Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Resentment of unions is boiling over

December 17, 2012

Advertisement

— Rick Snyder, who is hardly a human cactus, warned Michigan’s labor leaders. The state’s mild-mannered Republican governor, currently in his first term in his first public office, has rarely been accused of being, or praised for being, a fire-breathing conservative. When unions put on Michigan’s November ballot two measures that would have entrenched collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution, Snyder told them they were picking a fight they might regret.

Both measures lost resoundingly in the state with the fifth highest rate of unionization (17.5 percent, down from 28.4 percent in 1985) and, not coincidentally, the sixth highest unemployment rate (9.1 percent). And Republicans decided to build upon that outcome by striking a blow for individual liberty and against coerced funding of the Democratic Party. Hence the right-to-work laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to prohibit the requirement of paying union dues as a condition of employment.

The unions’ frenzy against this freedom is as understandable as their desire to abolish the right of secret ballots in unionization elections: Freedom is not the unions’ friend. After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent. After Indiana’s government in 2005 stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees, the number of dues-paying members plummeted 90 percent. In Utah, the automatic dues deductions for political activities was ended in 2001; made voluntary, payments from teachers declined 90 percent. After a similar measure in Washington state in 1992, the percentage of teachers making contributions fell from 82 to 11. The Democratic Party’s desperate opposition to the liberation of workers from compulsory membership in unions is because unions are conveyor belts moving coerced dues money into the party.

Nationwide, resentment of union power has been accumulating like steam in a boiler. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last four years “nearly every state ... has enacted some form of pension changes” clawing back unsustainable benefits promised to unionized government employees. The most conspicuous battle was in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived organized labor’s attempt to recall him as punishment for restricting collective bargaining by unionized government workers. After Walker’s reforms, Indiana under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels became the 23rd right-to-work state, and the first in the industrial Midwest.

By becoming the 24th right-to-work state, Michigan is belatedly becoming serious about what Daniel Boorstin, the late historian and Librarian of Congress, called entrepreneurial federalism. This is the wholesome competition among states to emulate others’ best practices, and to avoid and exploit others’ follies.

Indiana and Wisconsin are, fortunately for them, contiguous to Illinois, where Democratic power is completely unrestrained and spectacularly unsuccessful. Indiana noticed Wisconsin’s competitive advantage in attracting businesses from Illinois and elsewhere. Michigan also has noticed. Yet unions call what Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin have done a “race to the bottom.” This flapdoodle and folderol come from unions that have contributed mightily to Michigan’s painful acquaintance with the bottom.

If you seek a monument to Michigan’s unions, look, if you can without wincing, at Detroit, where the amount of vacant land is approaching the size of Paris. And where the United Auto Workers, which once had more than 1 million members and now has about 380,000, won contracts that crippled the local industry — and prompted the growth of the non-unionized auto industry that is thriving elsewhere. Detroit’s rapacious and oblivious government employees unions are parasitic off a near-corpse of a city that has lost 25 percent of its population just since 2000. The Wall Street Journal reports that because some government workers with defined-benefit pensions can retire in their 40s, “many retirees living into their 80s are drawing benefits for nearly twice as long as they work.”

Many liberals who, with solemn self-congratulation, call themselves “pro-choice” become testy when the right to choose is not confined to choosing to kill unborn babies. They say the right to choose is not progressive when it enables parents to choose their children’s schools, or permits workers to choose not to fund unions’ political advocacy.

Democrats who soon will celebrate two of their party’s saints at Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners should jettison either their opposition to right-to-work laws or their reverence for Jefferson, who said: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Pal 2 years, 3 months ago

Unions need to evolve, and allow America to become competitive on the world stage again.

Once Unions have transformed, businesses will start building products in America again...to sell to China.

gr 2 years, 3 months ago

I think what the article said is union mafias are why we aren't building products in America.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

George wades in in the war against workers and the middle class and for Corporate Servitude.

Pal 2 years, 3 months ago

You need to transform your misconceptions/attitude. Your lumping a few Union people in with American workers is misleading and disingenuous.

