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Does the NFL owners-players dispute prove that unions are bad or good?

Discussion in 'Political Discussion' started by Patters, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Is it wrong for players to have an organization that negotiates for them? Is it wrong for other kinds of workers, especially government employees?
     
  2. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    Any claim that unions are "good" or "bad" is an overgeneralization.

    But of course workers should have the right to unionize. My own only issues are (i) why any employer should be required to negotiate with a union if they choose not to and (ii) why any employee should be required to join a union if they don't want to.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  3. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    You're not against unions, but your questions basically imply you want to do all you can to get rid of unions.

    (i) Businesses negotiate with unions because a majority of workers elected to have a union represent them. In theory if the business bypasses the union it will face consequences in the form of slowdowns, strikes, bad publicity, and legal action.

    (ii) You cannot have unions if you offer people two options (a) to get the benefits for free or (b) to get the benefits for a fee. It's an unworkable business model. It would be as if the employer said, "You have your choice between free health care or the same health care for $100/month." Which would you choose?
     
  4. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    I didn't imply that at all. You mistakenly inferred it, it seems.

    Re #1: you and I agree -- so how, exactly, would that do away with unions?

    Re #2: why would non-union members necessarily get the same benefits?
     
  5. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    1. The laws have been watered down over the years making it easier for employers to work around unions and making labor unions less effective, most significantly the Taft-Hartley Act. If we make it easier for employers to work around unions then unions will only lose value.

    2. Employers always give the same benefits, at least at shops where union and non union workers coexist. In fact, where I work I'm not in the union, but get the same wages and benefits as my peers who are in a union. (For some reason, we have union and non union divisions where I work; I happen to be in a non union one.) In fact, one reason some non union shops pay well is to keep unions out.
     
  6. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    You've lost me. I don't know how this fits your earlier comment.

    I agreed with what you stated earlier.

    As for the Taft-Hartley Act, from a quick perusal at wikipedia, I don't agree with parts of it -- or any bill -- that prohibit or limit employees' ability to strike, etc. But I also don't think parties should be compelled to negotiate with one another.


    If the employer chooses to give everybody the same benefits, so be it -- it's the employer's choice.

    Then the employees are free to choose whether to join the union, or remain in it. And the union has the responsibility of convincing the employees of its worth. If it can't do that effectively, I don't see why the government should step in and take care of that potential free rider for them.

    The union could also negotiate for a requirement that its members get some form of preferential treatment -- a pretty concrete reason for employees to join them.
     
  7. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Businesses are free to do what they want, but there will be consequences. They can ignore the union, and the union might go on strike. They can try to negotiate around the union, and the union might go on strike as well as identify legal strategies. I don't think anyone goes to jail if the management refuses to negotiate with the union. In fact, in the NFL right now what we're seeing is a lockout, where the management is doing exactly what you're talking about, and the union has actually temporarily disbanded in order to use to other legal strategies. There's no difference really between what unions do and what corporations or shareholders do. There is a complex set of laws and rulings that govern commerce, including labor management relations.

    Places drop unions all the time. That's why union membership has declined over time. As companies started workers better, the need for unions decreased. Nonetheless, there are many low-paid industries and industries under siege by shareholders demanding greater profitability, where unions serve a useful purpose. A union cannot form if the people affected do not have to join. A union derives its power by having a strong membership. What you're talking about are professional organizations, where you have the option of joining or not. Unions are a different class designed to leverage labor against the vastly superior power that management always holds in our system.
     
  8. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    If I'm wrong about this, then my initial point that companies should be free to refuse to negotiate with unions is moot. But I've understood that cvcompanies -- at least of a certain size -- were legally required to at least negotiate with unions. I could be wrong about that.


    I understand the theory of why a union would form, and I'm not questioning unions' purpose.

    But none of this really addresses anything I said in my last post.
     
  9. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    They may be legally required (especially when it's been negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement), but it's way more complex, because they can have sham negotiations. That's part of what's going on in the NFL right now. Many years ago, I read an enormous amount on this stuff, and I don't really remember it, except that there are a lot of legal intricacies.

    Well, earlier you seemed to say that a democratic vote of workers to form a union should only require that those who want to be in the union pay up. I believe corporations engage in unfair business practices when they sell things at a loss to drive out competition. One way to drive out unions is to tell workers that even if they are not members of the union, they will still get whatever union employees get. Would you pay for something you could get for free? Do you want to pay for freeloaders? Obviously, so called right to work laws, which corporate pawns have been championing for years, are designed to discourage people from joining unions. But, maybe I'm misunderstanding your point?
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  10. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    Hmm...so how are businesses free to do what they want? So GM could tell the UAW to beat it tomorrow if they wanted to?

