Thursday, December 4, 2008


I don't have the expertise to know if this point by Matt Yglesias bears out under scrutiny, but it certainly seems plausible on its face.

What I would say about car companies and unions is this. We had a period of time in the United States when prevailing labor law made it viable to organize private sector unions in the teeth of management opposition. So a bunch of firms were unionized at that time. Then we more-or-less closed the door on such unionization. And then after the door shut, new car plants were opened in anti-union jurisdictions. That obviously put the unionized firms at a disadvantage. But that’s different from saying that unionization is killing the car industry — cars are made and sold in Europe just fine. Meanwhile, in a capitalist system over the course of decades and decades it’s just inevitable that some sectors of the economy will rise and others will decline. Since we’ve made it so difficult to organize new unions, and since things change over time, we have disproportionate concentration of our private sector unions in the declining manufacturing sector. But that’s not unions causing the decline, it’s just things changing over time. The union-dominated movie and television production industries have become more central to the economy over the same time period. These things just happen. In a decent economy, though, we need to make sure that as new industries rise the workforce in those industries has a realistic shot at forming unions and bargaining collectively.

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