Trade Unions, it can be persuasively argued, are the source of the general working conditions, and economic status that most of shared--and that most large corporations and reactionary governments are succeeding in tearing down.

Many people are ignorant of this history of trade unionism, and of what they, their parents, and their children owe to it, and the sacrifices made by the martyrs of the movement. They consider trade unions to be the orign of all the evil in the world, and all that keeps them from getting ahead.

They will have contributed to the lose of the hard won gains by electing political parties that have the backing of the rich, and the corporations that make the rich, long before they realize their error.

Many of these people are avid contributors to everything.

I think it is also worth a mention that there are specific laws governing how unions and employers deal with each other. Personally, I don't have a problem with people getting together for a common cause. I think employers should be free to fire people who don't work, and I don't think anyone should be forced to join a union just because they work at a particular place. The 40 hour work week and paid holidays are two of the more common benefits which were popularized due to union labor victories.

Some unions, such as the Teamsters have long been at least suspected of Mafia ties, so unions have a bad reputation with some people. Others, such as the National Education Association (NEA) seem to promote the welfare of its members at the expense of others. (all do, in reality, even if those bearing the burden are the employers and customers, but nobody wants to see people profiting at the kids' expense.)

A Civilization advance.
Labor Unions arose as factory and mine workers attempted to right the inequities in power caused by the Industrial Age. Binding their interests together and bargaining collectively, workers forced owners to provide better working conditions and economic status.
Prerequisites: Communism and Mass Production.
Allows for: none.

Labor Unions’ Greatest Enemy

    Labor unions blame their decline on a myriad of causes. In the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, factory workers endured harsh working conditions. Laborers collectivized into unions in order to improve their lives. These efforts were met with severe resistance that included violence and murder. The union members retaliated and eventually brought about desperately needed changes. Laws were passed to protect workers and their collective bargaining rights. Unions continued pressing for less work for more pay and benefits. Labor unions have declared capitalism to be their greatest enemy; but in reality, labor unions are their own greatest enemy.

    Many union supporters rationalize their beliefs in strange ways. Progressive Living posted an editorial blaming the off shoring of jobs on conservatives, corporations, and capitalism in general. Conservatives have continually promoted free trade agreements that caused job losses and slow job growth. NAFTA and the World Trade Organization are conservative inventions to help large corporations save money and destroy domestic jobs. Corporations prefer overseas production because of the lower taxes and labor costs. And above all, President George W. Bush is to blame for just about all of this. Tariffs and trade restrictions must be implemented to stop further globalization. To prevent businesses from sending jobs overseas, corporate taxes must be increased and domestic wages must be increased through more union power. According to the editorial:

The US should return to steeply progressive income taxes. When the ultrawealthy have nothing to gain from the process of globalization, the process will soon slow. This would also set the stage for desperately needed, and effective, trickle-up economics. When you put more money in the hands of working Americans, that money finds its way into the economy quickly. (“Offshoring”)

    These claims are delusional. A punitive tax system will not convince anyone with business overseas to bring the business back to where it will be taxed more and neither will higher domestic wages. Highly progressive income taxes punish success, take money that could be invested in job creation out of the economy, and eventually reduce tax revenues. Tariffs and trade restrictions are not viable options. Not only would they violate the NAFTA and the World Trade Organization treaties that were signed by President Clinton, tariffs and trade restrictions are generally met with retaliatory tariffs and trade restrictions.

    Some claim that unions protect businesses from import competition, but the reasoning behind that claim is highly suspect. A study, published in 2002, addresses the effects of import competition on unionized and nonunion companies. When import competition is introduced, unions immediately and voluntarily reduce their wages to slightly more than nonunion wages. The nonunion firms fold because they cannot compete with companies that have slightly higher labor costs. This increases unionization percentages allowing unions to demand higher wages (Shippen 134). This entire study is based on the premise that union labor is more efficient and that higher labor costs are enough of a competitive advantage to keep a business going when faced with import competition. Union planners rely on these studies for reliable information, but higher labor costs are a not business advantage and unions rarely agree to wage reductions. This report only tells union planners what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. If the predictions made in this study were true, a higher percentage of nonunion manufacturing jobs would be lost compared to union manufacturing jobs. According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from the year 2000 to 2010, twenty six percent of nonunion manufacturing jobs were lost while fifty percent of union manufacturing jobs were lost.

