• This is not my area of expertise, BUT, I suspect that the reason there’s so much unionizing activity is because minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with inflation and is now at levels that don’t allow living wages.  If we had higher wages, workers wouldn’t *need* to unionize.
  • Unpopular opinion:  Not a fan of unions because they incentivize insider/outsider behavior and lead to inefficiencies that only benefit people in the union, often at the cost of other people, not just companies (see:  police unions).  Unions are a second-best solution in a world with monoposonies.  That said, in the current environment I (unpopular opinion with economists) support unionization.
  • Unpopular opinion (among half of economists, among most economists if you include my why):  I am a fan of higher minimum wages because I think people who can’t/won’t work such that they’re productive enough to make a living wage are probably terrible workers.  And I think a lot of the jobs that unproductive people can do go against basic human dignity (ex. being used as targets of ridicule by insanely wealthy people).  Minimum wages are also a second-best solution, but they cover everybody, not just those who can unionize.  And the effects of an increased minimum wage filter up the payscale, at least at the lower levels where they need to filter.  And the evidence is really mixed on the effects of higher minimum wages on employment overall, especially at these levels.
  • Unpopular opinion:  I would rather try out a basic income system that fed and housed and kept people healthy to a minimum amount of decency and get rid of minimum wage entirely.  This is not efficient, but I think in a society with as much surplus as we have, not everybody has to work and we can still afford to give people basic human rights.
  • Unpopular opinion:  Pay caps on CEOs etc. don’t do harm.
  • My students this semester have bought the company lines that nobody wants to work and that’s why employers are having trouble hiring.  Which is ridiculous because in Econ 101 we start with the assumption that nobody wants to work!  That’s why we have to pay people to work!  I explained that not working for pay doesn’t mean you’re not productive.  Many people would rather do meaningful charitable or creative work for free than work for pay.  We call it leisure in our models, but that doesn’t mean people are just watching tv.  (Deep down I do believe that most of us probably want to read books and watch tv and play videogames… the so-called technophysio revolution in leisure time, but working for The Man isn’t in any way morally superior than playing animal crossing.  But the current propaganda have made my students believe it is.
  • The part they’re forgetting is that nobody wants to work at current wages!  Econ 101 works both ways.  The current equilibrium is at a higher wage, which isn’t surprising in a world with high inflation!!  The reason companies are having trouble hiring is because *employers aren’t offering enough money.*

20 Responses to “RBOCorporatestuff”

  1. Chelsea Says:

    Also, I feel like you linked to an article earlier that said that many of the jobs that are going unfilled are not full-time. So another issue is that people want to work for both higher wages AND benefits, but that many companies are not going to start offering full-time roles and instead try to “wait it out”.

    • Debbie M Says:

      I feel like there are whole sectors of the economy that has been filled mostly with people who have a good pension and just want to get out of the house and get a little spending money. This includes many seasonal jobs (like working elections and scoring the word problems in standardized tests) and part-time jobs. With pensions disappearing, those jobs are no longer subsidized and are suffering.

  2. Leah Says:

    I’m totally in the money isn’t worth me working camp. Right now, I have more utility staying at home. I actually volunteer teach a class locally a few times a month. If I can afford to stay home as our kids get bigger, I’d love to volunteer more versus enter the workforce.

    I do some adjuncting for $25 an hour. It’s like 2ish hours a week. But I also realized I have to watch that. We qualify for reduced lunch. Breakfast and lunch are free right now. If we have to pay next year, I have to watch how much I earn so we don’t go over the qualification threshold.

    It’s ridiculous to me how much CEOs and high end people make, and the right wants to demonize me for doing exactly what they “want”: staying home. I suspect they don’t actually want women to stay home, or else they’d pay more. They just want us to feel bad about ourselves no matter the choices we make. One can sell more to dissatisfied people.

  3. CG Says:

    We have a faculty union at my university and it is in some ways terrible. Lots of inflammatory, embarrassing rhetoric and in some cases ridiculous demands. However, the administration tried to get rid of tenure a few years ago and they successfully fought it off. So I guess I’d rather have it than not have it.

    I am not an economist so lack some of the vocabulary to talk precisely about this, but DH and I were discussing the 32-hour full time bill under consideration in California. I said that seemed like something ideally the market should sort out: if people want to have shorter work weeks, then employers will start offering them to be competitive. (And in the broader sense, the market WILL sort it out, because states are competitors in a marketplace, too, and if companies don’t like the regulatory environment in California, they’ll move to Texas or wherever.) But I also pointed out that the balance of power between workers and employers has been seriously out of whack for the past 40 years or so, and is just now swinging back to a more appropriate balance, so relying on the market to provide the kinds of jobs at the kinds of wages that work well for both employers and employees has not actually been working. The corollary to “people don’t want to work” is that “employers don’t want to pay their employees” and they’ve largely gotten away with that in recent decades. So, is that where UBI comes in? We stop relying on the market to make employers to do right by employees and have the government step in to make sure no one is too disadvantaged? Are there market-based policies that would make the balance of power more even? (I am not against UBI, but would be interested to see if there are other policies that would get you to a similar place without specifically setting wages or setting up a whole payment system–maybe there are not.)

