Despite the fact that the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, PRO Act, passed the House, it will die in the Republican-controlled senate. The Democrats are attempting to send a message to rally union workers. This is most likely a tactic to raise voting numbers in this election year. Still, I find it an opportunity to be able to take a look at the libertarian view of unions.
Henry Hill had an interesting analysis of libertarians, labor, and employment. While he most certainly diagnosed the problem and pointed out the viewpoints libertarians would have, he most certainly missed the solution-focused conclusion. This is not a slam on Hill, but it most certainly has had me thinking about the solution, especially in light of the PRO Act.
Before we dive into how this could work, I think we should find common ground. Of course, we all would agree that force should not be enacted on peaceful people, and I am sure we would all agree that the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers. We also would probably all concede that there shouldn’t be any artificial barriers to entry into a specific field. So, with that being said, how could unions work in a libertarian society?
I see unions as being professional organizations, or possibly a collection of professionals organized together to create morale and professionalism around their area of expertise. I know many think that they are protecting the workers. However, many would disagree that they are intending to carry the worst of the field on the backs of the best. So, with that said, I think that my assertion of what a union is stands relatively firm. They are protecting professionals in their field by creating an organization that seeks to preserve what makes them experts in their field.
A collection of professionals should seek to work alongside one another as a collection. These people would have each other to help support them. This organization would seek to pay everyone an equal wage and issue benefits to them. This would be on top of guaranteeing work. The workers would be able to pay dues to the organization. This is the basis of the idea of a free market union. The union benefits by having the best collection of people they possibly can. The worker benefits from the perks of being associated with that union. The companies that contract the union benefit from happy, professional workers that get the job done professionally. The union benefits from having credibility issued to them from well-completed contracts.
I think this could work well for free market licensing as well. It would be easy for a union to establish its own license. License from Union A might be seen in a better light than that of Union B. Union A might get better contracts because they have better professionals. On the other hand, Union B might be easier to get into. This would allow for different tiers of people to afford different services and different levels for people to enter the field. Say someone wants to move from Union B to Union A. There could be training or test that a person might need to take in order to transfer over. It might not be the whole training, but then again, if Union B is that bad, then they might require complete retraining.
Say Union B does a poor job, or even has a death on their hands, the likelihood that they would remain in business is low. They wouldn’t be able to attract the best professionals or get the best contracts. They wouldn’t be able to sustain themselves very well. This could create a monopoly in that field, but there is still room for Union C to come in and capitalize on the market share that Union B left behind.
I see unions as a way that could revitalize the idea of staffing and even construction companies. I am sure we would still have both, but it would be like an intersection of the two but on steroids. This will also help bring the licensing back to the free market level and take more power away from the state. Not everyone in unions will agree with this take, and that is because most people want sole control and all the power. However, this is a free-market alternative that does not violate any libertarian principles and really allows for unions to thrive in a world where they are dying. So, my call to union workers to take up this idea is due to the fact that force hasn’t worked yet, so let’s try something new.
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