The USA Today reports:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a bill that would allow labor unions to organize workplaces without a secret ballot election.
Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes needed to force consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act, ending organized labor’s chance to win its top legislative priority from Congress.
The final vote was 51-48.
The outcome was not a surprise, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying for months that he would stop the legislation in the Senate. The White House also made it clear that if the bill passed Congress it would be vetoed.
The House passed the bill in March. Democrats and labor unions pressed for a vote in the Senate in hopes of rallying their voters in the 2008 elections, where they hope to win the White House and increase their majorities in the House and Senate.
The legislation was a litmus test vote for organized labor and businesses, strong supporters of Democrats and Republicans respectively. “Today’s vote shows us who is standing with workers and which politicians are in collusion with corporate America to destroy the middle class,” Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said.
This bill would never have passed and even if under some strange circumstances it did pass, it would have been vetoed. In other words, there was absolutely no chance of this bill ever becoming law. It defines what I loathe about the political process: symbolic votes. Hoffa’s comments essentially sum this up.
Even more startling were the comments made by John Edwards:
Union membership can be the difference between a poverty-wage job and middle-class security.
Does Edwards truly believe this?
Nothing has been done to impede unionization through this process. The vote upholds the status quo (which seemed to work very well for unions for so long).
Nevertheless the Edwards-type rhetoric is often spewed as though it were truth when, in fact, it is far from it.
Let’s look at an example. NPR reported not long ago the story of Renee Brown:
Renee Brown works assembling the Camry — the nation’s best-selling car. She puts in seat belts and cup holders at Toyota’s plant in Kentucky horse country.
Brown grew up in Beattyville, a tiny, struggling town in the state’s Appalachian coalfields. The town doesn’t have many good jobs today.
Brown previously worked as an assistant manager at Dairy Queen, where she made $20,000 annually. Six years ago, she got a job at Toyota.
Now, Brown makes $70,000 a year — more than twice the average manufacturing wage in the area.
The United Auto Workers have tried to crack the Toyota plant since before it opened. Last spring, they opened their own organizing office just down the road.
But Brown says that Toyota’s wages are so close to the union’s, she doesn’t see the advantage.
I do not wish that unions were illegal and I do not discount the success that they have had in raising wages through collective bargaining. However, to claim that one should be able to go from poverty to middle class simply by joining a union is preposterous. Unions membership is down, but it is not because it is any harder to form a union than it was in the past, it is simply because unions are becoming increasingly obsolete. Ironically, they are becoming obsolete because businesses are replicating Henry Ford and paying efficiency wages.
The example above is not merely anecdotal. It is true that companies would prefer to have non-union workers, but the best way to achieve this is to eliminate the incentive for employees to unionize and thus increase their wages and benefits.
Unfortunately, as Edwards’s comments illustrate, the Marxist belief in the surplus value of labor and exploitation persists to this day.
UPDATE: Greg Mankiw weighs in:
I have no doubt that making it easier for workers to form cartels would raise wages–at least for those workers in the cartels. But demand curves slope downward.