Worker-Wonk Synergy

Earlier today I tweeted to Mac McClelland’s reporting on the abysmal working conditions at one Ohio warehouse and @MacMcClelland piece makes the case for why we need organized labor.”

Matt Yglesias replied, “It seems more like an argument about why we need full employment.” Later he elaborated in a post:

A strong labor union would certainly improve conditions at this warehouse around the margin. But there’s a real limit here, since the threat of the company losing its contracts and everyone ending up unemployed is going to be extremely severe. The real issue here is that instead of workers threatening to leave this crappy job and get a better one, people are clamoring to work at this warehouse. This is one small glance at why I keep urging progressives to start caring about monetary policy more. Nobody considers themselves a monetary policy activist. But if you’re interested in labor and working conditions, you’ve got to be interested in full employment. Full employment gives workers meaningful leverage. Mass unemployment gives it all to the bosses. In strict dollars and cents terms, I think everyone is better off with prosperity than with sluggish growth. But in terms of power, mass unemployment is a boon to bosses.

Sure, no disagreement there. No reason why a story can’t have two morals! Personally, I’m of the mind that both monetary policy and labor issues are drastically underserved by the progressive community.

It’s just a shame that the Federal Reserve is so reluctant to engage in the sort of practices that Matt says would help lead to full employment. If only there was some network of political coalitions out there that could somehow mobilize workers to lobby for fiscal expansion.

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