  4. First Gen American Says:

    I’m not an economist so this opinion may be totally wrong, but if Walmart’s lowest paid employees may so little that they can qualify for food aid, then isn’t the government subsidizing Walmart’s profits? I have trouble seeing how it trickles down to the consumer.

    This is something my spouse and I disagree with btw. He thinks wages will and can increase naturally based on supply and demand and to his point, we have now reached an inflection point where people will no longer work below a certain number.

    Also, it complicates things when we talk about globalization as the wage gap is much larger vs certain developing countries. However, China isn’t a low cost country any longer. We gave away many of our jobs for 30%+ in cost savings and in a generation, the cost savings that we enjoyed from cheaper labor are mostly gone. I’m seeing way more stuff being re-shored in mfg and it makes me happy. What I’ve also seen is China going from an imitator to an innovator in one generation. I’m surprised how far and how quickly they have made that transition. In the 90s I wasn’t as worried about China as real competitors but now I can’t deny it as true. I still think the integrity issues with copying and stealing will still hold them back on some level.

    Interesting topic.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Your spouse doesn’t realize that Walmart has monopsony power. (Meaning it’s got market power in the labor market from being one of the few choices for a large pool of unskilled workers.). He is right that wages are currently too low and need to adjust upward because of market pressure.

      From what I understand, China outsources a lot to places in Africa now. But as African countries develop things will change. We always want to be on the educated side of the robots/labor equation.

      • CG Says:

        So to your point above, what is the solution to monopsony power? Should Walmart be broken up? Should Amazon? How do you decide how big is too big? (Or am I confusing myself with how you would respond to a monopoly?) I am not trying to disagree here, in case that’s not clear, just trying to learn how you decide where to draw the line.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Dunno. I don’t do anti-trust. My colleague who does says that the legal version is a lot weaker than the economic version.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I don’t like breaking up large companies ever since Bell was broken up and we lost Bell Labs, plus the different Bells (AT&T) don’t actually compete against each other. I’m more for breaking down barriers to entry for competing businesses. And requiring more minimum standards so that it’s not just the businesses who are willing to cut corners unethically that are able to out-compete everyone. And don’t let companies buy each other to begin with when there already is very little competition–the government already has to approve at least some these mergers, but why is the government saying yes all the time? Oh yeah, and when people are caught being corrupt and/or incompetent, they need to get actual punishments instead of golden parachutes, the same jobs at other companies, book deals, etc.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      re: government subsidizing– the basic economic theory suggests the opposite– giving a baseline of money will keep people from working

      my thought is that if government didn’t subsidize then we’d be seeing a lot of pitchforks and unrest, because people who cannot eat or feed their children have nothing left to lose and no other option but to riot. Economic theory does not take that kind of thing into account.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I’ve read that this was really why the New Deal was passed. The powers that be realized that if they didn’t do something, the people were going to revolt, so they passed cute little mini-socialisms in some areas so the rich could stay rich.

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Yep, companies pay insufficient wages, pile on terrible treatment like the shift scheduling where they won’t give anyone consistent full time schedules but insist that workers stay available or the Amazon “you can’t even pee” demands, take away benefits for the non FANG-type companies if they even offer them and then add the terrible pressures of the pandemic, of course no one wants to work *under those circumstances.*

    That last one did it for me (with my health issues as well). I am paid reasonably well, and treated reasonably well, and I still don’t want to work! I’m sick of the unrelenting pressure. I still work because we need the money but I sure as hell wouldn’t if I wasn’t making the money I needed or being treated with respect. Take away the pandemic and I might also still enjoy my work. But under these circumstances, I do not want to. I don’t see why people are choosing not to see that part.

    I’m glad unions are coming up since we can’t seem to get anywhere with the minimum wage and other forms of making employers treat people humanely. I agree that I wish we were addressing it widely for everyone and not just for an in-group but … take what progress or help we can get I guess?

    I agree that I’d rather have a UBI and then see who works and who doesn’t because I’m positive there are people who want to and will, and there are people who can contribute positively to society in non-wage earning ways, and there are people who can not destroy their health just to survive (hi) and so on. The automatic assumption that no one will work again with UBI is pretty foolish IMO.

  6. Matthew D Healy Says:

    My longstanding view is, the optimal percentage of union shops in a US industry is between 30% and 60%

    Why that range? So that management at the non-union shops is afraid of getting a union if they don’t treat workers well, and the union leaders at the union shops are afraid of making them unable to compete if they demand unreasonable work rules. So there should exist significant numbers of both among the competition.

    • First Gen American Says:

      I’ve worked at a big company where some plants were unionized and some were not and this is absolutely true! There is a happy balance in there by not having one group with too much power. Although, the unions were still hard enough to work with that the company outsourced many jobs overseas every chance they got.

