That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
Columbia University, with its sizable endowment, is a relatively well-capitalized entity. Still, it’s appropriate to ask what problem is solved by a graduate student union. The main difficulty for these students seems to be a lack of jobs when they graduate, and a pay hike might crowd the field further, with unwelcome consequences for the job market. And in the long run, the university could simply cut back on its initial financial aid offerings. The point is, it is hard for graduate student unions to bargain effectively across many of the most relevant dimensions of their student and work experience.
In the meantime, all of these unions are introducing additional veto points into the workplace, sometimes slowing response times. If you run the business and plan to make a big change in how it operates, you might feel — either contractually or tactically — that you need to check with the union first. And if you are a Democrat and a pragmatist, you might prefer a more effective but less unionized DNC, which after all is a major promoter of unionization for the U.S. economy as a whole.
What would a less hypocritical version of a Republican organization look like? Should everyone be given equity shares, or should there be bonuses for star performers? Whatever the answer may be, it probably won’t be debated much in public, as Republicans tend to be more circumspect about such matters. That’s a danger for Republicans, who may find it harder to live up to their principles if no one is calling them to account.
The Democrats, in contrast, tend to stage noisy debates — most of which, sooner or later, seem to settle in the same direction. That’s not a healthy norm of discourse, either.