XI.3: The Growth of Labor Union Power

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The Growth of Labor Union Power

Organizations in general are growing in power.

In an earlier post, I discussed how governments are getting bigger and more powerful with time. In another post I showed how corporations are doing the same. But the truth is that organizations in general are increasing their power, and all for the same reasons. Even organizations whose supposed purpose is to help the “little guy” are growing in power and making more money for their leaders. For example, let’s look at the growth of labor union power.

First let’s acknowledge the positive side – labor unions have greatly enhanced our lives by eliminating child labor, enforcing more reasonable work hours, and requiring safer working environments. They should obviously be honored for these improvements to our society.

But there has long been a strong connection between big labor and organized crime as indicated in a report prepared for the White House in 1978:

At least four international unions are completely dominated by men who either have strong ties to or are members of the organized crime syndicate. … Convictions for misconduct have been sparse and when one corrupt official is removed another soon takes his place. … The cost is passed on to the consumer. (Organized Crime and the Labor Unions)

Today’s top labor union leaders make million dollar salaries from member dues, while the members’ salaries have more or less stagnated.

For example, the inflation-adjusted median income of American families only rose by two percent from 1969 to 1992. (Danziger et al. [1997] 2000, 351)

It is not merely a liberal extremist assumption that the top 1% of Americans is getting richer while middle class wages stagnate. For example, several authors have provided much statistical evidence for claims of widening income disparity. (Ackerman [1997] 2000, 1) (Harrison [1997] 2000, 123)

Where will all this leave your great-grandchildren?

It is a well-established fact that, while labor union power is growing, membership is shrinking. If labor union members’ salaries were doing any better than average, then why would labor union participation be shrinking?

Local communities could do a much better job than labor unions of bargaining with companies located within those communities.

And they could be even more effective if they could control local business licensing. And given that the cost of living and the availability of labor and jobs vary so much across the nation, local communities should also set minimum wages locally. Of course, all the above would require much more local authority than states now allow.

Which of the following statements do you believe?

  1. Wages are failing to improve because labor union participation is shrinking, or
  2. Labor union participation is shrinking because unions are failing to improve members’ wages.

And which do think could do a better job of collective bargaining with companies – labor unions or local communities.

This site is for discussing how to improve our political system. It is NOT for discussing party politics or political figures. So if you have a non-partisan question or comment, feel free to leave it below.

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Ackerman, Frank. [1997] 2000. “Unequal Earnings: Theory versus Reality – Overview Essay”. In The Political Economy of Inequality, eds. Frank Ackerman, Neva R. Goodwill, Laurie Dougherty, and Kevin Gallagher. Canada: Island Press.

Danziger, Sheldon; Sandra Danziger; Jonathan Stern. [1997] 2000. “Summary of – The American Paradox: High Income and High Child Poverty”. In The Political Economy of Inequality, eds. Frank Ackerman, Neva R. Goodwill, Laurie Dougherty, and Kevin Gallagher. Canada: Island Press. (Originally published in Child Poverty and Deprivation in the Industrialized Countries 1945-1995. eds. Giovanni Andrea Corvica and Sheldon Danziger (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 181-209.)

Harrison, Bennett. [1997] 2000. “Summary of – The Dark Side of Flexible Production”. In The Political Economy of Inequality, eds. Frank Ackerman, Neva R. Goodwill, Laurie Dougherty, and Kevin Gallagher. Canada: Island Press. (Originally published in Lean and Mean (New York: Guilford, 1994), Ch. 9,189-216.)

Organized Crime and the Labor Unions. Prepared for the White House in 1978. http://www.laborers.org/VAIRA_MEMO.html (Accessed Jul. 14, 2017).

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