In a society abundant with lies, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, what makes us ‘free’ is what keeps us in chains. This goes for many facets of society; we believe we are strengthened by numbers, and as such, we collectivize each other. We are placed in a group from birth, depending on class, among others. Society fails to realize that the smallest minority in the world is in fact the individual. We orient ourselves to think in a way as to how legislation will affect a group based upon the supposed traits that may or may not be true.
This disposition is also found in labor unions that follow a range of circumstances where workers are put into a collectivist pool that does not care of the troubles of each and every individual. There is a financial struggle placed on the common worker and the inability to escape it that leads to their demise in the work field. In current iterations of labor unions, the laborer will, more times than not, find greater destruction of his or her economic freedom than benefits.
Labor Unions and the Free Market
Some creations from years and years ago may now be obsolete; 8 track tapes, payphones, and Congress are all cases of this. Labor unions are another such example. A free market, with only voluntary unions (not involved in government), in the current economy with superb job mobility may provide what labor unions had originally promised. The labor movement of many years ago, as put by History.com, “…grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions.”
Coercion and Freedom
The vision in this is a concept of individual worker rights through voluntary bargaining. Simply put, these goals of worker freedom are not present today, as were before. The key contrast from then and now is worker choice. Randall G. Holcombe illustrated the difference between coercive association and voluntarism in labor unions. He emphasized that the hand of “labor law has given unions the power to dictate to employees collective bargaining conditions, and has deprived employees of the right to bargain for themselves regarding their conditions of employment.”
The lack of voluntarism in unions clearly should be counter-intuitive, but this has been the reality for a very long time. Sanctions are given for failure to comply with obligatory rules of labor laws regarding unions. In current, modern forms of unions, the worker simply is not satisfied and is disregarded in his or her rights of freedom of association in their compulsory activities with such unions.
The financial goals of early unions dealt with the idea of “livable wages,” a phrase often heard even to this day. The workers of the Industrial Revolution faced the hardships of more than humble pay, which was not enough to support a family. This time period, in the absence of unions, is often used to counter the argument against such unions, due to the severity of the time of industrialization. The push to fix this turned into a monster after economists realized the detrimental effects to the economy by way of minimum wage increases.
A Forced Living Wage Hurts Consumers
James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation recognized that if employers must raise wages for the sake of the law, they compensate for a profit loss when they “…pass on those higher wages to consumers through higher prices, and often they also earn lower profits. Economic research finds that unions… hurt consumers generally, and especially workers who are denied job opportunities.” The blow an economy of a certain market takes in this does not come unnoticed.
Consumers (which include the common worker as well) pay more for their goods. This is only a part of the equation; once employers are involuntarily forced to pay their employees more, they are left to fire workers, thus increasing unemployment. Increased wages will undoubtedly seem like a positive to all, but, throughout the last few decades, as Mises explained, “wherever and whenever the unions succeeded in raising wage rates above the potential market rate, i.e., above the amount the workers would have earned without union interference, ‘institutional’ unemployment developed as a lasting phenomenon.”
Many Left in the Dark
Sure, unions have raised wages, but these institutions are giving a smaller percentage of workers these wages, leaving plenty of unemployed union workers to starve. Evidently, labor unions fail their members financially, leaving the average laborer in a worse position financially with higher market prices and reduced employment rates.
Many wonderful concepts from brilliant minds may be useless in practice, where its flaws become ever so clear. Labor unions, institutions promising to help the worker, disappoint rather than support. In fact, unions have hit the polar opposite of the mark. Research findings regarding union worker satisfaction show “…when it comes to job satisfaction, the economic advantages of union jobs are not sufficient to compensate for job content and work environment factors.
It comes as no surprise to the job satisfaction researcher that job content — the nature of the tasks people are given to do — weighs heavily in overall job satisfaction scores.” Union workers find themselves trapped in a coercive group that causes unemployment and increased prices of goods, all due to the push for increased wages. Serious reform to the current system must occur before labor unions are considered to be a viable benefit to the worker.
A Never-Ending Game of Failure
The workers of America go to work everyday, in constant hopes of success. They wonder if it may be a never-ending game they are forced to play, with no real end, only a struggle. Workers may look for the escape from their troubles they cannot fight, though they try. It is sometimes a saddening spectacle to observe.
Even the strongest of us humans may fall victim to those in power. A god among men, Sisyphus, of Greek mythology was forced to push a boulder up a mountain perpetually, but “at the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit.” The common man and women face this same dilemma. He or she may look, as any would, to escape what enslaves them. The labor force, unionized, is what will leave them in chains. And they may never know it.
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