Sunday, July 10, 2005

Systematically Dissecting Unions: Introduction

A creation of the 19th century and industrialization in the Western World, unions in the United States and Europe have been negotiating with business for the rights of workers for over 150 years now. Unions emerged when workers often faced long days (often 12 to 16 hours) and were subject to unsafe work conditions. These collective institutions pushed for major reform in the areas of child labor, workweeks, and vacation time which helped the average worker. While unions did provide an important intermediary between business and labor and were instrumental in lobbying for a number of pieces of legislation, their subsistence has led to interference in the labor and economic markets, a culture of laziness (for certain union members), increased capital mobility, and inherent inefficiency. In an era of increasing technology, soft intellectual labor, and fairly strict government labor laws, the question is whether unions in industrialized nations such as the US have outlived their primary societal functions and need for existence? The quick answer is “yes” which will be reflected in the rest of the series.

Next: Interference in the Labor and Economic Markets


  • I don't think the issue here is unions themselves. It's the politcal power they've developed. I think the idea of labor unions is important as a force to participate in the free market, making it so that workers (the little guys) can influence the labor market as much as employers (the big guy). Where the problem with unions started is when they became players in the political game. Instead of a force within the free market for labor, they became a special interest group, and a force to restrict the free market for labor. That's where increased production mobility, and other stuff comes in. When Unions make the standard wage go up not by refusing to work for less, but by getting the government to raise it when they get fired for refusing to work for less, there's a problem. The idea of unionizing comes with the benefits of increased position in a competitive market. It also comes with the risk of competition from non-unionized employees. Or at least it should.

    By Blogger BadgerZach, at 3:39 AM  

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