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Attempting to Justify Anti-Labor Practices Is a Disservice to the American Worker

March 20, 1988

In the "Truth Suffers" column, James Flanigan seems to accept as a given that the exploitation of labor-cost differentials is legitimate in a struggle between competitors. In the past, this application of social Darwinism has led to the Haymarket riots and many other bloody confrontations. After the Wagner Act, it seemed that an era had finally come to an end when labor could be used like any other commodity whose cost was subject to market conditions only. Strong unions set standards that were at least partly responsible for our unprecedented postwar prosperity.

This situation changed when Ronald Reagan, the first union leader to become President, gave a clear signal that unionism had lost governmental protection and that unions were now fair game to be busted. Frank Lorenzo, who, as (Flanigan) writes, "understood and prospered in deregulation," did so by busting the unions of the companies he acquired. (Lorenzo) now wants to use the leverage his lower labor costs give him to force Eastern's union into submission.

Differentials in labor costs should not be allowed to become a factor among domestic competitors. Ideally these costs should be standardized throughout an industry. Otherwise, with unregulated competition allowing market forces alone to be in command, competitors have no choice but to squeeze labor until it hurts, and beyond. The Haymarket riots were the direct result of George Pullman's decision to cut wages in order to remain "competitive." It is sad that today's workers tend to give so little support to unions. As George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

ERNST JACOBI

Malibu

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