Archive for December 13th, 2008


Homer Simpson on economics…

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A Victory for Labor

In North Carolina, the United Food and Commercial Workers won an election after a 15 year campaign under extraordinary circumstance. This article in the NYT provides a good summary of the history. One quote in particular struck me, although it probably shouldn’t have, because it’s a fairly standard comment about unions:

“It feels great,” said Ms. Blue, who makes $11.90 an hour and has worked at Smithfield for five years. “It’s like how Obama felt when he won. We made history.”

“I favored the union because of respect,” said Ms. Blue, who is black. “We deserve more respect than we’re getting. When we were hurt or sick, we weren’t getting treated like we should.”

I think this is a good reminder that unions are not just about wages. Economists tend to focus on wages, debating whether unions actually improve them or not. Either way, unions give workers a chance for respect. I think that, try as they might, the behavioral economists will never be able to quantify the importance of that respect. Those participating in the union debate, then, would be served well by asking themselves, “What are the questions?”

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