Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Unions, Law, and History

If, as many on the Left seem to think, it's okay to tar today's conservatives with the sins of conservatives in previous generations, why does the same not apply to Unions?  Consider the motives behind the Davis-Bacon act, from a review of David Bernstein's Only One Place of Redress

Depression era legislation, though officially colorblind, was often highly discriminatory. A case in point was the Davis-Act requiring construction firms with federal contracts to pay "prevailing wages." As defined by the Department of Labor, the prevailing wage usually equaled the union wage thus freezing low-skilled black workers out of many projects. As Bernstein points out, "contractors had every incentive to hire unionized workers for skilled positions. Union members were generally the best-trained workers, and they could be hired quickly and efficiently through union hiring halls."  Many backers of Davis-Bacon did not hide their racist goals. The testimony at the hearings for the bill by William Green, the president of the American Federation of Labor, was a clear example. Green praised the proposed law because it would make it more difficult for contractors to "demoralize" wage rates through use of low-wage "[c]olored labor"

In general, in American history, American Unions have not covered themselves in honor on racial matters.


Categories > History

Discussions - 3 Comments

True, but that isn't just backwards looking history, and it is not exactly "racism" in a simple sense. We are still worried about low wage "colored labor" today. Today it is the mexicans, or perhaps the Asians or wherever jobs will be outsourced to next. I would say that among older folks the disgust with the more technological younger generation, apps, computers and all that. The desire to think that thinking is uniquely human and can't be replaced by A.I. Hate of A.I. is specieism, but functionaly it is the same thing. The racism is simply fear of being replaced by the ever increasing pool of industrial reserve labor.

It may in fact be the end of history, or the flatening of the world pace Friedman. The major global-macro outllooks are all bullish on the global middle class, but it is this middle class that is really cheap labor. That is even middle class americans are rich by world standards.

We are all more pro-labor than we think, and a bit racist, nationalist and speciest to boot. There is this vast future out there that I think will be incredibly good for the world. I mean I am incredibly bullish on the world, minus peak oil and global warming.

I think we kid ourselves when we think that folks in Lybia + Egypt are somehow radical islamicist, or somehow different. These folks are hungry for jobs and productivity and trading and capitalism, but they are also willing to demoralize the hell out of us with $2 an hour labor.

It could be that there are just a lot of Marxists out there doing Macro-economics, but big picture reality seems to confirm both the triumph or democracy+ the triumph of capitalism+the triumph of technology and in some respects the flatening of the world by concentrated and centralized capital.

The stock market has already recovered, commodity prices are reinflated and to be honest maybe 9% unemployment is the new NAIRU. The Maxists seem to say that as the economy grows, as capitalism matures we will become more and more productive, requireing less and less human capital.

So it is true that unions as a group are opposed to "substitutes" be it mexican, blacks, chinese or A.I/automation.

You have something, you work hard, and you feel it is somewhat unfair that your value ultimately isn't related to your productivity, but to the supply of people willing and able to do the work you do at a lower wage.

Globally you have almost a billion unemployed and underemployed people, this number goes up and as the world flatens, increasing the mobility of capital you put tremendous pressure on U.S. wages.

While racism is sometimes seen as the belief in superiority, this belief and the desire to get others to believe in it is really an admission of equality. Racism exists between men who are functional equivalents, or substitutes. Racism is to individuals/agents of a race in competition with another what preference for Coke is to Pepsi on the level of Principals.

There is about as much reason to hold it against Westlaw that they hype themselves against LexisNexis as there is to hold it against a union member that he is racist against mexicans. The very fact that he feels the need to increase his advertising budget, simply demonstrates the extent to which he is a substitute

The corporate interest against racism: profit maximizing firms would ignore factors which set up arbitrary distinctions between human capital.

A certain level of racism or mutual brand name/trademark recognition on the basis of skin color is natural. Where it exists you will find people wanting some partisanship or some common cause to defend against a substitute.

The entire bubble in education might itself be linked to the formation of guilds/certifications to create barriers to entry on rationalized criteria that manage only to escape being arbitrary and capricious.

The problem is none of us is exactly outside this bubble, and it is a strange bubble to be in.

Americans like equality, companies like a massive pool of equality, but workers as workers don't like a massive pool of equality. This has not and will not change.

I agree with your point, please share with us more good articles.

Interesting - a group or entity that claims to be "officially colorblind" was, in fact, highly discriminatory!!

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