#1 Positive Role of Labor Unions
1. My previous negative image of them Before taking this class, I saw the sole role of labor unions as using their collective bargaining power for the protection of their own members, regardless of the circumstances. The readings in the class reshaped my negative image of labor unions and gave me two different refreshing perspectives about their roles; 1) its positive role in restructuring and upgrading industry through its mediation power, and 2) its importance in capacity building for sustainable reforms. Before doing these readings about unions, as Beckman mentions, I thought that unions should be minimized because they often impede the deregulation of labor markets by standing in the way of labor mobility, flexibility and entrepreneurship. Also, whenever they have strong collective bargaining power, unions blindly demand for better working conditions, such as higher wages, more paid holidays, and long-time guaranteed employment without considering the current financial situation of companies with which they are associated.
Such a strong negative image of labor unions cannot be separated from the fact that I am from Japan which experienced an unprecedented severe depression in the late 1990s and spread strong criticisms against labor unions as an impediment for increasing the competitiveness of firms. Japanese firms used to guarantee very stable working conditions for workers such as steady wages, long-term employment and guaranteed retirement allowances, and it is obvious that labor unions played a critical role in ensuring these benefits. While the economy was active, such benefits were not so problematic because firms could make enough sales and profits to cover these costs.
Once the economy started to dive sharply, however, such guaranteed benefits were turned to huge burdens on many firms. Working through such a period, it was very difficult for me not to see labor unions as an obstacle to increase efficiency and...