Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Trade Unionism

The Supreme Court is Gripped by an Unsustainable Conception of Individual Freedom

Today the Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to enable public sector workers to unilaterally withhold contributions from their unions. Justices Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Thomas, and Kennedy were in the majority, with Kagan, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Breyer in dissent. The principle guiding the majority’s decision is simple and intuitively appealing. When workers pay unions dues, those unions use that money to fund political speech. Individual workers may not agree with the union’s speech acts, and therefore compelling them to pay dues ties their employment to their willingness to espouse a particular kind of political speech with their wallets. The court argues that requiring workers to make certain kinds of political speech acts with their wallets to retain employment violates their free speech rights. The argument is internally valid–it makes sense, given a particular conception of individual freedom. The trouble is that this conception of individual freedom is destabilising the labour market in a politically dangerous way, and in consistently choosing to interpret this principle in this way the court is threatening the legitimacy of the state.

Read the rest of this entry »

The British Academic Strike is a Crucial Struggle that Must Be Won: Part III, Union Strength

The University and College Union (UCU)–Britain’s trade union for academics–has gone on strike. The strike is about the University Superannuation Scheme (USS)’s decision to switch academics from “defined benefit” pension plans to “defined contribution” plans. As a PhD student at Cambridge I write this piece at home, having skipped a couple events I really wanted to go to today, because this strike is so important, both to academia and to the cause of working people more generally. My hope is that I can explain the strike to those who don’t know much about it and defend it to any who doubt its necessity.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to Read That Productivity/Wage Gap Chart We’re Always Seeing

You’ve probably seen this chart before. It’s everywhere now. I’ve used it more than a few times over the years. It’s the chart from the Economic Policy Institute that shows that while US productivity has continued to increased over the last few decades, real inflation-adjusted wages haven’t kept pace:

I’ve seen two bad misreadings of this chart lately, and I want to clear them up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Misconceptions: Raising the Minimum Wage Does Not Automatically Lead to Inflation

In recent weeks, I have had the very same conversation with a number of my friends. Each time I’m told that they were participating in a discussion about the minimum wage when someone claimed that there was no point in raising wages because firms would just raise their prices to cover the increase. This is a very intuitive, appealing argument, but it’s deeply misleading and fallacious. Let me explain why.

Read the rest of this entry »

Candidate Evaluations: Scott Walker

Scott Walker has ambled his way into the presidential race, so it’s time for another candidate evaluation. I’ll be looking at Walker’s background, policy history, and explicit statements to determine whether or not he would make a good president. I won’t be paying attention to electability or likeability, as is often common elsewhere on the web.

Read the rest of this entry »