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Author Topic: Libertarian support of unions  (Read 911 times)
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June 22, 2011, 02:12:12 AM
 #1

I don't see a thread about this here already.

Historically, unions were how workers got a better deal from capital owners without resorting to the state. Workers got the 40 hour week, overtime, minimum wages, benefits, etc. before they were codified in law simply by banding together to negotiate contracts with employers. Union power in the USA grew tremendously in the 20th century, until the state limited workers' right to contract via the Taft-Hartley act and subsequent "right to work" laws.

The historical gains of capital over labor are probably "sticky" in at this point, but at least as a matter of principle do the libertarians here support repealing Taft-Hartley and other laws that limit the right of unions to negotiate contracts with employers? Large companies get improved negotiating leverage from scale, so why shouldn't workers band together for similar benefits of scale? No matter how large the company, a well-organized strike action can force its hand, so that workers can always ensure that they get a satisfactory share of the company's good fortune, without violence and without any laws specifically regulating work. And again, though it may be imperfect, the continued need of the workers for employment also ensures that they will not require ruinous terms from their employer*. In my opinion this is one of the clearest examples where libertarian principles of state non-interference in contracts favor "the little guy" over someone who's already a business owner or property holder. In a libertarian state, unions should be one of the ways that wealth is peacefully prevented from metastasizing into oligarchy.

*Unless they aspire to drive him into bankruptcy, buy the idled capital with their own savings, and resume operating it for their own profit. And this too is an entirely satisfactory turn of events in a libertarian state.
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June 22, 2011, 02:16:29 AM
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I think a common Libertarian view is that unions are unfairly and massively promoted by the State. (For example, the absurd laws against 'retaliation'.) There is no objection to unions that arise through purely voluntary associations. However, employers should be permitted to do the same thing, and they currently are not.

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June 22, 2011, 02:38:01 AM
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I think a common Libertarian view is that unions are unfairly and massively promoted by the State. (For example, the absurd laws against 'retaliation'.) There is no objection to unions that arise through purely voluntary associations. However, employers should be permitted to do the same thing, and they currently are not.

You may be right that this is a common view among libertarians. In my view the state has more commonly hobbled unions, for example via the Taft-Hartley act and right to work laws I already mentioned. Or, going back further in history, mobilizing police and military against striking miners and workers. Today in many less developed nations unions face similar state repression via laws and police, part of the reason that overseas manufacturing is so inexpensive.

I think that fair is fair: nothing is off-limits during negotiation except violence. Unions can try their utmost to take employers for everything via contracts, and employers can do the same to unions. The employer's opening bid may be "you get $1 per piece produced, and have to buy your clothes at the company store." The union's counter may be "we get $30 per hour, retirement at 50, and lifetime pensions amounting to 70% of average monthly wages at retirement." Both sides can make ridiculous demands, but will eventually converge (if not rapidly and neatly) onto mutually satisfactory terms. But no cheating! No sending the Pinkertons out to rough up the strikers or strikers out to rough up the scabs. The state doesn't get to interfere either on behalf of either party, or on behalf of interested third parties like stock holders or bank lenders.
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June 22, 2011, 02:44:41 AM
 #4

I agree with you, I have no issue with unions as long as:
  • They aren't supported, nor granted power, by states
  • They aren't breaking terms of existing contracts

By the latter, I mean striking when you've agreed to do 40 hours this week is out of order. If people want the right to strike, they need to get it into their contracts.

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June 22, 2011, 03:19:09 AM
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You may be right that this is a common view among libertarians. In my view the state has more commonly hobbled unions, for example via the Taft-Hartley act and right to work laws I already mentioned. Or, going back further in history, mobilizing police and military against striking miners and workers. Today in many less developed nations unions face similar state repression via laws and police, part of the reason that overseas manufacturing is so inexpensive.
I think on balance, the United States at least has provided way more coercive support to unions than coercive impedance. However, the Libertarian view would be that the State should do neither, other than assuring that associations are in fact voluntary. There is a genuine factual dispute over whether this would result in almost all jobs being unionized or almost none. My own personal view is that most jobs would be unionized, but unions would likely look very little like they currently do.

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June 22, 2011, 04:01:00 PM
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Unions are great, but not in a world where our own government is selling us out by ratifying trade treaties designed to kill our manufacturing infrastructure, employment, and the middle class. Without the funds generated from the businsses and employment that has been shipped overseas, municipalities and states are going broke. Its a domino effect taking revenue away from businesses and local and state economies.

They dont see it and they are going broke. The problem they see is, "how do I fix it". Unsustainable union contracts and benefits is a rational choice when you cant kill the trade treaties allowing a company to close down in one country, start up in another paying employees a bowl of rice and a poke in the eye a day for wages, then allowing free trade back into our country, ass fucking our citizens and their previous employees, thus masking the problem with low cost goods at big box stores at un-naturally inexpensive prices.

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June 23, 2011, 01:55:16 AM
 #7

I think on balance, the United States at least has provided way more coercive support to unions than coercive impedance.

I would agree with that if we were talking about France, but not in the US where at the height of labor organizing the government regularly sent in troops to attack strikers and then, when that didn't work, decided to imprison and harrass people as Communists and enemies of the state instead.

This does not address the fact that corporations themselves hold a ton of coercive power to impede unions by often having monopolies on buying labor.
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