…of which there has been so much in recent months, seems to be spreading.
The development comes as no surprise to this unprivileged native of Michigan, where unions have long held disproportionate power, due (in part) to their ability to inflict financial and physical harm. I was a “beneficiary” of that power in the 1950s when, as a 16- and 17-year old, I was required to join the Retail Clerks International Union so that I could bag groceries after school and on weekends for the munificent wage of about 90 cents an hour. I went to one union meeting, out of curiosity, and even my 16- or 17-year old self was amused by the sight of grown men calling each other “brother,” like members of the Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge. Most of those present at the meeting were employees of low-grade, low-margin grocery chains, whose mostly working-class customers they sought to gouge for higher wages. (Of course, the union members didn’t think of it in that way.) The chorus of “brotherhood” was led by a handful of full-time union officials (including a decidedly shifty character), whose customer-financed salaries undoubtedly exceeded the earnings of the workers whom they purported to represent.
Henry Ford was a man of many parts, not all of them praiseworthy, but he was right about labor unions:
Ford was adamantly against labor unions. He explained his views on unions in Chapter 18 of My Life and Work. He thought they were too heavily influenced by some leaders who, despite their ostensible good motives, would end up doing more harm than good for workers. Most wanted to restrict productivity as a means to foster employment, but Ford saw this as self-defeating because, in his view, productivity was necessary for any economic prosperity to exist.
He believed that productivity gains that obviated certain jobs would nevertheless stimulate the larger economy and thus grow new jobs elsewhere, whether within the same corporation or in others. Ford also believed that union leaders (particularly Leninist-leaning ones) had a perverse incentive to foment perpetual socio-economic crisis as a way to maintain their own power. Meanwhile, he believed that smart managers had an incentive to do right by their workers, because doing so would maximize their own profits. (Ford did acknowledge, however, that many managers were basically too bad at managing to understand this fact.) But Ford believed that eventually, if good managers such as he could fend off the attacks of misguided people from both left and right (i.e., both socialists and bad-manager reactionaries), the good managers would create a socio-economic system wherein neither bad management nor bad unions could find enough support to continue existing.
Given that the Wagner Act was an unconstitutional usurpation of property rights, I cannot entirely condemn Ford’s bare-knuckles method of dealing with union organizers, who were bare-knuckles men themselves.
And then there were Jimmy Hoffa and his namesake son, to name but a few “icons” of the “peaceful” labor movement and its habit of wrenching above-market wages and lucrative pensions from the honest workers of America.
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