John Felan is an economist at the American Experiment Center.
Baseball is back, but it was in doubt for a while. It was only on March 13 that the second longest work stoppage in baseball history – 99 days – came to an end when the MLB and MLB Players’ Association – the Union of Baseball Players – signed an agreement.
The Players Association was pushing for a lot. One was more money: they wanted a competitive balance tax – which effectively raised a higher spending limit. They also opposed the introduction of an international draft, something the MLB has long supported but opposed the Players’ Association because it would increase the competition faced by its members.
No one pretended that the Players’ Association was acting in the interests of anyone other than its members. There was no pretense that players would benefit from higher salaries and less competition for their place than the average baseball fan or anyone else. And why should there be? A union exists to look after its members, no one else.
In Minnesota, when the Players’ Association was on strike for more money, government school teachers in Minneapolis were doing the same. On March 8, city teachers began a strike that lasted three weeks and affected 30,000 students who were already struggling to make up for lost schooling during the COVID-19 shutdown. MPR News reported that the teachers’ union wanted, among other things, “higher wages for paraprofessionals.” More money then, just like baseball players.
But there was a big difference between how these two unions presented their respective unions. MPR News quoted a teacher as saying: “No one wants to go on strike. None of the teachers do. None of the staff wants it … but for the kids, and for the students, and for their learning environment, it has to be. We can bend, but not break. ”
No baseball player has ever said that their strike was “for the fans.” Like the Players ‘Association, the Teachers’ Union represents its members, quite accurately, but unlike the Players ‘Association, the Teachers’ Union pretends to be acting in the interests of some additional stakeholders.
The same is true of the Minnesota Nurses Union. In this session, the state legislature has a bill that would sign the Nurses License Compact. According to the Minnesota Board of Nursing:
The Nurses License Compact (NLC) allows a nurse (RN and LPN / VN) to obtain a compact license in the nurse’s primary state of residence (home state) that enables them to practice in another compact state (remote state) in person or through telehealth. ) Nurses must follow the nurses practice laws of each state. Nurse Licensure Compact aims to: The Nurse Licensure Compact promotes access to public safety and care through mutual recognition of a state-based license that is locally enforced and nationally recognized.
Currently 34 states are members of the Compact. The Covid-19 epidemic NLC has clearly demonstrated the benefits of being able to tap a larger workforce. Indeed, at the height of the epidemic in April 2020, Governor Wallace signed an executive order allowing licensed health care workers in other states to work in Minnesota, effectively entering the state into the NLC.
Despite the prudent policy, the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) opposed the bill. According to Pioneer Press, MNA believes that joining the NLC will “improve the quality of bedside care.” The main reason for MNA’s opposition is that “the bill would threaten the employment of Minnesota nurses.”
Thus, while the Players ‘Association opposes such an international draft, the Nurses’ Union seeks to protect its members from competition. Again, you should expect a union to act in the interests of its members, but again, no baseball player has ever pretended that they are resisting the competition in the interests of “poor quality baseball pitches.”
Strike inflicts damage on the other party to a dispute in the hope that the opponent of the dispute will find the loss unbearable and pay for it. When baseball players strike, who suffers? Fans, perhaps, to no great degree though. Owners, of course, and a potentially significant degree.
Who are the victims of teacher strike and nurse strike? Children and patients, and they are not even opponents of the conflict. This explains why these strikes – which are essentially identical – are presented in different ways. In all three cases, the union is looking after the interests of its members, not just anyone else.