Conflicting Interests – Environmentalists Oppose Clean Air Plan

There was an interesting story on multi-party negotiations in the WSJ, “Environmentalists Oppose Clean Air Plan“. It is not that they are against clean air but object to a plan that disallowed big trucking companies and instead encouraged owner-operators. On the surface it would look like the environmentalists support the big trucking companies, but it is only because the workers of these companies are the members of the union that supports the environmentalists. The union is against the plan as well and favored the trucking companies.

The Mayor of the City, Villaraigosa, is for the trucking companies as well. He couches his argument with environmental concerns by saying, “Right now, the burden to clean up and retrofit the trucks is on an independent contractor who makes $11 an hour and has no benefits. They are never going to have the resources to do that.”

Only the Port Officials seem to support the poor independent truck operators. That is again not out of the concern for them but from the fear that the union will end up unionizing the port workers.

Do environmentalists care more about the environment or union jobs? Why do the unions support the cause of environmentalists? Why do unions sometime side with management? Does the mayor of a city care about protecting jobs or the environment?

The answer is, it is a package. An individual issue matters only to the extent it adds to the total value of the package. If winning one issue would add more to the package than losing or compromising on another, the parties would do just that. Sometimes the issues are hidden and are based on long term  concerns than what is currently at play. For example, the environmentalists want the union support in all their battles, port officials are afraid of unionization, etc.

This is a text book case of multi-party negotiations. Everyone is trying to maximize their share of the pie and have more riding on this negotiation that it meets the eye. They all will be willing to trade one for the other as long their share keeps increasing.