Two good things happened yesterday:
• The bill to provide a large public subsidy for the refurbishment of the the Miami Dolphin’s stadium died in Tallahassee. The combination of outrage over the fiasco of the Miami Marlins deal, and the fact that the team’s lead owner is a multi-billionaire seemed to scuttle it.
• Chartwell’s workers (UMiami dining hall workers) voted to unionize.
I’m glad they’re unionizing. Now they get to form a coercive, parastic organization that controls access to jobs and extracts a fee from anyone who wants to work. Nice.
Unions don’t except in very rare cases (merchant marine?) control access to jobs. They do charge a fee to members, but I will gladly bet you it is vastly exceeded by the size of the next raise for front-line workers.
On second thought, I think you’re right in this case. In Florida that couldn’t happen.
But in states without right to work laws, say you’ve got a construction project where you need a certain number of workers in a given trade, don’t the union workers boycott when you hire any non-union workers?
Wouldn’t surprise me. The interesting question to me is not whether union membership is required (which I’m often fine with) but rather whether the union “controls access to jobs” in the sense that it makes it hard to join the union. That’s when I have some trouble. If the union hall door is open to new entrants, then I’m fine with a mandated union shop. If the union is operating as a bar to entry on equal terms, I want to know why that’s justified. Preventing age/seniority discrimination might be one reason, but I need to know more.
One last question: If in antitrust, we think that the harm of anti-competitive conduct is reduced output and higher prices, why do we allow that in labor markets? That is, even if they allow new entrants on equal basis, why should one group (those already in the union) get to raise the cost of labor for their own benefit at the expense of those who are willing to get paid less to avoid unemployment (and who post-union, will have no job)?
I am not a labor law (or economics) expert, but I would imagine that it has to do with things that make the labor market special: 1) the power disparity between (most) employers and (most) employees, ie fight monopsony with monopoly; 2) the supremely perishable nature of labor — if you don’t work today, you never get today back; 3) the prisoner’s dilemma nature of wage negotiations in the absence of collective action [this may just be a restating of #1 & #2]; 4) the value to society at large of having decent wages and working conditions.