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Opinion

Union wages aren’t too high

Non-union wages are too low.

One complaint I hear from anti-union capitalists is that union wages are too high.

And it’s true. 

Well, okay, I probably wouldn’t say they’re *too* high, but unionized wages are certainly higher than non-union wages. Or rather they were last month in Canada.

In August 2020, Canadian workers who had union coverage, on average, made $33.01 an hour. Those with no union coverage, by comparison, made $27.94.

And there was a gap between unionized and non-unionized wages in August 2019 and August 2018, as well.

The argument I hear against this is two fold.

First, capitalists complain that it’s unfair for unionized workers to make more than non-unionized workers. They frame this as entitlement, that these higher wages are unrealistic. 

Second, they complain that higher union wages drive up wages in general. They claim that it drives up the cost of living because companies are forced to increase prices to maintain profits.

And frankly, that’s always what it comes down to: profits.

Capitalists are less concerned with whether workers have enough income to support themselves comfortably than they are with how much profit they can generate.

Here’s the thing though: rather than bringing down the wages of unionized workers (or just abolishing unions entirely), we should be advocating for higher wages for all workers, not just unionized workers. If workers feel that unionized workers are paid too much, perhaps the answer, then, is for them to unionize and collectively bargain for higher wages. And unionized workers can stand in solidarity with them as they do so.

As well, reducing wages isn’t the only solution to wages chipping away at profit (either through wage cuts or reducing your workforce). Since profits are simply revenue minus expenses, you can also increase profits through increased revenue.

One way to get more revenue is by having more customers. And the best way to increase the number of customers is to increase the size of the potential customer pool by increasing the disposable income of more people. The higher a person’s purchasing power, the more purchasing they will do, including your own products.

But this doesn’t work too well if only a few workers have higher wages. It must be widespread. Because when it comes down to it, union wages aren’t too high; non-union wages are too low.

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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