December 17, 2012

MICKEY KAUS: Unions: Dems Duck The Big Question.

Is Wagner Act unionism a good thing or a bad thing. That seems like the key question raised by Michigan’s enactment of a “right to work” law. The main effect of such laws–which allow workers in a unionized workplace to avoid both joining the union and paying union dues–appears to be to simply weaken unions. Employers know if they locate in a “right to work” state there’s less chance their workforce will be unionized.

My answer to the key question: Wagner Act unionism might have been a good thing in the 1950s, when we didn’t face much in the way of foreign trade and the pace of change required to remain competitive was relatively slow. It’s usually a bad thing now. It may result in (perhaps temporary) wage gains for the lucky few who are in the union, but the cost– impeding change with work rules and obsessive negotiations, plus excess protections for individual workers, plus a tendency to overshoot the mark when negotiating future costs–outweighs the social benefits. . . .

Is there a Democrat who argues with a straight face that unionization makes firms more competititve? Who points to highly efficient unionized firms that are beating non-union rivals? Union defenders used to make those arguments. You don’t see them much anymore.

Today’s left-centered Web pundits increasingly don’t even try. Instead they deploy a variety of evasions, which have been on vivid display in the debate following Michigan’s adoption–by a fair vote of a fairly elected legislature–of “right to work.”

Read the whole thing, where Kaus names and shames. Best bit: “Simple question: Would Kinsley want a magazine he edited to be unionized? I think I know the answer.”

Idea for Republican operatives: Create a union — say, the Organization Of Campaign Workers And Volunteers — and send it to “organize” Democratic campaigns. Unlikely to succeed, sure. But fun to watch!