Thursday, December 13, 2012

Right-to-work OR race-to-the-bottom?

Hard to believe "right-to-work" has arrived in Michigan.
The Detroit area, called Motor City, was once the centre of the universe for automobile manufacturing. Michigan was a fantastic wealth-producer as well as being heavily unionized and really one of the centres for the labour movement in America. Things have changed, that's what competition does.

The manufacturing sector has been shrinking in Michigan since year 2000, and has only weakly recovered in recent years, much of that due to artificial government "stimulus."

But competition has also pushed Michigan to act. Earlier this year neighbouring Indiana became a right-to-work state, so, lose jobs to Indiana or stop the bleeding, that was the choice for Michigan.

Of course Michigan borders Ontario, so are we next? We can hope, but not likely, not yet.

The principle behind right-to-work clearly lines up with the libertarian non-aggression principle. Workers should be able to join and contribute fees to a union or not. Employers should have the right to choose their employees based on whatever criteria they please. Workers should be able to freely associate and form collective bargaining units (unions) and approach employers with terms. Employers should be free to bargain with the union or other workers who are NOT members of the union. Unions and union members do not own the jobs they have, the jobs are the property of the employer/owner of the business. Right-to-work for workers means freedom to choose to belong to a union or not, within a free market.

Of course none of that squares with the way unions operate in reality. Generally the "brothers and sisters" do not appreciate independent thinkers in the workforce and are more likely to bludgeon (and I mean literally) reluctant joiners into joining. This practice of union coercion is referred to as "hard fought gains" by the mainstream media. One of my least favourite reporters from CBC, Neil Macdonald, wrote his fair-minded assessment of the situation here. I'm not sure which of the thirteen "!" CBC unions Macdonald belongs to, but even he couldn't ignore reality in that missive:

"Now, it is unarguably true the unions brought a lot of their misfortune upon themselves. The larger ones have often been corrupt and sometimes entangled with organized crime." Oh really?

Evidence that union jobs don't belong to the union members came recently in the dispute with Hostess Brands. Two unions were involved, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Union (part of the AFL-CIO). The story is complicated, Hostess has been struggling for some time now, 8 of the last 11 years were in bankruptcy, and blame is shared all around. But to give you an idea as to how unions help business this is from a story in the Wall Street Journal:

"Under the latest turnaround plan, the sticking point was Hostess's distribution operations, source of the Hostess horror stories filling the media. Union-imposed work rules stopped drivers from helping to load their trucks. A separate worker, arriving at the store in a separate vehicle, had to be employed to shift goods from a storage area to a retailer's shelf. Wonder Bread and Twinkies couldn't ride on the same truck."

Rules are rules, and sometimes they get in the way. Hostess is being liquidated and the jobs are gone for 18,500 people, but the union wins a Pyrrhic victory, whoop-dee-do.

Jon Stewart called right-to-work a race to the bottom and went on to say: "It's one of those things that are actually named for the opposite of the thing they do, like strip bars call themselves gentlemen's clubs."  I think he got that wrong. What unions want is the right-to-coerce, what should be, is the free market.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.