    Hmm...so they are free to do....but there will be consequences. Sound like blackmail to me.

    As I understand it once a shop votes to go union the buisness is compelled to negotiate with them till hell or high water. I have no issues with a union at all. They do indeed provide certain benefits to both businesses and employees. Like Chico, I simply don't like the fact that a company is forced to do business with one if they don't want to. Once a contract is up, either of the entities in question should have the right to walk away.

    I used to use this HVAC contractor, who's relationship with us started between his dad and mine. Decades of business. His small shop voted to go union, and it simply priced him out of consideration. In talking to him he explained to me how he was more or less helpless even though it was his business. He spent in upwards of $100k in legal fees trying to thwart the assault on what was a family held business. He said in the end there simply was no option for him. Either close, sell, or take the kick to the nuts and move forward. If what he explained to be is indeed how it went, that's complete BS. Sure, go ahead and vote to go union, but why should a business owner be forced to accept that? It was his business, not the employees business. It just didn't seem right to me.

    I remember when the Local 22 came to my job and tried to comvince me to go union. The guy started telling me how they would harass, picket, disrupt, and destroy to get me work. I wish I recorded the conversations we had. I was 25 at the time and that was a genuine learning experience.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011
  11. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    2 posts ago I addressed the question re free riders. Of course companies might want to entice workers not to unionize. If they do it through better wages, benefits, etc., then the existence or threat of a union has done its job.

    But if the union can't show its value to potential members, that's its failing.

    One thing I mentioned: a union could negotiate that its members have to have better comp. Then it would clearly be delivering value to members.

    -------

    The underlying principle I keep coming back to is that generally people should have the right to do what they want, so long as that doesn't interfere with others' rights.

    A free rider to an organization such as a union isn't interfering with anybody else's rights.

     
  12. PatsFanInVa

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    Nobody would bring any kind of lawsuit, if, for example, only union guys were eligible for the next promotion?

    Or nobody would bring any kind of lawsuit if you made 12.50 an hour and I made 22.00 an hour, for doing exactly the same work at exactly the same level of skill? Or that wouldn't make the employer try to get more of "you" and less of "me"?

    Or it would be okay for the employer to have a health plan, where you paid into the plan, say, $450 per month, and I paid $100?

    You have 3 mechanisms represented here:

    1) cases in which you can demonstrate unfair treatment (evaluating identical work by some standard other than the work.)

    2) cases in which it's a no-brainer to fire the union guy, and

    3) cases in which you end up having to pay the costs for your benefits, requiring the employer to decide for you how much you should pay. ("I know, they should pay all of it!") since you're not in the union.

    The union model is watered down in all these circumstances, and it's because of the struggles of union workers that even non-union workers get the treatment they do in this country.

    As Patters points out, every employer with union workers has benefits that their non-union co-workers enjoy alongside them (with no risk of income loss from strikes, and no dues.)

    Now let's pull wayyyyyyy back from the shop level, to the macro level. What do unions do?

    - raise wage, benefit, and working condition levels
    - therefore, make the labor costs in finished goods higher

    - therefore -- and this is the ace in the hole of neo-libs in the 90s, as well as paleocons and neocons everywhere and at all times -- it becomes cheaper to buy goods made where people are treated worse.

    In other words, in "race to the bottom" terms, if we have a society of serfs, they are paradoxically better off because they are serfs with jobs, instead of unemployed wanna-be serfs.

    You may also say that since finished goods cost more WITH unions that without, that it's a wash. This is not the case. The improvements to income are direct and only accrue to the worker, in the case of a unionized industry, whereas the effects on the costs of goods are spread out over the society; in a strong-union environment, they could even affect (gasp!) the profits taken by shareholders as well.

    So, if competition is strong, and if all other things are equal, profits will be in a tension with what workers are able to carve out for themselves, for actually doing the work. This is reasonable; both are necessary for the production of the finished good.

    The key to union-busting in the last few decades has been the rise of the global marketplace (where you can have someone on the pacific rim make the finished goods at a fraction of the cost people can do it here.)

    This is one frustration unions can only affect by pushing for policy change, through our government, and through international bodies.

    In effect, as you combat the worst working conditions overseas, you increase labor costs overseas.

