From the TUC

Sotheby’s discovers the costs of being anti-union

19 Oct 2011, By

The Scream detailYou may recall my earlier post about the protest we mounted recently in solidarity with Teamsters Local 814 in New York, over the locking out of 42 art handlers by Sotheby’s NY. At that stage, there seemed to be some suggestion that the protest had affected sales at the evening auction, which were at the lower end of Sotheby’s expectations. However, regular readers may know there’s something of an economic crisis going on, and that might have explained the relatively low sales. But now our suspicions have been confirmed – our protest does indeed seem to have hit Sotheby’s at the cash tills, demonstrating that the savings Sotheby’s are trying to make by slashing workers’ terms and conditions are a false economy and could end up costing the company not only its good name, but hard cash.

The evidence comes in the relative success of two other auctions at about the same time. In the afternoon, before our protesters arrived, Sotheby’s made more than expected from a sale of 20th century Italian art. But their prestigious modern art sale that evening, when we were chanting and blowing whistles outside, almost a dozen lots failed to sell at all, and those that did sold for much less than Sotheby’s hoped. Then, the next evening at the more union-friendly Christie’s, a similar sale again performed better than expected. The only difference we can see is that the afternoon sale at Sotheby’s and the evening sale at Christie’s were protest free. So, let the seller beware! Putting your family heirloom in the hands of an anti-union auctioneer could see you seriously out of pocket.

Anyone wanting to donate an old master – or something more modern – to the Teamsters strike fund should get in touch! Alternatively, send Sotheby’s UK a message about how they should settle their dispute with the Teamsters.

14 Responses to Sotheby’s discovers the costs of being anti-union

  1. alexandria davis
    Oct 19th 2011, 1:34 pm

    I’m glad these anti-union people learned something from this. They all get what they deserve.

  2. Video : Teamsters – Unite demo outside Sotheby’s, London | Power In A Union
    Oct 19th 2011, 6:37 pm

    […] Sotheby’s discovers the cost of being anti-union Recommend on Facebook Share with Stumblers Tweet about it Print for later Bookmark in Browser Tell a friend This entry was posted in Employment Rights, International Trade Unions, Labour Party, Media, Politics, Solidarity, Trade Unions, Trades Union Congress, Unite The Union, Workers Uniting. Bookmark the permalink. ← Dignity at Work, Collective Bargaining and Trade Union Freedom – LCDTU “Fox News Lies” – Wall St. protestors stick it to Fox TV → […]

  3. Ken Meyer
    Oct 19th 2011, 9:53 pm

    “The cost of being anti-union” being discussed seem similar to the “costs” of being anti-criminal; i.e. – the same type of thugs are trying to impose same style of “costs” on those who field such sentiments.

    Frankly, I find it a shame that the only thing unions today seem to bring to the table are “costs”. Apparently, they have nothing to contribute of a positive nature to our economy as a whole; rather, they simply impose their “costs” on it. In that, they function like other parasitic creatures, much like termites imposing their “costs” on a building.

    That’s not something that I would want to brag about if I was a union member.

  4. Bill Adams
    Oct 20th 2011, 6:58 am

    Just another example of corporate greed. Whilst profits and dividends increase well above inflation rates, wages are cut for the many who then spend less and the economy spirals downwards. There is a well worked theory about productivity, performance and wage rates.
    Let’s have less greed at the top, and more sharing the fruits of workers labour. It’s right to act internationally as trade unions, whether it’s NYC, or Athens, or Tunisia. Remember, we are the 99%

  5. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Oct 20th 2011, 6:58 am

    Ken, the Sotheby’s art handlers who have been locked out by their employers DO want to make a contribution, but they want job security and a decent wage in return for the skilled work they do, on the back of which Sotheby’s makes a huge profit. They aren’t the parasites here – that would be their bosses, with their multi-million dollar ‘reward packages’.

