Imagine no unions; it’s easy if you try

One of my college economics professors expounded the theory that labor unions actually improve the efficiency of unionized businesses. Despite the fact that union monopoly power leads to featherbedding, she argued that unions create such esprit de corps within the workforce that the net result is positive. Yes, she actually said that. (Later she left the university to join the Clinton administration.)

A strike at Heathrow Airport gives us the opportunity to see which effect dominates:

Heathrow has never been more efficient!
Passengers’ glee as border agency strike SPEEDS UP passport control

Passengers who had been warned of lengthy delays at Heathrow due to striking workers today said border controls were ‘better than usual’.

As Border Agency bosses were forced to take on regular airport workers to man passport control, delighted passengers said queues had been shorter than normal. The situation was echoed at Dover too as passengers faced apparently normal travel conditions with ferry services ‘running well and to time’ this morning.

Looks like the featherbedding effect not only dominates the esprit de corps effect, it also dominates any effect of the training and experience of the usual staff. It will be a pity if the strike ever ends.

POSTSCRIPT: Q: How many university workers does it take to change a light bulb? A: Three.

No punchline; that’s just how many it takes. You’re not allowed to change it yourself, either; that’s union work.

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