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Labor and Industry

Labor Union Membership Down, Bullying Up

I was recently scanning the news when I came across an article about the decline in labor union membership in America.  One paragraph said the following:

“Union membership fell last year to the lowest level since the 1930s as recession-battered states and municipalities shed workers and organized labor struggled to organize new members at growing private-sector companies.”

Old Time Labor Strike

Old Time Labor Strike

The words struck me in several immediate ways and in another not so immediate way.  First, union membership is at its lowest level since the 1930s.  Think about this for a second.  This basically means it is at its lowest point since the start, really, of labor unions.  Second, unions are having difficulty organizing members at growing private sector companies.  Putting aside the fact that the private sector as a whole is not growing, organized labor is dying a self-imposed slow death in the private sector as a result of its own actions.

The reasons for this are ample and easy to see for those willing to recognize them; and they are generally the direct result of the attitude and actions of those other than rank and file membership in unions.  Approximately 40% of card-carrying union members are registered Republican voters.  While this is not a scientifically determined number, most with knowledge of the subject would agree this is about right.  Nonetheless, labor unions support left leaning candidates and Democrats almost 100% of the time.  What’s more, they do this with dues paid by the rank and file, whether they are in that 40% Republican minority or not.  And if you don’t support the union leaders’ political positions and who they choose to back you get bullied into doing as they choose.

Union Members Protest

Union Members Protest

Union leaders also routinely protest work going to open shop companies.  This can range from simple and legal pickets to destruction of property like what was recently seen at the Friends Meetinghouse project in Chestnut Hill outside Philadelphia.  Open shop contractors and the owners and contractors for whom they work are attacked and attempts made to terrorize them into using only union labor.  And if you are a member of the union who does not support this kind of activity or wish to participate in it, you are bullied into at least accepting it.

 Finally, union leaders support politicians with contributions and other support in a sort of symbiotic relationship that leads to more public money and legislation benefiting unions being passed along, which in turn leads to more support for the politician.  Those who dare to oppose it get shouted down or worse.  Memories of the Obama-care debate at townhalls in 2010 come to mind.  And if you are a member of the union that does not support this kind of approach to politics, you get bullied into participating or, at a minimum keeping your mouth shut.

The simple fact is that unions are losing membership because their leaders treat rank and file members as bad, if not worse, than those who are not members of the union.  I know a good many hard working union members – Democrat and Republican – who are good people and solid citizens.  They would rather be permitted to support political candidates and causes they choose.  They neither support nor wish to participate in destroying work sites or other property to make a point about what part of the labor force to use.  And they certainly don’t appreciate being bullied into it by a bunch of union leaders who are out for their own agenda and not that of the union members.

So, the cause of the decrease in union membership is plain to see for anyone who wants to acknowledge it.  The public and the unions’ own members are tired of being bullied .

And then the not so obvious conclusion hit me.  Could Barack Obama be growing government, at least in part, because he understands that his biggest ally in politics, the unions, are dying in the private sector and he needs to off-set it by growing public sector unions?  I have to admit, it makes some sense logically.

About Josh Quinter

I am a politcally active private practice attorney in Suburban Philadelphia.


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