  6. Ken Meyer
    Oct 20th 2011, 2:33 pm


    Excuse me…for some reason, I thought there were other, TRUE workers (i.e. – those who are able and willing to labor in a COMPETITIVE environment!) available to perform that “skilled” labor (in that vein, I can’t help but recall similar Teamsters who, as toll collectors, were on strike against the Penn. Toll Road a few years back. They also proclaimed “skills”). Was I wrong?. As for their wanting “job security” and “a decent wage”, I’m quite sure they “want” a lot of things…but that by no means equates with their DESERVING or having EARNED those things. Does the free labor market back ’em up? Beyond that, if they’re not willing to work for what Sothebys has to offer, then aren’t they free to seek work elsewhere? Or is Sothebys – for some reason or another – supposed to serve as a slave to their “wants”?

    It’s just such “employees” such as these Teamsters who (used to) work at Sothebys that have led to the decline of this country; they’re big on what they “want”…but not so big on matching their actual economic WORTH with that “want”. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is eating their lunch. Big surprise, ‘eh?

    Lastly, if you, yourself are gung-ho for their “job security” and “decent wage”, then why don’t YOU provide it, instead of demanding that OTHERS conform to YOUR desires? Wouldn’t that answer the problem? How about it? Sound like a plan?

  7. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Oct 20th 2011, 2:45 pm

    Ken, here’s how the labour market works. Bosses offer a wage they WANT to pay for work they WANT done. Workers offer the wage they WANT to sell their labour for. They negotiate and come up with something which is usually in between. Unions are the tool workers use to negotiate. Negotiation sometimes includes getting third parties involved, like, in this case, the employer’s customers. Sometimes governments make rules like insisting on minimum wages or laws on industrial action. Where the deal eventually ends up depends on the relative strengths of the employer and the worker, which depends on many factors.

    Ken, what you are advocating is a dog-eat-dog race to the bottom, until wages paid are at the lowest level employers can get away with. That’s not actually good for the economy as a whole because it depresses demand, leads to debt and so on, but it certainly isn’t good for working people, either. So as their representatives, unions will always resist that.

  8. Ken Meyer
    Oct 20th 2011, 3:44 pm


    If that’s the way things worked (i.e. – labor unions negotiated on the basis of the VALUE of their labor), then you and I would have no argument. However, you and I both know that is *NOT* the way things work!

    The basis of a negotiation – any TRUE negotiation – is the ability of EITHER party to just say “no”, walk away, and find another party to negotiate with if they so choose. And such negotiation does NOT include the use of intimidation, violence and generally juvenile “pouting” simply because a side doesn’t get it’s way. That the way the Teamsters – and similar unions – function today, is it? Once an employer says “no”, are they willing to step away from the fray, secure in the knowlege that their alleged “skills” will ultimately bring their erstwhile employer back to the table? Is that the way, for example, the union was functioning when it put up “informational” pickets at Sotheby’s auctions? Or when it flew representatives to G.B. for confrontational activities? Or when it bad-mouthed the company publicly simply on the basis of that company NOT caving in the unjustified “wants” of the union?

    You know something? Wages that employers pay SHOULD be at the lowest MARKET-BASED value they can get away with. Correspondingly, wages should be at the highest MARKET’BASED value that employees can get. That’s the purpose of the market. You, however – along with the union “employees” in question – don’t seem to be satisfied with “negotiation” in any meaningful sense of the word, nor in market valuation. Rather, you and they seek SUBSIDY! You want a class of people – in this case, union members – to be SUBSIDIZED over and above what their worth and what they actually have earned by others who – from your perspective, apparently – are supposed to SACRIFICE what they HAVE earned and what they ARE worth. See a problem their? Believe me, those you’re demanding subsidy from do!

    The fact is, what unions “always resist” (that’s not actually true, but rather the way AMERICAN unions function TODAY) is being compensated on the value of their economic worth. I.e. – they’re constantly crying “gimme, gimme’. Is that “good for the economy”? Well, might I suggest you take a look at the economy around you today….and how the more competitive economies (those where labor DOES truly negotiate!) are progressing relatively. How many jobs have been lost in the domestic automotive industry, for example, on the basis of thinking like yours (I’m reminded a few weeks ago when a union member writing on a blog, speaking of Detroit, claimed “the UAW built this city”…while, in fact, Detroit was a larger and more prosperous city – during the Depression, no less! – the year the UAW was found than what it is today). What about the domestic steel industry? The union been successful in promoting domestic jobs in that area? The railroads? Coal mining? Need I go on? I could, you know!

