I believe American workers are the elite of the world. The combination of work ethic, education, and ambition is unmatched. I also believe American entrepreneurs and business owners are more creative and innovative than anyone else. We truly have an exceptional country.
For a football team to succeed, all the pieces have to fit together and be working toward a common goal: victory. The players all have to play together. The players and the coaches must be in sync. The coaches and the front office need to work in harmony. When any of those links are disrupted, though, talent is not enough to overcome the disunity.
Right now, America has the talent. We have the players and the coaches of the business world. But in too many cases we’ve added a layer in between the two that prevents us from working together and prevents success. That layer, in both the public sector and the private sector, is union bureaucracy.
Union bureaucracies pit workers against employers. Those two groups are supposed to be on the same team: if the business does well, then both sides will be rewarded! If the business does badly, then both groups will suffer.
But union leaders gain money and fame by turning a business into a zero-sum game, where there has to be a winner and a loser.
They force communities and families to pick sides, destroying the team. They dictate workers’ jobs down to the minute, limiting the playbook instead of giving business owners flexibility to use workers where they are most needed. They protect the least productive workers at the expense of the best, destroying the principle of meritocracy.
The best workers are held back and not allowed to stand out — better to be mediocre in solidarity than to strive for excellence! If the best players have to limit their production to allow lesser players to keep up, then a team has no chance of winning.
And that’s not to mention the bad economics of a union. In a unionized business, the same revenues have to support not only the workers and business owners, but also the union bureaucracy. To make up for the additional mouth to feed, that means prices have to go up.
If two products are equal quality and one is cheaper, then consumers, who make decisions on value, are going to go for the cheaper option. Businesses with non-unionized labor forces and right-to-work states are at a huge advantage.
In the public sector, it’s even worse: public unions have bankrupted dozens of cities across the country, and several states are not far behind. Without reforming the costs of public unions, many of the good things government does will be forced to go away to preserve impossible promises to union bosses.
The union is a tax on the consumer. When the consumer has a choice between two goods and one of them has an extra tax built into the price, they’re going to go for the better value every time! When that happens, over time the unionized business will go under — which hurts everybody, most especially the workers who were supposedly being protected by the union. The very thing that was supposed to be helping them ends up causing irreparable damage.
The labor union movement was born out of a real need. Fighting against sweatshops and other substandard work environments was the right thing to do. When they were looking at genuine abuses, that was right. But they have outlived their usefulness. They won those battles, but continue looking for ways to justify their existence and the financial bonanza for union bureaucrats.
When foreign automobile companies set up operations in the United States, where do they go? They go to Tennessee, like Volkswagen. They go to South Carolina, like BMW. They go to Alabama, like Mercedes-Benz or Hyundai. All are right-to-work states. With a clean slate, the chance to go anywhere to set up the most competitive business possible, they unanimously avoid forced-union states.
No one should see this more clearly than workers in heavily unionized areas, such as the Rust Belt. In the past year, attempts to unionize workers in the NLRB’s Pittsburgh region, a union bulwark, were disastrous. Only 13 of 34 elections approved unionization, well below the national rate of 63 percent. Across the country, the union population continues to decline, down to around 12 percent of workers today.
The Wall Street Journal tells the story of JWF Industries, whose CEO was born into a union family and grew up in a union environment. His company overwhelmingly rejected an attempt at unionization, because workers can look all around them and see the wreckage left by unionization: a host of companies that have gone bankrupt or moved away.
Today’s economy is more mobile and global than ever before. In the past, businesses might have been able to survive a union handicap, because there were not many competitors. What choice did buyers have? But today, technology has changed everything. Consumers don’t have a paucity of choices; they have a plethora. If they don’t like what the local company is selling, they can buy it from a business on the other side of the country.
Employers, too, have more choices. They no longer have to take the union penalty in order to stay close to their customers. If they can’t compete by hiring the workers in one area, they can move anywhere in the country — or even anywhere in the world — to find a situation that works, to find a team that will play together. Transportation and communication innovations have made it affordable and possible.
If you want to create a sustainable business, something that provides value to customers and will have the flexibility and mobility to compete in today’s — and tomorrow’s! — economy, then you have to make decisions that make sense. And right now, modern labor unions don’t make sense.
They are following an outdated model that worked at one time, but just doesn’t fit anymore. I believe more and more people are realizing that, too, including union workers themselves, and we can reform this broken system.
The American worker has more potential for greatness than anyone, anywhere in the world. But our outdated union system holds our workforce back. Free the American worker!
All Americans should be free to achieve their own greatest potential, not forced into a defined path with obstacles put in the way of excellence. We all want to be great and do as much as we can, not just as much as everyone else.
Fran Tarkenton is the Founder and CEO of OneMoreCustomer.com, a web resource for Small Business Advocacy and Education. After his Hall of Fame football career, Fran had a successful career in television and then turned to business. He has founded and built more than 20 successful companies and now spends his time coaching aspiring entrepreneurs. Read more reports from Fran Tarkenton — Click Here Now.
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