14 February 2010

Democrats Shoot Selves in Foot, Screw Unions Again

My friend and companion Susan sent me this column by Harold Meyerson at The Washington Post. Meyerson seems just right regarding the broad political and economic consequences of the demise of unions. The Democrats - wittingly or witlessly - have more or less orchestrated that demise. It is not that the unions are blameless. But the legal environment in which they operate is structured to the advantage of employers in a stark way. And that is a state of affairs that the Democrats repeatedly have failed to remedy. They always have some other priority.

So, as Meyerson notes, the problem is not just that Obama's first year "has been close to an unmitigated disaster" for organized labor, most especially because the chances of passing even a compromise version of the Employee Free Choice Act have evaporated due the administration's political incompetence. The problem is that this is like groundhog day. Meyerson points out that "this marks the fourth time in the past half-century that labor's efforts to strengthen workers' ability to organize have been deferred by the Democratic presidents and the heavily Democratic Congresses they supported." Maybe the unions need a new political strategy?

I am sure some readers will write in to suggest that unions are bad for economic performance . . . blah, blah, blah. Let's just recall that the truly nasty, unjustifiable mal-distribution of wealth and income in the U.S., to say nothing of the deregulation that generated our recent financial meltdown, have been generated - indeed accelerated - during decades of marked union decline. I don't know if there is a causal story there, but the correlation is inverse. What we know is that absent strong unions the S*!T has hit the fan in economic terms.

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Blogger Tom White said...

The history of the Labour Union movement in the U.K. and it's effects on the economy and political strategy is also a fascinating one. The relationship between politics and economy is on open display through the unions and part of Thatcher's economic strategy in the 1980's was an overt attempt to smash the Union's political powers - powers that in the early years of the 20th cenury were able to hold governments to ransom and press for legislation for better pay and conditions. No government, left or right leaning would like to see that happen to them.

14 February, 2010 22:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Technology has replaced a lot of low skilled labor. Globalization is doing its part, too. In today's business environment, you just can't justify paying $30 per hour plus benefits for some guy to screw in a plastic panel. That era is done and I have no idea what will, or can, replace it.

16 February, 2010 11:00  

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