    The “race to the bottom” is being led by individuals such as yourself who, for some reason or another, think that the PRODUCTIVE elements of society owe less-productive union members welfare simply on the basis of their existence. To you, that might be “negotiating”. To me, it’s just a case of spoiled [economically speaking] children yelling “gimme, gimme” over and over again.

    Believe me, employers have nothing against TRUE negotiating based on economic worth. And believe me as well when I tell you that potential employers aren’t taking the jobs they have to offer overseas because domestic labor wants to truly “negotiate”.

  9. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Oct 21st 2011, 6:41 am

    Ken, I don’t think we’re going to agree – probably because we disagree fundamentally about how you measure the ‘value’ of a worker’s contribution to the employer they work for. I’d maintain the value to be the cost of the goods or services produced, less any input from the employer (in which case, workers are almost always paid less than the value of their work, which the organisation takes in profit – or these days, obscenely inflated salaries and bonuses for top managers). However, I suspect you see the definition of the value of labour power in terms of the market rate, which, except in times of full employment, is going to be persistently driven down by competition between workers.

    I do think that sometimes the wage rate can be set at a level at which the workers do well, and the employer does well too (productivity-linked bargaining is not, after all, unusual). But there is an inescapable conflict at the heart of wage bargaining.

    But, please, answer this genuine question. Since you clearly don’t share the values of this website, why have you come here? Honestly, it’s a genuine question, because I think the answer would be interesting (if only to me!)

  10. Ken Meyer
    Oct 21st 2011, 11:41 am


    In short, you want to artificially assign worth…regardless of actual market value. That’s a concept that’s worked real well in the past, hasn’t it? Hell, they even put up an iron curtain to keep it from “expanding”, didn’t they? [smile] In that vein,I’m reminded that, working as an manager for an American firm in Germany in the late 70’s at the end of a long “Labour” era in Britain, when the British government was reduced to paying me to hire and retain (in Germany) retired British soldiers simply because a society that had tuned itself to your way of thinking had so screwed itself up that it couldn’t even afford the return of their honored servicemen. That’s what artificial valuations such as yours led to then…and I’ve no doubt that they would venture in the same direction when applied again today.

    As for what brought me to the site, it was a Google news search on the term “Teamsters”…and the headline referring to “costs” of being anti-union. And your blog confirmed what I thought; i.e. – that you were apparently PROUD of an entity promoting “costs” via destruction!!!! Beyond that, it rapidly became evident that you were NOT ashamed of the fact of the demanders being void of having anything CONSTRUCTIVE to offer. That, to me, defines thuggery. And, in the end, that’s essentially what people with your “values” are; “thugs”. Thugs trying to shake-down the productive elements of society on the basis of their ability not to contribute, but rather to destroy.

    Now let me ask YOU a question in return. Just what “values” does your website have, PERIOD? Consider imposing “costs’ a moral “value”, do you? Do you think in “ethical” terms of telling a shop owner you’ll burn his store down (you know – impose some “costs”) if he doesn’t employ your nephew or whatever?) Want to bully lunch money out of kids at school do ya’? Just how does someone like you justify his existence?

    Perhaps now you can figure out why I came to your site; i.e. – I believe that vermin should be confronted at every turn…and that the parasites of this world can’t be given free-reign. That, my friend, is an attitude that represents “values”. Your website, on the other hand, represent a value- LESS “gimme, gimme” attitude. You don’t represent those who want to EARN their way; rather, you represent those who are demanding that humanity owes them WELFARE.

    Just calling ’em as I see ’em.

  11. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Oct 22nd 2011, 7:48 am

    Ken, I doubt this conversation’s going to get us anywhere, but it would be impolite not to answer your question when you answered mine! Our values are that working people should be treated fairly and that they should be able to combine together to secure that fair treatment from employers, principally through collective bargaining but including supportive campaigns and government action. Fair treatment includes treating workers equally (eg regardless of gender or race).