America needs to get back the Apple and Twinkie jobs the Union mentality chased away to China.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

The jobs weren't "chased away." They were consciously sought out by the plutocrats seeking to maximize their profits at workers' expense.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

In the case of publicly traded companies, the companies maximized profits because they have a fiduciary responsibility to do so. If they don't, they open themselves up to shareholder lawsuits. You may not like they way they behave, but they are behaving in exactly the way they are legally obligated to behave.

It's very similar to a defense attorney that defends a guilty person. His vigorous defense is exactly what he's supposed to do. You may not like the outcome, but his behavior is exactly what it's supposed to be.

If you don't like the way companies behave, then change the laws.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

Fiduciary responsibility is a fig leaf for exploitation and it's precisely why unions are necessary.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

More than half the nation is invested in the market, whether through retirement plans, 401Ks, mutual funds, whatever. The whole system collapses if the companies we invest in don't behave in a manner in which we expect them to behave. That is why the government imposes upon the companies certain behaviors. If you don't like that system, advocate to the government that they change the rules. But what is foolish is to advocate that companies not behave in ways they are legally obligated to behave, opening themselves up to lawsuits by both shareholders and the government (via regulatory sanctions).

You're shooting the messenger, Bozo. If you don't like what he says, change the laws.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

Your refrain of "get yourself elected" and "change the law" or shut up is as extremely tiresome as it is intellectually lazy.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Actually, he's right about this one.

Since they have a legal duty to maximize profits, they're obligated to act in that way. The only way to change that would be to change the laws regarding their legal duties.

Which we should do, in my view.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

Fiduciary responsibility can be narrowly or broadly interpreted. Corporations can legitimately choose to work with unions and the workers they represent without violating that responsibility. Union busting and outsourcing are not the only options they have.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Hard to believe that.

If union labor is more expensive than non union labor, the obvious way to make more profit is to choose non union labor.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

That's the narrow interpretation, and that's why we see such vitriol against unions from the plutocrats and their mouthpieces, and all the Corporate Servitude laws being passed in states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

If the responsibility is to maximize profit, it's the obvious way to go, and why the laws should be changed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

I don't agree that union-busting, however they choose to go about it, is the only way to satisfy fiduciary responsibility. Good-faith bargaining with unions seeking to get the best deal for the company and its stockholders is a perfectly adequate way to fulfill that responsibility. And lots of unions have shown the willingness to cut both wages and benefits in order to help companies remain competitive. But too many corporations want way more than that-- they want the freedom to exploit, and they'll shift entire factories out of the country in order to get it. That doesn't mean that we have to let them get away with it, and nearly all so-called free trade laws need to be scrapped because enabling corporate exploitation is really the only purpose they serve.

I agree that changes in laws governing corporations need to be changed, but it shouldn't just be limited to fiduciary responsibility.

https://movetoamend.org

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

Here's the problem, Bozo. Unions aren't advocating for a change in the laws. Why? Because the rationale behind the laws are sound. People would not invest in companies if they weren't regulated into behaving in predicable ways. The system is working pretty much the way it's supposed to work. That jobs move overseas might be seen as the unintended consequences of the system, but it's still the system we have and it's the system we want.

What's the alternative? Blow up the stock market? Blow up capitalism? More than half of us are invested in the market. We're voting with our wallets, Bozo.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

The alternative is to consider a broader picture.

It's hard for me to believe that "we" want a system that results in high unemployment, low wages and no benefits.

I'd be happy to make a bit less money in the market if it meant that more Americans had good jobs.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

I mentioned earlier the behavior of defense attorneys. No we don't want guilty people getting off. Yet we still want defense attorneys behaving in exactly the way they are behaving. That guilty are getting off is the unintended consequence. But it's a consequence we're willing to tolerate for the greater good. So too with these investments. Having companies behaving in regulated, predicable ways is the greater good. the jobs moving overseas is the unintended consequence.

