Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99
News Opinion Readers Respond

Unions are not the answer

I take issue with much of Lane Windham's recent commentary ("If not labor unions, then what?" Jan. 29) beginning with the fundamental premise that it was the unions that provided us with economic redistribution. Like many other academicians, Ms. Windham confuses correlation with causation throughout her thought process. The simple presence of unions in the United States during our rise as the undisputed economic world leader does not establish them as the cause of a better or fairer distribution of wealth.

From 1947 to 1973, there are some other factors besides unions involved, not the least of which is the lack of any serious manufacturing competition throughout the entire world. Additionally, U.S. manufacturing capabilities were on steroids following World War II while other traditional manufacturing competitors were either devastated or in great disarray. Effectively, the world was clamoring for U.S. products and services while they were rebuilding their domestic production capabilities. These conditions gave the nation a tremendous base of both blue-collar and white-collar employment that resulted in the world's largest and most affluent middle class. Throughout this period, there never was a majority of unionized labor, yet somehow in spite of that, the world's largest middle class grew.

The writer also asserts that falling union membership caused an increase in the income divide. What is undoubtedly more significant is that since 1973 the U.S. started to lose much of its manufacturing advantage to foreign competition such as Japan and the upstart Asian economies.

The loss of manufacturing competitive advantage was due to higher wage and benefit costs and the lack of agility and flexibility due to rigid work rules negotiated by the unions. These challenges led to companies closing their non-competitive facilities, in many cases because they could not negotiate union concessions that would have led to improved productivity. Often, the union stance was they'd rather lose jobs than accept concessions on wages, benefits and work rules, and so they did. As these jobs disappeared, so did our middle class and a more even distribution of wealth.

It's probably true that America's citizens never got the kinds of universal health care programs, job insurance, or wage guarantees that benefited European workers, but they also haven't inherited the accompanying debt of these nations. It's also true that even today foreigners still prefer to immigrate to the U.S. than any other country in the world, and we still have people coming from all over the world to seek our medical services and skills. That being the case, I'm not sure why anyone would want to hold up the European socialist experience as desirous.

As to your closing question about what alternative to unions might temper the inequalities of the global economy, I suggest something she and others in academia just do not understand. To be a leader, even a survivor, in a global economy a country must be globally competitive and agile through constantly increased productivity. Only the creation of wealth through the transformation of natural resources into products of perceived value, and the provision of demanded services, provides economic redistribution. It seems to me that, as their membership roles suggest, the American working public is telling the unions that they do not believe they have the answer.

Michael P. Maturo, North Haven, Conn.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
    Related Content
    • O'Malley's evolving view of Hillary Clinton
      O'Malley's evolving view of Hillary Clinton

      Martin O'Malley says the Democrats should not crown Hillary Clinton as their candidate for president despite the fact he endorsed her in 2008 ("O'Malley: Democrats shouldn't coronate Hillary Clinton," March 29).

    • Md. Democrats offer ruinous agenda
      Md. Democrats offer ruinous agenda

      I wonder where the rulers in the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates are going to get the money to fund what Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller described as the Democratic agenda ("Senate panel rewrites Hogan's charter school law," March 26)? I guess they will do what they do every...

    • Don't shed tears for Bergdahl
      Don't shed tears for Bergdahl

      Your editorial regarding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is typical of The Sun's liberal agenda ("Hero or traitor?" March 27). So much concern for the deserter, but nary a word about the six men who gave their lives trying to rescue him.

    • Black-on-black crime is not just a problem for blacks
      Black-on-black crime is not just a problem for blacks

      Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has sent a message to African-American men to step up and take responsibility for guiding black youths away from violence ("City leaders call on black men to mentor youths and stop the violence," March 25).

    • Maryland needs renewable energy
      Maryland needs renewable energy

      The first day of spring ironically delivered another snowstorm in Maryland ("Before spring, snow threatens Baltimore once more," March 19). Fluke weather patterns are expected to become more severe as climate change persists. The extreme shifts from warm sunny days to cold, wintry ones takes...

    • Supergirl for the modern era
      Supergirl for the modern era

      Great news that comic book publishers will be adding to the existing line-up of female superheroes ("Supergirl power," March 27)!

    Comments
    Loading