Meet the most dangerous man in the world. He’s apparently an expert on China, who probably ventures beyond ordering by number at Chinese restaurants and may be able to tell you your fortune even before you crack the cookie. Who is this wise man? Why, it’s former SEIU president Andy Stern, who upon return from his recent junket to China penned a nauseating op-ed in The Wall Street Journal called “China’s Superior Economic Model.” He relies liberally on quotes from a controversial BusinessWeek article written by former Intel CEO Andy Grove last year calling for a modified free market. Talk about short-term memory.
In BusinessWeek, Andy Grove seemed to have forgotten that Intel was possibly the single largest beneficiary of the disruptive powers of the free market in the history of the world. He was also darn lucky to have had as his Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who was also his mentor while Grove was the operations guy.
In 1971 Gordon Moore felt the invention of the microprocessor was “one of the most revolutionary products in the history of mankind.” Grove did not. In a 2006 Wired interview, when asked if he saw the chip’s potential, Grove said without hesitation, “I didn’t, I was running an assembly line designed to build memory chips. I saw the microprocessor as a bloody nuisance.” Later in his career, Grove harnessed the disruptive powers of Moore’s law—which states that the number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months—and using his masterful operational and management skills built Intel into the success it was within a market economy, not a planned one.
Stern writes that thanks to the technological innovations of Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, the world is flat. And thanks to Stern-style forced unionism, U.S. manufacturing has been flattened. Those jobs are gone, never to be seen again. The only reason SEIU’s hospital union jobs haven’t been shipped to China is that you don’t go to a hospital in China when you’re sick—at least, not yet.
An important distinction needs to be made between private and public unions. I have no problem with private unions as long as leadership provides workers with a choice. SEIU has single-handedly cornered the health-care services market thanks to the lack of right-to-work laws in states such as California. Public-sector unions have abused collective bargaining rights. Now their pension obligations strangle state budgets. Both forced unionism and public-sector collective bargaining need to go.
President Obama has polarized union workers by siding with public-sector unions. He has forgotten the blue-collar workers who can thrive without forced unionism laws. In fact, when polled they prefer not to be forced into a union. There should be jobs in the XL pipeline and further exploration with oil and natural gas in places like Ohio, for example. But instead we hear the polarizing refrains “Oil companies are evil” and “no more drilling.” Yet we want the security of independence from foreign oil. The bridge to get there is right in our backyard. And for the first time in 62 years, the U.S. is set to become a net exporter of gasoline, diesel, and other oil-based fuels in 2011. SEIU Andy is wrong in believing China’s economic model is our salvation. Has he looked at the ghost cities over there?
The good news is there are thriving cities and towns like Austin, Texas, that are creating jobs. A two-year associate’s degree can get your foot in the door, which is all most of us conscientious workers need. That’s all, just a chance. At Babson College I studied how to invest and how to run companies using tools, like just-in-time inventory management, that Andy Grove mastered. And you know where that got me? A job at Fidelity Investments. That was a start, but from there it was up to me to create value. SEIU Andy wants to tell you how to work, and as a result live your life. His greedy hand will be in your pocket looking for his cut in dues. I don’t like what his fortune predicts: “Help, I’m trapped in a Chinese fortune cookie factory.”