Days of Change

The Winner Won’t Be the Guy Behind the Counter

September 4, 2014
1 Comment

Unions had a role in moving factory work to the non-Union South, Mexico and China. They ended the original Hostess company when each group of executives who took over could not make it profitable with union rules and wages. Manufacturing is a shadow of what it once was and the government had to give billions in tax breaks and loans to automakers to keep them operational. The strongest unions now exist in the government sector that is not coincidentally the least financially solvent.

Today we saw yet another ineffective attempt at unionizing fast food workers by promising impossible wages. The SEIU has made efforts to unionize the people who cannot be outsourced. The Service Employee International Union seeks to collectively bargain for everyone who has direct interaction with customers. The problem with that idea is that the service industry is frequently low-skilled with high turnaround and low pay. Who wants to make $9 an hour and then give up a chunk of that in union dues? The SEIU has taken a different approach.

Instead of arguing for unionization, they are whipping up a frenzy over the idea that fast food workers deserve $15 an hour. In terms of wages, this would put what is essentially unskilled labor on par with a first-year teacher in some places. If that fast food wage existed, those teenagers would be replaced by skilled workers looking for a better wage. More likely, the jobs would be replaced by machines and salaried jobs would open up with 60-70 hour workloads.

Not only is this figure ridiculous, it is intentionally so. Unions have already learned that large gains made early on lead to smaller gains later and eventually the kind of union “give backs” that are common among workers who don’t want to lose their jobs entirely. If fast food did unionize, the SEIU could hold $15/hr over the heads of their members for another decade. By that time, the executives of the company can retire on their massive union salaries. The rest of us will be ordering a $10 Big Mac from a robotic clown head.

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