porcelain of Beltway/Whitehall wine bars). It feels like what you're looking to do is deduct the benefit of the donation from the value of your opted-out dividend entitlement, and I'm buggered entirely as to how you would divine appropriate values.
-- calum, Jan 26 2012

It's interesting that they called it the "right to work" law, rather than the "Thatcher's scabs" law. Prolly flipped a coin.

As I see this idea, politicians (corporations?) appear to be deliberately exploiting the tragedy of the commons to weaken unions, but have neglected to use the same methods to weaken corporate political donation. Workers have the "right" to not contribute to union vested interest costs; investors should have the "right" to not contribute to corporate vested interest costs.

It's ironic that (from Wikipedia):

"The unions also contend that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has received millions of dollars in grants from foundations controlled by major U.S. industrialists like the New York-based Olin Foundation, Inc., which grew out of a family manufacturing business,[20][21][22] and other groups."
-- spidermother, Jan 27 2012

So, [21 quest], I take it you support the re-introduction of compulsory union membership?
-- spidermother, Jan 27 2012

Thanks, now I see where you're coming from. That would be another way to aid goose-gander parity.

The problem is that (from what I've read so far) those who don't pay _do_ benefit, right up to where the union collapses completely. And in the absence of this law, workers still had the freedom to choose a non-union employer.

Frankly, this law reeks of policy laundering. It's backed by industry money, has an Orwellian name, and is clearly designed to disempower unions, which is a blatant infringement on workers' rights.
-- spidermother, Jan 27 2012

/but you don't get union benefits without paying union dues/

think about that some more. Changes in employment (eg work hours in a day, health benefits, pensions) which were fought for and won by unions are not applied solely to union members. Many standard aspects of the workplace today are what they are because of the efforts of unions in days past.
-- bungston, Jan 27 2012

"Right to work" laws are definitely anti-union, whether or not that's anti-worker is debatable. I would argue that closed shops are equally anti-worker. Being forced to pay dues for a union that you may disagree with just so you can get a job is not any better. For instance several civil service unions have recently argued against any wage or benefit cuts, even at the expense of lost jobs. I strongly suspect the people who lost the jobs are not in favor of that decision by the union. If the union is beneficial to you, you join it, if not you don't.

Yes, this does introduce the free rider problem, as has been discussed, which is unfortunate, but I'm not sure there is a better solution.

[Full disclosure, I am not and have never been in a union, or been employed in a unionizable position]
-- MechE, Jan 27 2012

My view on this may be skewed, (in fact it's fairly certain to be skewed), as I've never had a union job, (not for lack of trying), and haven't had a whole lot of interaction with many people that do.
What I have heard an aaaaweful lot when the topic comes up is the bitching and moaning from the lowly rabble who can't seem to snag themselves one of them there jobs with perks.

The general concensus from this non-scientific and overly biased study seems to indicate that the general public below a certain level of income views the unions as almost as corrupt as government.

<deletes common sexist/racist/tasteless union joke>

Getting your foot in the door for one of these jobs seems to require someone on the inside getting you one.
The stories range from three month probation periods at minimum wage with no possibility of a fourth month of work until enough time has passed since your last probation period to disqualify for union acceptance,
the employer having to give six warnings for showing up drunk before they can fire you for the seventh offence.

You don't even want to hear the griping over the whole; "Slow down... we're paid by the hour." mentality.
You really don't.

Like I said, skewed, but as near as I can tell that's the general underview from them dregs at the bottom.
-- 2 fries shy of a happy meal, Jan 27 2012

Here's another angle to think about: No worker should be coerced to pay union dues to any union which violates their political beliefs by its politics.
-- RayfordSteele, Jan 27 2012

(I also am not, and have never been, a member of a union, except the Student Union at university.)

I've also had a job where I physically turned up and worked at a public service workplace, but on paper I worked for an external job agency, which was paid in turn by the government department. This was clearly being used as a loophole to employ people in non-union-approved ways, which they would not have been able to do a couple of decades ago. While this meant I missed some of the union-influenced perks - for example, my position was liable to termination without notice - the arrangement did benefit both parties due to its flexibility, as I was well placed to accept work when it was available, but didn't mind the layoff periods. So I really can see both sides.

