“Where were you when it happened?” How many times have we been asked -- and asked -- this question since 2001? Today, Chris Campbell asks us to pose a different question: What can I do today to making Sept. 11 another turning point in my life? And then, of course, taking that first step. Read on…
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
The so-called recovery is only built on debt and printed cash declares our own Byron King. In the long term, the only option for the government to continue financing it's operations is to print too many dollars. Money printing has it's limits, however. It's Byron's opinion that at some point, perhaps very soon, the government will have to turn to more desperate measures. Namely, capital controls. In the following featured essay, Byron outlines 4 probably ways the government will take your cash and one play you can buy through your broker to prepare today. Read on...
Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
The U.S. dollar is the dominant global reserve currency. All markets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchange are affected by the value of the dollar.The value of the dollar, in effect, its “price” is determined by interest rates. When the Federal Reserve manipulates interest rates, it is manipulating, and therefore distorting, every market in […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
The game of speculation is the most uniformly fascinating game in the world. But it is not a game for the stupid, the mentally lazy, the person of inferior emotional balance or the get-rich-quick adventurer. They will die poor.– Jesse Livermore, How to Trade in StocksThe trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no […]
Let’s head back in time…In 2004, a mere decade ago, the US national debt rang the register at $7.4 trillion. That represents “debt per citizen” of over $25,000. You, me, your neighbor, your 4-yr old grandson, you name it and they’re portion of the U.S. debt is $25k.But flash forward to today and you’ll see […]
John Foust, a Democrat running for the 10th congressional seat in Northern Virginia, is — like Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats — gung-ho to expand Medicaid. His wife’s position is, shall we say, a bit more nuanced.Foust has slammed his opponent, Republican Del. Barbara Comstock, for her opposition to expansion. He has spoken […]
The midterm election season is upon us, and it’s a tossup whether the Republicans will win the Senate, or if President Obama, seemingly oblivious as conflict flares up around the world, will, through his continuous campaigning, keep Harry Reid in his majority leader seat.The only thing we know for sure is that sociopaths will be […]
Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
“In the beginning, all the world was America.” — John Locke“The Garden of Eden was a perfect place,” my friend Manuel explained. “Man had free will. He could live in harmony with nature and God — and everything would be fine. But if he defied God, the stain of original sin would be on his […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
At the second presidential debate, President Obama trumpeted the accusation, “Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt.” It was a reference to a 2008 New York Times editorial by Mitt Romney in which he argued against a government bail out of the auto industry and for the alternative of bankruptcy. Thus, the uncompetitive automakers could re-negotiate labor agreements that added a then-estimated $2,000 to each car. Eliminating the “modern union” would be far preferable.
Obama’s subsequent mega-billion bailout is usually criticized either as crony capitalism or as a payoff to the unions. It was both. The interests of Big Business and Big Labor may clash on specific terms that are negotiated but those interests are fundamentally the same. They both oppose the genuine rights of workers.
WHAT IS THE MODERN UNION?
In a free market, a union is nothing more than a collective by which workers protect and secure common interests through negotiation or other forms of persuasion, such as boycotts or strikes. Workers assign their right to contract to the collective but no one is forced to join, pay dues or remain. Employers are free to decline negotiation and to hire replacement workers.
The current paradigm is rooted in the New Deal legislation of President Roosevelt, especially the Wagner Act, which established the legal “right” of workers to unionize if a majority within an business voted to do so. These unions were handed legal privileges such as collective bargaining.
The result is anything but free market. For example, a modern union receives government certification to engage in collective bargaining. In other words, the government authorizes it as a sole representative of labor and legally requires the employer to provide it with a seat at the negotiating table. This monopoly shuts out other labor groups and individual workers from negotiating their own contracts. Individual workers may choose not to join a union but nevertheless they remain bound by its contracts and they must pay its fees. Thus, the modern union constitutes a forced transfer of authority and rights from individual workers to a government-created collective.