The solution is fairly simple. Indemnify companies from both regulatory sanctions as well as shareholder lawsuits. But I suspect the consequence of that would be a total collapse of the stock market due to a lack in confidence. A lack in confidence resulting from the inability to have confidence in how a company will behave. Even unions aren't advocating that.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Regulated and predictable is fine, I'd just change the regulations a bit.

Your idea is odd and extreme.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

My rationale is based on the fact that we have more than half the country invested in the market. Any major change would be a roll of the dice. I'm not sure anyone wants to roll the dice with half the population's wealth, retirements, college funds, etc. Even if you don't think it's a major change, it's such a big part of the wealth of this country that no one is willing to take the risk. Not unions, not business, not the government and not the people. Personally, I'd pull every penny out of the market, at least until the dust settles. But the dust settling from such a change might not happen for a generation or two. By then, our economy might look like Italy's.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Again, rather extreme.

A small change wouldn't have the effect you imagine.

If you would pull all of your money out of the market because of that, that's your right. But, it's very reactive, and unnecessary.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

So you say. But I think of myself as rather middle of the road. The fact that I would consider pulling my investments leads me to believe many others would choose to do the same. As I said, I'm older than you and the investments we're talking about are retirement investments. People with those types of investments tend to be very conservative with them. If I were in my 20's with a lifetime of earnings ahead of me, I might take greater risks. Then again, people in their 20's aren't invested to the same extent as older people. Maybe if I were a young man of 51, I might see a small change resulting in a small risk. I, on the other hand, see an unnecessary risk, one I would not be willing to take.

Just out of curiosity, do you have an account tied to the market? A mutual fund, 4101K, retirement account? Obviously, owning shares in a single company carries more risk that say, a mutual fund. I'm just curious as to whether this is all theoretical to you or if it is real, I'm trying to gauge what level of risk you're comfortable with.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

You didn't say you'd "consider" it, you said you'd pull every penny out of the market.

If you don't like risk, the stock market isn't the place for you at all - it's inherently risky, and involves the real possibility of losses. Bonds are safer, especially government bonds, but offer lower returns, of course.

And, since the market is very much a psychological thing, if a lot of people sell, then the market will in fact go down, and vice versa.

If you're "very conservative" with your money, then you shouldn't be in the stock market at all, especially if you're near retirement age, in my view.

Thanks for the "young man" comment :-)

I don't like to share much personal information on here, but yes, we have some money in the stock market. And, as I've said before, I'm rather risk averse, generally speaking, otherwise we'd have more there.

Over the last several years, I've been studying different investment possibilities, and have come up with an idea that may fit my risk profile - it's a 50/50 split between a total stock market index fund, and a long term government bond fund.

Vanguard has two low fee versions of those.

By my calculations, this combination, re-balanced each year, only lost money one year out of the last 5-6 years, and shows about a 9% average annual return, which is plenty for me, especially with the lower risk, including the year of the losses.

Clinton Laing 2 years, 3 months ago

Do you include as "plutocrats" the people whose pension funds include stock in those major corporations? Because that would include teachers, welders, sanitation workers and... oh, yeah! Auto workers!!

John Hamm 2 years, 3 months ago

Unions are the scourge of the Earth and have brought down many businesses with asinine work rules and limits.

voevoda 2 years, 3 months ago

Workers should be grateful for any job, no matter how poor the pay, no matter how unreasonable the bosses, no matter how dangerous the working conditions, and do the bosses' bidding because the bosses deign to pay them? Maybe you don't realize, Liberty, Oonly, that the only reasons workers today receive reasonable salaries, a modicum of respect from their bosses, and relatively safe working conditions is because unions demanded them. Without collective bargaining, bosses may well yield to the temptation to reduce wages below the point where you can pay your mortgage, Liberty, or afford to feed your family--just as long as there is some desperate person who is willing to work for less. So for workers, union dues are an investment--an investment that historicall paid off. The employees who benefit from the salaries and benefits and workplace safety that unions have negotiated but who refuse to pay dues are just moochers--trying to get something for nothing. No genuine conservative or libertarian should be in favor of that.

