The Role of Labor Unions

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 9, 2006 | Go to article overview
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The Role of Labor Unions


In his Friday Commentary column, "Something for nothing: Part II," Thomas Sowell repeated the century-old argument that labor unions reduce wages for workers who are not in the unions. If this is true, why did blue-collar paychecks usually buy more in the 1950s and '60s than they do now? Back then, a much higher percentage of the work force belonged to unions.

By raising wages in union companies, unions force nonunion companies to pay their workers more in order to keep them. All workers benefit from a strong union movement.


Wilmington, Del.


In the late 1970s, I had retired from the Marines and was living in Germany, pursuing a master's degree in labor economics. One day, we had a special speaker, the director of personnel from Daimler Benz, the maker of Mercedes automobiles. He gave an interesting and thoughtful description of his firm's policies and practices. When finished, he opened the floor to questions. My wife and I had just ordered a new Mercedes diesel-powered car and were having to wait 18 months before we would be able to get it because of a substantial order backlog. This was a situation that General Motors or Ford cheerfully would have killed to have. Yet, Daimler Benz ran just two shifts, and there was a 10 percent unemployment rate at that time in Germany.

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