The Decline of Unions is your Problem too

Well, yeah, just like corporations artificially concentrate wealth and investment, and economic power with it (which is a good thing).

So unions simply even things up. The results, as I noted, was to invent the middle class. Not bad.

The OP suffers from a common affliction-- doing a static analysis of an economic system. If I change this one thing, and keep everything else the same… well, everything else never stays the same. Fact is, corporations have lots of options as to where to build factories, and there is no reason to assume that they will just absorb the added labor costs. These types of discussions invariably lead to a round of protectionist measures where so-called low cost countries are saddled with tariffs or corporations are punished for moving or building a factory outside the US.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean. If the unions demand higher wages and the corporation agrees, the workers are paid more. If they don’t demand higher wages and the company just gives them the cash, the workers are paid more. Or are saying the government should give them cash? :confused:

[QUOTE=John Mace;15970081Fact is, corporations have lots of options as to where to build factories, and there is no reason to assume that they will just absorb the added labor costs.[/QUOTE]

The problem is that unions in foreign countries with cheap labor are weak too.

Well, no, I would rather see the wages in foreign countries go up too. That would be good for everyone as well.

Not at all. One of the arguments that the OP was using in support of unions was that they would give the American worker more cash that he/she can spent to further drive the economy. My point was that that seemed like an artificial way to prime the pump, not dissimilar to tax stimulus packages and the like, and a poor argument for unions. If you a just trying to artificially put more money in the economy, there are other ways to do that. I don’t advocate any of them.

No, it’s predicated on the idea that productivity is going up, so wages should too.

Productivity has gone up in the last 30 years. Real wages have not.

The problem with unions is that they hurt the firms that employ them. Look at this paper by Hirsch
The paper found that unions do not raise productivity and they lower profitibility, and lower investment in physical capital and R&D. Thus over time firms that employ unions shrink and firms that do not employ them grow. This leads to fewer and fewer firms employing unions. Thus union membership means a higher paying job right up until the company goes out of business. For a concrete example look at the wastelands of Detroit. They had high union wages and did great until competition came in and then those high wages decimated the industry.
The model of high wages leads to more purchasing which leads to economic prosperity leaves out productivity all together. Wage increases without corresponding productivity increases do not create wealth they just transfer it temporarily.

If you understand it, then you’ll see why you need to prove causation, not just speculate.

Yes, thank you.

I made no claims to have actually proven anything.

Thanks for your valuable contribution to this thread.

Do you stand by the article you linked to, or not? This is Great Debates, not a blog, you should have expected to be asked to defend your position.

And the unions gave concessions, until they could compete again.


If they don’t need our workers, they don’t need us as customers. They can sell their shit in the country where their factories are.

It’s also not an inquisition or debate team.

If you have comments about the article, feel free to post them. I didn’t write it.

Are you saying no one should sell anything in the US that wasn’t made here? What are you saying?

Hold it - productivity has gone up, while union representation has gone down? Good thing we aren’t being too hasty with correlations here.


Unions have to prove themselves to be worthwhile for workers AND companies to be able to get back into the private sector. The workers benefit from the past work of the unions, but that value is less certain today. When companies can move to different states or nations, unions have to show that they can be a source of better workers, higher productivity, less absenteeism, etc.

I work in tech, and due to a highly competitive world - our employees are paid well, fairly, often with base, benefits, advancement opportunity based on skills and attitude, with variable pay and incentive stock options. The unions would offer nothing to my employees, nor would they offer anything to me as a manager.

My experience with union representation while working in the public sector was less than positive (difficult to fire someone in a timely fashion, unable to offer quick rewards to represented employees, fights over job classification when hiring).

So bring on the unions - but they need to bring value or they will continue to dwindle in America.

I am not sure where you are from is “gave concessions” a regionalism for “got the taxpayer to give the companies 35 billion dollars so they would not go out of business for another ten years”?

Well, because our companies don’t exist in a vacuum, and have to compete in a global marketplace. If you artificially drive up wages then US companies would have two choices…well, 3 if you count going out of business…those would be either higher levels of automation (thus cutting their staffs even more by leveraging each worker with the ability for higher levels of productivity) or moving their operations offshore to cheaper labor markets.

For who’s products? Are these theoretical workers going to buy only higher priced US products, or are they going to do what they do today, which is buy products based mainly on price? Even if your argument had some merit (which it doesn’t…why not pay each worker a million dollars a year, then they would have even more to spend!!), they aren’t going to be buying higher priced goods and services just because they are US companies selling them. There would have to be some sort of value add. What’s the value add to these workers to buy high priced US goods and services when comparable goods and services, made by cheaper labor, will fit their needs?

That begs the question…WHY is productivity going up (while union representation goes down)? Have the workers themselves become more productive, or have the tools and techniques they are using become more productive? If the workers themselves are more productive then they can leverage that to demand higher wages and more benefits…after all, they would be necessary to a businesses bottom line, and could sell their more productive services to the highest bidder. Sadly, this isn’t the case, because the actual answer is that it’s the tools and expert systems and methodologies that have MADE them more productive, not innate skill and ability. Those same tools can be used by anyone to provide the same levels of productivity…at least, for the needs of the businesses manufacturing those goods or services. Which is why companies CAN outsource and offshore and maintain productivity and profitability.

And, again, where would they spend it? At Walmart buying goods and services that come from overseas manufacturers or from some US company selling US goods and services with a higher price tag but not any value add?

All of the people buying them today and getting a huge purchasing advantage because so many products and services are so cheap. The average American wage might be stagnant or even falling slightly, but the average American today has a huge purchasing advantage that Americans in the past, during purportedly wealthier times could only dream of.

Unless you can dictate this it has no practical meaning to say that other countries should increase their wages and benefits. They will certainly rise as those countries build their infrastructure and as their workers become more affluent, but other cheap sources of labor are going to simply shift…and, ultimately, automation is going to render it moot anyway.

Not so good for consumers who have to pay higher prices.

But what about union workers who are also consumers? Non-union workers who are consumers?

No so simple, is it?

What point do you think you’ve made?

Productivity has gone up due mainly to new technology and due to more hours worked.

Sure, because right now you and your employees are coasting on what unions won for you. But that may change in the next decade or two. You’ll have to compete too, and you’ll feel pressure to lower wages, won’t you?

As for what unions would offer, most workers say they would join one if they could. It’s not a matter of workers not wanting them, just not have access to them.

No it’s not.