Sunday, June 9, 2013

Unions Are Like Vaccines

In the years following World War II, the United States prospered. Our economy grew, and our life expectancy lengthened. Infant and child mortality plummeted. This era of improvement owed much to the rise of labor unions and the rise of vaccination. Polio was finally eradicated from the United States, and smallpox was eradicated from the entire world. Whooping cough and rubella became unknown to many American families. The blue collar middle class raised healthy children and could afford to send them to college.

Vaccines protect populations in two ways. Those who are themselves vaccinated get the strongest protection. However, those unvaccinated members of the population also benefit from "herd immunity" -- the lack of sufficient potential hosts in the surrounding community. Herd immunity is sufficient to protect the small percent of the population who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons (primarily very young babies and those with compromised immune systems).

Unions similarly provide "herd immunity" to an economy, when membership numbers are high enough. Union workers earn significantly more, on average, than non-union workers in similar jobs.  However, even non-union workers benefit when employers must compete with union shops for the same labor pool. On the Las Vegas strip, Sheldon Adelson's casinos are famously non-union.  However, he must compete with his unionized neighbors for employees, so his pay and benefits are comparable to those negotiated by the Culinary Workers Union.  Adelson plans less largesse in Spain, where he got the government to exempt him from many of their labor regulations and allow him to import low-paid guest workers from Morocco for his proposed Euro-Vegas complex.

In recent years, the anti-vaccine movement has been growing, and union membership and clout have been declining.  Both trends have thrived on ignorance (of medical science and of history and economics). As a result, once-rare diseases are making a comeback, and Americans' standard of living has been in decline:
In short, even though an hour of work by the average worker produced close to twice as much in 2007 as in 1975, his/her hourly wage declined...Between 1949 and 1974, the workforce became twice as productive and, at the same time, the hourly  wage of production and non-supervisory workers rose 66 percent to $18.63 from $11.24.  Why such a drastic change after 1974? One key reason is that labor union membership was at historically high levels between 1949 and 1974...Since 1974, union membership has dropped precipitously. In recent years, less than 14 percent of workers worked under collectively bargained contracts.
Vaccines are not always effective, and they occasionally have unwanted side effects. However, most people have far better odds of survival if they are vaccinated, and society as a whole is much healthier when at least 93% of the population partakes.  Likewise, unions do not always perfectly represent the best interests of their members. Like all human institutions, they are prone to corruption. However, our nation was much better off when unions were strong. The people who buy into the voodoo economics of supply-side tax cuts and anti-union legislation have a lot in common with the ones who buy into Jenny McCarthy's anti-vaccination bullshit.

Famous libertarians Penn and Teller illustrate the logic and science behind vaccination:


Dan said...

The Culinary thugs have pretty much left Adelson's property alone. They have target Station Casinos and City Center of MGM fame. Sand's property's? No protests in the past several years.
And Penn and Teller's views on unions and Wal-Mart:

Beer, Bicycles and the VRWC said...

So, what you are saying here is that all businesses should be forced to pay union wages so everyone has more money to spend. Do I have that right?

What you fail to take into account is that union wage raise the cost of goods and services, making it a wash at best, because consumers have less buying power.

Ordinary Jill said...

By your argument, Deekaman, one would expect the average American's real income (factoring in cost of living) to go up as unions decline. However, just the opposite has happened in recent years. One would expect Governor Walker's union-busting policies to result in real job growth (or at least beat the national average). How's that working out? Oh, that's right, Wisconsin trails not only its neighboring states but the rest of the country as well. Wake up.

Beer, Bicycles and the VRWC said...

The busting of public-sector unions is akin to busting up the mafia. The only thing that should have happened that didn't was that no politicians went to jail for their corrupt dealings with public-sector unions. Walker ended public-sector union corruption, nothing else. Wisconsin is still heavily unionized in manufacturing. Consequently, no one in their right mind will open a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin. Places like Kohler, Manitowoc Crane and Oshkosh continue to cut their workforces in Wisconsin and send them elsewhere. The cost of doing business is too great. A bunch of politicians with no clue how to run a business think busines can be run as a charity. Face it...the Left hate business. The Left hate business because business operates on evil profit at the expense of the "good" workers.