    The same race-to-the-bottom logic pertains in this scenario, of course. People argue that that's all well and good, in your comfy home in America, to say that people can't be worked without breaks for 12 hours beginning at age 10 in Thailand. But in Thailand, the argument goes, workers with those jobs are the local labor elite. People want those jobs.

    My answer is that you start at the bottom. When it comes down to jobs Americans wouldn't do for wages Americans would not accept in conditions Americans wouldn't put up with -- c. 2011 -- those conditions and wages must change. Not because Americans wouldn't put up with them, but because they're inhuman to begin with.

    When you point out abject poverty as the alternative to the terrible job, at the bottom, all you are saying is that people who do not participate in the global economy are worse off.

    But we are comparing among those who do. At present, multinationals are paying and providing for conditions as inexpensive to them as possible, to the detriment of overseas labor forces.

    This is part of why so many labor unions have "international" in their names. Historically, it was so you couldn't just play the shell game between Canada and Detroit, or from France to Germany.

    But the same shell game is still in play, in fact, it's in overdrive.

    The eventual solutions are as follows:

    Solution 1: Americans continue to lose jobs, accept worse ones, work harder for less pay, until their labor is valued (by and large, minus transport costs and the like) at the same level as Thai labor working at the same level. Relax. Our education is better and we're more automated. You might only need a pay cut of about 50% throughout the economy to find your level in Thai terms.

    Solution 2: Labor empowerment on a global level. ALL industrial nations REFUSE the cheap finished goods attaching to certain abuses, on a growing list: systemic exposure to hazards we have legislated against here; systemic abuses of the labor standards expected in industrialized nations; no child labor; no 16 hour days w/o overtime; etc.

    What happens under Solution 2?

    To fill the "bottom" places on the labor food chain, it just plain costs more to do business.

    Your brand new 600 dollar computer may cost you 900. Your cheap shirts from Malaysia cost you 15 bucks instead of 10. Whatev.

    In other words, we get inflated costs for goods that aren't made in America -- essentially, leveling the labor playing field, even at the margins. It becomes desireable for some goods to actually make things in America (rather than just consume things.)

    I look around at the U.S. standard of living, and observe that we are rich by comparison with other nations. We do have poverty, but nobody posting here is worried about food insecurity, for example; we post here from within dwellings that aren't likely to fall down around us because they're made of corrugated cardboard in a shanty town.

    I look around at standards of living in the formerly colonized majority of the world, and I observe much more poverty.

    I think ultimately organized labor will be doomed to continually fighting rearguard defensive actions, unless fair labor practices are embraced at the governmental level in the developed nations, and spread through the developing world.

    Since this would be good for any metric governments measure -- balance of trade, debt reduction, etc. -- I have no idea why we in the West refuse to take this necessary step.

    Were I to read on what governments are for on Earth, from a safe spot on Perseid Omicron VII, then travel here, I'd be confused.

    Our governments do not take this simplest step for the wellbeing of the vast majority of our citizens. Instead, they insist on taking actions for the enrichment of stockholders, to the detriment of most citizens.

    Unless, of course, my schoolbooks on Perseid Omicron VII were wrong, and governments are not for the wellbeing of the people at large, but useful tools for the perpetuation of moneyed elites atop the socioeconomic pyramid.

    PFnV
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011
  13. PatsFanInVa

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    In my last post I gave this short shrift, because I wanted to go to the ultimate point that empowers the union-busting here -- globalization without labor empowerment in overseas shops.

    The point of that post was that to the extent we insist on international labor standards, benefits accrue to our economy in some ways, and other things -- dirt-cheap finished goods -- go away. You can't have both. You want to get rid of trade gaps, you need more equity. You can do that either of two ways: make American workers poorer, or treat overseas labor better.

    Now, to your point on rights. I can't speak for Patters, but in the U.S. -- except in extreme cases, like scabs crossing picket lines -- nobody actually makes the point about free riders. That is, non-union workers enjoying, essentially, union pay and benefits.

    In the beginning of my last post, I outlined why your idea of poorer treatment of non-union workers here in the U.S. would not fly.

    There are laws addressing pay scale, for equal work, at equal levels of proficiency, in the U.S. They are most often invoked to address race or gender inequality. They can be invoked for any preferential treatment. (Do not confuse them for hiring laws, which are specific to protected demographic classes.)

    To this latest point, I am an employer. I have a plant shutdown. I have plant A, where a labor hour costs me $35 in pay and benefits. I have plant B, where a labor hour costs me $20 in pay and benefits. Which do I close?

