Paul Krugman on Unions

Question: Do unions still matter?

Paul Krugman: They’re not very important in America, but they should be.  The fact that unions have been pushed into a marginal position is a political act.  Unions remain very important in other advanced countries, and not just ones that are far away and very different from us.  Unions are very important in Canada.  Unions . . .  In the ‘60s, Canada and the U.S. were comparably unionized – about 30 percent of the workforce.  Canada is still almost as unionized as it was then.  In the United States, the unions have been largely crushed.  And “crushed” is the right word because it was hostile, often illegal union busting by employers because the political environment was one in which open season had been declared on union organizers.  There’s no reason.  People say, “Oh,” you know, “manufacturing faces global competition.”  Well that’s true and places some limits on what unions can achieve in manufacturing.  But you know why shouldn’t Wal-Mart be unionized?  There’s nothing that says we couldn’t have large corporations in the service sector part of a unionized workforce.  And I think unions are just important as a counterweight to . . . to other forces in the society.  There’s not . . .  There are not many ways in which ordinary workers can be effective in bargaining effective politics.  Unions is the best way to do that.

Krugman would like to see renewed interest in unions.

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