Are unions evil? No, just obsolete

The absolutely despicable behavior displayed by the pro-union thugs in Wisconsin (check out the Althouse-Meade team’s citizen journalism straight from Madison) has turned out to be everything the make-believe media claimedf the Tea Party was. It may be seductive to some on the right to think that unions are evil, and one could be forgiven for thinking the WI public sector unions were following the book by Draco Carnegie (Dale Carnegie’s evil twin): “How to lose friends and alienate people”.

Unlike some conservatives, I do not harbor starry-eyed illusions that bosses never exploit workers, and that workers never need represesntation or protection. This is not because of any residual liberal convictions but because — like any good conservative — I realize entrepreneurs are humans too and no human flaws will be alien to them.

Once upon a time, unions did a lot of good in remedying intolerable working conditions. However, when the “sweatshops” and slave-labor mines of old fell before the twin onslaught of worker activism and technological progress (many “progressives” are incapable of admitting that technological progress has done more to empower non-privileged individuals than all social engineering schemes ever devised together), the unions saw themselves faced with the need to either reinvent themselves or fade away.

Sometimes, as discussed in this golden oldie by Steven den Beste, an organization that outlives the problem it is meant to address will successfully reinvent itself. Far more commonly, the organization will artificially seek to perpetuate a problem in order to justify its continued existence and expansion, or try to inflate residual isolated problems into grand societal challenges . The UNRWA is a tragic example; an organization like SPLC a merely farcical one.

Robert Samuelson has a must-read article in the Washington Post today. Get thee over there, but let me share with you some data from the article that really floored me.

How much of the workforce do unions represent? Turns out, just 11.9% nationwide. In the private sector, thiis drops to just 6.9% (!), while in the public sector, 36.2% of workers is unionized. (These numbers, actually, imply that 17.1% of the American workforce works in the public sector.)

In other words, as Samuelson argues, unions are becoming largely irrelevant in the private sector, and are essentially becoming a public-sector phenomenon. Which is why attempts to curtail their influence in their last remaining bulwark are (correctly) perceived by union leadership as an existential threat.

Moreover, Simon at Power and Control (crosspost at Classical Values) points to data suggesting that the unions are in dire financial shape.  They “went for broke” in supporting 0bama, in the hope that he would oversee either a massive expansion of the governmental workforce, or introduce union-friendly “card check” legislation restoring their power base in the private sector, or both.

Ironically, Federal government employees (as distinct from state and local ones) have greatly curtailed collective bargaining rights:

While labor unions that represent federal workers do have some collective bargaining rights, provisions in the Civil Service Reform Act passed under President Carter in 1978 restrict federal employees from using it for pay or pensions and federal workers cannot be forced into a union or required to pay dues.

Pournelle’s Iron Law states that any bureaucratic organization will eventually become dominated by people that work not for its stated ends, but for the organization for its own sake and for the sake of their own private bureaucratic empires. Precisely this is what happened to unions in the USA.

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