Microunions outmanuever the corporatist state

Via Battlepanda and Nathan Newman, this article about the Walmart Workers Association demonstrates that the spirit of self-determination is alive and well, even among the most downtrodden:

Non-majority unions such as the WWA don't wait for a court to license workers' use of collective action. They harness that anger and ingenuity to both win day-to-day victories and launch longer-term pressure campaigns. The strategy has roots in industries in which union recognition is rare: retail chain workers, state workers, and computer programmers and manufacturers. "We have the right to organization, regardless of what the boss or the state do," said Smith.

Exactly. This is libertarianism: people freely associating to realize common interests. This is the marketplace for labor at work - the terms don't have to be set soley by big corporations and the National Labor Relations Board. They sure as hell don't need permission. Small, nimble associations of workers can function even in huge places like Walmart and get results:

To counter the widespread problems of inconsistent and under-scheduling, the WWA launched a campaign to encourage Wal-Mart workers to file for unemployment compensation. Smith estimates that "hundreds, if not thousands" of Wal-Mart workers have filed for unemployment as part of the WWA's campaign. They usually win, according to Smith, costing Wal-Mart tens of thousands of dollars, and when they lose, they force Wal-Mart into a lengthy and revealing appeal process. As a result, a number of Wal-Mart stores with higher levels of WWA member activity have changed their scheduling policy.

Many libertarians would argue that people who don't like how Walmart schedules workers should not work there. They have a point. However, they forget that the state creates many of the conditions that force people to choose between food on the table and virtual slavery. They always want a free market without government intervention, yet they look the other way when the state and big business go to bed. And after all, as Battlepanda says:

Saying that labor can only use their bargaining powers in huge, monolithic blocks is like restricting businesses to operate only in GM-sized cooperations.
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Written on Monday, January 23, 2006