    Globalization coincides with the decrease in unionization percentages, but is not necessarily the direct cause. Free trade has no bearing on service sector unions and can increase union bargaining power in supply chain jobs. Despite the apparent connection between global competition and decreased unionization global competition is a not a major factor. Worker and employer opinion of unions, direct domestic investment, and the better productivity of non-union facilities are the biggest causes of the reduction of union influence. Griswold surmised:

The inescapable conclusion is that unionized companies in the United States have performed poorly relative to nonunion companies. To the extent that output and resources are mobile, poor union performance has led to a shift of production and employment away from unionized industries, firms, and plants and into the nonunion sector or to producers overseas. (Griswold 193)

    Unions have simply priced themselves out of competition. No employer wants to pay more for less productivity. The extra labor costs must be passed down to the consumer. Nonunion manufacturers are able to offer an equal or better product for less money. Consumers don’t like to pay more for less, either. In the end, the unions lose.

    Union influence has changed from direct negotiation with employers to political and legislative strong arming. According to Thiebolt, early unions relied on direct negotiation and lobbied for labor laws that were favorable to collective bargaining. While most of the laws they promoted were much needed worker protections and fair collective bargaining privileges, some were strictly self serving measures including union exemptions from anti-trust laws. Almost forty years ago, the Supreme Court granted union members immunity from prosecution for violence and extortion to achieve union objectives. Unions have relied more on political influence recently. Politicians relying on union campaign support have been promoting the Employee Free Choice Act which eliminates secret ballot voting for unionization (Thiebolt 38). Public perception of unions plays a large role in unionization decisions. Unions are often associated with violence, political corruption, and organized crime and for good reason. The violence and corruption are completely legal and no-one knows whatever happened to Jimmy Hoffa. Few people want to join a group of greedy, lazy thugs and even fewer want to employ them.

    Occasionally, a union will do something out of the ordinary and not be an enemy to them self. For the last several years, Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler have been losing money on the cars they make. Pickup truck sales have kept them in business but sales have been declining. Shortly before this last recession, all three entered into intense negotiations with their respective local United Auto Workers unions. McCracken reported that one local chapter accepted necessary changes. The head of that union, Jerry Sullivan, agreed to many concessions. Pay was not be reduced but overtime was all but abolished. The rules for sick days were changed drastically and local contracted outsourcing was allowed. In order to keep the car makers in business and most the union members employed, The United Auto Workers union was forced into severe concessions. McCracken stated:

Mr. Sullivan didn't have to look far for a worst-case scenario. He also represents 3,000 workers at nearby Rouge Steel, a steelmaking operation spun off from Ford that began bankruptcy proceedings in 2003. ‘Bankruptcy is devastating. People's pensions and health care can just be lost, taken away,’ he says. ‘We understand our work practices weren't the best. We know how dire it is.’ (McCracken)

Two years after these negotiations, Ford was the only domestic auto manufacturer not in bankruptcy. Mr. Sullivan acted in the best interest of all involved while his counterparts at the other two automakers took a selfish position that was in not in anyone’s best interest. Children who eat all their Halloween candy as soon as no-one is looking exhibit similar blind selfishness. Just like a child with no candy, a union with no employer has no-one to blame but themselves.

    For the most part, unions have outlived their usefulness since labor laws have replaced unions’ original purposes. Not content with biting the hand that feeds, unions’ war on capitalism has chewed off the entire arm and more. A business cannot remain competitive with its labor continually extorting more pay for less work. This extortion is legal. The business is left with no options but bankruptcy, folding, or both. When a parasite kills its host it must find a new one or die. Unions are running out of new hosts. Until unions start embracing a wider view than their current narrow selfishness, they will remain their own worst enemy.



Works Cited


Griswold, Daniel “Unions, Protectionism, and U.S. Competitiveness.
        Cato Journal 30.3 (2010): 181-196. Print.
McCracken, Jeffrey. “Tough Talks: Desperate to Cut Costs, Ford Gets Union’s Help.
        Wall Street Journal 2 March 2007: A1. Print.
"Offshoring American Jobs: An Ongoing Economic Catastrophe." Editorial. Progressive Living
        2010. http://www.progressiveliving.org/editorial_offshoring_American_jobs.htm
Shippen, Ben and Allen Lynch. “How International Trade Affects Union Wages: New
        Evidence.
” Journal of Labor Research 23.1 (2002): 131-144. Print.
Thiebolt, Armand. "Unions, the Rule of Law, and Political Rent seeking."
        Cato Journal 30.3 (2010): 23-44. Print.

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