Thursday, October 05, 2006

Washington Post: Workers Need To Be Free To Join Unions

Even the Washington Post, never known as a particular friend of labor (as you may be able to tell) is outraged by Tuesday's Kentucky River NLRB decision that may take away the rights of millions of workers to join unions:

The decision exacerbates a legal environment that makes organizing workers unduly difficult. In other recent cases, the labor relations board has narrowed the definition of workers who may organize, excluding graduate students who work as teaching assistants and disabled people who work full time but whose contracts could be said to be rehabilitative. In industries where the right to organize is not yet disputed, employers nonetheless block attempts to establish unions by firing workers who favor them; although this is illegal, the penalties are too small and tardy to serve as a deterrent.

Critics of unions are right that they can bring disadvantages. They can impede innovation and slow the introduction of new technology. But in an age of growing inequality, the decline of unions also has disadvantages: De-unionization explains about 15 percent of the increase in wage inequality among men over the past quarter-century, according to David Card of the University of California at Berkeley. In sum, the costs and benefits of unions vary from industry to industry, which is all the more reason why workers should be free to decide whether to join one.