Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Unions -- the dinosaurs among us

Thomas Sowell writes here about the fact that unions continue to put forward the idea that one can get something for nothing -- an idea that is bringing down General Motors and that is making government ever more expensive and inefficient. I've long been hostile to unions. My Dad was a member of the Teacher's Union in the 1960s and 1970s. He was an old Communist, but he loathed the union, believing that it functioned solely to advance politically correct ideas about teaching that interfered with actual learning. (PC is nothing new.) The big fight then was about bilingual education which, in practical application, meant that Hispanic children got their entire education in Spanish, and never learned any English -- making it impossible for them to join the American economic mainstream. The one thing the union never succeeded in doing, and never really intended to do, was make sure that teachers got a living wage. It was, however, incredibly effective at keeping incompetent, and even dangerous, teachers in place, sucking of monies that could have been better used for the real teachers among the crowd. I got my own dose of unionism in the 1980s when I worked in a hospital. The union's stranglehold on the hospital meant that it was virtually impossible to fire the most incompetent -- and, in the context of healthcare -- dangerous employees. One just had to hold ones breath and hope they'd quit, which wasn't something people holding union benefits and job security would easily do. The problem with unions, I think, is that, in the early years of the 21st Century, they act is if we are experiencing the same management/labor asymmetry that characterized the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries. In those days, to make some sweeping generalizations, labor had no advantages at all: members of the bottom-most rungs of the working class were entirely uneducated, a huge number spoke no English, and they had limited mobility. In addition, there had no Legislation at their backs -- there were no minimum wage laws, no workplace safety laws, no anti-discrimination laws, etc. All power resided with the employer. The same is not true now. In States such as California, for example, the laws are so hostile to the employers, it's not even funny. The Unions of the 20th Century effectively won their war by smoothing out the asymmetries that used to characterize the employment relationship. Now, Unions have become parasites, forcing employees to become members, and sucking the life out of business, government, education and healthcare. To my mind, the purpose behind a union is to provide a more level playing field within which labor and management can fairly negotiate. Modern unions, however, focus their entire energies on emptying the cookie jar of money, and filling it up with political ideology. (Bad metaphor, I know, but heck....) UPDATE: Just for the heck of it, I'm throwing in here a story about a clash between environmentalists and union plumbers. I don't know who has the right of the underlying argument, but these two groups are certainly not pulling in the same liberal harness, despite the fact that they both espouse principles that have clustered on the leftier side of the political spectrum. Talking to Technorati: , ,