Friday, May 06, 2005

Someone Understands Unions

Political Animal Kevin Drum understands why unions are important -- and why Republicans and the corporate crowd hate them so much. (Hint: it's not because they're weak and corrupt.)
But the right wing never rests, and for any of my liberal readers who harbor suspicion of labor unions as an "old" liberal cause — just another one of those special interest groups that Democrats are always pandering to — ask yourself this: why are conservatives so hellbent on breaking them? Why did Ronald Reagan fire those air traffic controllers in 1981? Why did George Bush make union busting a key issue in the 2002 midterm election? Why the relentless opposition to using card checks to organize workers in new industries? Why the continuing demonization of unions from a party that's otherwise so conscientious about building its appeal to the working and middle classes?

It's because unions are the only truly effective check on the sine qua non of modern conservatism: corporate power. For all their faults — and they have plenty, just as corporations do — unions are the only organizations that have the power to bargain effectively for the interests of the middle class. Union power in the private sector began to wane in the 1970s, and it's not a coincidence that this was exactly the same time that middle class wages began to stagnate, CEO pay began to skyrocket, and income inequality began increasing inexorably.

Many liberals seem to believe that these grim trends can be fought with tax and regulatory policy, but those are blunt instruments with plenty of drawbacks and unforeseen consequences. Collective bargaining, which is essentially a market based approach in which the government's job is simply to make sure that unions have enough authority to ensure serious bargaining and then get out of the way, is far more reliable, effective, and flexible. It actually works, which is why conservatives have always hated unions so bitterly.



Hat tip to Susie for the link.

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