Free market competition has done much more to American workers than unions

Monday is Labor Day. Will you celebrate unions?

The media do. “Unions are great again,” CBS News reports. They propose the flourishing of guilds.

Reporters practically rejoiced when a Starbucks in Buffalo became the first Starbucks to join a syndicate. The New York Times called it a “significant symbolic win for employment.”

Since then, more than 180 Starbucks have voted to form unions, and 300 have submitted applications for union elections.

Starbucks already offers benefits better than many companies: health benefits, even for part-time workers, free college tuition, maternity leave and more. Minimum wage is $17 an hour. But activists want more.

Apple Store employees and Google workers also began union efforts. In the first half of 2022, union election petitions increased by 57%.

They have political support. President Joe Biden promised he would be “the most loyal union president I’ve ever seen,” and he probably was. He supports the PRO Act, which would override state laws on the right to work and fine employers who fire workers for trying to join unions.

The Washington Post claims that there is a “wave of labor activism sweeping the country”.

But despite all the political support and media hype, unions have backed off.

Unions have increased during the pandemic but have declined as the pandemic has waned. In 2021, unions represented 15.8 million workers, down half a million since 2019.

There are many reasons.

The Janus Supreme Court ruling in 2018 declared that it was unconstitutional to force government employees to pay union fees. Now 28 states no longer force any worker to pay union dues. This is a good thing. No one should be forced to join groups they don’t want to join.

In 1973, when I first went to work for CBS, I had to join the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to pay dues to a guild that didn’t seem to do much, but I had no other choice.

At work, I’ve seen how union rules routinely slow down work – sometimes in silly ways. I couldn’t just press a button and watch a video. I had to find a union editor and have him press the button.

One reason Fox News’s news operations are growing faster than CBS, NBC, and ABC is that non-union Fox is more flexible. They are able to try new things. They didn’t have to obey all the stupid rules.

This is another reason for the decline in the number of unionized workers. Union rules limit employers’ ability to change, adapt, and grow.

Unions have increased during the pandemic but have declined as the pandemic has waned.  In 2021, unions represented 15.8 million workers, down half a million since 2019.
Unions have increased during the pandemic but have declined as the pandemic has waned. In 2021, unions represented 15.8 million workers, down half a million since 2019.
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The non-union companies Toyota and Honda are outperforming the unionized companies such as General Motors. They hired more people, and created more jobs. That was good for business, not just union work.

Unions help some. But it hurts more.

Some GM workers got higher salaries and longer vacations. But many potential workers didn’t get a chance. Toyota and Honda helped more people simply by growing faster.

Activists today claim that unions built the middle class. Without unions, as they say, there would be no weekend, nor eight hours a day.

But this is not true.

The lives of workers in America have mostly improved because of competition, not because of union rules. Competition is what workers do most.

In 1914, Henry Ford doubled his employees’ wages to $5 a day and reduced their workday to eight hours. People claim that he was forced to do so by union pressure. This is a myth. He did this because his company had a high turnover rate. Increased wages helped him retain good workers

Free market competition forces everyone to do a better job. What workers need is not strict union rules, but competition.

Today there is a lot of competition for workers. It has pushed companies like Costco to offer a starting wage of $17 an hour.

Unions help some, but the free market helps most.

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