Forget automation and AI, are goats taking away union jobs? (Malthus! arbitrage!)

by on July 7, 2017 at 1:19 am in Economics | Permalink

University spokeswoman Cheryl Roland said a small goat crew has been on campus this summer, but not to cut grass.

“For the second summer in a row, we’ve brought in a goat crew to clear undergrowth in a woodlot, much of it poison ivy and other vegetation that is a problem for humans to remove,” Roland said. “Not wanting to use chemicals, either, we chose the goat solution to stay environmentally friendly.

“The area is rife with poison ivy and other invasive species, and our analysis showed the goats to be a sustainable and cost-effective way of removing them,” she added.

The goats were formally introduced to the campus and local community on June 2 in parking lot 51 of the Sindecuse Health Center.

Garrett Fickle and his wife, Gina, the owners of Munchers on Hooves in Coldwater, rent out their four-footed “lawn mowers” to homeowners, commercial property owners and other clients.

…The goats are ahead of schedule, said Nicholas Gooch, a university horticulturist and the project leader.

And yet:

The 400-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has filed a grievance contending that the work the goats are doing in a wooded lot is taking away jobs from laid-off union workers.

“AFSCME takes protecting the jobs of its members very seriously and we have an agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement with Western Michigan,”┬ásaid Union President Dennis Moore. “We expect the contract to be followed, and in circumstances where we feel it’s needed, we file a grievance.”

Here is the full story, via Rayman Mohamed.

1 Brett July 7, 2017 at 1:35 am

*Shrugs* If the university did sign a contract saying that the clean-up work was exclusively to be done by their members . . .

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2 Ghost of Christmas Past July 7, 2017 at 1:44 am

The union’s grievance is obviously based on some concern other than economics. All respectable mainstream Ph.D. economists agree that immigration does not reduce market-clearing wages. In fact, those unionized groundskeepers should be pleased to see the goats arrive, bcause that means they are being freed to accept higher-paying jobs!

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3 Rich Berger July 7, 2017 at 6:34 am

Bazinga!

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4 dwb July 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

Internet comment of the year. lol

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5 msgkings July 7, 2017 at 2:21 am

It’s funny because goats, but really this is a basic union objecting to non-union labor (scabs) situation, oldest thing in the book.

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6 Tom Hynes July 7, 2017 at 7:40 am

Exactly.

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7 Sean July 7, 2017 at 8:15 am

More like capital improvements being deployed, reducing the need for labor. Same complaint though.

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8 Brian Donohue July 7, 2017 at 9:05 am

In a sense, yes, but in another sense, this is a comparatively new phenomenon.

AFSCME itself is just a baby. I had the good fortune in my youth to land a summer job at the Bureau of Vital Statistics ($700/ month in 1982 dollars) cuz Ma was a stalwart foot soldier for The Great Cook County Democratic Organization. At the time, full-time employees (the Bureau was VERY well-staffed) were not unionized, but AFSCME was making the rounds. Little did I know that I was witnessing the seeds of destruction for Illinois public finance being sown in front of my eyes.

At the time, the REAL labor movement was in retreat, and public-sector workers deftly took up the mantle of Organized Labor, but it was a very different thing, as FDR or George Meany could have told you.

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/02/18/the-first-blow-against-public-employees/fdr-warned-us-about-public-sector-unions

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9 Massimo July 7, 2017 at 2:25 am

Loved one of the comments: if the members of the unions are willing to crawl down and munch the grass as thoroughly as the goats, they should rightly be paid like the goats.

How willing to humiliate yourself must you be to state that your job is being stolen by a goat?

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10 dearieme July 7, 2017 at 3:09 am

Goats aren’t much use on grass: shrubs and the like are their best use. Division of Labour beckons here.

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11 Anoop July 7, 2017 at 4:34 am

Union members should point out that they are less likely to leave droppings on the lawns they service.

I hope?

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12 benoit July 7, 2017 at 4:42 am

You suggest they should not only complain that animals are capable of doing their jobs, but also should advertise their inability to fertilise the soil for free?

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13 Pshrnk July 7, 2017 at 11:53 am

+1

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14 Rich Berger July 7, 2017 at 6:35 am

This seemed like a run-of-the-mill hippie story until the surprise happy ending.

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15 Thiago Ribeiro July 7, 2017 at 6:50 am

Old joke” a hillbilly sees an Engineer using a thwodolite and asks what he is doing. The engineer says he is measuring angles for the new road. The hillbilly says it is not necessary, when they in their small village have to open a way through the grass, they release a beast of burden. It always follows the easiest path, so the way it chooses is the way to go. Then, the engineer asks: But what if you don’t have a beasr of burden? And the hillbilly replies: well, then, we hire an engineer.

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16 Dick the Butcher July 7, 2017 at 7:39 am

Them union goofs will get out that poison ivy. Not.

Annoy a public employees’ union. Is there nothing goats cannot do?

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17 Becky Hargrove July 7, 2017 at 8:44 am

I came across a city worker recently (on a walk) who probably would have been glad if a goat could have “taken over”. He was responsible for pruning back shrubbery which also contained the offending vines, and was itching like crazy, well before he finished his job.

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18 JWatts July 7, 2017 at 9:38 am

File under : Marginal workers

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19 Hazel Meade July 7, 2017 at 10:00 am

I want to hear what mulp has to say about this.

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20 Thiago Ribeiro July 7, 2017 at 11:08 am

TANSTAAFL/ paying workers, so they can spend/ Reagan/Middle Class/ free lunch economics/now labor is a expense to be cut/Reagan/goats

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21 Hazel Meade July 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

I get it! The free market is evil, and goats are the symbol of satan, ergo, using goats to eat underbrush is basically satanic market worship.

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22 Thomas A. July 7, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Doing the job that sheep won’t do, evidently.

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23 athEIst July 8, 2017 at 2:29 pm

If the goats join the union and p a y d u e s this can all be worked out without more than minor jurisdictional disputes. I did mention p a y d u e s didn’t I?

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24 Shaun Marsh July 8, 2017 at 5:33 pm

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25 edwardtbabinski July 9, 2017 at 3:05 pm

I read that deer are also immune to poison ivy.

I guess the plant evolved that toxin in response to insect rather than mammalian leaf munchers. Though the Ivy toxin seems to work well enough on exposed human skin.

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