Thursday, January 29, 2009

Of intelligence and unions

I've heard union-bashing rhetoric before, but it's usually not this bizarre:
It is glaringly obvious that Liebman does not think the individual worker is smart enough to be able to deal with his employers. And, worse, it seems that Liebman has no intention of allowing the worker to even have the chance to experience that freedom of individual choice but is rather more interested in supplanting such messy freedoms with total collectivism.

The idea that unions exist because liberals think that average folks are too dumb to deal with management is, well, dumb. Management has enormous power and leverage in the business world, and while asking your boss for another week off for vacation might work, but it probably won't. If everyone does, then it stands a better chance. Yes, it's "collectivism" as far as it goes, but the idea that collectivism is always bad is laughable. If you define "collectivism" this widely, not as some sort of socialist concept but rather as a group of people trying to argue for their interests against the caprices of their leadership, then you have just dismissed the fundamental point of republican democracy, which is that people should be allowed to do this very thing. The first amendment, of course, provides for freedom of assembly. But there is no principle at work here, it's just gobbledygook.

In fact, smart workers are the ones most likely to see the benefits of union membership, as union employees make more money, get more vacation and are harder to fire. One can debate whether specific labor policies are helpful to management, but if someone likes more money, more vacation and more job security then it's pretty clear what path to take. Still, the "smart" argument baffles me. Is this a way of invoking the old "liberal elites condescending to regular 'mericans" shtick? It's got nothing to do with smart, it's all about leverage. One worker has little to none. A bunch have more. Look, unions bring problems along with them, and sometimes they do stand in the way of significant reform, as in education. But this is just stupid.

The "freedom of choice" argument is nonsense as well. Since Taft-Hartley became law in 1947 closed shops have been illegal, so nobody is forced to join a union to work at a job. If you're a teacher and you don't want to join the teacher's union, you can just not join. You'll pay a tiny amount to the union since they represent you as well as everyone else, and that's all. But if your objection to unions is that there isn't enough freedom of choice involved, then the Employee Freedom of Choice Act ought to be right up your alley, as it allows workers an immediate and clear choice on whether to form a union. If they're so bad, then union membership shouldn't tick up, right? If Americans are so smart, they'll see through it, won't they? Have some faith in America, dude.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.