  7. SP Says:

    I agree with most of your unpopular opinions here, but I have no expertise. What I find interesting is how many people are willing to accept the “people don’t want to work” rhetoric. Why are so many people so pro-capitalist? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I guess that is psychology rather than economics.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    I also have mixed views on unions. In history class, they seemed like a good idea except that workers often timed their strikes poorly (when it was easy to just fire them and get more; unlike now!). But then when I was trying to become a teacher, the teacher unions creeped me out. They were all about raises based on longevity rather than good teaching. But then later I learned that a lot of raises that are supposedly based on good teaching are really based on who’s better at sucking up to the principal. And then of course some unions were able to negotiate pension deals that were untenable. And union leaders seem to often get corrupt, just because any time you bring a bunch of money together, it attracts thieves.

    I have mixed feelings on minimum wages, too, though at current levels, I don’t think it’s scary at all to raise them. I like the theory that paying less for people willing to take less, like teenagers and retirees, keeps the economy more flexible and leads to more employment. And then on the other end, if you can’t get workers, you have to raise your wages. But in reality, workers are just often stuck in a low-wage job and can’t get a better one because every employer refuses to offer higher wages (quite obvious right now). And it’s not at all easy to change jobs to better employers even when there are some because job hunting sucks.

    And employers also whine about not being able to find any good employees, but it seems like it’s because they insist on wearing blinders (i.e., only hiring someone they know or someone who’s already done this exact job before but for some reason wants to switch employers). The awesome employees I know who are job hunting have been job hunting for *years* so there is clearly something wrong out there. I mean, people do even want jobs at the current salaries but cannot get hired.

    I feel like in the old days, companies would hire people and then train them, but now they won’t. They either insist or pretend that they are already pre-trained when they are hired. Yet each job is unique, so learning is required, so they just end up with the sink-or-swim method.

    I don’t understand how horrible companies stay in business. I mean I know there’s a lot of lobbying to pass laws that make it harder for other businesses to compete. It seems like eventually when you lay off all your long-term (higher-paid) people and hire new people that you won’t train and then make up a bunch of stupid rules that do not assist or inspire people to productivity (like requiring useless meetings, having obnoxious but ineffective security measures, etc.) that should make a company go out of business. But all I hear about is golden parachutes and then hiring a new useless CEO, maybe after a bankruptcy or something. Not that I want to start my own business, just like I don’t want to become a politician. But surely there are some better people out there?

    I used to think that basic income was crazy–who would ever work? But of course lots of people would work, especially if, unlike some types of welfare, you get to keep the extra money from working instead of, say, immediately losing all your benefits and being worse off. And it seems like most people would rather have jobs than be super frugal if they have the choice.

    As far as CEO pay, I knew someone who felt that everyone in an organization should get the same pay. It seemed crazy at first, but then less crazy the more I thought of it. However, it does make sense that if someone is taking a bigger risk, like the person who started the company, they should get better rewards. But now many of these high-rewards people have figured out ways to not have to pay for the downside risk–that makes me angry. And either way, I like the idea that the highest-paid person should not make more than some multiple of the lowest-paid person in a company. Then the bigwigs can get raises, but only by giving everyone else a raise (or at least the lowest-paid people). Except, then companies would outsource all their lowest-paid jobs–they’re already doing it to “save money” even though there’s no way that paying for work via another company instead of directly saves you money unless that company is cutting corners you are not willing to cut (or somehow can have economies of scale). (Specifically, my university outsourced janitorial work, which did not have economies of scale, and I’ve also heard that privatizing prisons has led to much more horrific treatment of prisoners.)

    I like being retired, but I do sometimes apply for jobs that I think I might enjoy where they claim they are desperate. Which is why I’ve worked a few elections. And I’m thinking of going to a job fair for lifeguards and camp counselors (jobs I enjoyed several decades ago), though I’ve heard the lifeguards get sent around to multiple pools all over the city instead of just assigned to one near where they live. In the past, I have felt good about not working and leaving the jobs to people who need them. I don’t know.

    In other actions, I try to vote with my money where possible. Of course most of my money goes to places where I have no choice in the matter (property taxes) or very little choice (petrol). But officially my electricity is from wind. My banking and credit cards are with credit unions. Much of my cheese is from a coop (Tillamook). And I’ve just heard of B-corps which are apparently way better than regular corporations somehow, so I should learn more about those.

  9. Lisa Says:

    I came across this quote today (randomly at the bottom of a NYTimes article about long COVID):

    “The money that we possess is the instrument of liberty; that which we lack and strive to obtain is the instrument of slavery.”

    — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau” (1903 translation)

    I have no expertise in this field, but I find your opinions not unpopular at all. I’m all for establishing a UBI. It would free up some people to not have to work, while allowing others to continue working with perhaps a little less pressure or fear of catastrophe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: