It’s election day and Cloud 9 has placed pamphlets in the break room encouraging employees to vote for anti-union candidates. Cloud 9 knows that unionization could result in much higher labor costs, so they spend that money to encourage workers to not form a union. This form of managerial opposition is part of the explanation for the decline in unionization rates in the United States.
After a recent uptick in the amount of union activity in the store, the corporate office has decided to institute Employee Appreciation Day. Jonah is quick to point out that this particular day always seems to occur whenever they are trying to get people to sign union card. He advocates for the union instead and mentions that joining a union may provide more long-term benefits, but Amy and Dina work to convince the employees that a union is unnecessary.
One way firms respond to increased union efforts is through managerial opposition. Because it’s illegal to fire workers who try to unionize, firms may use alternative tactics to discourage the formation of a union. An employee has been talking about forming a union and the district manager lets Amy know that the corporate office is considering shutting down stores, and a unionized workforce would make it more likely their store could be shut down. Amy, Dina, and Jonah meet in a backroom to discuss ways to stop the unionization from proceeding.
A lot of the employees walked out while on their shift in the hopes of getting Glenn his job back. The regional manager has arrived and is working with Jonah and Amy to see how they can get the employees back to work. Initially, Amy and Jonah ask only for Glenn to have is job back, but they must sign a letter saying that they apologize for walking out. While it seems like a small request, they decide that the employees really deserve more. Part of the goal of unionization is to turn a competitive labor market into a monopoly provider of labor. Through collective bargaining, Amy and Jonah demand more for their group.
The lights are off in the store, but Dina and Glenn are searching for the manual override code to get power back online. While searching, Glenn goes through a series of older memos from the corporate office about how to keep union activity minimized. While stores cannot legally stop employees from unionizing, they have an incentive to keep unionization efforts at a minimum to keep labor costs low. The managerial opposition hypothesis is one explanation for low unionization in the US and primarily focuses on firms taking a proactive role in discouraging unionization.
Asking for a raise is tough, but even a modest raise in wages can have a huge impact on worker salaries. In this scene from The Pajama Game, we see how a 7.5 cent raise can impact a worker’s wage. The cast goes through the calculations of what they could earn with additional income, including an automatic washing machine, a year supply of gasoline, and a vacuum cleaner.
Assessment idea: This is a neat opportunity to calculate real wages and see what 7.5 cents would be worth today versus 1953. The BLS has a calculator so you don’t have to wait!
Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out BroadwayEconomics.com
Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!
Sheldon isn’t happy with the bread for his sandwich and drags his friend, Tam, along to the grocery store to investigate. While there, Tam learns that the super market is just as convenient as his family’s convenience store and is no longer surprised that his family is losing business to the grocery store.
What Tam is surprised to learn is that the local employees earn $3.35 per hour, while Tam is paid $5 for the entire week. Realizing his dad is probably violating child labor laws, he wonders if he is able to form a union with his sisters and take his dad to court.
Sheldon finds that his sandwich tastes a bit different than normal. After a quick trip to the grocery store, he realizes that his local bread company has been bought out by a larger corporation that is looking to make break quickly and cheaply. He doesn’t like this switch and petitions super market customers about getting the local bread company to listen to their customers.
Without realizing it, Sheldon suggests that communism may be a better system because then one central authority can decide the recipe for bread. He assumes bread lines in Russia are a result of great tasting bread, and not the country’s inability to allocate resources. The show is set in the 1980s, which is the midst of a Cold War. Sheldon’s dad gets a spot on the news and Sheldon almost shares how the social security system is similar, but his dad doesn’t give him the chance.
After Amy and Jonah contact the corporate office to secure paid maternity leave for Cheyenne, the main office sends a union buster to the store to try and talk the employees out of forming a union. These union busters are paid to help dispel the idea that unions can benefit workers.
The team is trying to donate days off so Cheyenne can have her baby since Cloud 9 doesn’t offer maternity leave. Jonah finds out how much profit Cloud 9 made the year before and calls corporate with Amy to try and see if they can give Cheyenne maternity leave. At the mere mention of other company’s with unions having paid maternity leave, corporate sends a union buster to try and talk the store out of organizing.