State of the Unions?

I was reading about Tom Morello’s participation against the current “union-busting in Wisconsin,” as Rolling Stone describes it.

Morello said:

I grew up with a firm belief that the leverage we have as working people is through the union. It’s the only counterweight to the greed of corporate power.

I wish I could agree.The truth is that the true “counterweight to the greed of corporate power” is to withhold labor. That is, after all, what divides the have-nots from the haves: one group slaves for the other. Applying the law of supply and demand, in order to normalize compensation (whether financial or otherwise), workers must deny work so that the companies will be desperate enough to be willing to compromise – scarcity of work means increased compensation. In other words, go on strike til you get what you want.

Ah, but wait, this never works. Why? Unemployment. As long as there is another dude out there who is willing to take the job, possibly for less, that compensation is not going to budge. Again, law of supply and demand – surplus of workers means reduced compensation. In a perfect world, people will collectively withhold labor until compensation is normalized, but our world is not perfect. Alas!

I can understand, though, why people have so much faith in unions. There is safety in numbers, as the conventional wisdom goes. Unions aren’t so pure though; they are quite possibly as greedy as the companies themselves. Take the auto industry, for example. Ask car manufacturers what happens when they buy a machine that replaces a skilled human worker. Ask them whether the money that they continually pay to those laid off has anything to do with the current state of the industry. The only difference with union greed and corporate greed is that union greed hides behind the idea that “unions protect the interests of the workers.” Well, yes. To the companies’ demise, of course.

Times like these I can’t help but wish everyone would just read Atlast Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Sure, objectivism has its flaws, but I think people will get a kick out of reading it. As for me, this is what I take away from reading the novel: Rely on no one else but yourself, rely on nothing else but your hard work, and pursue nothing else but your own happiness.

That means, my dear friends, forget the unions. Our time is better spent.

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