Monday, 16 January 2017

Why don't trade unions support UBI?

In an article for Counterpunch, Daniel Raventos and Julie Wark identify six reasons why many trade unions don't support the UBI.

"The chariness being expressed in a lot of trade unions where Basic Income has not been very well received by union bosses or members sheds light on several serious confusions about Basic Income," they write, while recognising that there are significant exceptions like Unite in Great Britain, AFL-CIO leaders in the United States, some groups and militants of the Spanish unions CCOO and CGT, and the Basque Ezker Sindikalaren Konbergentzi.

Here are the six reasons they mention:

First: Basic Income would undermine the power of the unions.

Second: Since the bulk of union membership consists of full-time workers, they could lose out economically because of the tax reforms required.

Third: Basic Income is only a pretext for dismantling the hard-earned welfare state.

Fourth: The bosses will use Basic Income as an excuse for lowering wages.

Fifth: Basic Income challenges the trade union culture of work because it dissociates material existence from work and the rights arising from it.

Sixth: with their existence guaranteed, workers would lose their fighting spirit.

Here are a couple of points Raventos and Wark make in reply:

"The question of basic income and work is much more complex and interesting than the union argument suggests. It is true that, with a Basic Income, material existence would no longer depend on having a job but this doesn’t mean that it’s antithetical to employment. Rather, it would offer a more resourceful way of sharing tasks in different domains of work.

"The unions’ concerns about remunerated work totally overlook two other essential kinds, viz. voluntary work and domestic (reproductive) work, a standpoint which makes it impossible to understand the effects a Basic Income would have for most people. Our definition of work would be much more open: “a set of remunerated or unremunerated activities whose results procure goods or services for members of our species.”


Why Don’t Trade Unions Support an Unconditional Basic Income (Precisely When They Should)?

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