Without the Boats and Eye Patches

This post originally ran May 19, 2016.

Yesterday was Labor Day, and millions of Americans celebrated it with chips and burgers, grateful for the three-day weekend, and with only a dim awareness of what the difference between Labor Day and Memorial Day might be. In short, Labor Day for most has been scrubbed free of all commie toxins, and is now perfectly safe for your family to enjoy. More background here.

Someone might wonder what’s wrong with celebrating work, or the work ethic, or a culture of hard work? How is that a commie toxin? The answer is nothing, and it is not a commie toxin. Keep right on.

Pressed on the point, someone might say that we need to celebrate organized labor. Okay, I’ll bite. Organized to do what? Organized by whom? Organizing to what result?

The answer is that collective bargaining, unlike labor or work, is not part of the creation mandate. Organized labor is organized to take control of an asset away from its rightful owners without paying for it. Organized labor is organization of property by those who don’t own it. Organized labor, by driving up the costs of production through coercive means, destroys industries. Organized labor is piracy without the boats and eye patches. Why would anybody want to celebrate organized labor?

Good hard work, fine. Organized labor, not so much.

However you describe it, organized labor wants to force all workers at a particular point of production to join the union, whether they want to join or not. They want to make membership in the union a condition of employment. They want to extract dues by force of law, making those dues a kind of tax. They want the right to walk off a job they did not create, and simultaneously keep that job off limits for others by harassing any “scab” who desires to replace the absent workers. In short, organized labor is organized to do unrighteousness.

Take away ungodly coercion — the coercion of business owners and other workers alike — and you have taken away the whole enterprise. If all the goals of unions are so lofty and noble, why can they not be accomplished by peaceful and non-coercive means?

We live in a fallen world, and so coercion is sometimes necessary (and when it is, it is authorized by Scripture). I should not feel bad that our laws “coerce” potential thieves, rapists, and murderers. In effect, organized coercion like this is legitimate because it is taking a stand against free lance coercion, against anarchistic coercion. Lawful coercion is bounded and defined by the law of God. Unlawful coercion likes to justify itself in accordance with what it can get away with. So far unions have been getting away with a lot. Why has a phrase like the “prosperity of Detroit” become a laughing matter?

Someone might ask then if it is a sin to belong to a union. Well, no, it is not a sin to be coerced, any more than it is a sin to be captured by pirates. But I would be willing to say that it is a sin to organize a union. It is wrong to celebrate it.

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Gray Rinehart
Guest

I think you posted this a couple of weeks early….
G

drewnchick
Member

But…but…the evil, giant corporations with their harsh taskmasters effectively making slaves of all the poor laborers who barely eke out a living in all those hot, dirty, wretched conditions; who take no thought about the humanity of their workforce and who treat men as if they were machines, extracting every last ounce of value before thoughtlessly and callously tossing them aside when they reach the end of their useful life; where promotion is based upon being family, playing favorites and/or how much skin she’s willing to show and where honest wages for honest work is deep-sixed by saving a buck.… Read more »

Nathan James
Member

But…but…the evil, giant corporations with their harsh taskmasters effectively making slaves of all the poor laborers who barely eke out a living in all those hot, dirty, wretched conditions; who take no thought about the humanity of their workforce and who treat men as if they were machines, extracting every last ounce of value before thoughtlessly and callously tossing them aside when they reach the end of their useful life; where promotion is based upon being family, playing favorites and/or how much skin she’s willing to show and where honest wages for honest work is deep-sixed by saving a buck.… Read more »

drewnchick
Member

Very good points, Nathan. But we all know businesses and their owners are not innocent. There are anti-trust laws to prevent corporations from “taking over” and effectively ruling whole segments of the economy. There are anti-monopoly laws, anti-collusion laws both horizontally and vertically, anti-coercion laws, anti-price fixing laws, anti-wage fixing laws, anti-book cooking laws, and a whole host of other laws aimed at preventing foul play by business owners. These are necessary because businesses will not play fair when given the chance to screw someone over. And before these laws existed, there were unions trying to coalesce a counterbalance. Now… Read more »

Nathan James
Member

It is an amusing irony!

I’d certainly be willing to entertain the idea that business owners receive inappropriate privileges and protections through corporate law. It would be hard to have a globe-spanning business with corporations and the limited liability that comes with them. Someone would probably still pull it off, but that would be a very different world.

Bro. Steve
Guest
Bro. Steve

If you think the corporate management isn’t organizing to artificially hold down the price of labor, then I’d suggest you might want to get out more. You’ve often said that there are two kinds of markets, free and rigged. I couldn’t agree more. The labor market in America is definitely rigged. Every major company buys the services of a compensation consultant. The job of the consultant is to collect wage intel from all the participants in the racket, launder the identities of the intel sources so it won’t fit the SEC’s legal definition of “collusion,” and give it back to… Read more »

Nathan James
Member

Steve, you’re using the phrase “articificially hold down” without bothering to consider what that means, or ought to mean. When a homeowner asks a neighbor “how much did you pay for those new gutters?” He is not engaging in some nefarious plot to suppress the wages of the guy hanging gutters. He is inquiring as to the “going rate” for gutters. You are vilifying employers for asking the same question.

