Americans are spoon-fed lies. They are spoon-fed lies by government schools. They are spoon-fed lies by the media. They are spoon-fed lies by their own culture. As Jeffrey Tucker said in Bourbon for Breakfast: “It’s Labor Day, but there’s nothing to celebrate.” Perhaps one of the most prominent lies Americans seem to blindly believe follows as such: “Were it not for unions, we would all be working in sweatshops.” When asked why this is the case, many retort with: “When unions emerged, wages increased and working conditions improved, therefore unions increased wages and improved working conditions.” As many with economic literacy and logical competence can see, this is clearly a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy as the “argument claims that correlation IS causation. This is the furthest from the truth. For the rest of this article, I shall dispel the myth that unions are economically beneficial to workers. In addition, I will shed some light on the political activities of unions. And I will finish by making the case that one does not even have a right to unionize, as unions are inherently violent entities.
Economically speaking, unions (especially closed shops, which tend to be the rule rather than the exception in non-Right to Work states) are disastrous to workers. To start, unions reduce competition in labor. By doing this, there is no incentive for industries to offer competitive wages as unions now negotiate wages and working conditions. This encourages low-efficiency labor, as a union member knows he is protected by his union boss. It also will cause some laborers to lose their jobs. If more costs are imposed upon an industry, management will not take a pay cut in order to cater to their employees. Rather, they will lay off as many employees as they can in order to compensate for the money they lost. While many of these workers who lost their job would be willing to take a pay cut to keep their job, management cannot accept that as the union rep would not let them. Like wages, benefits are competitive. If an employer is forced to provide benefits and high wages, then workers will lose their jobs.
In addition, unions go beyond negotiating with industries, they also lobby to the State to force minimum wages and work condition controls. By fighting for a minimum wage, unions stifle competition, making it practically impossible for low-skilled workers to find a job and earn experience so they may pursue higher paying work. Unions also fought against people who work from home because they “feared” it would lead to a return to sweat shop conditions. When in reality, it was the union attempting to stifle innovation and competition. In conclusion, any benefit that a union worker gains must come at the expense of another individual who is seeking work, whether it be their job entirely, or the time it takes for them to find a job.
It also makes no sense for libertarians to support labor unions, especially when one looks to where the money of unions actually go. When one claims that your union dues only go to representational activities and a small portion goes to paying union reps, they are lying through their teeth. In fact, unions spend as little as 2% of their money on representational activities (http://www.heritage.org/jobs-and-labor/report/right-work-laws-myth-vs-fact#_ftn4). In addition, unions tend to love Leftists. In the 2016 election cycle alone, labor unions donated at least $160 million dollars to leftist candidates and causes, while donating less than $1 million dollars to republicans and conservative causes and not even a penny to libertarians. Big Labor is a massive lobbying group for the Left, but the money is just the start. As Barry Goldwater pointed out in The Conscience of A Conservative: “Unions provide manpower for election day chores — for making phone calls, driving cars, manning the polls and so on. Often the union members who perform these chores are reimbursed for their time-off out of union funds. Unions also sponsor radio and television programs and distribute a huge volume of printed material designed to support the candidate of the union’s choice. In short, they perform all the functions of a regular party organization.”
Many of my lovely friends at the Cato Institute are surprisingly pro-union and claim that unions are a fundamental necessity to the freedom of contract. Apparently, the guys at Cato don’t seem to understand what coercion is. For example, if I went to the Cato Institute with an agreement that, if they signed, would compel Cato to promote actual free market economics, but I also brought an angry mob that would burn down the building with the entire staff at Cato inside if they refused to sign the agreement, would that contract be valid if the Cato Institute signed? No. It wouldn’t. The contract was signed under the threat of force and is thereby illegitimate. Another way to think of it follows as such: if I gave the IRS 35% of my paycheck, was that legitimate? Or is it illegitimate because I would be thrown in a cage if I refused to give the IRS my money? It is obviously illegitimate. In the same way the Mafia and the IRS are violent organizations, so are unions.
You do not have the right to unionize. So far as I can recall, every union to have ever existed has used or has threatened to use physical and/or state violence to achieve their goals. Whether it’s to make low-skilled workers unemployable through minimum wage laws, to stop competition by physically beating non-union workers (AKA “scabs”), or to threaten force in these ways, unions are organizations based on the initiation of force. They compel businesses to respond with violence only as a means of self-defense, or in defense of their non-union employees. Unions like to reference all the times violence was committed against them by the businesses, but perhaps none of that would have happened had the workers quit and sought new employment due to their dissatisfaction with conditions rather than go on strike and commit violence against those attempting to replace the Union Thugs as employees. So by doing this, the unions are committing violence against not only the business, but also the “scabs” who are just seeking honest employment.
Unions, on an economic political and ethical level, are illegitimate entities that hurt the poor, promote the State, and engage in violence against honest people and should be rejected entirely by libertarians and society alike. So get back to work, and actually make something of yourself.