Dana Goldstein asks:

And speaking of money, how come auto workers are unionized, but house cleaners and hair dressers aren't? How come research continues to show that even when we control for maternity leave, time off of work, and different levels of education, women still make only 70 cents on the male dollar?



Ezra points out:

I quite agree with Dana. The patriarchy lives! That said, the reason auto workers are unionized while hair dressers aren't has much more to do with the legal and cultural moment when the unions launched their organizing drives against the auto manufacturers, and the differences in organizational structure between hair salon employees (diffuse, lots of small businesses) and manufacturing employees (concentrated, large amounts of machinery which create value outside of the worker). Part of the reason unions are having such trouble organizing is that various laws have made organizing tougher, and beyond that, it's simply harder to unionize service sector employees, and when you do, there are fewer gains to distribute, as each individual worker's labor creates comparatively little value.



He fails to point out that that "70 cents" figure is decades out of date; it's now 80 cents, and rising, and nearly disappears when you control for work experience and hours. He also doesn't point out that where women did work in factories, they were also unionized: You may have heard of the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union, which used to be one of the largest unions in the United States. It's also rather sexist to assume that their hairdressers are women; most of the male blue collar workers I've ever met had their hair cut by male barbers.

Then Ezra, inexplicably, says this:


So salon workers aren't unionized for much the reason that truckers aren't unionized, and for much the reason that only 7 percent of the private sector workforce is unionized. Things just aren't going that well for the unions. Which is a shame. Particularly for salon workers, who, as The Nation usefully explains, really need some regulatory help.



There are about 2.8 million truckers in America. Roughly 10% of them are self-employed, mostly as owner-operators. There is also a trucking union, known as the Teamsters, that covers 1.4 million people, though not all of them are truck drivers. Truck driving is a comparitively well unionized industry, though perhaps not compared to the days when Jimmy Hoffa could snap his fingers and extort bribes from practically any company in the country.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.