    Or within a plant, I have worker A, whose labor costs me $35 in pay and benefits. I have worker B, whose labor costs me $20 in pay and benefits. Who do I let go when I am downsizing?

    It is actually a losing proposition from the labor point of view not to fight for the rights of the free rider.

    It is not the empowerment of the free rider that matters, when we examine the phenomenon from the point of view of job availability -- it is the freedom of the corporation to hire only free riders, then drive their labor costs down through the floor, as is the natural goal of management. This does not mean they are bad people. It is just what you do in management: you get more labor (or anything else) for less money, and therefore enrich stockholders. It is the duty, in legal terms, for ownership to hire management that does this. (I.e., in a publicly held corp., top management's fiduciary duty is to stockholders, not labor. You do your job and get them better returns.)

    So you ask whose rights are impinged upon by the free rider. In fairness terms, it is the rights of the union worker, who sacrifices his own wages in the case of strikes, and on a constant basis in terms of paying dues. The union worker is forced to sacrifice for the good of both union and non-union workers.

    Now, separate that out by shops. If you have open shops and closed shops coexisting in the same state framework, they compete. Shops like the ones you like, where you needn't join a union, coexist with shops where you have to be in the union to get the job.

    In times of a labor glut -- i.e., high unemployment, lots of people for every job, all with the necessary skills -- there will be union givebacks, so their shop can compete, and they don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg, i.e., the shop they work in. We see far more examples of this than of strikes in the U.S.

    But importantly, in times of a labor shortage, where it is hard to get the necessary skills, something entirely different happens.

    Employers actually have to compete to get the best labor. And the successes of labor at one shop have to be matched at another shop in order for the non-union shop to compete in attracting the best workers.

    Again, we are discussing this as a closed system. In reality, both shops are up against shops far away where labor standards as we understand them do not pertain. This was the jet fuel injected into the anti-union movement in this country from the 80s onward, after the body-blow to organized labor that was the "right to work" legislation of the 80s and 90s.

    To try to boil down a collective movement -- for example, collective bargaining -- to the "every man is an island" level, cannot capture the class phenomena that unions are built to address.

    And any time you invoke the right to free assembly, you begin to see the sequelae of individual rights arguments, once you extend the rights of those people to the right to agree on contracts (for example, CBAs with management.)

    Because of our history, and because the constitution is indeed our best safeguard against various types of tyrrany, we in the U.S. do have to build our arguments on theories of individual rights.

    However, in terms of economics, the individual-centered and rights-centered arguments currently in vogue on the right were never the unalloyed framework we see trotted out, in the times of the founding fathers.

    Jefferson, Smith, Paine, and all the rest had no patience for infinite personal liberty. They saw a place for government, and they saw the necessity of the common good. They indeed saw that personal liberty had always been suborned to a false common good in tyrannies such as absolute monarchies. But in what they wrote on government their point of view on the matter is clearly not an absolute anarchy, based on each man judging his own rights. Our inalienable rights had riders (such as Locke's "good and sufficient for others" clause in his theory of removal of resources from "the commons" by admixture with individual labor.)

    So -- why claim you are "forced" to join a union, when you actually have the choice of working in a union shop or a non-union shop?

    We're quibbling about the level at which union membership is a requirement of employment. Yet there are a million other conditions of employment that affect my personal liberty. What if I'm a nudist, and want a job in customer service? What if I like growing my hair long, and want to be a cop? What if I want to discuss liberal politics, but I want to work at the RNC? What if I want to campaign for my favorite party while at work, but I want to work for the federal government?

    Your rights as an individual have been ruled over and over again not to be absolute as "trump cards" in work settings.

    So, is this argument about wanting the "right" to break down the unit in which labor organization pertains to the intra-shop, then intra-small-unit levels, not actually a red herring? It would seem you will make this argument against fellow workers, just not against your employer.

    PFnV
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011
  14. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    Patsfan: I'm on my phone now so I'm not going to go into detail or quote the parts that convinced me, but I wanted to say I think you're right as it pertains to any agreement b/t the union and the employer. Still not convinced there should be laws making it so, though -- will need to re- read later.

    (more later)
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011
  15. IcyPatriot

    IcyPatriot ------------- PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey


    I think the terms good or bad are relative to the current economic climate at the time. Unions are bad right now because their workers are sometimes getting inflated wages. I don't have a problem with unions in the private sector. If they work together with their industry then the industry flourishes.

