"The Claremont Institute : Look Out for the Union Label" critique
The article starts with a discussion of Robert Reich's change in philosophy regarding unions. It doesn't really discuss why Reich's position has changed. Public policies take a long time to have an effect sometimes. Changes in power structures take a long time to have effects on public policies. Corporations and a small set of decision makers (think John Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Andrew Carnegie) ruled the day in 1929. They screwed things up terribly and lost hugely in elections to... well... everybody else. So then things like Glass - Steagall and the NLRA were passed. In 1954, Taft-Hartley edited the NRLA to be beneficial to the robber baron types, but the effect wasn't seen until 1970 as union participation rates fell very slowly. The union participation created a larger ruling class that included labor. In about 1970, union particpation reached a breaking point to where they were not longer equals at the table of decision making. They still had a voice, until 1999. The repeal of Glass - Steagall happened because they no longer had a voice at all. The only people that had a say was the robber baron class, as evidenced by their take on all the growth of wealth from 1999 to 2008.
The next section of the piece details union power. It is mostly correct in this. "How much more a particular union can extract from a particular employer will depend on factors over which each will ordinarily have little control," is a correct statement. It is also correct in saying there are inherit problems in union's governing structures - they are controlled more by the current workforce and not by the future workforce which will be under the contract. Contracts do reflect that. While these criticisms are true, they can be mitigated and labor unions must figure out a way to do these things.
The next section, "Bitterly Adversarial", ends with a summary paragraph that is completely wrong and one that I do not see at my workplace. The union stewards do try their hardest "to collaborate with management on fashioning workplace reforms that are mutually beneficial". We all understand that it is easier to gain concessions from a successful company, and we should work to make the company successful whenever possible and whenever we are not the only ones paying a price.
The next section is titled "Being Naive". The labor movement does not have a very long history of being able to exert power. The "Right to Free Contract" kept unions from being able to negotiate the most important things in the workplace like compensation until 1937. It is simply wrong to think that a new player will know all the plays, their chances of success, the right routes to run, etc in football. It is wrong to think that unions are not in a learning process only 71 years later. 71 years after the beginning of the experiment of Democracy of our very own country, slaves still worked the cotton fields. It wouldn't be until a few later that the Civil War was fought. Women weren't able to vote for another 50 or so years.
Yes, "Which side are you on?" is a revived mantra for New Old Liberals like Obama, and myself. It is because the last 40 years have taught us a lesson in who should be invited to the table - all of us. All of us cannot be there unless there are economic units comparable to the robber barons like the Walton Kids and Cornelius Vanderbilt to sit across from them. The only group that can do that when liberal politicians lose - and sometimes they should as stability is corruptive - are labor unions. Robert Reich is right and has learned a lesson as we all do in this experiment.