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Monday, July 25, 2005

Sweet, sweet justice

Stephen Green explains why he is not fond of unions, and why this story about the ALF-CIO splitting up fills him with glee. Read the whole thing. My belief on unions is pretty basic. I think that they should be allowed. I don't think that they should be mandated though, or that the government should EVER get involved with negotiations between an employer and it's employees (other than enforcing contracts and basic labor laws.) The duty of the government is to keep either side from employeeing violence. As long as the unions don't beat up the managers (or even more likely those employees who do not wish to be in a union) and as long as the company doesn't beat up the union members they should be free to negotiate with one another as best they can. I will go so far as to say that the government can legitimately prevent an employer from firing someone for attempting to form a union. Beyond that though, the government should be neutral in who 'wins' any negotiations. The government certainly has no business promoting union workers over non-union workers. Obviously this is a bit more muddled when the government is also the employer, obviously politics plays a huge role in that situation, something I am willing to live with. I think that a good portion of the troubles that unions are facing is a result of overreach on their part. Rather than working to ensure that they have the right to collectively bargain, they instead tried to politically gain a monopoly on labor. In some cases this failed, and they were discredited by this failure. More damaging though was when this tactic succeeded. Having a monopoly on labor changed their negotiating practices and methods. To a large degree, the political arena, rather than the marketplace, became the fundamental focus for labor negotiations. Just like the Soviet Union discovered, political arenas make a very poor substitute for the market in determining fair values. As a result, labor has largely killed the golden goose that supported it. It is my belief, that if unions had remained focused on bargaining with employers, rather than controling the negotiations through politics, we would have a stronger economy, and stronger unions today. That would have been a good thing.

4 Comments:

Blogger RFTR said...

How do you feel about what Walmart did in Canada? One of their Canadian stores managed to unionize--so Walmart closed the store entirely.

7/25/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I don't know all the details of that particular event, but I generally agree that that is a viable option.

First off, I expect when you say 'managed to unionize' what really happened was that they managed to get the Canadian or a provincial government (I am unclear about Canadian labor laws) to enfoce a union monopoly.

In that environment, Walmart would be forced to negotiate with the union without having an option of going outside the union for employment, and it makes good sense to simply refuse to negotiate in that environment, even if it means closing the store.

In my opinion, Walmart employees should be allowed to unionize and collectively bargain, but Walmart should not be forced to bargain with them, they can instead offer jobs to non-union people if they are unable to strike a contract with the 'Walmart union' that they like.

The Walmart unions negotiating position should be based upon getting enough employees to join in on the union effort, not by getting a government to enforce a monopoly on labor. The difference between the two is signifigant, mostly in that to be effective at the former, you have to take into account the actual labor market in the locality you are working in. If you demand signifigantly more than the labor market does, the employer will be able to undercut your position and fill their employment needs through non-union employment. If on the other hand your demands are reasonable, and in line with what the market will bear, you have a chance to establish a decent union that an employer can do business with.

7/25/2005 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I'll post more on this some day, but I agree 100% with what Dave says, and my feelings about Canadian Walmart are the same.

I think there are pros and cons to unionizing, just as there are to employing union members. If Walmart wants to close their entire store, so be it. They lost QUITE a bit in doing that, but at the end of the day it is their prerogative.

I guess that is the Libertarian in me crying out.

7/25/2005 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Random Gemini said...

I also agree with Dave. If your employees unionize at a site, and you don't want to have to negotiate with a union then you, as an employer, have a right to close down the site, rather than negotiate with the union.

Wal-mart lost revenue from that location, and lost the money spent maintaining the building, but it was their choice.

7/25/2005 02:36:00 PM  

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