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Saturday essay: Organized woe |

Saturday essay: Organized woe

| Saturday, August 20, 2005 12:00 a.m

The Wall Street Journal reports that the labor movement — if movement is defined as backsliding — has a public relations problem.

And so much more.

Internecine warfare resulted in a big split at the AFL-CIO, with the dissenters advocating more organizing and less politicking for the Democratic Party.

The dissenters have a point. How has support of Democrats benefited organized labor• Private-sector union membership is 7.9 percent, less than half the 16.3 percent of 1983.

How is Toyota able to build “Japanese” cars here where nonunion workers are glad for the jobs• And how has Wal-Mart grown into a retailing juggernaut — operating stores in China, by the way — without the assistance of the AFL-CIO?

Indeed, that’s a PR problem; it suggests unions are unnecessary.

Does it suggest they also are counterproductive?

Unions are monopolies in restraint of trade. Steel, airlines, autos and others have or are contracting under the weight of labor costs that could not be sustained in the face of competition. Is it any wonder labor’s great strength is in representing monopoly workers such as public school teachers?

For sure, labor has resisted free trade. If it had its druthers, the government would throw up high trade barriers so that its members could thoroughly milk the American consumer.

We tried something like that in 1930. The Great Depression did not end until World War II.

— Gery Steighner

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