Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do you own your job?

A thoughtful yet direct post from Douglas Wilson on whether or not Christians should support collective bargaining:
Just a quick note about "collective bargaining." The real question for those who would understand the nature of unions is the question of ownership. Say there is a particular job at the office building, or at the factory, or in the shop on Main Street. Who owns that job?

The assumption behind collective bargaining is that the one who holds the job owns the job. The biblical understanding is that the one who offers the job owns the job (Matt. 20:15). This is not the same as saying that the employer is a great guy. No, the owners of jobs are frequently evil, and they abuse their position of ownership (Jas. 5:4).

Labor/management disputes often fall into a false good guy/bad guy dichotomy, and it betrays a false understanding of the antithesis. In the Bible the owners are often the bad guys. But that does not mean they are not the owners of the jobs they offer. Bad guys can own things. And the commandment does not say, "Thou shalt not steal, except from bad guys."

So there is absolutely nothing wrong with employees collectively deciding that conditions on the job are horrendous, and deciding en masse that they don't want to work there anymore. And there is no problem with them negotiating with the owner from that collective position. Say they are asking for a raise, or for safer working conditions. That is fully legitimate as well. What is not legitimate is for them to lock up the job they have abandoned as though they are the owners of it. To refuse to work a job that you simultaneously lay claim to is a claim of ownership, which in this case is a false claim.

This sin (and it is a sin) is in evidence when strikers attack what they call "scabs." Scabs are workers looking for employment, and the horrendous conditions on the abandoned job would, in their instance, be an improvement.

In other words, collective bargaining is nothing but extortion, and Christians should do everything in their power to have nothing to do with it.

1 comment:

Karen said...

As owners of a small family owned company we often experience 'union job sites' where we are forbidden to do our bid-won work without being forced to pay a labor union member a LOT of money to accompany us for the day. (We usually know in advance and bid the union fees on TOP of our work and still can underbid the unions) Once we were offered the option of paying the union workman for the 8 hour day without bothering to have him even show UP for the 2 hour job we had to do on the site. We are forbidden to bid at all on many commercial jobs which have been protected from non-union competition. And don't get me started on the political lobbying by labor unions to perpetuate their own job protection.