Jeff Kilgore 2 years, 3 months ago

People who have no sense of history simply do not understand the world of serfdom, which, if those in power get their way, they'll get. The plutocrats have brainwashed their serfs who not only vote for them, but will happily remain in ignorance. The race to the bottom has begun! Let it be.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

You have it all wrong. Some aren't brainwashed into ignoring plutocrats, but rather don't want as much money taken from them. You don't have to be a plutocrat to pay taxes.

If the race to the bottom is on, fine. I started there and I won't be there as long this time.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

George isn't waging a war against me. I'm a worker. My boss calls me sir now and then and accommodates any time I need to take off. I don't need a union for that. I have dedicated part of my life to my career, I go to work everyday and I do the best I can for him.

If any talk of a union with negotiating power happened in my workplace I would personally stop it. I will wage the war in my bosses place.

You can call it corporate servitude, but I know where my mortgage payment comes from, and I know where the money for our food comes from. Neither come from a union and neither ever will.

Jeff Kilgore 2 years, 3 months ago

If your job was reduced to minimum wage, you'd then understand even more sharply what it takes to pay for a mortgage, money, and food. My son and his generation will not have jobs that you and I have. If you can see the trend of the Walmartization of our country, in which workers cannot even pay the taxes that fund their children's schools, you'll have some understanding of the importance of the protections of unions. Certainly, unions have not always acted in the best interest of industry, I'll grant that, but for them to be dismantled leads us in a direction in which the employers are allowed to dictate to their employees. I'm neither a union member nor a business owner, but I can see the need for worker protection, and if you have even the remotest sense of the horrific working conditions in our country's history, which continues even today, you'd think again.

I am sickened by the fact that hourly wages have stagnated for 30 years, and you complain against unions! How can you think these things?

jhawkinsf 2 years, 3 months ago

Perhaps you and/or your son should consider becoming an entrepreneur. Instead of depending upon someone else to create not just a job, but a job that will make you happy, rather you can create your own job and create your own happiness. Creating your own job has substantial risks but carries with it the possibility of substantial rewards. Depending upon others to create your happiness is a substantial risk of it's own.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

"If your job was reduced to minimum wage"

I'd go to work for myself.

"My son and his generation will not have jobs that you and I have"

My nephew makes 4 times what I do as medical technician. He's the one that xrays you at the hospital. He learned that trade in the air force. I could do it in my sleep.

"but for them to be dismantled"

That would be unconstitutional. We don't need to tell people who to associate with, we need to tell them they do not need to give a third party some money in order to work.

"horrific working conditions in our country's history, which continues even today"

Point out a single legal instance of poor working conditions today in America, in a right-to-work state.

"I am sickened by the fact that hourly wages have stagnated for 30 years,"

I have a plain boring job and I make 3 times what I made 20 years ago and I was making more then than minimum wage is now.

For me, wages aren't the problem, Having it taken from you in taxes and inflation are the problems. For America, excessive wages and benefits paid to workers below tradesman-level has forced jobs less able people could handle to go overseas.

My job can't be outsourced. I live in a right to work state. Unions can't affect me other than raising prices. They have affected America, and they are the reason we continue to endure unacceptable levels of unemployment. Until the guy putting knobs on your washer is willing to do it for $12/hr, America will just pay $5/hour to a Mexican.

Making excuses for unions is like fiddling while they burn down Rome.

tomatogrower 2 years, 3 months ago

So If your boss decides he isn't making enough money and wants to give a big bonus to the dead beat whose load you have to carry, you will gladly take a pay cut? So if your boss decides you need to work more hours without getting overtime, if you are an hourly employee, you'll just roll over and do it? What if he builds a complex and tells you you have to live there and only buy things from the company over priced store?

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

I would take a pay cut before losing my job. I have told my boss that and he showed no interest in the idea.

"So if your boss decides you need to work more hours without getting overtime,"

I work commission. There is no overtime.

" What if he builds a complex and tells you"

That will be the last thing he tells me. I'm lucky enough that I'm usually asked and rarely told. I tend to leave when people tell me what to do.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

Cars are still being built and sold-- it's just that the corporate elite chose to go where exploitation of labor is allowed. The race to the bottom did not have a virgin birth.