Bro. Steve
Guest
Bro. Steve

Nathan, by “artificial,” I mean wages are lower than they would be if corporations couldn’t communicate with each other about wages. I work for a power company. Every power company in the southeastern quadrant of the country participates in this. It won’t matter if you work for TVA, Southern, Duke, NextEra, Entergy, Dominion, or any other utility, a lineman will be paid about the same. This is not merely the market finding its own level. This is a small group of very powerful people getting together to rig the market. All I’m saying is that labor unions provide some credible… Read more »

Jane
Member

How is the ability of corporations to communicate with one another “artificial,” though? I agree the situation you’re describing is fraught with potential for collusion and abuse. But I don’t see that in itself, there is anything nefarious about the sharing and collection of information. You would need to provide a specific application of an actual moral principle that bars employers from discussing their employees’ wages. I’m open to the possibility that such a principle exists, but I am at a loss to think of one. And I’m not sure it goes only one way. If the average engineer with… Read more »

Sheri
Guest
Sheri

It certainly is rigged via massive legal and illegal immigration. The endless supply of cheap labor has kept wages low. And for low wage workers, the American taxpayer subsidizes corporations through welfare, food stamps and Medicaid paid to their workers. We don’t have a free market.

prayersofadoration
Member

Don’t work for them is the obvious answer. I assume you thought of that already but prefer working for colluding capitalists over competing with them.

Andrew Lohr
Member

“Little platoons”? In politics, rather than simply USA Inc. and atomic individuals we have families, churches, businesses, clubs, states and local governments….So along with Amazon, little platoons also?

Alex
Guest
Alex

Thanks for the post! I once worked under the domination of such pirates, who extorted my paycheck with the sword of government and were angry I wouldn’t join their thieving club. I found a much better situation and better pay in a merit-based operation thereafter. The union ran the previous company into the ground, but thankfully for union leadership there is the taxpayer-sponsored holiday of Labor Month. I think, in order to avoid confusion with other union holidays, they later renamed it Unemployment…

Max Kulishov
Guest

Doug, thank you for the post. I agree regarding unions wholeheartedly. However, isn’t being captured by pirates against your will significantly different than choosing to join their ranks and share the spoil? Or am I not understanding something?

-BJ-
Guest
-BJ-

If Doug thinks coercion is a problem, then his sights should be aimed at the corporations, not the labor unions.

“But I would be willing to say that it is a sin to organize a union. ”

This is just stupid. There is lots of room where unions and their histories have much for which to be criticized, but organizing to protect workers from corporate coercion, and leveraging the collective to demand actual market salaries is nowhere close to sinful.

I think we would need a verse or something at the least.

Nathan James
Member

If unions operated as a voluntary association, without placing demands and restraints on non-members, then they wouldn’t be coercing anyone. But unions can’t survive that way. They need to use force and intimidation to prevent anyone crossing the picket line. Once upon a time the unions provided all the muscle for that, but now the state does most of the dirty work for them.

-BJ-
Guest
-BJ-

If the unions are expected to act in such a manner, so too ought the company. It must be a fair balance. As it stands, conservatives are up in arms about unions leveraging their power, but defend businesses being coercive.

Unions can and do survive without coercion, but they can’t survive if one side of the equation is playing by different rules.

Rick
Guest
Rick

Is anyone ever coerced into working for a particular business? If you don’t like the way your employer at McDonald’s is treating you, you can always try Burger King, Hardee’s, Wendy’s, etc. It’s a free country.

Jane
Member

What coercion parallel to union coercion do companies engage in?

Nathan James
Member

You talk like businesses often coerce employees, but you must be careful to differentiate between valid negotiating and coercion. At-will employment is a transactional relationship entered into with the consent of both parties, employer and employee. Before consent is given, each side withholds what they are offering, the potential employee withholds his labor, the business withholds pay. This may at times feel coercive, but it isn’t. It is exactly what both sides are supposed to do. You speak of balance, but note this: There is a natural imbalance between the employer and the employee. The employee needs the businessman more… Read more »

Jsm
Guest
Jsm

I loathe in any way defending unions. However they were at one time a necessity, but like most political and social organizations they have outlived their usefulness. They now are a detriment to our society and are only interested in self preservation.

drewnchick
Member

And this is really all I was saying…though you have found a much more concise way of putting it vs. my verbositiousness.

Nathan James
Member

I appreciated your verbos- verbios- … wordiness.

David Zuniga
Member
David Zuniga

Prolixity.