The paper tiger of American politics is organized labor. Great deference is given to the leadership of the various unions – particularly by the Democratic Party. President-elect Joe Biden cannot mention job creation without referring to them as “good union jobs” – as if all other jobs are somehow inferior.
If Biden focuses on “good union jobs,” he will be ignoring more than 90 percent of the workforce – those who are not members of a union. Less than 10 percent belong to a union, to be precise. That’s right. The vast majority of American workers are not members of any union. Still, we have a Department of Labor that is run by union bosses, for union bosses. The DOL works almost exclusively on issues dictated by the big labor bosses – and designed to force more workers into unions. It should be renamed the Department of Organized Labor.
As currently constituted, the primary mission of the Department is to promote union membership by creating an unfair and uneven playing field for union organizers and negotiators. It is the reason why government contractors must be union shops. Highly qualified – and less expensive – contractors are not allowed to bid on government business.
Without this unnecessary protectionism, union membership would drop even further. If there was a time – maybe 100 years ago – that unionism was truly beneficial to a vast number of industrial workers, that day has long passed. In today’s market, companies are offering salaries and benefits that no union can out-negotiate.
Union bosses often claim that they have built the middle class. That claim would have more credibility if so many of the middle class were members of unions. But they are not.
The three-legged stool of union promotion is wages, benefits and working conditions. The approximately 10 percent of American workers in unions are disproportionately those with the lowest wages, the fewest benefits and the most challenging working conditions – not including union public sector workers.
So, what has their membership dues gotten them?
And while 10 percent (and shrinking) of the American workforce are union MEMBERS, they are not union loyalists. Both Presidents Reagan and Trump did well with union members – initially calling many of them “Reagan Democrats.”
If they cannot deliver the votes of their members to the Democratic Party, why are Democrats so submissive to the demands of union bosses. It is the money. That’s it.
Union bosses do not play the political game of spreading money among both parties. They provided billions of dollars almost exclusively to the Democratic Party, and to all those so-called (Democrat) independent expenditure committees – the ones the progressives claim to hate.
This buys them the Department of Labor. Since Democrats are fond of public works projects, unions see that as a means of producing jobs for members because of the “union only” provision of government procurement policies.
In 2008 – Senator Barack Obama’s initial run for President – unions gave $74 million dollars to Political Action Committees (PACs) and only $314,000 in so-called “soft money” to independent expenditure groups – dark money as it is called.
In 2020, unions gave $62 million to PACs and a whopping $120 million to the dark money groups. That was not even the highest point. In 2016 – facing a potential Trump election – unions gave $58 million to PACs and $150 million in dark money.
For the past 30 years, unions have donated to the political parties in a ratio of 90-to-10 to 97-to-3 percent Democrat over Republican. This is particularly true of the public sector unions. They hold a higher percentage of the government workforce because of the special considerations they get from Democrat administrations and congressional legislators.
This is not only reflected in political donations, but in lobbying expenditures. The two national teachers’ unions – the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association – combined represent the biggest lobbying expenditures in America.
Even where unions are strong, they may not be good for the American working man and woman. Thanks to aggressive union activities – from negotiations to strikes – American auto factory employees rose to be among the highest-paid industrial workers in the world. Unions use it as a bragging point.
But it was those extraordinarily high wages and benefits that brought the industry down. They made it not only economically feasible, but advantageous, to ship the jobs overseas.
In addition, they made job-eliminating robotics economically viable. The government bailout of General Motors was necessitated by all those union contract settlements.
Biden is old school in many ways. He has born and bred as an old-style pro-union Democrat – and that is how he has promised to govern. That means an assault on state right-to-work laws. More weapons for union negotiators. More unionized government workers. More deals for union contractors and vendors. And more make-work public construction projects to feed taxpayer money into the unions – and kicked back to the Democratic Party in the form of donations.
Whoever Biden picks as his Secretary of Labor, you can bet that it will first get the approval of the big labor bosses – and that is too bad for most working Americans.
So, there ‘tis.