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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

December 10, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Amazon workers have an answer: a union

It was always a stretch, Amazon workers suing to be compensated for waits to go through security screening at the end of their shifts. And, sure enough, a unanimous Supreme Court turned them down, citing a 1947 law.

The case involved 400,000 plaintiffs.

Sure, the high court especially and lower courts generally have favored business in recent decades. But the courts were rarely the first resort for American workers seeking to balance their well-being against the huge power of big business, much less a monopsony like Amazon.

The answer is a union.

Only through the solidarity and collective bargaining of a union — and the power it can bring to bear for more worker-friendly laws — can employees address an issue such as this. It might demand that the company pay for the extra time. Management might come back with a response to speed the process. A solution would be reached at the bargaining table. A union would also be the workers’ advocate on gaining full-time status, higher pay and better benefits.

It might eat into profits and even raise prices for “consumers.” But that’s how America built the greatest middle class in history — before union-busting and the Wal-Mart “business model” began hollowing it out.

Candidate Obama promised to make it easier to unionize with card check. As president, he did nothing. Some socialist (pardon me, SOCIALIST!!).

Speaking of socialism, American organized labor at its peak was one of the most potent fighters against communism and almost all AFL unions rejected even social democracy. What unions did was provide a check and balance on the power of business. And the federal government checked the power of both, for both were vulnerable to overreaching and corruption. The result was high profits and better wages. It is no coincidence that employee compensation is at a shocking low, precisely tracking the decline of private-sector unions:

Comp

Today, many of the people who most need unions also hate them (check out the inevitable comments this column will provoke). It would be interesting how many overworked “fulfillment center” employees feel the same way. Until that attitude changes, American workers can expect more of the same, only faster and harder for less.


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Charter school gone bad

Not all can be a business

Not the public good


 

Comments | More in Amazon.com, Labor unions | Topics: Amazon.com, Unions

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