Public Sector Unions vs Private Sector Unions

Big Think

Will Wilkinson discusses the differences between private sector unions (good) and public sector unions (bad) in the wake of the Wisconsin recall elections:

I’ve argued elsewhere that public- and private-sector unions are quite different beasts and that public-sector unions cannot be justified on liberal-democratic grounds while private-sector unions are not only unobjectionable, but desirable. I’ve argued that it’s not only possible but reasonable to support private-sector unions as a safeguard against economic exploitation and oppose public-sector unions as an instrument of political exploitation, but I don’t think I’ve said enough about why private-sector unions are a good idea.

Competition essentially keeps private sector unions relevant and reduces the worst excesses of unions:

Competitive globalized markets for labor and capital make the worst excesses of unions infeasible. That outsourcing and capital flight would prevent a reinvigorated American private-sector labor movement from becoming as a powerful force for a more social-democratic politics is a fact progressives have a hard time accepting, but for me that fact is more feature than bug.

…It’s pretty clear that global market forces function worldwide to keep unions’ worst anti-competitive instincts in check.


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  • AngryTory

     Will Wilkinson discusses the differences between private sector unions (good) and public sector unions (bad)

    Heh. so he’s half-right. The real answer is private sector unions (very bad indeed) public sector unions (much worse).

    Laws permitting unionism are effectively exceptions carved into laws against criminal conspiracy and racketeering.  Remove those exceptions, let labour be judged by the law of contract and criminal responsibility like everything else.  Ruth got halfway there with the ECA but of course it didn’t go far enough – as we can see with the MUNZLers and NZEI/PPTA takedown of a legitimately elected government with a substantial mandate. 

    Time to wipe out unions once and for all.   
    It’s the single biggest thing Key could do to improve NZ.

  • JC

    Haven’t looked at the NZ union  returns for a while, but from memory there was an uptick since the Nats got in. About 18% of the workforce is unionised and half are public sector unions (mainly health and education) and the other half in the private sector (mainly our old friends like MUNZ, EPMU, freezing workers).

    So private sector unions are a very minor part of the private sector workforce but damn near all public sector workers belong to a union.

    So the real scandal about this lopsided set up is that Govt is the employer and its ministers pay out on public union demands with tax payer money, ie, not theirs.
    The result was that until National got in the public sector was racing away from the private sector with wages, conditions and increasing numbers.

    For example, how the f&%k did the teachers get away with increasing their numbers 13% over a school roll rise of just 2.5% (2002-2012) without the minister putting in critical performance indicators? In fact our PISA scores dropped slightly over that period and still 30% of pupils left school without NCEA2.. the lowest qualification to be able to function in a modern workforce.


    • Guest

      Because the then Labour government deliberately increased teacher numbers?  Notice that it’s essentially flat-lined wrt student numbers since 2008/9.