Scott Walker’s union busting is necessary for a freer individual and better unions

If the progressives best argument against Scott Walker’s support for legislation that would prohibit non-union workers from having to pay union fees is that his move his motivated by the 2016 election, then they don’t have much of an argument.  Today the Republican governor of Wisconsin signed a right-to-work bill into law.  The law prevents organized labor from assessing union fees on non-union members.

Unions and their progressive supporters are up in arms claiming that Mr. Walker is motivated to support the legislation in order to further establish his conservative bona fides with Republicans should he pursue the GOP nomination for president.  Progressives are also concerned that by reducing an underwriting stream for unions, collective bargaining may find itself heading faster toward dodo bird status.

For the individual taking an entrepreneurial approach to his labor, right to work laws reduce the cost constraints she faces when delivering labor in exchange for compensation.  Why should she have to reduce the amount of her take home pay in order to subsidize a mechanism that acts as a bottleneck to hiring labor?  Union demands result in increased labor costs for employers and this has a negative impact on labor. Why? Because is the cost of employing human resources gets too high, employers will opt for more technology, especially technology that needs less himan resources to operate it.

In addition, Mr. Walker’s actions help to expand the pool of available labor.  Resource expansion should be one of the primary goals of government and by making it less costly for labor to come to the market and sell its services to employers, Mr. Walker’s actions helps government meet that obligation and brings value to all society instead of a limited set of progressive self interests.

We also have to stop living in the past when it comes to the role of labor unions.  They have been living on vapor, riding a glorious past filled with triumphs that brought better working conditions to the workplace.

But that was yesterday.  Thanks to advocacy by unions and other groups, today we have laws and rules that govern an employer’s obligation to provide a safe physical working environment for employees.  There are laws and regulations defining minimum wage for private sector and government employees, record keeping, and child labor.

If unions want to continue playing a significant role for labor in society, it should change its business model.  Rather than trying to play economic bottleneck in the labor market, it should change its business model to that of a clearinghouse of information on how labor can better prepare itself for the work demands of the 21st century.  The labor markets are changing.  Producers and capital are demanding a flexible labor force that is more freelance or entrepreneurial as employers attempt to further lessen their labor costs.  Laws won’t be the final undoing of labor unions.  It will be their inability to adjust and stay relevant in a changing world.

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
This entry was posted in Economy, labor, Political Economy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Scott Walker’s union busting is necessary for a freer individual and better unions

  1. kenski2013 says:

    “Thanks to advocacy by unions and other groups, today we have laws and rules that govern an employer’s obligation to provide a safe physical working environment for employees. There are laws and regulations defining minimum wage for private sector and government employees, record keeping, and child labor.”

    That’s true. However, unions have done more than advocate for legislation. They have also gotten better wages and benefits in many cases (like UAW, Machinists, Teamsters, UFCW), and also provided protections for their workers.

    I recently met a man who had been an auto mechanic for more than 35 years. On his 62nd birthday, he was summarily terminated, probably, he related, because he had a journeyman wage and four weeks vacation, while a new hire would have neither. Judging by what he said, this sounded like a prima facie case of age discrimination.
    His labor union got this situation before an arbitrator, and he was given a “settlement” (he could not discuss the details). In all likelihood, he could have sued based on the Age Discrimination Act, but having his union advocate for him likely made it easier for him to get a settlement.

    “Producers and capital are demanding a flexible labor force that is more freelance or entrepreneurial as employers attempt to further lessen their labor costs.”

    What this means in operational terms is that employers want to have workers take on owner/entrepreneurial risks without also sharing in the benefits that come with taking those risks. Most workers try to do a great job, but many don’t want to work 60-100 hours a week for 40 hours pay and no additional benefits. Personal experience teaches that there are many owners who would love it if their employees did work many hours for no additional compensation while they (owners) rack up the money. Owners want employees to “think like an owner”, but don’t want to share the profits as if the employees were owners.

    I have always said that it takes big power to deal with big power. The individual employee doesn’t have much power when dealing with a business. Unions can help equalize that imbalance.

  2. kenski2013 says:

    From the article:

    “State law currently allows factory or retail employees to work seven days or more in a row for a limited period, but they and their employer have to jointly petition the Department of Workforce Development for a waiver. These petitions apparently number a couple of hundred a year. The new proposal would allow workers to “voluntarily choose” to work without a day of rest. The state agency wouldn’t have a say.

    It can’t be a secret what “voluntarily” really means in this context. As Marquette University law professor Paul Secunda told the Nation, the measure “completely ignores the power dynamic in the workplace, where workers often have a proverbial gun to the head.” Workers will know that if the boss demands it, they’ll be volunteering or else. “

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