A World Without Labor Unions; in unions’ defense


Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012
A world without labor unions

Re: “The Berlitz labor cartel” (Have Your Say, Sept. 25), a response to “With Berlitz beaten but not bowed, union fights on” by Patrick Budmar (Zeit Gist, Sept. 4):

The writer of this is someone who has withheld their name for good reason. Everything he or she wrote is spot off.

The suggestion that the union “chose to hold the company hostage rather than to leave and find a better offer” displays a misunderstanding of unions’ role in the workplace and in society.

A union is the only way for both parties (employers and employees) to negotiate on equal standing. If there were no unions, what would be the result?

We need not imagine. Let’s take a look at history, before unions fought for us. There was no minimum wage, no pension, no insurance, long hours, and brutal child labor was the norm. Those children were “free to work somewhere else,” as the author says.

It was the union movement that won us a minimum wage, pensions, health care, labor rights (including the right to strike) and abolished child labor. It is the right of the people to form unions and negotiate collectively with their employers. Their fight helps all of us, not just their coworkers.

The author calls it “the Berlitz labor cartel” but missed the fact that firms operate as cartels on many occasions. Consider price-fixing among automakers in Japan. NTN Corp. (www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20120518b2.html) was found guilty of price-fixing. Toshiba recently paid $30 million to settle a price-fixing suit in the U.S. This is cartel behavior, not collectively demanding a pay increase and open-ended employment.

All workers have the right to strike. If midway through a meal, the waiter took my food and asked me to pay more, I would inform him that it’s management that sets prices, not customers. Also, strikers do not get paid during the period they are striking, so the analogy is false.

If my waiter went on strike, I would happily miss my meal in order to join them in asking management to increase prices so the workers are better paid.

Executive President, Tozen (Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union) ALTs Union

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