Strike That: Sucking Business Dry

There’s an issue floating around out there which has caused quite a number of problems. It has put companies out of business. It has brought detriment upon the public schools. It has protected incompetent federal workers from being fired. It has purveyed arrogance to millions of otherwise nice people, interrupted power companies and brought work to a halt at thousands of factories.

What issue could possibly do so much harm to so many things? The answer is simple: unionized workers.

As usual, many of my readers are currently reeling in confusion as to how I could pick on these friendly bands of workers. Yes I know, I’m a horrible human being and all that good stuff. But let me explain why my opinions of unions—particularly the non-governmental unions I deal with in this article—are less-than-positive. (I’ll deal with government and teacher unions in a future rant, not to mention union involvement in politics ;-))

You see, once upon a time factories were very bad places. People were hurt, exposed to chemicals, even killed so the business in charge could save a few dollars on safety devices. At this point in history, unions formed to bring a level of worker safety to the employees. Fair enough, more power to ’em.

The problem is, however, that workers are now protected today by a slew of federal and state regulations, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and etc., etc., etc. Unions woke up one morning and found that the government had taken over their hallmark position as defender of the average Joe, and they were in danger of disappearing.

So in a bid to stay in business, if you will, unions picked up on an issue that guaranteed the workers would be on their side: getting them higher pay.

Once factory workers had the brute force of “collective bargaining” on their side, companies were forced to increase their pay and benefits. After all, if the companies didn’t comply their entire workforce would walk away and freeze their ability to function. Before too long, people in other fields—from electricians to high school teachers—were in on the union bandwagon begging collectively for a few more pennies in their paychecks and threatening to walk away on “strike” if they didn’t get them.

In this age of relatively safe workplaces, it goes without saying that unions have outlived their usefulness. Today, however, they have become purely bastions of monetary pettiness. Their entire purpose is to fulfill the selfish desires of workers, and these actions have often led to dire consequences.

You see, in economics there is something called supply and demand. These two concepts combined set price points, and selling something off of its price point (equilibrium) leads to all sorts of unpleasantness. When looking at the economics of employment, these same concepts can be applied. “Supply” is the number of workers, “Demand” is how badly they are needed, and the price equilibrium would be the wage those workers deserve.

According to this simple economic theory, companies must pay their workers at this natural wage rate. To raise wages above this rate or to lower them below it would create serious problems for the business. When a union gets a wage hike into its head, it puts a company in a situation where it must make a choice between resisting the change, allowing the workers to strike, and eventually going out of business, or raising the wage rate above its natural level, losing money as a result, and eventually going out of business.

My simple question for unions then is how can they be so short sighted as to drive their employers out of business. News flash guys, no matter how high you swindle your pay before a business fails, you eventually end up unemployed when it does.

People wonder why industrial businesses in this country are sending their jobs overseas. People wonder why the companies that used to employ their entire town, like Rubatex in Bedford, aren’t there anymore. People wonder why it costs $400 to have a plumber tighten a pipe in their basement. People wonder why you can make $40,000 a year working in a factory and screwing screw #7 into door panels of Ford Explorers all day.

Unions do this to workplaces in America. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? They’ve dropped an incentive to move factories overseas right into the laps of our corporate boards while lining their own pockets, in the short term anyway, before they wake up one morning totally unemployed.

So here’s how we solve the problem:

Currently, unions have twisted the arms of companies and organizations and forced them into contracts which ensure that only union members will be hired. This is unethical and creates a reverse-monopoly which is just as bad as any corporate monopoly could ever be. Businesses and unions must end these agreements, union and nonunion workers should be on equal and fair employment footing. People should not be forced to join a union to get work in their field.

Also, it is either against contracts or illegal to fire striking workers. This is also unethical and wrong. If somebody doesn’t show up for work, a business or organization has a right to remove them from their position. Strikes can be effective when they are truly necessary, but they are overused and detriment both the companies they push toward failure and the workers that failed companies displace. Companies should be permitted to fire workers who fail to do their job duties, regardless of if they’re in a union or not. This would ensure that strikes only occur when something really important is at stake.

People need to grow up. If you take a job and agree to a rate of $15/hour with medical but no dental coverage, then shut up and accept it. If you want a raise to $18/hour and some dental coverage then you have every right to ask for it, but don’t forget that you took the job of your own free will and have no right to demand they give you any more than the initial agreement stipulated. If they won’t give you your precious $3 and dental coverage, then you can either live with it or try to get it somewhere else in another job with another company. Nobody has stapled your feet to the floor of that one company, you have every right to go find a better deal elsewhere.

People simply have no right to force a company into giving them something it might not be able to give, and the worker had no expectation of receiving when they took the position anyway.

Some might tell me, however, that if these changes were made companies would take advantage of the newfound freedom to lower pay unreasonably. Well, some might, but what fool would stay in a position that doesn’t pay the bills? Don’t forget, a price-point below the equilibrium causes as much trouble as it does above the equilibrium, just in a different way. While the company can’t stay afloat when high wages sap their cash, they can’t stay in business with wages so low that nobody wants the job either!

If a company or organization is doing something that is unpopular with a certain group of workers—paying its metal workers $5/hour lower than the going rate, for example—then it’s not going to be able to hold on to metal workers! The company will realize that it needs to change something in order to function and the rates will go up. Supply and demand people—with no coercion, no brute force, and no unions.

Ideally the relationship between a company and its workers would be symbiotic. The company would get things done, the people would get money, and all would be fair and equal. Under the monopolistic union system we have today, this relationship can be best described as parasitic. Like leeches, these unions take much more than they give to their corporate hosts. While the unions are satisfied in the short term, it is only a matter of time before these business go under—taking their workers with them.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.