NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is Los Angeles Janitors' Strike Self-defeating?

April 6, 2000

Labor experts say the current strike by janitors in Los Angeles could spread to the rest of the nation. Union contracts for 100,000 janitors nationwide are due to expire in coming months.

The average unionized janitor makes $6.90 an hour -- which the unions want increased by $1 in each of the next three years.

But economists point out that, in some ways, such a raise could be against the workers' best interest:

  • The higher pay would likely force employers to cut back on their workforces -- leaving fewer jobs for workers with few skills.
  • Raising pay only encourages janitors to remain janitors -- reducing the economic motivation to seek better jobs.
  • But if maintenance workers move on in search of higher wages, other workers just starting on the economic ladder could take their place.
  • Ignoring the best interests of their members, union bosses demand higher wages so they can increase union dues.

After years of bitterly opposing immigration on the assumption newcomers would threaten their members' jobs, union bosses have done a reverse flip -- seeing immigrants as a potential source of new members and their dues, critics point out. Most of the striking workers in Los Angeles are Latino immigrants.

Source: Editorial, "More Dollars, Fewer Workers," Investor's Business Daily, April 6, 2000.


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