Monopolies are markets where there is only one supplier. This means that there is no competition and therefore the supplier is able to unfairly increase price and gouge the buyer. Monopolies are extremely profitable to the supplier and expensive to the buyer. Monopolies are only allowed, rightfully so, if the government regulates it. Price increases are subject to government approvals.
Oligopolies are markets where there are only a few suppliers, such as the phone carrier industry and to a certain extent, the oil industry. That is why Bell, Rogers and Telus are regulated by the CRTC.
Most industries have sufficient competition. Some industries have abundant and stiff competition, such as the Retail industry. Consequently, the Retail industry suffers one of the highest bankruptcy rates and lowest profit margins.
Competition is what brings down price for the buyers and fosters innovation and product/service improvements amongst the suppliers. Without competition, we have low quality products and services at high prices. This has proven to happen over and over again with countries that experiment with Communism.
The reason competition brings down price, provides better service and/or fosters innovation which results in better products, is because the supplier (company or individual) wants to beat his/her competitors to get the business. After the supplier gets the business, the reason the supplier keeps the price low, continues to foster good service and innovation is because the supplier wants to avoid being replaced by a competitor.
Therefore, it's important to foster competition and to avoid monopolies.
Collusions are illegal, and rightfully so. According to the U.S. anti-trust law:
"When competitors collude, prices are inflated and the customer is cheated. Price fixing, bid rigging, and other forms of collusion are illegal and are subject to criminal prosecution..."The U.S. steel manufacturing industry was an oligopoly in the 1970's. They colluded and their executives were sent to jail. If Bell, Rogers and Telus tried to collude, their executives would be sent to jail. Sometimes gas stations will collude to fix their price, resulting in fury with the public.
Unions are essentially collusions that form virtual monopolies. Collective bargaining is an euphemism for collusion. The suppliers in the union are in the business of selling a service (labour). The employer is the buyer of their service. By colluding to form a union, the suppliers form a virtual monopoly that forces their buyer to buy from one virtual supplier. The buyer is no longer able to find alternative suppliers. Thus, the union (monopoly) is able to unfairly drive up price and gouge the buyer.
This is why you will see transit workers behind toll booths making more money than bank tellers, even though their job is far easier than a bank teller's or flipping burgers at McDonald's.
Because competition is greatly eliminated, union workers do not need to work as hard to maintain good service or to innovate. The fear of getting replaced by a competitor, is greatly reduced.
Union members are part of the ELITE, not part of the masses. According to Wikipedia, if you make $60,000 per year, you make more than 80% of the working population. The vast majority of people are self-employed or work for small to medium size businesses and the median income is approximately $40,000. Union members make much more. This is not because union members work harder or are more intelligent or educated. It is purely because they have eliminated competition with collusion.
"...labor unions were subject to U.S. antitrust laws in... 1890... However, organized labor managed to obtain exemption ... in ... 1914"In other words, it is legal for unions to collude, but illegal for everybody else.
Is this good or bad for the economy? It is definitely good for the union workers in the short run. However, in any win-lose relationship, it usually ends up in a lose-lose relationship in the long run. The only sustainable relationship for the long run is a win-win relationship.
The landlords and tenants act is another example of how a win-lose relationship ends up as a lose-lose relationship.
According to CBC, CNN, Globe and Mail, U of Michigan (source) and U of Pepperdine, union workers at GM cost $73 per hour ($39 per hour for wages and $34 per hour for benefits and pension). This is $146,000 per year. According to Wikipedia, if you make $100,000 per year, you make more than 93% of the working population. Despite this, they went on strike in 2007. $146,000 is great for the worker ($146,000 is great even for highly skilled and educated professionals), but is it fair to the buyer of their service?
Some argue that GM union workers make $39 per hour and not $73 per hour. However, $39 per hour is not a valid apple to apple comparison. Most Americans and Canadians do not get an additional $34 per hour for benefits and pension. Therefore, if an American/Canadian made $39 per hour, he/she would have to save a portion of that for benefits and retirement/pension. The GM worker can spend every cent of that $39 because there is another $34 to take care of benefits and retirement.
Because of the power of the union, GM workers have extremely lucrative pensions and benefits. For every car sold, GM pays $1,600 to employee health benefits. Toyota (non-union) pays $200. This article elaborates on how the union has gouged GM. GM, and possibly Ford and Chrysler, are on the verge of bankruptcy because of their payments to the union workers. When this happens, no union worker at GM will make $10, let alone $33 or more per hour.
Therefore, if anybody should bail out auto companies, it should be their own employees and managers by taking pay cuts, not other Americans and Canadians who make far less.
Collusion is illegal for everybody except unions. It should be illegal for unions as well, or it should be legal for everybody, otherwise it is another huge double-standard.
Government's Rampant Unions
The government is rampant with unionized employees, such as the post office, city transit, etc. When the union does not get what they want, they go on strike. The government also uses thousands of outside contractors, such as web developers and graphic designers. These workers make a fraction of what government union members make. If they can collude and form a virtual monopoly, they would be able to say to the government: "pay us what we want or else you will not get any graphic design work from us or any other graphic designer". This would enable the graphic designers to gouge the government and make much more money. Not only is this illegal, most buyers, especially the government, try to prevent the vendors or contractors from finding out who their competitors are.
Graphic designers are no less hard-working than Transit workers. They are not less intelligent than Post Office workers. They are not less educated than auto workers. In fact, it can be easily shown that web developers require much more knowledge and skills. However, they make far less money because they have tremendous competition. Union workers make so much more because they have eliminated competition through collusion.
Government employees work for the taxpayers. They work for you. You pay them. They are your employees. However, these union workers have gouged from you for decades, even though most of you do not get to gouge. They do not work harder than you. They are not smarter than you. They are not more educated than you, but they make more than you at your expense because they get to collude and you do not.
Leading Indicator of Failure
Yes, unions elevate wages for workers. This may last for many years. However, it is debatable if this is sustainable. In the long run, their wages can go to zero. Unions are a good leading indicator for industries that will fail, as many industries with unions tend to lose money and go bankrupt, as in the case of the auto makers. Unions are predicting governments to fail, as the extra expense from unions are exacerbating the debt crises. The difference between the government and a business is that the government can continue to lose money for a much longer period of time, by stealing money from children and you through deficits and debts.
Another reason that unions have survived so long, is possibly because a politician can get more votes from unions than from employers. Union members outnumber their employers. It also gives the perception that the politican is fighting for the underdog, or the "working-class family" against the big evil corporation (even though union workers make more than the average American and Canadian). Therefore, politicians traditionally catered to unions and never illegalized them. This is another problem with democracy because the masses are not necessarily right.
If politicians truly understand economics, they would disband unions to save GM, and NOT steal even more money from children and taxpayers for another bailout. Besides, it was the union and management that gouged GM, not our children and taxpayers. If the politicians don't, then they don't understand economics and/or they are corrupted by lobbyists.