Segments in this Video

"No Laughing Matter" (13:08)


Clea Conner introduces the event and provides background information on Intelligence Squared. Comedian Chris Turner performs on stage. Moderator Nick Gillespie introduces the debate on unions.

Debate "Housekeeping" (05:59)

Gillespie frames the debate and asks the audience to vote with applause. He introduces Former "The New York Times" Journalist Steven Greenhouse and Pension Economist and Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Allison Schrager.

Opening Statement For: Greenhouse (03:24)

The economy is about people and delivering goods and services. Unions improve workplace environments and wages, making people's lives better.

Opening Statement Against: Schrager (02:26)

In addition to GDP, resilience and shared prosperity are important aspects of "working for the economy." A working economy can grow, prosper, and still be a leader. Unions hinder these goals.

Union Membership Decline (05:55)

A sharp decline in manufacturing, official policies, service sector growth, lackadaisical unions, and corporations fighting against unionization have contributed to declining numbers. Schrager disagrees that corporate resistance is the biggest detractor.

Unionization Efforts (04:05)

Greenhouse states that service-oriented businesses, like Starbucks, provide increased fringe benefits and wages to block unionization. Schrager counters that increased wages are a result of a tight labor market; a unionized industry creates fewer jobs.

Unions, Wages, and Employment Numbers (09:04)

Increased wages and compensation may affect the number of workers a business hires. Greenhouse quotes MLK and discusses young people supporting unions. Schrager believes unions are no longer beneficial; wage increases occur for a variety of reasons.

Global Work Environment (06:49)

Greenhouse considers manufacturing compensation. Scandinavian countries have a 65% unionization rate and rank higher than the U.S. in economic freedom global indices. Schrager notes that the percentages have declined and that unions have to be more disciplined. Panelists consider profits vs. wages.

Public Sector Unions (07:51)

Approximately 35% of the sector is unionized. Public sector unions want to work with the government while private sector unions are more adversarial. Public unions corrupt the political process and negatively affect the economy.

Q/A: Healthcare (01:39)

Schrager and Greenhouse disagree on whether unions are a force against universal health care.

Q/A: Foreign Automakers (01:53)

Unionizing in Germany and Japan is easier than in the U.S. Companies move work to the U.S. to increase profits, undercutting Detroit automakers; it has positive and negative effects on the economy.

Q/A: Union Dues (01:47)

Fees often increase as one's wage increases. Some members are unhappy with the cost.

Q/A: Modern Technology (02:00)

Social media empowers workers to obtain a better work environment, but technology can be a danger to workers. Greenhouse discusses algorithmic management.

Q/A: Past and Present Economic Similarities (02:34)

The 1950s and 1960s was a time of change and unions provided a sense of community. Greenhouse states that today, we are in a more competitive world and productivity has increased three times as fast as compensation per hour; Schrager disagrees.

Q/A: Corporate Union Inefficiencies (03:38)

Schrager believes we should consider worker co-ops and new models that are not adversarial relationships. Greenhouse states that CEOs in other countries view unions as social partners; unionization leads to less turnover and increased loyalty and productivity. Unions want to get along with employers.

Q/A: Unions, AI, and Robotics (02:37)

Greenhouse states that unions are a countervailing force to corporate power and they should have a voice in protecting workers as new technologies emerge. Schrager believes technological advances exemplify why unions are no longer necessary.

Q/A: Unskilled Labor (03:19)

Schrager defines "skilled labor." Greenhouse reflects on the need for unions in Google and Facebook. Gillespie segues to closing remarks.

Closing Statements Against: Schrager (02:21)

Schrager discusses an NPR worker leaving the union; bosses rarely give merit-based pay and workers rarely ask for it. Resiliency and adaptability are essential to economic success.

Closing Statements For: Greenhouse (03:10)

The economy should work for the people, not vice versa. No labor unions would result in a smaller middle class, increased income inequality, more low-wage jobs, less benefits, and increased work/life imbalance.

Colin Quinn (05:04)

Quinn discusses the connection between comedy and debate and ensuring that both aspects thrive in an environment of extreme partisanship and cancel culture.

Debate Results (02:14)

Gillespie asks the audience to vote by applause and thanks debate participants.

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Do Unions Work for the Economy?: A Debate

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Unions have played a vital role in American history, helping to improve working conditions and create the standard 40-hour, 5-day workweek. Since the 1950s, however, when one of three American workers belonged to a union, organized labor has been declining, dropping to one of five workers in the 1980s to just one of ten today. But unions may be on the verge of a resurgence, with employees at Amazon, Google, Starbucks, and other major companies organizing at a pace not seen in generations. Is this a good sign for the United States? Advocates of unions praise them for providing better wages and job security for millions of Americans, forging a more robust middle class, and advancing the nation's economy. Opponents of unions, however, criticize them for raising consumer prices, increasing unemployment, reducing workers' incentives, and slowing economic growth. As the United States—and the American labor force—face new challenges in the 21st century, do unions work for the economy?

Length: 92 minutes

Item#: BVL283499

Copyright date: ©2022

Closed Captioned

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