So when Tim Lee writes that "Competitive labor markets have steadily displaced top-down collective bargaining," I just have to shake my head. Competitive for whom? For the upper middle class, labor markets are fairly competitive, but then, they always have been. They never needed collective bargaining to begin with. For everyone else, though, employers have been steadily gaining at their expense for decades. Your average middle class worker has very little real bargaining power anymore, and this isn't due to chance or to fundamental changes in the economy. (You can organize the service sector just as effectively as the manufacturing sector as long as the law gives you the power to organize effectively in the first place.) Rather, it's due to a long series of deliberate policy choices that we've made over the past 40 years.
Please read the whole post. Kevin has been on quite a roll recently when discussing the impact of the decline of labor unions on the American economy and this post is among his best.
But I do want to point out one other issue I think that all good liberals should have with Tim Lee's description of the world. How can anyone possibly refer to collective bargaining as a "top down" model? Collective bargaining is about workers asserting themselves and leveraging their numbers to extract wage and benefit concessions from employers. Lee's rhetorical sleight of hand turns this construct entirely on it's head - as if it were the workers who controlled the capital. This is, of course, utterly asinine.