I didn't intend to come across as staunchly pro-union, more anti-bullshit; and this kind of law strikes me as bullshit. I agree that many unions got petty and power hungry in their heyday, too.
-- spidermother, Jan 27 2012

Am I missing something? It seems to me that in _non_ right-to-work states there are some jobs that are unionised and some that are not; in right-to-work states there are _no_ jobs that are unionised. Maybe it's just semantics; to me, a unionised job is one where every employee is a member of the union. (Further disclosure - I've never even been to the US, just read about the law on Wikipedia; but we've gone through related changes over here.)
-- spidermother, Jan 27 2012

A right to work state can still have unions, it's just not mandatory for the employees at a given job to join the relevant union, it disallows closed (union only) shops.

//a unionised job is one where every employee is a member of the union// Even per that definition right to work states can still have unions, just not ones where it is mandatory (if everyone voluntarily joins, that's fine).
-- MechE, Jan 27 2012

//Some employers in my state (which, apparently, is not a right-to-work state), such as Kaiser Aluminum and Triumph Composite Systems, are fully Unionized closed shops. You must join the Union to work at these places.//

I'm not clear on how that works. As in, why would the employer force employees to join a union? Presumably they wouldn't. So the union has some sort of say in who gets employed? Seems very strange to me.
-- Loris, Jan 27 2012

// //a unionised job is one where every employee is a member of the union// Even per that definition right to work states can still have unions, just not ones where it is mandatory (if everyone voluntarily joins, that's fine).// Yes, I was a little sloppy there. But the point is that in practice, everyone does not join.

This law might not even be bad per se; but it's typical of a lot of legislation that is presented as offering a particular right, or freedom, or protection, but may in fact be about denying more fundamental freedoms, for undeclared reasons and vested interests. It outlaws certain forms of association, then re-badges that as providing a "right". Hence my call of bullshit.
-- spidermother, Jan 27 2012

Being employed in the auto industry as an engineer and being acosted by union members earning twice my salary for sweeping the floors while they assume that I actually do make more than they, or earning 95% of their pay while not producing anything at all, my view of unions is um... somewhat diminished. Job security is a myth in my profession and so I don't feel pity in that regard either. Also count the strike that destroyed my step-father's career by closing his plant 1 year before his pension would've carried, and that's enough for me. A 'right-to-work' provision would've been nice in that regard, as he was personally against the strike.
-- RayfordSteele, Jan 27 2012

Freedom of choice, freedom of association and full disclosure cleans up a lot of the issues raised by the OP and the annotaters. I think [scottinmn] makes a fair point in not wanting to invest in companies which in turn makes donations to political parties or causes he might not agree with. Fine, he doesnt have to - as long as he can readily access the nature of any intended donations beforehand he is free to make his own decisions about where his own funds go. Perhaps compulsory disclosure of all intended donations would give investors a fairer say in what causes are supported. An announced intention to donate $10,000 to the Salvation Army might have a neutral outcome whilst the same amount to the Skinhead Army would cause a company's shares to drop as investors pull their money out to invest elsewhere.

The same goes with union membership. The company should have no say either way whether their employees choose to negotiate singlely or collectively. And I say this as a business owner. If I have 100 employees and 65 want to negotiate as a group, 17 as a different group aligned to a union and 18 individually then so be it and I just need to deal with it whether I like it or not. No one, especially outside 3rd parties, should be able to compel anyone else to 'fall into line' with what they think best.

[spidermother] makes a good point about the problem of the tragedy of the commons being used to exploit things but ultimately no system will be perfect and those who contribute more to obtaining good negotiated outcomes which others ride along on will also just have to deal with it whether they like it or not. Unfortunately, that is something people are always going to have to put up with in all aspects of life. This is a pervasive part of the human condition and I can see no way of eliminating it.

My biggest pet peeve in the world are those people who feel they have the right to compel others to do things, whether or not to join a union, donate to the Republicans or Labour or the Skinhead Army, on the grounds that the compellers 'know what is best' for the compellees.
-- AusCan531, Jan 28 2012

Back to the original concept about investing, but not paying for political bribery. Union members should get a discount (if requested) on their dues for the amount paid for political causes. Unions outspend corporations in the US when it comes to bribing (also known as lobbying) politicians. Union member have to join in order to get the job, but are also forced to pay to fund/bribe politicians that they may disagree with.
-- dlapham, Jan 28 2012

21 Quest: So you agree with right to work? Right to work states do not set benefits or pay (as long as it is at least state minimum wage), so your solution is exactly what right to work does. Most companies volunteer to pay non-union employees at union wages and benefits, but they are not required to do so.
-- dlapham, Jan 28 2012

//How hard// That's a good question (to which a good answer would probably fill a small book).

