I approve the concept of the labor union. In the private sector long ago, I spent my off-school time manning a wrecking crew, loading and driving trucks (age 15!), cleaning toilets, serving in food lines and carrying trays to patients. Most boys below draft age had full-time summer and part-time school-year jobs; there weren’t enough males yet returning from war to take their place until late 1946 and even after. Was I ever a union member? I’m not sure now, but I experienced and accepted the idea as an ordinary and useful economic aspect of our society. The worker needs a competitive economic status, thus he organizes to offset the power of the employers. The union allows him to share in the success of the latter’s enterprise which in turn depends upon the employee’s skill and diligence.
The union is thus a perfectly plausible part of the free enterprise system, taking its bargained share of the surplus generated by the business. If the workers take too much, there well soon be no jobs; all depends on the continued existence of the employer. In my home town (Duluth) the post-war strikes in the then prosperous steel mills became so cumbersome for the owners that many simply ceased business or moved down the Great Lakes to more viable locations. Does that suggest unions are bad? Not at all; they are merely fallible like the rest of us, and in my town they accidentally killed the goose for thousands of their members. Perhaps the experience taught their leaders prudence; maybe not. In any case what they had demonstrated was an elementary lesson in free enterprise. Continue Reading →