Sunday, April 5, 2009

Unions & the Fallacy of All or Nothing

I am strongly pro-union, but I am not blind. I recognize that one of the biggest problems for the US auto industry is union costs.

It is important that our nation permit organized labor. We know that unionization and the New Deal are responsible for creating America's middle class, and it would be a shame to eliminate -- or significantly curtail -- unions and thereby gut the middle class, all so some corporation can grow larger and its executives richer.

But, the unions in Detroit grew too powerful. Union costs make it too difficult for American auto makers to compete on the global market.

Many use this fact -- that the Detroit unions are too big -- inappropriately. Anti-union advocates commit what I call the "fallacy of all or nothing." That is, anti-unionists argue that because the unions in Detroit are too large and too burdensome, it is proof that organized labor is untenable. But that argument assumes a premise that can not be established, namely, that unions must either (a) be as large and powerful as those in Detroit, or (b) non-existent. In other words, people tend to assume that we have Detroit-style unions, or no unions at all. That is incorrect.

Smart regulation of the union-business relationship can provide healthy union membership and strong global competitiveness. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

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