Hmmm...I am in the Right-to-Work state of Texas because this is where all the jobs are. Why? Because the Democrats don't line up to block jobs bills (like the mining bill). The Leftist Lesbian Democrat Mayor of Houston knows what side her bread is buttered on and is allowing business to do business. There's no "prevailing union wage" or "living wage" requirement down here. Everyone who wants a job has a job. Houston is thriving. What does that say about your union argument?

You logic is as wrong as your ideology. You will claim it is "live and let live", but it is only "live and let live" if it is done your way.

I want people to be successful. All of them.

Ordinary Jill said...

Texas has the highest rate of construction workforce deaths in the country, precisely because there is no requirement for Worker's Compensation or other protections that unions guarantee. Wage theft is also a huge problem. That's why houses are so cheap. You save $10,000 on the purchase of a home, at the cost of a life. The Texas economy is a house of cards resting on a very shaky foundation. Houston's bubble will burst, now that Texas' oil industry has so much new competition from North Dakota.

Beer, Bicycles and the VRWC said...

You are wrong about Worker's Compensation. Since I deal in it, I think I would know. Wage theft? Prove it. It is as ubiquitous a you believe voter fraud is.

You are also wrong about the current Texas economy. It is as much manufacturing as it is oil. And a good bit of the "oil bidness" is in equipment, rather than oil itself. I've seen manufacturing from ABB to Mahindra to Vodaphone. And even if you were not wrong, at least there are jobs here. Nobody...and I mean NObody wants to bring jobs to Wisconsin. Democrats so badly want to destroy Walker they can't bring themselves to help bring jobs, afraid Walker will get credit. The underlying public-sector union unrest and uncertainty about the political future is also keeping business from coming to or expanding in Wisconsin. Another Diamond Jim Doyle administration will takes us back to the "good old days" of continuous tax increases, theft from the "untouchable" funds like Doctor's compensation, stupid-ass ideas like a not-so-high-speed train to nowhere, regulation that strangles business and a "living wage" structure that does nothing more than put more people out of work.

Simple economics that the Left will never grasp.

Ordinary Jill said...
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Ordinary Jill said...

I base my opinions on empirical facts, Deekaman, not ideology. I have actually studied economics and understand it very well. A recent study of conditions in Texas' construction industry documents the high rate of workplace injury and wage theft. Highlights of the study (and a link to the entire study) can be found here:

Beer, Bicycles and the VRWC said...

You understand Socialist economics quite well, but do not understand either capitalism or fundamental human nature. At all. Surveys that ask for anecdotals are notoriously inaccurate. They get what the researcher is looking for.

The overall RIR for Construction is 3.9 (2011, BLS - most recent BLS data available). According to BLS data for Texas, the rate here is 2.8.

Wisconsin is 6.8.

I will accept data from BLS long before I will accept an anecdotal survey.

Now, I will stipulate that there is an underground economy consisting of illegal (mostly Hispanic) labor, but that exists in nearly every state now. Obviously, the border states are worse. But to single out Texas is absurd.

Further, you do not understand home construction. Texas homes do not have basements. The soil is not acceptable for that type of foundation. Take away the heavy equipment and operator for excavation of a basement and you've just knocked off a couple bucks per square foot on the price. True that labor is cheaper here.

Ordinary Jill said...

I didn't study "socialist" economics, Deekaman. I understand human nature and the tendency to be greedier and lazier than is good for one, in the absence of strong incentives to do otherwise. I also understand the tendency to go for short-term gain that will have a disproportionate long-term cost, or that will shift the cost to others. The Texas home construction industry is dominated by subcontractors employing undocumented labor. The only by-the-book contractors that survive are the ones who have government contracts that require documentation and audits. You may have missed the quote from former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall (who is quite familiar with NLRB data): "Texas has the most dangerous construction industry in the United States. Between 2007 and 2011, 585 Texas construction workers died from workplace injuries, compared with 299 in California, which had a larger construction work force. And between 2003 and 2010, construction accounted for about 6% of the Texas work force, but 26% of workplace fatalities. Given these hazards, it is surprising that Texas is the only state that does not require employers to provide workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries. Texas also lacks a state OSHA law to supplement the federal OSHA program and provides only one OSHA inspector per 103,899 workers, compared with 1 per 52,416 in California, which (along with 20 other states and Puerto Rico) does have a state OSHA law."