The efficacy of unions has been repeatedly assaulted over the last thirty years, and the onslaught continues. Unions are now a shadow of their former selves.
For our political system to be successful there needs to be a balance of power. A balance between state and federal power and a balance of power among the branches government. I would also argue that for our economic system to be successful there needs to be a balance of power in the economy as well, between employer and employee. Since the 1980s or so, and due to government policy, the balance of power has dramatically shifted toward the employers.
I don’t understand this hostility to unions, or more specifically labor unions. Labor unions are simply groups of people who band together to get the most for their labor. In some sense they are a lot like corporations, or rather corporations are a lot like unions. Corporations are groups of people who band together to get the greatest return on their investments.
What is a corporation if not a union of capital?
About a week or so ago I posted a link to the State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: China.” I was reading through the report and a couple of passages stood out. These were taken from the section on workers’ rights:
"The law does not provide for freedom of association, as workers are not free to organize or join unions of their own choosing. Independent unions are illegal, and the right to strike is not protected in law." (Pg. 66)
"There is no legal obligation for employers to negotiate, and some employers refused to do so." (Pg. 66)
"Government officials took a more prominent role in resolving some labor disputes, although not necessarily in the favor of striking workers. For example, a four-day strike by 4,000 workers at a South Korean-owned handbag factory in Guangzhou’s Panyu District ended on June 23, when police arrested at least six workers, according to foreign press reports. The strike ended without workers winning any concessions on wages and conditions on which the walk-out was based." (Pg. 69)
I find this more than a little ironic that the US would include a lack of union rights in a report detailing China’s human rights abuses.
OK, so the US may not be as bad as China on this, but after recent events (Wisconsin) it seems that we may be moving in their direction. Over the last thirty years the power of unions has been systematically reduced, and now there are people on the right (Mitch Daniels) saying that public sector unions should go all together.