Pal 2 years, 3 months ago

Your clueless attempts of misleading the working class is kin to voiding into the wind.

Ever hear of Honda, Toyota, BMW, Nissan?......

Chyrsler Union car workers.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2010/09/23/chrysler_autoworkers_caught_on_camera_drinking_beer_smoking_pot_during_break.html

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 3 months ago

"Ever hear of Honda, Toyota, BMW, Nissan?"

Yep, and every one of them is seeking cheaper labor in non-union plants, with the goal of increasing profits to stockholders at the expense of those who do the actual work.

BTW, every VW, Mercedes and BMW plant in Germany is a union plant, and they function quite well. It can be done, but it takes the willingness on all sides to make it happen. Unfortunately, most US corporations have decided to bust unions rather than follow the lead provided by countries like Germany.

Pal 2 years, 3 months ago

You obviously only know what you are told about Unions. Apologies for not realizing that.

(A U.A.W.-represented plant in California that was operated by a joint venture of Toyota and General Motors closed last year, and the union has been pressuring Toyota to rehire its former workers when the plant reopens to build electric vehicles in a partnership with Tesla.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/13/business/global/13uaw.html?_r=0

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

"Yep, and every one of them is seeking cheaper labor in non-union plants"

And providing jobs to Americans. I grew up in a mill town, where the mill burned before I was born. The town existed in poverty. I came from that poverty. Now BMW is headquartered there and what was a shantytown left over from it's boom as a mill town is full of manufacturing jobs and doing well.

Unions, feel free to abandon your jobs and send them south. You can deal with the inflation caused by the excessive wages of union assembly-line workers without a dime in your pocket. You brought it on yourselves.

gr 2 years, 3 months ago

And why did they need to go elsewhere? Is it because Michigan already made it to the bottom?

Jeff Kilgore 2 years, 3 months ago

Thirty years of stagnated wages will destroy any state. You're headed the wrong way and can't see it. If employees were highly overpaid, then you'd have an argument. Instead, more and more hard working Americans see their wages buy less and less while those at the top gain astonishing raises. Serfdom, here we come. Do you work a minimum wage job?

Cait McKnelly 2 years, 3 months ago

Wait. Tell me again what's "boiling over"? This was taken in Lansing, MI five days ago outside the capital.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

If you shut the gate to the trough, the hogs will squeal. I think. I've never really been around hogs.

jaywalker 2 years, 3 months ago

While I do believe unions, in many cases, are wholly unsustainable without major reform, Will's piece here is woefully void of critical thought on the issues at hand. I'm sure there are union members that would prefer to opt out based on political and/or organizational concerns. But I'm willing to bet the huge percentages Will provides that seemingly prove "resentment of union power has been accumulating like steam in a boiler" should be considered in a more common sense light; chiefly, in this era of struggling economy, it should come as little surprise that people would rather hold onto to any and all money they can rather than fund what's basically a PAC. Call it a lack of cognizance toward delayed gratification or security for the future, even still too many need those dollars today. I imagine their feelings will change the next time they feel they deserve a raise. In any case, things couldn't possibly continue the way they have.

jayhawklawrence 2 years, 3 months ago

Unions make up a very small percentage of the US labor force. The reason the right wing is focusing on them is because they need to create a bogeyman and because they are attacking any organization that can stand up against their assault against the American worker.

It is a race to the bottom in regard to wages and benefits for most Americans.

I think the truth is rather hard to comprehend and that is that the Republican Party is dominated today by people who are completely clueless about what to do to help the United States compete in the global economy. It is not about providing leadership anymore it is about doing what you are told by the people who have the most money to spend and the Christian right has swallowed their rhetoric hook, line and sinker.

I imagine we will see more calls for prayer and fasting but none for better health care and wages from these Republicans.

