File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 572

Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 16:39:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: M-I: Re: labor's bargaining room

Doug writes:

>I've been arguing here & there that the U.S. labor market is tighter than
>many people realize, and that labor should be in the strongest bargaining
>position it's been in in nearly a generation... 
>At least in the U.S., there's a lot of wiggle room in the
>system, and unions should take advantage of this wherever they can. I know
>it's easier for me to say this than for organized labor to act on it, but
>the period of endless retreat might well be over. Defeat can now be
>punctuated by the occasional victory even.

Doug omits an important *quid pro quo* of the "booming" American economy;
minimal social protection, weak unions, a low minimum wage, and greater
productivity per worker.  MIT's Paul Krugman puts it without squeamishness:
"growing US inequality and growing European unemployment are different sides
of the same coin."  The US labor market is, in a word, "flexible", the
European market is not.  

Additionally, there is less regulation of US employers, as well as more
money available for American entrepreneurs (the US, as Doug realizes, has
well-developed, highly liquid, deep capital markets well-matched with the
right start-up businesses, which tend to become prolific job-producers).

Seen in this light, there may be less "wiggle room" than Doug imagines.  The
problem with unions is that, in their quarrel with the employers over the
share of the spoils, they must inevitably lose.  The long-run rules of
capitalism dictates it.

Louis Godena  

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