Speed Reads

Labor wars

Gorging goats generate union grievance

The threat to good, American jobs at Western Michigan University is not immigrants or even robots but a team of brush-clearing goats for hire. The goats' efficient landscaping work was raised the ire of a labor union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which argued in a formal grievance the goats are stealing union workers' jobs.

The university says the goats are the most cost-effective and sustainable way to clear the brush. "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," a school representative said. "Not wanting to use chemicals, either, we chose the goat solution to stay environmentally friendly."

As for how many humans the goats can realistically replace, The Washington Post calculates a single worker equipped with a tractor can clear as much brush as 3,600 goats in one month of work. With just 20 goats munching at Western Michigan, the union is fighting for a fraction of a job.