Saturday, November 12, 2005

How to solve the "union" problem

First of all, get rid of that nasty word "union". It sounds vaguely socialistic. Instead, call these entities something more relevant to the modern world and modern economy, such as: "employee-owned labor contracting corporation." Change the way these organizations operate -- the employees are employed by the contracting corporation, not by the corporations they work for, the corporations pay the contracting corporation, the contracting corporation skims a bit off the top as "dues" then pays the workers, voila. Finally, have the SEC, not the NLRB, in charge of monitoring these employee-owned labor contracting corporations to make sure that a) they meet modern accounting and corporate governance standards, and b) that the owners (the employees) have full corporate governance rights, including the ability to vote for members of the board of directors of the corporation and the right to sue officers of the corporation if they engage in behavior contrary to the best interests of the owners (the workers).

I think if the unions did the above, they would immediately make 99% of the propaganda put out by the right wingnuts obsolete, as well as do a 100 degree side-step of anti-union "right to work" laws (since the employees are never actually employed by the corporations they work for, said "right to work" laws don't apply, only standard contract law applies). Rather than being depicted as somehow-Communistic "unions" that are an imposition upon the free market system, they would be inherently depicted by their very name as part of the free market system -- i.e., as employee-owned corporations that simply contract out the services of their employees to other corporations.

I believe that unions, as currently organized in America, are becoming irrelevant. They are becoming irrelevant because, as currently organized, they are relics of an earlier era (the Progressive era) and thus out of step with the current business-oriented climate in America. Unless organized as a business rather than as socialist relic, unions will continue their current decline in membership and political clout, until, in the end, they are legislated out of existence and business has no check at all upon its ability to exploit its massive advantage in terms of power over individual workers.

- Badtux the Laboring Penguin


  1. Didn't there used to be a word for what you describe? Ah yes, it's "guilds". I'd totally be down for that.

  2. In French, they're called "syndicates."

    I disagree, however, that unions are becoming irrelevant. What they have been is legislated practically out of existence, but they nonetheless have done much more good than harm. Also, some (though not all) unions already do operate in ways similar to what you describe.


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