Ekonomisti so spet odkrili sindikate

Pred dobrimi tremi leti sem pisal o pomenu sindikatov (glejte Sindikati – stražarji pekla ali nebes? in Vloga sindikatov v sodobnih družbah ) ter nato še nekajkrat) za vzdrževanje zdravega ravnotežja v delitvi proizvoda med kapitalom in delom, za nizko neenakost  in močnejšo vlogo industrije. No, zdaj se zdi, da se je tudi akademska ekonomija odločila počasi priznati, da učbeniške razlage o škodljivosti sindikatov morda niso povsem ustrezne. Še več, morda je celo pripravljena počasi priznati, da so sindikati celo koristni – ker vzdržujejo plačna razmerja in s tem neenakost na zdravi in vzdržni ravni, ker zmanjšujejo stroške delodajalcem glede iskanja zaposlenih, ker so posredno poskrbeli za vzdrževanje ravni plač tudi za bolj ranljive skupine na trgu dela in ker je za nekatere bolj sprejemljivo, da do manjše neenakosti pridemo prek zvišanja plač, kot pa prek državne redistribucije (povišanja davkov in socialnih transferjev).

Vmes pa so Jason Furman in ostali odkrili še, da ne sindikati, pač pa da trg dela diktira monopson delodajalcev. Iz česar sledi tudi to, da bi se centralne banke morale začeti ukvarjati s problematiko tržne moči velikih podjetij, saj ta z zadrževanjem rasti plač tudi inflacijo zadržujejo na preveč nizki ravni. kar pa seveda škodi dolgoročni dinamiki rasti in stabilnosti gospodarstva.

Ergo, kdo se bo spravil prenapisat zastarele učbenike?

But there are many reasons to think that this theory of unions isn’t right — or, at least, is woefully incomplete.

First, even back in the 1970s, some economists realized that unions do a lot more than just push up wages. In a 1979 paper entitled “The Two Faces of Unionism,” economists Richard Freeman and James Medoff argued that “by providing workers with a voice both at the workplace and in the political arena, unions can and do affect positively the functioning of the economic and social systems.”

Freeman and Medoff cite data showing that unions reduced turnover, which lowers costs associated with constantly finding and training new workers. They also show that unions engaged in political activity that benefitted the working class more broadly, rather than just union members. And they showed that contrary to popular belief, unions actually decreased racial wage disparities. Finally, Freeman and Medoff argue that by defining standard wage rates within industries, unions actually reduced wage inequality overall, despite the cartel-like effect emphasized in econ textbooks.

But the world didn’t listen to Freeman and Medoff, and private-sectors unions declined into near-insignificance. Now, four decades later, economists are again starting to suspect that unions were a better deal than the textbooks made them out to be. A recent paper by economists Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Suresh Naidu concludes that unions were an important force reducing inequality in the U.S.

Since past data tends to be patchy, Farber et al. combine a huge number of different data sources to get a detailed picture of unionization rates going all the way back to 1936, the year after Congress passed a law letting private-sector employees form unions. The authors find that as unionization rises, inequality tends to fall, and vice versa. Nor is this effect driven by greater skills and education on the part of union workers; during the era from 1940 through 1970, when unionization rose and inequality fell, union workers tended to be less educated than others. In other words, unions lifted the workers at the bottom of the distribution. Black workers, and other nonwhite workers, tended to benefit the most from the union boost.

Now, however, private-sector unions are mostly a faded memory and their power to raise wages has waned — Farber et al. find that although there’s still a union wage premium, it’s now much more due to the fact that higher-skilled workers tended to be the ones who stayed unionized. A 2004 paper by economists John DiNardo and David Lee found that by 1984-1999, unions had lost much of their ability to force wages higher.

Vir: Noah Smith, Bloomberg Opinion

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