A labor union is a group of working people working together for a common purpose. A corporation is a pool of money which has been combined for a common purpose.
In American history, going back to when Thomas Jefferson was Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury in George Washington’s cabinet. there have been two sources of power—people and money.
People power is irresistible when it has been mobilized, but people are prone to be apathetic and short-sighted. Money power is constant. It never is bored and never is blind to its own interests. It is able to tilt the playing field.
Public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans want policies that are the opposite of what millionaires want, yet Washington officials and pundits accept the corporate agenda and treat those who represent public opinion as a lunatic fringe.
Attorney-General Eric Holder has admitted that the Obama administration has not investigated financial fraud in the biggest banks and Wall Street investment firms because they are too important to the economy. Imagine someone in the Kennedy administration saying this of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters!
Right now a battle is going on for the rights of low-wage workers who frequently are, among other things, victims of wage theft. Owners of fast-food restaurants commonly withhold pay for hours worked. This is illegal. Progressives are trying to put a stop to it. Corporate executives are trying to change the laws to make it more difficult to sue.
The big problem for organized workers is that their immediate employer is not always the source of the problem. Fast-food franchisees operate on extremely narrow profit margins, because of the conditions set by the franchising companies, and (arguably – I don’t really know) may not be able to afford to pay more than they do. But the battle of the unions is with the franchisees, not with the real decision-maker.
Contract manufacturers in Asia operate under the same conditions. Their profit margins, as set by their customers in North America and Europe, are so small that (arguably – I don’t really know) they may not be able to pay more than they do. This is another way that the playing field is tilted against workers and their unions.
Another corporate abuse is the use of private equity to loot corporations at the expense of workers. The basic idea of private equity is that investors buy out a company’s stockholders and operate it themselves. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this, if they think they can manage the company better than the previous owners. Sometimes they succeed in doing this, which is fine.
In practice, private equity investors frequently are looters. The investors have the company pay themselves or their other companies big fees for management services, consulting services and other fees. Typically they buy the company with borrowed money, so their own cost is small. They sell off assets for a quick profit, lay off employees and pocket quick profits while leaving the company a mere shell. Jimmy Hoffa would never have been allowed to get away with stuff like this.