Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Anti Union Snake Oil

Modern conservatism has been repeating the same balderdash for three decades -- that unions are bad for the economy. The Fraser Institute, predictably, has jumped on the bandwagon. Andrew Jackson writes in The Globe and Mail:

A new study by the Fraser Institute argues that introduction of anti-union “right to work” laws in Canada would boost manufacturing output and jobs. While they are right that these laws, which make dues payments voluntary, severely weaken unions, it is far from evident that unionization comes at the cost of poorer economic performance.

In fact, Jackson writes, some of the Institute's own work undermines its argument:

Ironically, recent work by the Fraser Institute itself suggests no link between higher unionization and poor economic performance. The think tank’s 2012 report on labour markets in Canada and the United States found that all Canadian provinces rank ahead of all U.S. states in terms of union and labour rights, but the 10 provinces rank in the top 21 states and provinces in terms of labour market performance between 2007 and 2011. (The index is based on job growth, unemployment and productivity growth.)

Evidence from the United States -- where there has been a concerted push to enact "right to work" laws -- suggests that  discouraging unions suppresses economic growth:

 In fact, North Carolina – which has the lowest unionization rate in the United States at just 4.1 per cent – lost a third of its manufacturing jobs over the past decade. But Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which have significant high-tech industries, have unionization rates well above the American average. Firms seeking very low wages are more likely to move to developing countries than “right-to-work states.”

And a recent study by the World Bank discovered the same thing. More importantly, the same study argues that suppressing unions increases economic inequality:

A major World Bank study found no relationship between the rate of unionization and national economic or employment performance: “Union density per se has a very weak association, or perhaps no association, with economic performance indicators such as the unemployment rate, inflation, the employment rate, real compensation growth, labour supply, adjustment speed to wage shocks, real wage flexibility, and labour and total factor productivity. There is, however, one significant exception: Union density correlates negatively with labour earnings inequality.”

Conservatives have been selling economic snake oil for a long time. The evidence is in. What they say simply isn't true.



Ron S. said...

I've been hearing the right wing mantra against unions since the 1970's when we went on strike at BC Rail and again when we had the 1 day strike against Bill Bennett and the Social Credit. All right wing parties are union busters.

Now is our chance to bust their asses next election.

Owen Gray said...

It will take votes. And it will take strategy, Ron. Stephen Harper has kept his opposition at each other's throats, instead of aiming their fire at him and the Conservatives.

The Mound of Sound said...

Fraser Institute, 'nough said.

There are think tanks - Brookings, Chatham House, and such - and then there are cauldrons of stewed and skewed ideology like the Heritage Institute, the American Enterprise Institute and their Canadian cousin, the Fraser Institute.

A legitimate think tank accepts facts and knowledge as they are, analyzes them and then draws conclusions. Faux think tanks, like the Fraser Institute, begin with their conclusion and then cherry pick facts or half-truths to support them. They're well-funded charlatans in paid service to those whose positions they advocate.

Owen Gray said...

Recent revelations that the Institute accepts money from the Koch brothers should have sent a signal about the reliability of its research, Mound.

Unfortunately, that story had a very short shelf life.

Lorne said...

To e succinct, Owen, ideology trumpets facts, and unfettered capitalism's insatiable hunger for more and more of the pie is the only thing that matters in its blinkered view of the world.

Owen Gray said...

As George Carlin said in the clip you put up on your blog the other day, Lorne:

"They want more for themselves and less for everybody else."

CK said...

There is a disconnect between the public and unions for some time now with the help of right winged propoganda.

Talk show hosts of right ringed radio programs, tv news talk shows panelists, etc. Heck, I remember something particularly striking that Frank McKenna said last year on an episode of Question Period -- "Workers" and "tax payers" and how tax payers should not be paying for workers--the basically continuing propaganda.

One thing many of them miss is that workers -- unionized or not-- are tax payers and probably the largest segment of tax payers, certainly larger than CEOs and other business heads.

When I was training for my new position of secretary- archivist of my union local at work, my predecessor was telling me that her daughter argued with her saying that unions are "irrelevant" today. She told her daughter in turn, that unions are what gave us our benefits and yes, those to non-workers: week-endes, health and safety standards, worker's comp, EI, paid vacations, overtime, etc. Yet, like her daughter and so many others, it doesn't get them to stop and think.

In my new position, though limited and least controversial, I would like to try to break some of that disconnect. Yes, many of my colleagues are also disconnected from our local. A grandiose goal I have, but I have to try.

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely, CK. We have a generation of workers who have no knowledge of the battles which were waged by workers on behalf of future workers.

Today's workers also have a responsibility to future workers. Unless they bear that responsibility, life will be worse for those who come after them.