THE LABOR MOVEMENT BEFORE THE MODERN UNION
19th century America was the heyday of labor activism. The most prominent labor federation was the Knights of Labor, established in 1869. By 1886, membership peaked at about 700,000 largely due to programs that aimed at empowering members both economically and socially. Through local chapters, worker-owned cooperatives were created, public education on labor issues was launched, and support networks were established to insure members against injury or ill health. Indeed, many labor organizations began as “benevolent associations” to care for the families of deceased or injured members. Although the Knights of Labor used pressure tactics such as boycotts, they did not emphasize strikes. Terence V. Powderly, who presided over the Knights from 1879 to 1893, openly opposed strikes, which he believed caused violence and increased conflict. He advocated peaceful negotiation instead.
With effective networks and diverse strategies, a grassroots labor movement grew in power; its threat to entrenched interests also grew. In 1877 and 1894, two massive strikes drove that threat home: the Great Railroad Strike which lasted 45 days; and, the Pullman Strike, which eventually involved about 250,000 workers in 27 states. In both cases, troops were sent to break the strikes.
By the 20th century the labor movement — notably, the Industrial Workers of the World or Wobblies – had become a significant political threat. Organized in 1905, the Wobblies had strong leaders who enthusiastically embraced strikes. With a large immigrant membership and socialist principles, the IWW also became a potent voice against America’s entry into World War I. This made them a prime target of the Department of Justice. In September 1917, 48 IWW meeting halls were raided and 165 leaders were arrested under the new Espionage Act. 101 went on trial; all were convicted and received sentences of up to 20 years.
Government had learned a lesson. An uncontrolled labor movement was politically dangerous, and bad for commerce.
THE MODERN UNION AS BUSINESS UNIONISM
In 1929 the Great Depression hit, with unemployment rising as high as 25 percent. Hundreds of thousands of people roamed across America, looking for work. A massive and migrating army of the unemployed is a formula for political labor revolt. Thus President Roosevelt offered a New Deal to American workers in an attempt to create stability. This is the context into which the modern union, or Big Labor, was born; it was a governmental response to labor upheaval.
Big Business also participated. No stranger to subsidies and legal privilege, Big Business saw advantages to regulatory stability and a controllable work force. It undoubtedly disliked some aspects of New Deal policy but Big Business had long favored Roosevelt’s general approach. And, so, some of the most vigorous advocates for modern unionism were leaders of industry, such as Gerard Swope, president of General Electric. By specifying who could negotiate terms and how strikes could occur, Wagner removed some of the labor movement’s most powerful tactics and made production more predictable.
How? Certification created labor monopolies and, so, eliminated the need for business to negotiate contracts with multiple groups or individuals. The monopoly union also acted as an enforcement arm, which policed its members’ compliance with contracts. The unions prevented wildcat strikes and it punished unsanctioned boycotts, work slowdowns, and the other labor tactics that had proven effective in the past. Modern unions offered Big Business more control over production.
Leaders of Big Labor were well aware of the benefits they offered to Big Business. John Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) from 1920 to 1960 assured employers that a contract with leadership “is adequate to protect against sit-downs, lie-downs, or any other kind of strike.”
Thus, the grassroots labor movement withered. One casualty was the National Federation of Mine Laborers, which had been the parent union of Lewis’ UMWA. The parent constitution had established a network of decentralized and largely autonomous “Lodges.” When Lewis became President, he did away with both the decentralized structure and the autonomy. The Wagner Act completed the centralization of control. It was a scenario that other Big Labor leaders were happy to play out.
Thus, at its creation, the modern union was an arrangement of shared advantage between Big Labor, Big Business, and Big Government. The relationships were not always cordial but they were basically convenient.
Among those victimized were smaller employers, the grassroots labor movement, and self-employed or non-unionized workers.
Could unions exist without legal privileges?
Voluntary unions have existed in the past and would almost certainly arise today if workers perceived a benefit to them. The clout of a voluntary union would come from members who freely assign their rights of contract. In modern unions the opposite transfer occurs. Even members who join freely cannot quit or negotiate later for themselves. Thus, the modern union strips individual workers of free association and the right of of contract. It should be abolished for the sake of workers’ rights.