Harold Meyerson: What Is To Be Done?

By September 5, 2007Economy, Labor Unions

What a revealing column — strange, but revealing — this morning from Harold Meyerson, the Washington Post’s in-house collectivist. In it, he admits the game being played with environmental regulations: Some activists use them not for environmental purposes, but instead to maximize their political clout.

Meyerson starts out with ruminations about Lenin’s cadres, comparing them to U.S. manufacturers. Or at least it seems that’s what he’s trying to say. It’s not so clear.

He continues with his usual arguments about some people getting the shaft from the U.S. marketplace, rising inequality, etc., and then Meyerson offers his program for a more egalitarian society. The first we agree with: Improve the education and skills of the U.S. workforce in jobs that stay in the United States. The second is the same old anti-democratic argument made by organized labor: Force people into unions, making labor more powerful so it can negotiate higher wages.

Here’s the revealing portion of his argument:

Later this month — at the prompting of community activists furious at having to breathe Los Angeles’s deadliest air, the Teamsters Union, port drivers and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — the city’s Harbor Commission is likely to pass regulations requiring cleaner trucks, a change that advocates have devised to reshape the industry into one featuring large, hence unionizable, employers. It’s the kind of effort that other communities, industries and government officials must heed if the American middle class is to have something more promising than a glorious past.

Got that? Organized labor is acting in concert in Los Angeles with environmental groups and machine politicians to put small businesses out of work: Too bad, little (immigrant-owned) trucking company. Through environmental regulations, we are going to make it too expensive for you to do business. Only big companies can afford the additional costs. Then we’ll mau mau the companies into unionizing.

A clever, disciplined strategy of economic fence-building through the use of environmental regulations. Clean air isn’t driving the process. Raw politics is. And that’s the kind of America Meyerson holds up as ideal.

UPDATE (10:55 a.m.): Seth Borden at Labor Lawyers for Management has more about organized labor as environmental bully boys here. And Brett at Laborpains.org thinks we’re being too kind: “This is Big Labor screwing the Little Guy big time. Meyerson may not mind, but most Americans would.”

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Let’s not overstate things — air quality in Los Angeles has been improving almost continuously for the past 30-40 years. It’s really not especially bad these days. See the Pacific Research Institute’s annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators for the hard data. My advice, CW, if you visit LA — take a deep breath, and enjoy!

    (Full disclosure — yep, I work at PRI!)

  • David says:

    LA has the worst air quality in the country and its ports are a huge contributor to that. LA residents are paying with their health so that big box stores can sell cheap Asian-made goods. The chain store owners have depressed shipping prices so much that the small, independent truckers cannot afford to clean up their trucks. That may be an externality to the shipping industry but it’s not to people who want to breath clean air. If Mr. Wood doubts this, I invite him to c’mon down to Wilmington for a day.

  • SHB says:

    “Then we’ll mau mau the companies into unionizing.”

    CW, don’t you mean “Mao Mao”?

  • steve says:

    hmmm, so clean water and breathable air are undesirable eh ? Interesting.
    you do talk some unmitigated crap. So much so that I am certainly never coming back to this page again.

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