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Eu que não faço greve relembro Hayek

por Samuel de Paiva Pires, em 24.11.11

 

The Constitution of Liberty, cap. 18, "Labor Unions and Employment":

 

«Public policy concerning labor unions has, in little more than a century, moved from one extreme to the other. From a state in which little the unions could do was legal if they were not prohibited altogether, we have now reached a state where they have become uniquely privileged institutions to which the general rules of law do not apply. They have become the only important instance in which governments signally fail in their prime - function the prevention of coercion and violence.

 

 

(…)

 

Everywhere the legalization of unions was interpreted as a legalization of their main purpose and as recognition of their right to do whatever seemed necessary to achieve this purpose -namely, monopoly. More and more they came to be treated not as a group which was pursuing a legitimate selfish aim and which, like every other interest, must be kept in check by, competing interests possessed of equal rights, but as a group whose aim - the exhaustive and comprehensive organization of all labor - must be supported for the good of the public.

 

Although flagrant abuses of their powers by the unions have often shocked public opinion in recent times and uncritical pro-union sentiment is on the wane, the public has certainly not yet become aware that the existing legal position is fundamentally wrong and that the whole basis of our free society is gravely threatened by the powers arrogated by the unions.

 

(…)

 

It cannot be stressed enough that the coercion which unions have been permitted to exercise contrary to all principles of freedom under the law is primarily the coercion of fellow workers.

Whatever true coercive power unions may be able to wield over employers is a consequence of this primary power of coercing other workers; the coercion of employers would lose most of its objectionable character if unions were deprived of this power to exact unwilling support. Neither the right of voluntary agreement between workers nor even their right to withhold their services in concert is in question. I t should be said, however, that the latter – the right to strike - though a normal right, can hardly be regarded as an inalienable right. There are good reasons why in certain employments it should be part of the terms of employment that the worker should renounce this right; i.e., such employments should involve long-term obligations on the part of the workers, and any concerted attempts to break such contracts should be illegal.

 

(…)

 

The unions cannot achieve their principal aims unless they obtain complete control of the supply of the type of labor with which they are concerned; and, since it is not in the interest of all workers to submit to such control, some of them must be induced to act against their own interest. This may be done to some extent through merely psychological and moral pressure, encouraging the erroneous belief that the unions benefit all workers. Where they succeed in creating a general feeling that every worker ought, in the interest of his class, to support union action, coercion comes to be accepted as a legitimate means of making a recalcitrant worker do his duty. Here the unions have relied on a most effective tool, namely, the myth that it is due to their efforts that the standard of living of the working class has risen as fast as it has done and that only through their continued efforts will wages continue to increase as fast as possible - a myth in the assiduous cultivation of which the unions have usually been actively assisted by their opponents. A departure from such a condition can come only from a truer insight into the facts, and whether this will be achieved depends on how effectively economists do their job of enlightening public opinion.

 

(…)

 

Because the power of truly voluntary unions will be restricted to what are common interests of all workers, they have come to direct their chief efforts to the forcing of dissenters to obey their will.

 

(…)

 

In particular, because striking has been accepted as a legitimate weapon of unions, it has come to be believed that they must be allowed to do whatever seems necessary to make a strike successful. In general, the legalization of unions has come to mean that whatever methods they regard as indispensable for their purposes are also to be treated as legal.

 

The present coercive powers of unions thus rest chiefly on the use of methods which would not be tolerated for any other purpose and which are opposed to the protection of the individual's private sphere. In the first place, the unions rely-to a much greater extent than is commonly recognized - on the use of the picket line as an instrument of intimidation. That even so-called "peaceful" picketing in numbers is severely coercive and the condoning of it constitutes a privilege conceded because of its presumed legitimate aim is shown by the fact that it can be and is used by persons who themselves are not workers to force others to form a union which they will control, and that it can also be used for purely political purposes or to give vent to animosity against an unpopular person. The aura of legitimacy conferred upon it because the aims are often approved cannot alter the fact that it represents a kind of organized pressure upon individuals which in a free society no private agency should be permitted to exercise.

 

(…)

 

It can hardly be denied that raising wages by the use of coercion is today the main aim of unions. Even if this were their sole aim, legal prohibition of unions would however, not be justifiable. In a free society much that is undesirable has to be tolerated if it cannot be prevented without discriminatory legislation. But the control of wages is even now not the only function of the unions; and they are undoubtedly capable of rendering services which are not only unobjectionable but definitely useful. If their only purpose were to force up wages by coercive action, they would probably disappear if deprived of coercive power. But unions have other useful functions to perform, and, though it would be contrary to all our principles even to consider the possibility of prohibiting them altogether) it is desirable to show explicitly why there is no economic ground for such action and why, as truly voluntary and non-coercive organizations, they may have important services to render. It is in fact more than probable that unions will fully develop their potential usefulness only after they have been diverted from their present antisocial aims by an effective prevention-of the use of coercion.