    Unions in the public sector are not the best ... towns, cities, states ... do not simply go out of business when their finances are in disarray. Seems ... and i could be wrong ... that public sector unions tend to play that leverage a bit too hard. Somehow they need to work in a bit better system for paying the appropriate wages and benefits for the economic climate at any point in time. Shorter 1 year contracts might be a good start.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011
  16. Ilikehappyppl

    Ilikehappyppl 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    Unions are great is ran right and not just there to goug the employer. It really is a two way street, we need unions cause the common man needs someone in his corner at the same time we need to let employers make a profit off there hard work and dedication
    they exude over staring a business.

    I think most people can agree, we don't want a country where the rich and powerful have all the power and the rest of us are just lucky to be here. We need to find common ground but in order to do that we need both sides to be honest and show respect towards eachother. Greed is a funny thing.....some people will sell their own children for it....some will sell their body for it.......others will steal,lie and kill for it....

    Its sad really, cause in the end all greed gets you, is being alone.....:cool:
     
  17. Ilikehappyppl

    Ilikehappyppl 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    Excuses are like A-holes everyone has one, its sooooo funny cause its always this or that why people can't do things. Its either taxes or its Unions or its laws that keep you from being successful....when in reality its not those things its YOU!

    I've seen and worked for a few companys and they didn't go out of business because of Laws,Taxes or Unions they went out of business because they where ran by idiots, that cheated on their wifes or did drugs or where just bad at business. You and others can make up all the excuses you want but in the end the real problem in the person in the mirror.

    On the other side of the coin every business I've worked for that was lead by a good person that didn't do drugs,cheat or should not of been in business was successful....funny aye???:rocker:

    Taxes are good, Unions are good, Laws are good but all of them need to be in moderation.;)
     
  18. DarrylS

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    These are unions in name only, they do not resemble any union that I kmow of, there is no financial hardship involved with any of these actions.. it is about greed on both sides, not about need.
     
  19. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    OK, back to this, as I try to ease into a Monday AM

    I guess the preface to all of this is that, as I mentioned to patters a couple days back, I don't claim to know how all the labor laws work. Not even close. So if I have misunderstood any laws, that of course could change my thinking or make my concerns moot.

    Re. lawsuits, it's certainly possible people could sue. People sue over everything.

    But is is actually required that all people get equal pay for equal work? I thought different was pay was fine as long as it wasn't based on things like gender, race, religion, etc. Experience and qualifications, for example, could lead to higher pay to somebody for the same work, couldn't it?

    As for the union members being more expensive, and therefore more enticing to let go, I would think that's part of what the union should bargain for when negotiating the higher comp packages for members.


    getting OT: I think we basically agree on this. This is where I think economic theory fails to address the notion of the nation being better off from trade. Of course, I mostly stopped reading about economic theory 20 years ago, so maybe I'm wrong.

    But I understand the concept that free trade makes participants better off. The problem in reality is how that increased wealth is distributed. I think we've seen in the US that free trade agreements -- which I fully supported in the past -- have helped lead to an increasing divide.

    So I've come around to thinking that we do need stricter standards in place when we enter into these agreements.

    As for other imports, I am wary of tariffs, not only because of the economic theory opposing them but because of the possibility of retaliation. But my impression already is that other nations have much higher tariffs on our products, so maybe it's time we insist on a level playing field. And if another nation's goods are cheap because they're housing their "employees" in dorms and subjecting them to unsafe conditions, we should impose either import duties or higher standards in our trade agreements with them.
     
  20. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    This is what I was referring most specifically to yesterday. You're absolutely right that employees are making the choice to work at a particular company, and if they would need to be a union member to work there, that too is a matter of choice.

    It gets trickier if the workforce votes to unionize, for those employees who don't want to join. Yes, they're still making a choice to stay, but I think we can agree in practice that simply quitting an existing job is problematic for many, if not most, people. (Just like any economic discussion of job losses needs to address the realities of what that means for the people who lose their jobs, as opposed to being mere #s in data tables or part of a curve in an ECON graph.)

    Where I'm still left unconvinced is whether the goverenment should be making any law requiring employees to join a union. And I'll go back to my earlier caveats about my knowledge of labor laws. If no such laws exist, you can stop reading here. But if there are such laws, I'm not convincved that's the government's role. I think, as I mentioned in earlier points about unions and employers, that this should be solely between the employer and the union.

    If a company unionizes, and management / ownership agrees to be a closed shop, then I'm fine with employees -- both new and existing -- having to join. As you pointed out, it's a matter of choice for them, either way.
     

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