[21 Quest] You seem to entertain the very contradiction that this idea highlights - namely, that one should not be required to avoid working for an employer in order to avoid contributing to union influence, but one should be required to avoid investing in a company in order to avoid contributing to political influence. Which is fine, as long as you can see the contradiction. This is about the resolving of inherently conflicting interests, so there's bound to be a spread of opinions.

And I hope you appreciate the irony I alluded to - a group of companies has formed an alliance, in order to help pass laws that will make it more difficult for workers to form alliances.
-- spidermother, Jan 28 2012

/Most companies volunteer to pay non-union employees at union wages and benefits, but they are not required to do so.//

Not necessarily true. The only one I know of for sure is Actor's Equity, but if any cast member is equity, the production has to pay them all union scale. It's a real problem for local semi-pro theaters.
-- MechE, Jan 28 2012

I'm glad to see this stimulated some discussion in the two days I was offline...

[calum]: //what seems to be proposed is a system whereby you can enjoy the fruits of unappetizing political bribery without having dip your hand in your pocket.//

Well, yeah--just like the "right to work laws" allow some workers to enjoy the fruits of union bargaining w/o having to pay for it. See my goose/gander point. In both cases, the anticipated outcome is that many people will opt- out, and the institution will be weakened. If that's the kind of "individualism" we want, fine-- but then it should be applied both to the investor and worker level.

[calum] again: //money spent on political donations is just that - spent. It can't be deducted from the dividend because it could never have been distributed to shareholders//

Nonsense; if not spent on political campaigns then, seeing as it wasn't spent anywhere else, it's "extra" money that could be returned via dividend; if there was someplace else it "should" have been spent instead, then it shouldn't have been spend on influencing politics.

Perhaps one might object: but the whole point of spending it on politics is to influence laws benefiting shareholder value, and so it's not "spent" but "invested." Ah--but that's exactly what unions do; union dues are not lost, but contribute to worker wages through increasing their bargaining positions. The cases are parallel.

[spidermother] gets my point exactly.

[21 quest] gets only half of it. If his argument is sound then so is the following: if you don't like working at a unionized corporation, you don't have to, and your "right to work" is utterly unimpeded by laws that facilitate unionization, and hence "right to work laws" are nothing of the sort. Anyone who objects to that reasoning has little to object to in my proposal, logically.

[Rayford Steele]: I haven't heard of any union, anywhere, going to anyone's house and forcing them to cough up payments. They only pay if they choose to work at a unionized corporation. Likewise I can choose whether to shop at Sam's Club (a major republican-cause donor) or Costco (which gives more to democrats), etc. So we already are not compelled to have a slice of our money going to any political causes except via a choice of ours to work or spend at institutions which do so as part of their business. You presumably are arguing precisely for some *extra* privilege, of being able to work at a company which bargains for higher employee wages without having to pay for the spending which helps contribute to that. Well, I'm 100% with you--IF you want to be consistent, and also grant me the right to demand a discount at Walmart or Dominos if I don't like the fact that some percent of their profits, which my spending contributes to, going to their political causes; all such spending will then only be levied against customers who opt-in to this extra cost.

For the record, I've only belonged to faculty unions, which at first I thought were just annoying and pointless, but I soon appreciated that they were significantly responsible for my salary and benefits being as good as they were. I have no experience with blue-collar unions, and I know they are liable to corruption; I saw "On The Waterfront." I certainly don't want to suggest that unions will solve all problems or are perfect. What I do want to suggest is that one common argument we here against them is liable to be turned around, and its logic used against corporations. That might be a really good thing. And maybe should be expanded, perhaps including union- busting activities along with political donations, or other ways of manipulating the market above and beyond the mere provision of goods TO an existing market as part of one's business. Then requiring both sides to opt-in on the activities one by one (workers joining unions, or investors choosing whether to effectively donate some part of their dividends to such actions, but in both cases benefiting from the results even if paid for by others) might be a good thing. But I am suggesting that too much talk these days is about applying this principle of absolute individual choice to ONE side of the equation but not to the other, by surreptitiously taking some part of business practice as "natural" and unquestionable just because that's the way-we've-done-things-up- to-now.
-- scottinmn, Jan 29 2012

[scottinm] not forced? Are you kidding? The case just went to the Supreme Court because everyone just wants to be in a union? Find a cop not in one? A fireman? A nurse?

Money is choice - don't buy the company's product, don't buy it's stock, vote for it's board? What's missing?
-- theircompetitor, Apr 06 2016

Ahh but I wonder if they are making the police donations in order to grease the palms of corrupt politicians? or more innocently favour a politicians who's policies would help them?
-- bob, Apr 06 2016

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