Home Class Politics It's Not A Surprise That Harold Meyerson Gets Economic Reasoning Wrong

It’s Not A Surprise That Harold Meyerson Gets Economic Reasoning Wrong

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Harold Meyerson is one of those who near always manages to grasp the wrong end of the reasoning stick. He’s not quite pure enough at this to be an absolute measuring stick but he sure is indicative.

Here he’s managed to observe something interesting but then miss the point of it. American unionisation still really exists among the professional – or at least skilled working – classes rather than among the unskilled. This is a useful and true observation. The bit that gets missed is of course that the skilled don;t need a union while the unskilled possibly do:

More than ever, perhaps, the dividing line between workers who can win a union and workers who can’t depends on their replaceability, clunky though that word may sound.

In my article yesterday, I pointed out that blue-collar and low-paid service sector workers fear being discharged, harassed, or downgraded by management, or even having their workplace closed, for supporting unionization, even though many such management threats violate federal labor law. (The penalties for such violations, however, are altogether negligible.) Professionals, by contrast, usually know that management would have trouble finding and training their replacements, and that they have a decent chance of finding comparable employment even if they’re let go. (That’s why unions of professional athletes wield such clout.)

The useful point being to recall what Marx said about wages and workers – it’s the existence of that reserve army of the unemployed which means the capitalists don’t have to raise wages. If you’re an undifferentiated work unit then you can – because of that undifferentiation – be replaced easily enough. Which is why the employer doesn’t have to raise your wages. Sure, this isn’t an absolute, that near total full employment of the last few pre-covid years did more to raise low end wages than anything else anyone has ever done.

If, on the other hand you’re one of some few thousand, even tens of thousands, with a skill that has thousands, or tens of thousands, of job opportunities then your employer has to pay you enough to stop you hightailing it to a better opportunity.

Thus the union is of benefit to that work unit, not to the skilled professional. The latter will already be getting pretty much everything a union can offer them without having to pay the union dues.

But what is actually happening? The work units cannot get a union, the professionals can. Which does mean that unions are pretty worthless, doesn’t it?

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