September 5, 2023

Labor Day

President Joe Biden, who often says he’s the most pro-union president in history, touted the importance of organized labor and applauded American workers in building the economy during a Labor Day appearance in Philadelphia on Monday.” AP News

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From the Left

The left praises unions, arguing that they provide many benefits to workers.

“UPS, in its latest contract, finally agreed to air-condition delivery trucks. That was a demand from sweltering rank-and-file drivers, pressed by a powerful union, the Teamsters, and backed up by the credible threat of a strike… [Similarly] Thanks to UNITE HERE, unionized hotel workers have predictable schedules, so that they can plan the rest of their lives…

“[By contrast] non-union retail and fast-food workers find their schedules are set at the whim of the boss, who can demand that an employee serve as a ‘clopener,’ closing a store at midnight and then coming to open it at 6 a.m… In a non-union workplace, most workers below the level of executive and supervisor simply have no voice. If they make suggestions or requests that rub management the wrong way, they are putting their jobs and livelihoods on the line… Let’s celebrate unions for what they contribute to wages, hours, and working conditions.”

Robert Kuttner, American Prospect

“[Last] Wednesday, Biden’s Labor Department proposed a rule that would make an estimated 3.6 million salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. The week before, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), transformed by Biden’s appointments, issued a decision that will boost union organizing after decades in which management held the upper hand… And in June, the NLRB made it harder for employers to classify workers as ‘independent contractors,’ allowing them to join unions and access other labor law protections…

“Lest anyone doubt where the administration stands, the Treasury Department released what it proudly called a ‘First-of-Its-Kind Report’ on the economic value of organized labor. It found that unions raise the wages of their members by 10 to 15 percent, have ‘spillover effects’ that benefit nonunion workers, ‘reduce race and gender wage gaps’ and ‘boost businesses’ productivity.’… At last, a Labor Day when workers can celebrate their power.”

E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post

“According [to] the latest Gallup Poll, 72 percent of Americans take the side of striking film and television writers over the studios… And if members of the United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three auto companies this month for higher wages and a 32-hour workweek, the Gallup survey suggests, they’ll enjoy support from 75 percent of the electorate… A record 61 percent of likely voters now say that unions help rather than harm the US economy…

“Ahead of Labor Day, the AFL-CIO released polling that found 90 percent of Americans under the age of 30—no matter their party affiliation—support strikes by union members, while roughly the same percentage approve of unions. If Biden and the Democrats integrate outspoken and unapologetic support for labor rights into all their campaign messaging, and if they make a special effort to communicate with young voters on these issues, it will strengthen their position going into next year’s election. And if they win, and follow through on their commitments.”

John Nichols, The Nation

From the Right

The right is critical of large unions, arguing that they do not effectively represent workers’ interests.

The right is critical of large unions, arguing that they do not effectively represent workers’ interests.

“Today’s unions are built on the government-granted privilege of compulsion. In the 23 states without Right to Work laws, employees can be fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees – even if they don’t want the union and never asked for it. Those workers and millions more have no choice but to accept union control over their wages and working conditions…

“Biden regularly touts his support for union bosses’ top legislative priority – the so-called ‘PRO Act’ – which has as its signature provision the repeal of all 27 state Right to Work laws in the country by federal fiat. Polls regularly show that workers support the choice they have under Right to Work laws. Right to Work doesn’t stop a single worker from joining or paying dues to a union if they voluntarily choose to, but merely ensures union financial support is voluntary…

“Voluntary organizations – such as charities, churches and civic associations – are quintessentially American. But Big Labor has strayed from its traditions of voluntarism. Instead of persuading workers to join up and pay dues of their own free will, union bosses increasingly rely on coercion to protect their privileged position. So, this Labor Day, don’t buy into the union propaganda that pro-union boss is pro-worker. Truly being pro-worker must include respecting workers’ right to choose to reject union membership and union dues.”

Mark Mix, Fox News

“Unions are supposed to represent the views of their members and ensure safe working conditions and fair pay. They are not supposed to act as a front for the Democratic Party’s agenda. Unions are a net positive when they represent all workers and do not take political positions unrelated to their labor advocacy. They do not need to take positions on  abortion, Israel, or defunding the police. Instead, unions should represent their workers only on issues that directly relate to the workplace.”

Matt Lamb, Washington Examiner

Some argue, “The American labor market’s failure to produce family-supporting jobs is fundamental to the nation’s problems… What will it take to shift the American model of growth to one that generates the tens of millions of better jobs that our nation needs? Creating such jobs has to be the best path to achieving profit, a condition that plainly does not hold today…

“America’s 1930s labor laws have proven dysfunctional, and Big Labor a corrosive force, but the Republican Party’s inclination to cheer on the labor movement’s demise is no solution at all. Reform should instead focus on supporting the creation of unions and other worker organizations that can represent workers effectively…

“The flow of unskilled and easily exploited workers into the labor market, meanwhile, must end. Immigration can bring many benefits to an economy, but when it supplies labor to fill insecure jobs it creates the wrong incentives for employers and undercuts workers already here.”

Oren Cass, American Conservative

A libertarian's take

“In the United States and around the world, far too many workers are trapped in places where it is difficult or impossible for them to ever escape poverty. They could better their lot if allowed to ‘vote with their feet’ by moving to locations where there are better job opportunities… Economists estimate that eliminating legal barriers to migration throughout the world would roughly double world GDP—in other words, making the world twice as productive as it is now…

“In recent years, there has been important progress on both expanding immigration and reducing exclusionary zoning. Several states have also enacted occupational licensing reform, which facilitates freedom of movement between states. But there is much room for further progress on all these fronts. Workers of the world, unite to demand more freedom of movement!
Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy

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