Pal 2 years, 3 months ago

Unions are a money laundering scheme. Yes they are bogeymen.

tomatogrower 2 years, 3 months ago

I say let the conservatives have their way. It will lead, and has already let us to companies who make a lot of money, but never let it trickle down to the workers. Eventually the workers are going to wake up and see what's happening and realize the businesses can't survive without them. Then they will be going back to unions in droves. Many of the businesses who have taken their companies overseas were not union worker businesses. They just realized they couldn't continue to show double digit growth with an expanding market. Never mind that they were making adequate profit. The business model now is you have to show huge growth. The real problem is too many companies have gone public, so they are more beholden to what amounts to absentee landlords, than to their workers, or even their customers. The bottom will fall out soon enough, but a lot of hard working people are going to suffer before then.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 3 months ago

You make it sound like every industries' workers are unionized. They are not. Without Unions...the U.S. auto industry will thrive. Disband all unions...and the economy will be stronger than it ever has been. Eliminate union control...and unemployment will go down. Give the something-for-nothing crowd a little competition and our economy will take off.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

You can't disband unions as they are protected by the free association clause of the constitution, States need to be right-to-work and if an employer wants to deal with a union, OK. If they don't, then they should be allowed to refuse to negotiate. If a worker wants to picket, that's fine. They can look for a new job when they are finished.

We need to take the power away from unions, but we cannot stop people from gathering in a group, even if that group is a union..

tomatogrower 2 years, 3 months ago

Oh, yes. All the business owners are just wonderful people who want to pay all their employees a living wage for all their hard work. And they would never ask them to work 60 hours a week without overtime pay. And they would certainly hire lots more people - in some other country (cough). Trust them.

Orwell 2 years, 3 months ago

Our own fault – still don't know why we fought to keep them from seceding.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

Only by terrorizing women and children, burning their houses and salting their fields.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 3 months ago

Thousands of businesses in every industry do just fine without unions. Their workers are happy and successful. The bottom line for this law is that it stops the "coerced funding of the Democratic Party". The left talks about fairness and equality. All they have to do is flip the party of choice. If a labor group was forcing workers to contribute to the Republican party...they would go crazy for workers to have the right not to contribute. If their unions can't survive without extorting money...then they don't deserve to.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

It's my understanding that union members are allowed to withhold part of their dues, if they don't agree with the political activity of the union.

Given stagnant wages, lowered benefits, and rising costs of living, I'm not sure your characterization of lots of happy workers is correct.

tomatogrower 2 years, 3 months ago

Unions dues legally cannot be used for the political pacs of the unions. There is a separate fund for that which union members may or may not contribute. Unlike groups like the NRA who use all of their funds for political purposes. Members do not get free representation for the NRA dues, if they are falsely accused of breaking a gun law. Unions bargain for living wages and protect workers from being exploited. Groups like the NRA are all political.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Thanks.

I knew it was something like that.

It's fine that NRA is a political organization, for me. That's what people want it to be, and why they contribute to it.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Whether or not workers are "exploited" has to do with how they're treated.

Your argument doesn't address that.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

I doubt very much that's the case.

People concerned about workers include wages, working conditions, hours, benefits, etc. when they talk of exploitation.

SnakeFist 2 years, 3 months ago

No, just the opposite is true. Even Locke acknowledged that the right to private property results from mixing labor with a material item to make a product that is more useful than the original item. When someone wants to steal the product (of your labor) what they really want is the benefit of the labor that went into making it more useful. Marx took that one step farther and argued that the worker mixes his labor with material items to make the company product. The price of the product is the only real measure of its value and reflects its usefulness; the worker's labor is what made it useful; thus, the true value of the worker's labor is equal to the price. "Profit" is the difference between what the worker is paid and the true value of his labor - thus, profit can only result from exploiting workers.

SnakeFist 2 years, 3 months ago

Your argument misunderstands Marx's point. Profit has nothing to do with labor intensity, it has to do with the differential between the worker's pay and the value of his labor as reflected in the price of the product.

Wages + Fixed Costs + Profit = Price. Price is set by supply and demand, and fixed costs (e.g., utilities, rent, raw materials) don't vary much, so the only way to increase profit is to decrease wages. Marx argued, in effect, that profit is money stolen from the worker.

