Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lucky Strikes

We all knew it would happen. When the city council passed the smoking ban last spring, we just knew that something would happen between then and September 17, that would allow the ban to be skirted by some or all. I expected a weasely amendment introduced by one of the alderman that would have redefined a “public space” in such a way to exclude establishment’s named for real or fictional characters ( Marley’s=smoke ‘em, The Alamo=snuff ‘em out.)

The aldermen, however, stood strong in the face of minority opposition. With just days to go before the ban is to go into effect, smokers were down to their last gasp. And then, the answer appeared on the front page of the newspaper.

The SJ-R reported that the state might not enforce the city’s ban in some of its facilities because it contradicts agreements spelled out in union contracts. And no politician wants to mess with the unions, a group of individuals who always seem to be itching for a fight. Could it be that they could take the fight even further, beyond state property and into Lu’s Home Tavern?

I’m not talking about the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, which proved itself almost completely lacking in rational thought during the smoking ban debate, but a new union tasked with protecting those who will be forced to practice their trade in alleys and on street curbs this winter: The United Brotherhood of Hackers.

I’m not sure what kind of bargaining power a group of yellow-toothed barflies would hold against city government, but as loyal sons and daughters of Hoffa, it’s certain that they would be pandered to. If they could band together as a unified voting bloc and actually unglue themselves from their bar stools on election day, they just might make some noise during the next aldermanic election.

If the city did stick to its guns, I’m not sure that the threat of a strike would hold much sway, however. The smokers’ major grievance is that they don’t want to be forced to walk out of anywhere.

There are other problems to organizing labored breathers* as well. The union might spring for some snazzy satin jackets, but there would be little to offer in terms of benefits beyond being allowed to wallow in your own carcinogens. They probably wouldn’t be able to negotiate any type of health coverage, and collecting pension contributions would be a hard sell to a three pack-a-day smoker.

*I know, that's pretty weak. But it's in keeping with this entire post and most of the ones preceding it.


The 26th Man said...

The right of these union workers to smoke in designated areas is something that was collectively bargained in a legally binding contract.

Why shouldn't they be allowed to operate under the terms of a contract that was bargained long before any smoke ban would take effect?

It seems that since the pro-ban folks have taken certain property rights away, they think they also are above federal labor law.

Screw that crap squarely in the arse.

I don't smoke, and I don't think other people should either. But I secretly hope that business owners will encourage (or at least don't discourage) patrons to channel their inner Thoreau.

"Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.”

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


I don’t know the legalities behind the whole thing, but I would think that a city ordinance would trump a union contract provision. If the FDA banned a certain drug after I entered into a contract to purchase a case of said drug, I still wouldn’t be able to distribute it at my pharmacy. Maybe that’s not the best analogy, but then again, this isn’t the best blog.

As for encouraging people to break the law, have you been watching the Motorcycle Diaries again? You anarchist. Would you have Cardinal baserunners ignore Jose’s steal signs, all in the name of personal freedom?

I agree with you to the extent that if you have a bar where the owner, workers, and patrons all smoke, it’s kind of silly to tell them that they can’t.

But in the broader view, how is telling a restaurant that they can’t allow smoking any different than telling them that they can’t store meat at room temperature? They’re both health issues that the medical community and society in general have determined are for the common good. You can still keep your hamburger in the bread box at home, just like you can still smoke at home. You just can’t serve up rancid beef and poisoned air to the public.

Thanks for commenting,

The 26th Man said...

Re: the union contract, that provision was bargained before smoking was made illegal. They've long exercised this right, and now all of a sudden they can't because of something completely unrelated to the contract? I would think federal labor law trumps city ordinance on this. Once the union contract expires, then the no-smoking policy can be bargained in. Or maybe they will re-negotiate the contract now, with the union gaining concessions in exchange for giving up their previously bargained right to smoke.

The rancid meat analogy is an interesting one, but it doesn't really apply here.

In your example, the restaurant owner would have to actively serve up the funky flesh. But with smoking, the owner is merely providing a forum for a person to partake of an legal product, not actively supplying the smoke.

I agree that a person has a right not to breathe foul air. But that person also has a right not to go to places with foul air. A person also should have the right to determine whether another person can consume a legal product on the first person's private property.

I don't allow smoking in my home. That is my right. But I can't allow smoking in my theoretical restaurant, which also would be my own property?

The 26th Man said...

Oh, and I'm no anarchist.

Just a filthy, contemptible liberal who has the nerve to also believe in liberty and personal freedom.

nancy said...

26th Man

I'm not being sarcastic here, but do the union contracts specifically allow smoking in these buildings, or do they just fail to not allow it? Are the designated areas actually designated, or are they just providing "a designated area", which could then be moved outside, 10 feet from the building. Take for example, employees of St. John's or SIU who, for most of them at least, had nothing in their contracts prohibiting them from smoking outside their buildings at the time they were hired. But now they can't. Do they have a case for breach of contract? I'm curious, because I'm a total bleeding heart, but everything about smoking bans feels just fine to me. What happens to the nonsmokers inside these state-leased buildings? They are no less susceptible to the dangers of second-hand smoke. Maybe the union could try bargaining better health as a concession to the smoking ban. What member could argue with that?

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

In your example, the restaurant owner would have to actively serve up the funky flesh.

Not really. If a health inspector finds bad meat, he doesn't have to prove it ever left the kitchen before citing a violation.

the owner is merely providing a forum for a person to partake of an legal product, not actively supplying the smoke.

Even if customers were responsible for bringing in bad meat, which in itself is a legal product, the proprietor would still be responsible, would he not? There are a lot of things that are legal to do in your home (have sex with your wife for example) that aren't legal to do in a restaurant.

A person also should have the right to determine whether another person can consume a legal product on the first person's private property.

You seem not to want to make a distinction between private property and a public space. You're free to eat your morning Malt-o-meal at home without a stich on. But if you owned a restaurant and allowed your patrons to eat naked, you'd be shut down. Is that a violation of your rights as a property owner?

My point is this: if banning smoking in your hypothetical restaurant is a violation of your rights, then why aren't bans against bad meat, nudity, and sex equally wrong? None of those things are illegal in and of themselves.

BTW. I was kidding about the anarchist comment. I'm pretty liberal on a lot of things as well, I just think that there is cause to provide safeguards for the public good.

Thanks for commenting,

monkey boy said...

Hate the smoke, love the smoker.


I'm kind of interested in the sex with your wife in a restaurant part. Can you elaborate on what that entails? Thanks again.


You really are liberal aren't you?

clownsarescary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
clownsarescary said...

When Springfield starts to emulate San Fransisco, it's time to light a match!

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

I'm sure you are Monkey Boy, but I was merely trying to make a point that not everything that is legal to do, is legal to do in a restaurant. I apologize for firing-up your imagination and further apologizes go to your wife, who, no doubt, will be the real loser as the result of all of this.

Thanks for commenting,