Less than a year ago, I wrote about the potential union strike in Las Vegas.
This was a big deal locally because the unions hadn’t gone on strike in many years — but it also recalled larger factors that show the problems with unions.
At the time, I wrote that although the unions ended up winning key concessions, they are on the losing side of the war.
Historically, even a union victory will ensure their long-term defeat. They can’t fight the future, as disruptive technologies render old jobs obsolete and create new jobs for which they aren’t qualified.
This would be like horse carriage and candlemaker unions going on strike to protect themselves from cars and light bulbs.
In the past, unions were often a necessary correction to enact needed changes to provide basic safety; but now they often try to deny the reality of basic economics, making lower-skilled jobs more expensive than they should be and denying market forces.
Unionized labor and their strikes end up making their jobs so expensive that companies look for cheaper alternatives, like different products or automation.
For example, coal union jobs became so expensive and strikes so disruptive that companies moved to oil-based products.
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The fight for $15 minimum wages has led many fast food restaurants to rely on automated kiosks.
It wasn’t surprising at all that less than a year after this bruising fight with the union, two of the major employers in Las Vegas have announced layoffs. Caesar’s Entertainment announced over $40 million worth of cost-cutting measures, including layoffs and cuts in hours.
MGM then announced over $100 million of the same.
What should be most chilling for the unions is the installation of automatic machines that both deal and serve drinks, the two staples of the Las Vegas gambling economy.
The companies say these machines are not replacing jobs, though that is most likely because admitting that fact would invoke contract obligations with the unions.
Las Vegas regularly makes the list of most vulnerable job markets to automation — and this is just the testing phase of the eventual reality.
.@AP: Hospitality workers around the country will picket the restaurants of celebrity chefs and officer of other business partners of a Las Vegas-based casino operator that has refused to bargain with a union. #Cleveland is one of the cities to see picketing.
— Tony Ganzer (@tony_ganzer) March 19, 2019
Vegas casino workers vote in favor of joining UAW: Workers at Bally’s, Harrah’s, Paris and the Wynn in Las Vegas have voted to join more than 8,000 members of the The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and… https://t.co/sAQCvE66XJ #Casino #LatestNews
— SBC NEWS (@SBCGAMINGNEWS) March 18, 2019
Some reports say they will lose 65 percent of their jobs in the next six years.
So the Las Vegas Culinary Union secured higher pay through the threats of a strike, and less than a year later many are facing fewer hours and layoffs.
Automation is being introduced that will eventually replace them altogether.
Like I said back then, they may have won that battle, but they already lost the war.
Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an intelligence analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Decisive Battles in Chinese History,” as well as “Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.” This OpsLens piece is used by permission.
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