Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Union shops.

I took a peek at the London Free Press tonight, to see what's going on back-home-a-ways, and saw a story that described how Unifor is looking to organize workers at Toyota plants in Woodstock and Cambridge. (Apparently it isn't the first time they've tried.)

Like an idiot, I took a look at the comments section below the article. At the best of times, they're inoffensive and stupid... but, of course, this being an article about unions, it brought out the labour-bashers in full force.

London has been a manufacturing town for a long time, but lately a lot of industry has left the area for Right To Work (i.e. "right to work for less") US states, Mexico, China, the whole nine. Now, you'd think that, in an environment like that, people would be in favour of organizations that look to protect workers and good-paying jobs, right? Wrong.

I saw a comment which went along the lines of, "If unions went away, that would make the cost of doing business less, which would make goods cheaper, and you could live on a lower wage and still buy these things." There are, however, several things wrong with this.
  • Prices are, as economists say, "sticky downward" -- they go up quickly and easily enough, but they don't come down without a big fight.
  • You mean to tell me that some company which is chintzy enough to cockblock their workers' (totally legal) right to unionize wouldn't just pocket the difference between union and non-union wages as profit?
    • They obviously would.
    • If they didn't, and their shareholders found out, that company would have a mutiny in the boardroom.
  • Your motivation for denying people their right to organize and flex their collective muscle is because you want to be able to buy a couple of things a little cheaper?
All of this, of course, is against a backdrop of overall declining union enrolment, especially in the private sector. What I don't get is how people (a.) notice things are generally getting shittier for working people, (b.) see the decline in rates of unionization, and (c.) don't put (a.) and (b.) together.

Could it possibly be that unions help raise the standard for all workers? Think about it... two companies, X and Y, run widget factories. X is unionized and Y isn't; Y pays lower wages than X for the same job. Now, if the gap between wages at X and Y is too big -- i.e., Y is too low -- Y isn't going to be able to attract enough workers, because they'll all go to work at X. (If they settle for Y, they're probably not going to be as happy or productive, and their output suffers; you get what you pay for.) Therefore, wages at Y are tied to the wages at X, and a rising tide lifts all boats, q.e.d.

No comments:

Post a Comment