Recently in the UK, transport workers have gone on strike, causing severe disruption as only 1 in 5 rail services are now running. They can only do this as a result of unionisation and laws protecting unions (for example, unions are not liable for damages they cause).

As a student of economics, I am unsure as to whether unions are a net benefit to society. I understand that it may help combat employers who have monopoly power, which is usually the case in public sector industries such as transport in London. At the same time, the workers are being paid on average between £70k and £80k (more than twice the UK average salary) for a job which could essentially be automated (as it is on other metro services). To me, this feels inefficient, but what economic methods / concepts would we use to assess whether a union is a good thing or a bad thing? Are there any textbooks which cover this well? Thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ This would make a perfectly good question asking about trade unions generally (as the title suggests) without mention of current UK strikes. But if you do want to use the UK as an illustration, could you please clarify which group of workers you understand are paid £70-80k and support the claim with a reliable source. As I understand it most UK rail workers are paid far less than that (see here. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ It would be interesting to ask the same about businesses, since businesses can also cause disruptions by withholding their products. Maybe in an ideal world neither the employers nor the employees would have monopoly power, rather than both. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 10:35


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