On the decline of unions

Commentator Nicholas Kristof has never been a fan of unions, but in this New York Times op-ed, he explains, he’s changed his mind about them. Why? In Kristof’s words:

I’m as appalled as anyone by silly work rules and $400,000 [salaries for] stagehands [at Carnegie Hall], or teachers’ unions shielding the incompetent. But unions also lobby for programs like universal prekindergarten that help create broad-based prosperity. They are pushing for a higher national minimum wage, even though that would directly benefit mostly nonunionized workers.

I’ve also changed my mind because, in recent years, the worst abuses by far haven’t been in the union shop but in the corporate suite. One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses — and of corporate tycoons. Unions, even flawed ones, can provide checks and balances for flawed corporations.

Many Americans think unions drag down the economy over all, but scholars disagree. American auto unions are often mentioned, but Germany’s car workers have a strong union, and so do Toyota’s in Japan and Kia’s in South Korea.

The whole piece is thoughtful and worth a read, here.

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