Re: libertarian Labor Unions

Brian D Williams (
Mon, 9 Mar 1998 08:42:20 -0800 (PST)

From: GBurch1 <>

>The recent discussion of IT workers and their economic value has
>led me once again to wonder about extropian and libertarian views
>of "labor unions" in general. Principles of individual autonomy,
>economic liberty and spontaneous order should, it seems lead to
>the conclusion that workers should be free to form associations
>designed to leverage their economic value. At the most
>general level of abstraction, there is no good reason workers with
>a common skill shouldn't be able to band together to increase
>their bargaining power. On the other hand, I have a hard time
>seeing how collective labor bargaining arrangements could survive
>in a competitive environment absent some state-sanctioned legal
>monopoly power or the use of violence to block breaches by
>labor-purchasers or defections of labor sellers, both antithetical
>to libertarian and extropian principles.

You are making some excellent points, the ideal we strive for is
just as you mentioned, workers with the same general skill set
freely associating to leverage economic value.

In the 18 years I've held a union card I've never once seen any
govt state or local intervene on behalf of a union, quite the
opposite, I've seen congressional imposition of exactly what the
company wanted, I've seen the president arbitrarily disband a union
(which subsequently reformed). I've never once seen the democratic
party do anything for organized labor which is why I'm one of those
who wants to cut their funding.

We survive by staying cutting edge, and rely on the courts to
support existing contracts.

>One idea I have had is that "libertarian labor unions" could
>create value that would deter breaches and defections by becoming
>certification agencies. A union of skilled workers could back
>their contracts with labor-buyers with certifications of skill of
>their member-workers. Labor buyers might well prefer exclusive
>arrangements with such unions because it would externalize
>the cost of training and certification and such certification
>would add value to their own products and contracts. Of course,
>there would likely be competition in many areas between multiple
>certification unions, but that would be completely in keeping with
>libertarian and extropian ideals.

>I'm curious what others here have thought about these ideas.

We're on the same page, we recently re-opened our revamped
apprenticeship program for communications electricians, besides the
usual cabling (including fiber) and telephony classes there are
classes on packet switching, and on LANS/WANS etc. The goal is also
to develop 100% computer literacy to the WIN95 level. Established
within the new infrastructure are programs to review and upgrade
this as necessary. This is paid for by monies contributed by all
union contractors. This program is also open to all existing
Journeymen as continual education. We are also trying to interest
individual companies (I work for Ameritech the midwest RBOC) to
sponsor additional classes on a Sat (nonpaid) basis. I have also
brought up the fact that it would be trivial for us to turn out our
own CNE's, etc. (I've run 10 Novell servers for nearly a decade)

The idea is to maintain our status by being the best in the
industry, period.

You should have seen our last contract negotiation, it started out
with sitting down, opening up the laptop, calling up the Excel
spreadsheets and commencing with " I thought we'd start by going
over the company financial's (Ameritech negotiation talks were
separate) including the recent 6% dividend increase to
stockholders, the 2 billion stock buyback and the 2-1 split. then
we could look at management compensation over the last three

We settled for a nice three year deal at an average increase of
4.4% (we are very reasonable).

Member, Extropy Institute
Member Local 134 I.B.E.W