Sunday, December 2, 2012

Any champion of free markets is a champion of ending government restrictions on organized labor

As is clear to anyone looking honestly at the situation Republicans are champions of the 1% (many Democrats come in a close second but I'll save that for another day).  

Republicans don't care about "free markets" or ending "Big Government" because if they did there are major points of convergence where they would be building coalitions with progressives and passing reforms which would create stronger free markets; which would at the same time have dramatic impacts on the quality of life of working people.  

The failure of a single elected official in Georgia Legislature to speak out in support of the For Respect movement this past Black Friday, was, for me, an obvious sign of the corrupting influence of the 1% on state and local politics.  

The reality is that the modern Republican party is a party attached to protecting the political power of a very narrow elite at the expense of quality of life of working people and the ability of local economies all over this nation to flourish and thrive.  The irony is the 1% doesn't tend to reside in Georgia so local Republican's are fighting, for the most part, for a group of people who not only don't reside within their districts but look down on the lifestyles and cultural beliefs of their constituents.     

The fact that Republican voters I know are pushing for policies that literally take money directly out of the local community and straight into the financial markets is something that drives me up a wall since this kind of "redistribution of wealth" is supposed to be frowned upon by Republicans.  This money then gets used for the types of needless speculation and risk taking which created the most recent economic crisis (requiring massive bailouts by taxpayers) and it should piss you off--especially those of you who are out of work, looking for a better job, or are struggling to keep your local small business running. 

One place where "conservatives" and champions of free markets here in Georgia, and elsewhere, could prove me wrong would be in standing up to government interference with the rights of organized labor in the private sector.  

One of the results of the "Reagan revolution"--the neoliberal effort to undermine the political power of working people--has been to harness government's power to interfere in the efforts of organized labor.  Restrictions on organized labor have had a devastating impact on the quality of life of American workers and is one of the key culprits of the erosion of wages and the massive disparities of wealth we are now facing.

One easy long term solution which state leaders should be pushing, as we work to get our economy back in order, is to simply get government out of private sector negotiations between owners and workers.  

Lets let the market do what it does best, rather than having Government give mega corporations an un-level playing field, which allows owners to exploit their workers at the bargaining table--manipulating the market outcomes.   

When massive corporations like Walmart, McDonalds, and Starbucks no longer have the ability to harness the state to keep workers from utilizing their collective bargaining power; local economies throughout the nation will begin the reap the rewards, as profits which are currently shooting straight to the top are more evenly distributed throughout the company.  

When the political question of how to distribute profits within a corporation are decided, not by politician's in Washington and state capitals across the nation deciding they should pick the winner in advance, siding with the mega corporations in the process; but are decided within the company via contract negotiations, there will be major changes that will reverberate throughout the economy as working people harnessing market forces are able to put their hard earned dollars into their local economies.  

If we were able to get government out of private sector negotiations and corporate profits began to become more equitably distributed throughout the company we would not only see stronger local economies we would also see the burden on our Federal and State welfare/social safety-net's reduced.  This would be a win-win for any of the Republican's I know; at least if they are honest about their priorities and principles. 

Currently there are many hard working Americans who need to tap into safety-net programs just to stay afloat and if politician's no longer allowed corporations to rig the labor market we could change this state of affairs by simply letting markets do what they do best.   By skewing markets in favor of the political connected corporations--which is a top priority of Republican politicians--we indirectly increase the tax burdens facing our state and local governments.

Remember, government "picking winners and losers" is supposed to be frowned upon by Republican's but time and time again we see Republican's side with corporations and support government interference in the private sector. All at the expense of workers who live in their districts.  Apparently its more important to be seen as "anti-union" than it is to support free market policies which would have positive impacts on the local economies of their constituents. 

Dean Baker gives a good run down in his most recent book The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (which you can download for free here) on ways government interfere's in labor markets resulting in skewed outcomes. 

This government interference ends up transferring millions of dollars of wealth from the hands of working people into the pockets of the 1%.  This is a situation where the "wealth creators" are having their pockets picked by the 1% simply because the 1% have the political clout to buy politicians to write the rules (interfering in the free market) so that they can enrich themselves.  Here is overview from Dean:

Restrictions on organized labor
Yet another area where the government intervenes in the market at the behest of the well-off to diminish the well-being of workers and the disadvantaged is labor-management policy. The accepted view is that progressives want the government to intervene to protect workers, while conservatives would rather let workers and management sort things out for themselves. That’s not quite the story. 

Though labor law provides protections to workers and their unions, it also constrains workers’ power in important ways. For example, it is illegal to organize or honor a secondary boycott. If the workers at a restaurant go on strike and then arrange for the Teamsters to refuse to deliver food to honor the strike, the restaurant can enlist the government to deliver injunctions and impose fines against the Teamsters. If Teamsters officials ignore the injunction (e.g., they don’t tell their members that they cannot refuse to deliver food to the restaurant), they can face imprisonment.[3] This is not the free market; this is the government intervening on behalf of employers. 

Another example of how labor-management policy is rigged away from market forces is the fact that 22 states currently deny workers freedom of contract with their employers. Under “right-to-work” laws, workers are prohibited from signing contracts with employers that require workers covered by a union contract to pay their share of the union’s costs. The law requires that everyone who is in a union bargaining unit – regardless of whether they are actually in the union – gets the same pay and benefits. The law also requires that the union represent workers indisputes with employers on issues covered by the contract, whether or not a worker is in the union. This means that if a worker who does not pay to support the union is fired, the law requires that the union represent the worker through any appeals process established under the contract.  

While the law requires unions to provide the same benefits to all workers covered by a contract, right-to-work laws prohibit unions from signing agreements with employers that would require workers to pay for the benefits they are receiving. It in effect guarantees representation without taxation. This restriction of freedom of contract is not consistent with a free market. “Right-to-work” laws are just another way in which the right uses the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers. Free marketers are perfectly willing to deny the freedom of contract to accomplish this end.

Dean Baker. The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (Kindle Locations 104-110). Center for Economic and Policy Research. 

So next time you are talking to a Republican who claims they hate when government picks winners and losers you should chime in and ask them if they agree with you that we should end government restrictions on organized labor.  

The more we start to call out Republican's for their support of the 1% the more we can begin to erode the power and control that the 1% hold over our state and local political elites (who truly have no need to build alliances with the 1% to begin with).  

By beginning the long term efforts to hold conservative's to their claimed principles and exposing the Republican Party for its unabashed support of the 1% the more we will begin to identify allies and build alliances of local politicians across the political spectrum who want to prioritize flourishing economies over picking winners and losers.  

Getting government out of private sector negotiations would be a sane, progressive, place to start.

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