I don’t for a moment want to diminish the glee that my colleague Chuck Lane is feeling over Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin, or the schadenfreude evident in his taunting of such benighted Walker foes as Katrina vanden Heuvel and me. The occasions for such an emotional release are, I can attest, rare in the life of the pundit, and Chuck is entitled to his.
Rather than rehash the well-known differences between Chuck and me on matters pertaining to unions, I’d like to pick up on the one point of potential agreement he laid out in yesterday’s blog post. After disparaging public-sector unions, he wrote, “Collective bargaining is appropriate in the private sector, where the market acts as a check on unsustainable pay and benefits.”
Yet, as Chuck must be aware, collective bargaining has all but disappeared in the private sector, where the rate of unionization is less than 7 percent. (This is chiefly why the share of both company revenues and the GDP going to wages are the lowest they’ve been since the end of World War II.) There are many reasons why private-sector union membership has declined, but the opposition that virtually every employer now mounts against organizing campaigns is certainly one of them.
Legislation strengthening workers’ right to join unions and bargain collectively narrowly failed to gain the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority threshold in 2010. Included was a provision that addressed the very real problem of employers’ refusing to engage in collective bargaining at all after their workers had voted to form a union — a provision that established a form of mandatory arbitration.
In light of Chuck’s words in support of collective bargaining, I welcome him to the fight for the next round of labor law reform. Proud to have you on the barricades, Chuck.