Friday, April 15, 2011

How to Think about Unions

Labor unions don't go on strike against companies or against management.  They go on strike against you.
         Like all wise consumers, you probably want to get as much value for your money as you can.  You want quality products at a good price.  Your greatest ally in this pursuit is marketplace competition.  To compete successfully for your dollar, producers must compete with each other either to increase the quality of their goods and services or else to lower the price of the goods and services they already provide.  Either way, you win:  better products or better prices.  Sometimes you might even get both at once.
         But not if unions have their way.  When unions go on strike, their intention is for their members to get more -- more money, more benefits, more security, or more time off.  The inevitable result is higher prices and (therefore) less competitiveness, at least for the company that gives the union what it wants.  Unions never go on strike in order to do more work for less money.  When unions succeed in providing more for their members, production costs increase.  Whenever unions win, their product becomes less competitive and their company more vulnerable.  When unions win, the price of the product they provide goes up.  That means you lose.  You get less product for the same money, or the same product for more money.
         Faced with that prospect, you do what any wise consumer does.  You go elsewhere.  You hunt for the products of other companies, products whose prices are more competitive.  Whenever you are forced by a product’s now higher price or now lower quality to go elsewhere, the members of the union whose tactics drove you to the competitor's product are forced to go elsewhere also.  They go to the unemployment office.
         Joblessness is the high price union members sometimes pay when they forget that all workers work for you, the consumer, and not for management.  Managers aren't the real bosses, and they’re not the real employers.  You are.  Consumers decide who works and who does not.  Consumers decide who gets paid and how much.  Consumers -- and only consumers -- pay the wages.  By selecting one product over another, consumers keep companies alive; or consumers close them down.  Thus, when a union strikes, it strikes against consumers; it strikes against you.  You pay the wages, not management.  If unions get more money, they get it from you, or they do not get it at all.  In that respect, union job actions are job actions against neighbors and friends, who are the real employers.  And when unions get their way, when they get more money and benefits for their members, consumers respond accordingly.  They go elsewhere.
         More often than not, companies don't break unions, unions break companies.  Unions often do the same to government budgets.
         We work in a global marketplace.  Because of recent technological and transportational advances, a company's money, data and products can be moved all over the globe, sometimes at the speed of light.  Transfers, sales, and transactions of all sorts occur at incredibly high speed over remarkably great distances.  Technology now permits the complex and instantaneous integration of material, consumers, management, and labor around the world. 
         As a result, no longer can there be any truly effective barriers to enormous amounts of foreign competition.  No protectionist laws, for example, can prevent the transfer of information, or of electronically transmitted goods and services.  Like it or not, American workers and companies must now compete head-to-head with workers and companies everywhere on the globe.  It cannot be avoided.  American companies and American workers must compete with their counterparts around the world because American consumers like you can now shop globally.  As a result, the more international a company's competition, product, and market, the more injury unions can do.
         When American unions win, so do foreign workers.  Count on it, foreign workers everywhere desperately want American unions to thrive.  They want American workers to get higher and higher wages, more and more days off, and greater and greater retirement compensation.  They want the price of American products to continue climbing.    Nothing brings greater confidence and enthusiasm to foreign workers than the news that some American union has been able to wrench ever larger concessions out of an American enterprise.  That news means that American products have gotten more expensive and that American consumers will be shopping around.  It means that American workers and companies are one step closer to extinction.
         In that light, the best thing that could happen to American workers today is to have American unions organize foreign workers and leave American workers alone.  Send the unions overseas.  If you're an American worker, pray for the success of Japanese, Mexican, and South Korean unions.  They're praying for you.  
         Meanwhile, remember that when unions seek more members, they aren't doing so because union organizers are just a bunch of nice guys who want to help people.  They're out to make a buck.  Unions want more dues.  If the unions weren't making a pretty profit from their members’ dues, they'd quit.

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