 

(…)

 

Though it may be impossible to protect the individual against all union coercion so long as general opinion regards it as legitimate, most students of the subject agree that comparatively few and, as they may seem at first, minor changes in law and jurisdiction would suffice to produce far-reaching and probably decisive changes in the existing situation. The mere withdrawal of the special privileges either explicitly granted to the unions or arrogated by them with the toleration of the courts would seem enough to deprive them of the more serious coercive powers which they now exercise and to channel their legitimate selfish interests so that they would be socially beneficial.

 

The essential requirement is that true freedom of association be assured and that coercion be treated as equally illegitimate whether employed for or against organization, by the employer or by the employees. The principle that the end does not justify the means and that the aims of the unions do not justify their exemption from the general rules of law should be strictly applied. Today this means, in the first place, that all picketing in numbers should be prohibited, since it is not only the chief and regular cause of violence but even in its most peaceful forms is a means of coercion. Next, the unions should not be permitted to keep non-members out of any employment. This means that closed- and union-shop contracts (including such varieties as the "maintenance of membership" and "preferential hiring" clauses) must be treated as contracts in restraint of trade and denied the protection of the law. They differ in no respect from the "yellow-dog contract" which prohibits the individual worker from joining a union and which is commonly prohibited by the law.

 

(…)

 

Though all the changes needed to restrain the harmful powers of the unions involve no more than that they be made to submit, to the same general principles of law that apply to everybody else) there can be no doubt that the existing unions will resist them with all their power. They know that the achievement of what they at present desire depends on that very coercive power which will have to be restrained if a free society is to be preserved. Yet the situation is not hopeless. There are developments under way which sooner or later will prove to the unions that the existing state cannot last. They will find that, of the alternative courses of further development open to them, submitting to the general principle that prevents all coercion will be greatly preferable in the long run to continuing their present policy (…)»

 

publicado às 13:17


1 comentário

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De Miguel Madeira a 22.03.2012 às 10:21

"The unions cannot achieve their principal aims unless they obtain complete control of the supply of the type of labor with which they are concerned;"

Não - só precisam de obter um controle sobre a oferta de trabalho suficiente para causarem incómodo à entidade empregadora (uma maioria bastará, sobretudo se estiverem a lidar com uma empresa que também conttrole grande parte da procura de trabalho do sector em questão).

"In the first place, the unions rely-to a much greater extent than is commonly recognized - on the use of the picket line as an instrument of intimidation. That even so-called "peaceful" picketing in numbers is severely coercive and the condoning of it constitutes a privilege conceded because of its presumed legitimate aim is shown by the fact that it can be and is used by persons who themselves are not workers to force others to form a union which they will control, and that it can also be used for purely political purposes or to give vent to animosity against an unpopular person."

Se o piquete se limitar a gritar "bandido! inimigo do povo! c...!", isso será coercivo (pela conversa, não me parece que Hayek esteja a falar de piquetes que recorram à violência física aberta, até porque penso que legalmente os sindicatos não têm esse direito). Por outro lado, não vejo muito bem onde é que ser ou não coercivo tem a ver com não-trabalhadores poderem estar no piquete, ou o piquete poder ser organizado por razões políticas ou de protesto pessoal (se é coercivo, parece-me que é de qualquer maneira; se não é, não é de qualquer maneira).

"Next, the unions should not be permitted to keep non-members out of any employment. This means that closed- and union-shop contracts (including such varieties as the "maintenance of membership" and "preferential hiring" clauses) must be treated as contracts in restraint of trade and denied the protection of the law. They differ in no respect from the "yellow-dog contract" which prohibits the individual worker from joining a union and which is commonly prohibited by the law."

Eu até concordo que as duas situações podem ser consideradas similares (e em Portugal são proibidas pelo mesmo artigo do Código do Trabalho), mas é um caminho um bocado perigoso para um liberal (embora é verdade que o Hayek era um liberal relativamente moderado nalguns pontos) - afinal, se chamamos "coacção" a uma empresa (em virtude de um contrato que assinou) só contratar trabalhadores inscritos num dado sindicato, isso não poderá implicar que as outras imposições que as empresas façam aos seus empregados, no ambito da relação de trabalho subordinado, também são "coacção"?

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