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Modernizing unions could help workers, corporations, and appeal to conservatives

Worker at the Flint Engine plant.
Steve Fecht
General Motors
The tradition of conservatives being anti-union could change, Rauch says, but only if unions change too.

It's common knowledge that most politically conservative-leaning people are no fans of organized labor. The popular thinking is that labor unions damaged the economy and led American corporations to move overseas. In short, unions hurt capitalism. Good riddance.

However, there are some conservatives who don't subscribe to that thinking. 

They look at the discontent of workers today. They’re angry, and with reason. And angry workers who feel they’re not respected won't help America’s economic prospects.

An article in The Atlantic titled "The Conservative Case for Unions" takes a new look at labor unions. The author of that article, Jonathan Rauch, joined Stateside to talk about it.

According to Rauch, workers are starting to notice what life is like without unions. Workers are angry, and feel disrespected and undervalued. This frustration has big consequences.  

"Some conservatives have looked around at this profound anger and alienation and populism that we're seeing in American politics, and its antagonism to free markets, to trade, to immigration. In many ways, to business, not just in the U.S., but around the world," Rauch said. "And [conservatives] are saying, hey, wait a minute, we may have made a mistake here. We may have gone too far by leaving workers in this state of feeling helpless and unable to have a sense of agency and dignity. And they're also pointing out that the old style of unions, which conservatives were so opposed to, are not the only way to do unions. In fact, they are a completely obsolete way to do unions. The reason we do them that way is that currently it's more or less illegal to do them any other way."

Listen to the full interview above to hear how conservatives cracking down on unions is actually increasing the size of government and the welfare state, and how unions can be modernized to help both workers and corporations.

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