  12. Ken Meyer
    Oct 22nd 2011, 9:36 am


    Since when have guys like you wanted TRUE working people to be treated FAIRLY? The fact is, you want a CLASS of individuals (those who are NOT willing to EARN their way on the basis of their “work”!) to be treated UN-fairly; i.e. – to be subsidized beyond what they are economically worth. Beyond that, you want to treat another class of people – those that provide jobs and sustain the economy – unfairly as well, by way of their being forced to provide that subsidy.

    Collective bargaining – on the basis of what the “collective” has to OFFER – is all good and well…and “fair”. Don’t have anything against it. But when thugs such as yourself assign the name “collective bargaining” to the process of how much damage you can cause, or how much cost you can force, on productive entities, that’s neither “bargaining”, nor “fair”.

    Now I can understand the frustrations of individuals such as yourself in your inability to compete on terms of ACTUAL fairness with your economic and moral betters…but that does NOT give you license to enforce “costs” on what they provide. Much more productive for society in that type of situation if you and yours would simply get your dead behinds out of the way…..and quit maintaining that you’re after any form of “fairness”. You’re not.

    Of course, if you ARE after “fairness”, why don’t you respond positively to the suggestion I made in a previous post; i.e – that *YOU* provide that form of “fairness” that *YOU* feel is desirable? Why don’t *YOU* provide the subsidized “jobs” for those who – based on market value – aren’t otherwise going to receive them. Why don’t *YOU* put up *YOUR* money to sustain the “fairness” *YOU* seek instead of UN-fairly demanding that OTHERS be compelled to do what *YOU* are unwilling and/or unable (probably both!) to do *YOURSELF*?

    Come on big guy…put *YOUR* money (you DO have it, don’t you?…grin) where *YOUR* mouth is! SHOW US what “fair” is…instead of limiting yourself to just constantly screaming “gimme, gimme” at others who don’t share your peculiar concept of “fairness”.

    Likely to happen? Think you and I both know the answer to that one, don’t we Owen? [smile]

    Last question; how would you like it if the PRODUCTIVE elements of society turned your argument around…and sought to demonstrate the “costs” of being a parasite to those such as yourself? Think it would be proper if they brought some thugs in to harass your family, for example? Or set up confrontations around your church or some social organization you belong to simply because of your association? Or perhaps throw-up pickets around you personal home, providing “informational” pamphlets to your neighbors “demonstrating” just what an alleged low-life you are? Does THAT type of “cost” sound “fair” to you?

    Get back in your hole, Owen. That’s where parasites of your ilk belong…and NOT in the light of day trying to impose “costs” on those who are actually engaged in a POSITIVE purpose on this earth.

  13. Alex
    Oct 28th 2011, 3:26 pm

    I’m amazed to read Ken Meyer’s short-sighted and ad-hominem comments on here. Ken, do you really think you understand the purpose of Unions of all types? You are arguing that employers such as Sotheby’s should be entitled to turn around to their workers and say “Yeah, we know we said we’d pay you $25k, but actually let’s make it $21k”, and if they don’t like it the workers should simply leave and go elsewhere – with all the turmoil that would create, both personally and in the marketplace.
    Don’t forget, there is a flip side – you rarely hear Unions shouting about the benefit rather than the cost, but Unions reps individually save their organisations countless thousands in disputes and employee care costs, and collectively the Unions stabilise employment markets worldwide. Why do you think the most advanced societies on the planet are also the most advanced in terms of Unions and human rights? I note that you failed to congratulate Owen personally for that acheivement, despite demonising him for every single fault you imagine Unions and their members to have. If you’re going to making sweeping generalisations and ridiculous assumptions, you could at least do so in an even-handed manner.

  14. Richard Brzyski Local 463
    Dec 7th 2011, 10:53 am

    Ken — I feel you are the kind of guy who would make 6 million and turn around and tell the guy who was responsible for helping you make that money and say here is $15,000 and be happy. See if unions were worldwide, then maybe everybody could enjoy a fair and decent wage instead of 95% of the world’s wealth being in the hands of 15% of the world population. Since that is the case the war should be on the walthy by the poor and the middle class. Since we are the 85% — we would win !!!! That is if we were thugs (as you prtaryed us Ken); instead we are peaceful demonstrators who just want fair wages and benefits for our fruits of labor for which help build more wealth for that 15%.