Friday, March 13, 2009

We Don't Have To Lose This Game

Columbia University Professor of Economics and Law Jagdish Bhagwati makes a very clever and innovative argument in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Essentially, his point is that EFCA is a good way of shielding American workers from the impacts of globalization while not resorting to protectionist measures which would interfere with free trade. Right now, most of our unionized workforce is in manufacturing sectors. Unfortunately, those sectors are the ones most likely to leave our shores.

Fortunately, there is lots of room to organize the service industry, which will be the heavy hitter that takes manufacturing's place once globalization shakes itself out. As Matt Yglesias points out, there is no intrinsic reason that manufacturing is well organized and service jobs aren't, except that the law was far more union friendly back in the days when factories were king. Passing EFCA would give some of the newer, up and coming unions (like the SEIU) a chance to make it so the new jobs created to replace departing manufacturing positions still provide decent compensation and working conditions for working and middle class families. That's a good thing.


Anonymous said...

I've been interested in the SEIU since the LA janitor's strike (and had mixed feelings about them after their unsuccessful organizing campaign at my husband's (then-boyfriend's) workplace) and generally think that yes, we need to organize service sector workers because that's a huge part of our economy and a sector more prone to exploitation.

That said, a problem I've seen raised in several forums is that service sector employees are never going to earn enough to justify paying the high dues that allow a union to flex its political muscle (and build up strike funds). I don't think that means "don't do it." It's still probably the right thing to do, just on its merits. But it could be an organizational and political problem for the service sector unions.

Cycle Cyril said...

Having seen what SEIU can do in NYC's hospitals via 1199, creating work rules and encouraging the attutide of "not my job", resulting in the steady decline in the quality of the hospitals as oppose to the non-union suburban hospitals I now work out of now if the Union racketeering act called card check is enacted you will see only more inefficient, wasteful service organizations.