The View From 1776
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Labor Unions Admit They Are Killing American Jobs
The president of the United Auto Workers union has acknowledged the stark truth: industrial unions are killing American manufacturing jobs. Unions’ salvation, he says, must come from ukases promulgated by the commissars of a new socialistic, Democratic administration.
In a June 13 article by Jefrey McCracken, the Wall Street Journal reports: “United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger, acknowledging that his union confronts the toughest challenges in its 71-year history, told delegates to the UAW’s leadership convention that solutions to problems such as rising health-care costs or the rash of auto suppliers filing bankruptcy-law protection must come largely through the political process.”
This takes them back to their origin as favored children of the socialistic New Deal.
One must admit that members of industrial unions have made out rather well, able to afford nice homes, automobiles, vacations, and college educations for their children.
There is, however, a less attractive side to industrial unionism.
With union labor costs about double those of non-union Japanese and other foreign auto manufacturing plants in the United States, Big Three American automakers are financially bleeding to death. This outcome was inherent in the origin of industrial unions in the violence of revolutionary socialism.
In addition to higher wages and benefits, industrial unions impose work rules that reduce worker productivity and add directly to the labor costs of production. These costs are added to the prices of manufactured products and ultimately are funded by the non-union members of society. When an industry like autos is hit with import competition of equal quality, at lower prices, it must cut its profits and ultimately lay off workers.
There is therefore a one-to-one relationship between industrial union militancy and destruction of American manufacturing jobs.
Industrial unions are unlike crafts unions, which descended from medieval crafts guilds whose members had skilled trades that were acquired through long apprenticeships. Members of mass industrial unions such as the United Auto Workers are mostly unskilled workers from all kinds of jobs within an entire industry, the proletariat of Marxian ideology.
Industrial unions’ origins have in nearly all cases involved violent property destruction and deaths as they strove to supplant capitalism and place business management in the hands of the workers.
Such were the 1869 Knights of Labor, organized shortly after the Civil War, when railroads and other large, interstate business corporations came into being. Its membership dwindled after its identification with the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Square riot between police and unionists that resulted in several deaths when bombs were thrown into the crowd. A similar history of violence and murder surrounds the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was formed in 1905.
The Marxist theoretician of industrial unionism in the United States in the 1890s was American Socialist Party leader Daniel De Leon, who, in common with European syndicalists, advocated destruction of the capitalist system and seizure of private industry by industrial unions.
Before the 1933 advent of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, industrial unions were not as large or influential in the labor movement as the older crafts unions. Roosevelt came to the presidency from the governorship of New York. Socialist labor’s great champion in the New Deal was New York Senator Robert F. Wagner, who was born in Germany, the home of Europe’s most powerful socialist party, and immigrated to New York City, the epicenter of American socialism.
In Senator Wagner’s case, one has the sense that he was a genuinely worshipful adherent of the religion of socialism. In President Roosevelt’s case, it seems more likely that he simply made the shrewd calculation that industrial unions could provide lots of votes, if the Democrats enabled membership growth.
The result was the 1935 Wagner Labor Relations Act, which gave industrial unions a favored, elitist position protected by the Federal government. Before the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, industrial unions were allowed to get away with almost any sort of action against employers, but the latter were usually hauled immediately before the National Labor Relations Board and fined for any opposition to union action.
In the bleak depths of the 1930s Depression, with the support of the New Deal’s Labor Relations Board, industrial unions were able to force large manufacturers to raise their wages, exerting downward pressure on the wages of the vast majority of citizens, who were non-union workers.
Adding insult to injury, unions’ government-imposed higher wages were an inflationary force that raised the living costs of all those non-union workers.
In short, industrial unions are free-loaders who had the backing of Feds armed with legal black-jacks to extort unearned privileges at public expense.
Now that economic reality has at last overtaken them, unions can only run back to mommy crying for more special treatment.
To elect liberal-socialists who will deliver new undeserved preferences, however, industrial unions will have to employ a variation on the Mafia’s “protection” racket. They will have to continue their illegal practice of using union dues, over objections of non-socialist union members, to support the most extreme-left-wing Democratic Party candidates.