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Targeting The Poor Essay

2581 words - 11 pages

#1 Positive Role of Labor Unions
1. My previous negative image of them Before taking this class, I saw the sole role of labor unions as using their collective bargaining power for the protection of their own members, regardless of the circumstances. The readings in the class reshaped my negative image of labor unions and gave me two different refreshing perspectives about their roles; 1) its positive role in restructuring and upgrading industry through its mediation power, and 2) its importance in capacity building for sustainable reforms. Before doing these readings about unions, as Beckman mentions, I thought that unions should be minimized because they often impede the deregulation of ...view middle of the document...

2. What did I learn from readings? Greenhouse’s successful story of the Culinary has made me have second thoughts on labor unions. The article explains higher wages, the medical benefits, and a guaranteed weekly working hour, and describes that management and unions have worked hand-in-hand to improve services and to save a large amount of cost for the industry. Honestly, however, even after I read Greenhouse’s article, I could not get rid of my skepticism towards labor unions yet. I first thought that this is just an exception which is sustained by the great prosperity of Las Vegas casinos and special skills of these casino workers, and it is difficult to apply to other cases, especially to the context of local development in least developing countries (LDCs).
However, Beckman’s case study about the Nigerian textile union impressed me by illustrating that unions can play a vital role in the process of upgrading the competence of the labor force and workers’ discipline in the industry, while protecting labor rights and wages. In this case, the union effectively worked as a bridge between laborers and managers and greatly enhanced the overall performance of industry through its mediation power. For instance, union cadres directly educated new workers about proper behavior in the working place. More surprisingly, managers asked the union for help when they themselves failed to control unruly workers. On the other hand, the union did not give up its function of fostering a collective identity and promoting collective interests of workers. This example really struck me because the role of the union as such a competent mediator was very different from my previous negative image of labor unions as a troublesome obstacle for strengthening industry competitiveness and workers’ competence.
The other surprising finding in Beckman’s case study is that the union contributed to building the institutional capacity for sustainable development in LDCs. Beckman highlights that viable institutions for such a reform are those that recognize and respect conflicting interests in various parties and assist in promoting agreements among them. The case study of the Nigerian textile union reveals that the union obtained its wider significance in the context of wider processes of institution building. This capacity-building role of the union is not negligible in LDCs because many governments in LDCs besides Nigeria have central state institutions that lack the competence and legitimacy to carry out genuine reform.
In addition to Beckman’s case study, Jacoby’s idea of ‘path dependence’ made me revisit the importance of labor unions, particularly in LDCs, from a different standpoint. Each nation has developed a unique constellation of risk-mitigating institutions that reflect its historical and social context; therefore, for effective institutional development it is important to note that institutions proliferate along a particular path and channel...

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