On Tuesday, Nov 13, newly re-elected President Obama met with organized labor: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and (oddly) Executive Director of MoveOn.org Justin Ruben. The meeting included top Obama economic advisors like Gene Sperling and White House chief of staff Jack Lew, and came a day before the president was to hold similar talks with CEOs from major US companies. A few days later, on Friday, Nov 16, the president met with top republican and democratic leaders. First unions, then companies, then legislators.
Why am I concerned with this fawning on organized crime, ahem, labor?
Together with my family, I took my flu shot this past Saturday – the day after Hostess announced that it would liquidate rather than continue to deal with the unions bleeding them dry. Then, like Agent Smith in the movie the Matrix, I had a revelation about labor unions. They can be looked at as a virus.
"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure." - Agent Smith
Before jumping on me for making this claim, here's a little bit of background might help put things in context. My childhood and early adult years were spent in Sweden – a socialist country with a peculiar approach to how to run its economy. Even by European standards, it's a bit off the charts. From a US perspective, it is hard to comprehend how thoroughly (what little remains of) the private sector is laced with union politics.
Labor unions sit on all corporate boards, and have tremendous influence over corporate decisions. Labor unions are even represented on the boards of universities – all of which are public (of course). The head of the janitors or other blue-collar positions frequently sits on the university board! Well over 70% of the Swedish workforce is unionized, whereas in the US, the unionized portion comprises a tad over 10% nationwide. The Swedish equivalent of AFL-CIO (called LO) is practically joined at the hip with the Swedish Socialist party, and they also own a substantial stake in one of the largest daily newspapers. The list goes on, but I'll stop there. I just want to illustrate that it is a different reality.
The results? The Swedish unions have forced a stagnant, statist way of business on the country, with so many hoops to jump through that firing a teacher in a Chicago public school would look easy by comparison. The results are that companies in Sweden are now quite careful when they hire anyone – since it is so hard to get rid of bad hires – which in turn keeps people unemployed much longer than in the US. The irony of unions keeping people unemployed while singing The Internationale (the socialist international anthem) is unfortunately lost on them.
Stay tuned for Part 2, next week.