CWA Happy With Cellular Merger

Good piece by Mike Elk lays out union enthusiasm for AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile. Basically, AT&T is unionized while the other cell phone operators aren’t. So what’s good for AT&T is good for the Communications Workers of America and the takeover presents an opportunity to organize the T-Mobile workforce.

I was in a bit of a Twitter dialogue with ex-intern Ryan McNeely about what’s my point in bringing this kind of thing up. Mostly my point is that life is more complicated than people sometimes make it out to be. The optimal strategy for a private sector labor union is to represent the workforce of a monopolist and then team up with management to lobby for regulatory barriers to new competition. This is why the CWA aligns with AT&T on telecommunications policy, and it’s also why manufacturing unions typically favor high trade barriers. A labor union can deliver much more value to its members if the unionized entity is a predatory monopolist. Given that reality, I can hardly begrudge unions from lobbying on behalf of their members’ interests the same way that trade associations and business lobbies do. But I don’t know any progressives who think that it’s an “anti-labor” view to want a competitive telecommunications sector or that appropriate enforcement of anti-trust law is a union-busting plot. Efforts to expose domestic manufacturers to competition from foreign manufacturers or big city public school systems to competition from charter school operators tend to play quite differently with the progressive audience but it’s the exact same structural situation in all cases.