How to Start a Local Labor Union
I was recently sitting down with an old acquaintance, and the conversation turned to his job. He works in construction, and was frustrated with the fact that during the last economic downturn wages went down, but despite the recent uptick they hadn’t risen.
This problem of cost disease is endemic throughout the West. The volume on your soda bottle goes down, but the price remains the same. You take on more responsibilities at work, but you continue to make the same wage. New technologies lay people off, while demanding higher skill levels amongst those who remain, with no commensurate increase in pay.
I’m a strong believer in the efficiency of free markets, but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to workers unions. Free association is a crucial element in a free society, and the decision to bargain collectively is just one of its forms. Furthermore, the union can serve a vital function in the economy.
No sane Capitalist wants to benefit from the tragedy of the commons – short term profit at the cost of destroying the industry – and unions can provide a vital signalling function, allowing owners to understand what things are like “on the ground”, alleviating the long-term costs of aggressive, exploitative policies, which can wind up destroying the labor force which their company relies upon.
There is nothing inherently wrong with unions, but it’s become a dirty word because of the dirty practices they’ve engaged in. At the turn of the last century, factory owners were hiring the Pinkerton detective agency to threaten and assault striking workers; the unions responded by getting into bed with organized crime and Democrat politicians, embracing the Marxist “gimme dat” philosophy, which is just as destructive as the “rape and pillage” philosophy of Robber Barons.
None of this indicts the principle of unionization; it is merely an indictment of corrupt practices. And in this era of increased globalization – of the new Robber Barons who live overseas, and plan to turn the entire world into a company store – a return to domestic workers rights and fair negotiations is a crucial plank in maintaining middle class independence.