Prospect of a Liberal Resurgence Generates New Union Revival Proposals

April 13, 2018

The pro-union Center for American Progress released a paper recommending the creation of European-style national wage boards hosting sector bargaining in various industries as a way to increase wages and benefits for American workers, who would be represented by unions on the boards.  An article in Vox connects this with various other proposals that could be embraced by Democrats at the national and local level as a way to reverse the long-running decline of unions in the U.S.  The article also highlights other proposals to enhance the role of unions without having workplace elections, including turning over the administration of unemployment insurance programs to unions, which occurs in Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.  With regard to any effort to emulate European labor laws, our global ally Tom Hayes of BEERG notes:

There is no 'European' labour relations model.  There are four very different labour relations models in Europe, each with features that are incompatible with one another.  France and Sweden are at opposite ends of the spectrum—pragmatic Nordics versus ideological French.  What this article appears to suggest is that the U.S. cherry pick from the different European systems and roll them into one—something the Europeans themselves have never been able to do because history, culture and ideology get in the way. 

The premise of the Vox article is that "the total demise of private sector unions in the U.S. is too close at hand to do anything other than try absolutely everything."  Yet, one would hope that U.S. policymakers would be more likely to ask what is the best way to serve the interests of the workers, which may or may not include a role for unions.