A production process, whether labor intensive or not, will result in a small profit if the differential is small or it will result in a large profit if the differential is large. Most would admit that some profit is necessary to incentivize risk-taking, and that Marx was too narrowly focused on physical labor and ignored the value of actually running the business, but most would also admit that at some point the differential becomes exploitative. For example, the business owner who pockets many multiples of what he pays his workers is clearly exploiting them. Many have argued that Marx was wrong, just as many have argued that he was right, but no one has "debunked" Marxism.

Locke's argument isn't limited to converting common property (i.e., natural resources) to private property, the general principle broadly applies any time labor is mixed with material to increase the usefulness of the material. Marx and Locke agreed on that point, but Locke didn't want to take it to its logical conclusion as Marx did.

SnakeFist 2 years, 3 months ago

Liberty_Belle, you're a bright guy and if you had an education you might be dangerous, but without an education you're just an arrogant blowhard. You clearly don't understand Marx's most basic argument and yet insist you've "debunked" it. Your stock response to others is that they've created a "straw man" argument, yet that's exactly what you've done in this case. For all I care, you can remain stubbornly ignorant; in fact, it benefits me because you turn off many more people than you convert.

voevoda 2 years, 3 months ago

No, Liberty_One; your reasoning is off-base here. There are many other factors that determine the whether businesses gain large profits beyong how little they pay their workers. So you should not expect to see any correlation at all between the degree of labor-intensivity and corporate profits. Furthermore, when Marx was using the work "exploit," he was not referring to a relative measure--how much profit the bourgeois made, but the very fact that they made money off the labor of others at all. He believed that the people who perform the labor ought to own the means of production and receive all the benefits from their labor. Anything else constitutes "exploitation."

So what got "debunked," Liberty_One, was not actual Marxian ideas, but a deliberately misconstrued version of it, created explicitly to "debunk" it. You really need to stop getting your information about Marxism from anarcho-capitalist sources.

voevoda 2 years, 3 months ago

"you don't get to play by your own rules, buddy." What an odd thing for a self-proclaimed "libertarian" to say.
Of course, they aren't my rules, Liberty_One; they are the standards of intellectual discourse. You're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. The facts about what Marx said are the facts. You may not like what he said; you may disagree with what he said, but "you can't just make up what you want Marx to have said and then claim I was wrong." And that is what you did. I didn't.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 3 months ago

Guess you don't understand how competition between workers raises wages. You would rather have it extorted for you than earn it. Just like the rest of the takers in this country. It's not 1920...unions are a thing of the past.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Competition between workers can't possibly raise wages, but it can lower them.

Competition between businesses for labor can raise wages.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 3 months ago

I earned more money than my peers because I competed against them and earned it. Obviously you haven't had a job where you could earn more by working hard.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Ah - my bad. I thought you meant that differently, as in competition between workers for possible jobs.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 3 months ago

Actually...I am pretty silly...thanks! With no actual arguments for your case....what does that say about what you posted? "Fool" comes to mind rather quickly. sillysillysillysillyyyyyyyYes-I-am!!!!

Paul Wilson 2 years, 3 months ago

You are right yet again. But at least I am a working clown who doesn't want anything from you...I don't want your money and I'm not jealous of those who have more than I. The complete antithesis of a leech liberal....except that I have my face painted because all you got is that I'm a clown.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

I'm probably less well of than you and I resent unions. Your theory is wrong.

Liberty275 2 years, 3 months ago

My thoughts are rational enough for me.

jaywalker 2 years, 3 months ago

Considering a number of the posts on this string, Liberal, that's a bold leap to the front of the pack for Dumbest Post of the Day. Well done!

SnakeFist 2 years, 3 months ago

If you are treated fairly yet work in a non-unionized business, you can thank the work of countless unions and union lobbyists over the many decades since work reforms became a priority in this country. The reason unions came into existence in the first place was to fight abuses by employers. While its true that the pendulum has swung too far, eliminating unions altogether will simply invite employers to return to abusive practices.

