Union made

In the Washington Post one finds two op-ed pieces that concern a piece of legislation before congress concerns the right of workers to organize, one against (George Will) one for (Harold Meyerson).

I don’t have a logical point to make about either of them (this is not an endorsement of either argument). It would be nice, however, if the authors had exchanged their work beforehand. That way the reader would have gotten the sense of an actual discussion, rather than a parallel one.

In Meyerson’s piece, the legislation concerns the right of workers to organize:

>This week, though, the Senate turns to legislation that not only speaks about the economic stagnation of all but the wealthiest Americans but that would actually begin to end it. The goal of the Employee Free Choice Act is simply to give workers the right to join unions without facing the (currently) one-in-five chance of being fired for playing an active role in a campaign to do so.

>Firing employees for endeavoring to form unions has been illegal since 1935 under the National Labor Relations Act, but beginning in the 1970s, employers have preferred to violate the law — the penalties are negligible — rather than have their workers unionize. Today, employer violations rank somewhere between routine and de rigueur. Over half — 51 percent — of employers illegally threaten workers with the specter of plant closings if employees choose to unionize (1 percent actually go through with this threat, according to Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner). And even when workers vote to unionize, companies can refuse to bargain with them and can drag out the process for years — indeed, forever. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service found that when unions win representation elections, 45 percent of the time they then fail to secure contracts from employers.

>This kind of hardball resistance to American workers’ attempts to unionize, combined with the decline of manufacturing, has achieved catastrophic success. Only 7.5 percent of private-sector workers today are unionized, down from one-third during the decades after World War II. And guess what? The middle class has been cut out of the ever-dwindling group of our countrymen who profit from the nation’s economic growth. The EFCA would seek to remedy this by offering workers an alternative path to forming unions — the submission of signed affiliation cards from a majority of employees would trigger union recognition — and by mandating binding arbitration if employers stonewall efforts to win a first contract.

>If we’re really serious about restoring economic security in America and economic vitality to the middle class, the EFCA would work a whole lot better than would a fence on the border.

For Will, on the other hand, it’s a question of hardball tactics used by unions (the only corporate entities he thinks are not persons):

>Democracy is rule by persuasion, but the unpersuasive often try to coerce the unpersuaded. Recent days have provided two illustrations of this tendency, both of them pertaining to labor unions, whose decades of declining membership testify to their waning power to persuade workers that unions add more value to workers’ lives than they subtract.

>Failing unions, like failing industries, turn to government for protection in the form of coercion. Failing industries have traditionally sought corporate welfare in the form of tariffs (coercion of consumers). Unions seek laws to confer what their persuasiveness cannot convince people to consent to.

. . . .

>The WEA’s whiny audacity was not more offensive than the aim organized labor tried to advance with yesterday’s march and rally in the nation’s capital. Unions were demonstrating in support of legislation with the Orwellian title Employee Free Choice Act. It would deny employees the choice of a secret ballot when voting on unionization of their workplace. Instead, union organizers would use the “card check” system, which allows them to pick the voters they want: Once a majority of workers — exposed one at a time to face-to-face pressure from union organizers — sign a union card, the union is automatically certified as the bargaining agent for all the workers.

It’s as if they come from two different worlds.