Capitalism asserts that greed is the primary human motivator. You cannot expect fair dealing from such a system unless there are checks and balances, and unions are a necessary part of ensuring that workers interests are protected against the otherwise unmitigated greed of their employers.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 3 months ago

How did blue and white collar workers lose these millions upon millions of jobs?

USA big business people making big bucks killing USA industry and shipping jobs abroad. Anti American I say. Then they blame the unions to distract from their billion dollar enterprise of shipping jobs abroad. And Americans buy into it. AND so has the press that today must believe anything they're told or among the profiteers.

Why does anyone want to work for less plus no company benefits?

It’s not the Unions!

--- 1. Mergers = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 2. Hostile Takeovers = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 3. Leveraged Buyouts = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 4. Free Trade Agreements = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 5. Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan home loan scandal which killed the economy and cost the USA millions of jobs. = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 6. Bush/Cheney Home Loan scandal killed the economy and cost the USA millions of jobs = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 7. Bush tax cuts

All of above ultimately translate into millions upon millions upon millions of blue and white collar USA job losses in some cases to dictatorships. Big time layoffs are the end result. These jobs go abroad with tax codes that prevent taxation on profits made abroad from USA big name corporations.

There was a time when becoming employed by corporate America came with long term employment, fine wages and dependable retirement benefits. Those days are gone. Why did congress participate in killing the USA economy and millions upon millions of blue and white collar jobs?

Armstrong 2 years, 3 months ago

merrill, you conveniently forgot to mention the US is not competetive in the global market any longer - why ? How would a union make anyone more competetive. You need to have business first before you worry about wages, benefits, perks....

Richard Heckler 2 years, 3 months ago

Mitt Romney has made zillions of dollars killing USA industry and jobs. What a slob.

Pal 2 years, 3 months ago

How many zeros are there in a Zillion anyway? ....."A zillion is actually an undetermined number as defined by scientists around the world.".....and you think it's plural? Like maybe 2 or 3 Zillion?

Pal 2 years, 3 months ago

If the slob has multiple zillion he could fork over one and pay for Obamacare. Would that still make him a slob?

William Weissbeck 2 years, 3 months ago

Excuse me, but why shouldn't the right to collectively bargain be in a state constitution? The right was recognized by the federal Wagner Act in 1935, but then watered down by Taft-Hartley in 1947 that ushered in the state by state right to adopt RTW (to avoid the federal right). All that the Michigan unions were trying to do was to uphold in Michigan the right to collectively bargain and avoid the periodic fights (as in Indiana) to adopt and repeal RTW. Even with the right to collectively bargain, the employees still have to conduct an election to adopt union representation. The Michigan GOP erased that right in two ways - unions cannot enforce the collection of union dues by payroll deduction, even in union shops where the employees are willing members of the union. AND the Michigan GOP put in the further provision that prevents their RTW legislation from being reversed by popular referendum. So the only ways to reverse it are by a very unlikely gerrymandered Democratic legislature, or by a similarly unlikely Constitutional Amendment. Yes, the unions may have over played their hand and caused the unleashing of the anti-union hounds, BUT that ignores still the basic issue of fairness. The unions lost at the ballot box to the extent that Michiganders didn't want an amendment to the constitution, but also all of the GOP sponsored ballots measures failed. That doesn't mean retribution by changing the law that no one but the Kochs were asking for.

Paul Wilson 2 years, 3 months ago

C'mon Merrill!!! Where is your proof that Romney "has made zillions of dollars killing USA industry and jobs." Give us another of your cut and paste novels. I'm all over you on every thread I see you until I see proof with legitimate sources. You loudmouthed libs spout off way too much without a shred of proof. Bring it or shut up!!!

John McCoy 2 years, 3 months ago

Well, lets be sure and not pay anyone a living wage. The only wage earners in this country who are getting paid enough to live on belong to unions. The misnamed "right to work" laws simply give some workers the right to freeload off union benefits without having to pay union dues. Why do so many responders here seem to enjoy low wages? Mystery to me.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

I support right to work laws, but only if combined with the loss of union benefits for non-members.

Does that work for you?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.