Time for Uncle Sam to stop subsidizing unions
President Biden is an old-line pro-union politician. Thanks to the Democratic Party, the Government at all levels has become union advocates and recruiters. Biden’s cliché promise is to “create jobs – good union jobs.”
I am not suggesting that we should be anti-union, but only that the question of unionization should be left to the unions and employers to work it out on a case-by-case basis – with management and workers making the decision. Government should not be putting a thumb on the scale in favor of unions – and it is a very heavy thumb, indeed.
Private sector unions
To better understand the issue, it is important to see the role unions play in America today. Approximately 7.1 million workers belong to unions. That is approximately 6.3 percent of the work force. That is right. Approximately 94 percent of private sector workers do NOT belong to unions – and that does not include the freelance workers.
That may come as a surprise to most folks in view of the emphasis Democrat politicians place on union membership. There is a significant distinction between private sector unions and public sector unions – a distinction in both numbers and impact. But first we will deal with the private sector unions.
The political power of the private sector is obviously not in the numbers of members. It is even less than the number since many union workers do not vote as their Democratic-aligned union bosses demand The union power is in the money – the control of huge pension funds and MASSIVE donations to Democrat politicians.
The Democratic Party kowtows to the unions because of the campaign contributions. Simple as that. From the private sector’s rather puny place among the working class, unions still control the Department of Labor (DOL). The Secretary of Labor is almost always from the union ranks – and unions have the eight-ball power over any nominee – from the Secretary to the many subordinate positions.
I have often said that either the DOL should be renamed “The Department of ORGANIZED Labor” or the DOL’s mandate should be expanded to represent ALL American Labor – especially small employers that are the backbone of the American economy, and are relatively powerless in Washington.
Even as they have shrunk in their coverage of workers, the private sector unions have maintained one huge benefit – an unjustified one, in my opinion. Virtually all government contracts require unionized contractors. This is nothing more of less a government subsidy. The decision to be unionized is no longer an issue between management and labor — but is forced unionization by government. In other words, private workers hired by government must be drawn from that six percent of the working population – eliminating 94 percent of the potential workers.
That means not that government (the taxpayers) have only a small pool of contractors from which to draw. It also means a much higher cost. With lots of government money chasing limited contractors and you know what you get — inflation. Higher cost and more waste and graft. The current policies are not only unfair, they are … I will say it … stupid.
Biden’s Climate Change legislation goes one step further than merely requiring government contractors to be union shops. It creates a scheme to give union shops a significant marketing advantage over other manufacturers even when NOT working for the government. The Biden bill provides a $7500 rebate to purchasers of an all-electric vehicle. BUT the car buyer gets an additional $4500 if they purchase a car from a unionized car manufacturer.
The idea of meddling in the car market by offering a massive cost benefit for electric vehicles is bad enough – but to add another large chunk of change to push consumers to unionized manufacturers as a competitive advantage has a tinge of fascism – in which government and business merge into an unholy alliance.
Biden’s political commitment to “good union jobs” is a slap in the face of the many more workers who labor in non-union enterprises. Perhaps it is time for the vast majority of workers – the non-union variety – to revolt and put candidates who only seek to create “good union jobs” out of office and force Uncle Sam to play fair. It would benefit both the taxpayers and the consumers.
Public Sector Unions
Then there are those public sector unions. Many view them as just another unionized working class. That is a big mistake. Public sector unions have no more in common with private sector unions than private enterprises have commonality with government operations.
Government unions were not always a part of the American fabric. They are a Johnny-come-lately to the union movement. In fact, there was a lot of good arguments made over the years as to why government should not be unionized.
As a disclaimer, I agree with those voices in the past who believed government workers should not be unionized. There was no greater opponent of government unions than President Franklin Roosevelt – a strong advocate of private sector unions. He said, unions having the ability to strike against the government was “unthinkable and intolerable.” Union powerhouse, George Meany, head of the AFL-CIO said, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with government.” They were both correct.
A much higher percentage of bureaucrats are members of unions than their private sector counterparts – It is a 34.2 percent to that 6.3 percent in private sector unions.
There are several reasons why government bureaucrats ae more unionized – and why they should not be unionized.
- The basic problem is that unionism is about bargaining for a share of the corporate profit. There is a fixed pool of money and therefore a limit on demands. There is no need to consider profits when bargaining for public sector wages and benefits. Since public sector concessions are drawn from the seemingly unlimited resources of the taxpayers’ money, there is no limit on what can be paid in wages and benefits. That is why bureaucrats have moved from the lowest paid workers to the highest paid with the greatest (most expensive) benefits.
- There is no distinction between management and labor. In my experience with school unions, members of the board (management?) were also members of the union – eager to concede to any union demands no matter how outrageous or economically impractical.
- Public sector unions rely on the member of Congress to fund their demands in the form of appropriations. Since they are political figures rather than management figures, they have no vested interest in the outcome of labor negotiations – no concerns over the costs. It is not their money. In fact, it is to the politicians benefit to give union bureaucrats whatever they demand.
- We also do not allow essential services to strike – including the military, police and fire. Unions often ignore the law and call for Illegal walkouts. That is what happened recently in Chicago when the school unions called for an illegal walk-out over Covid issues. When I consulted for the Detroit Board of Education, Michigan law prevented teachers’ unions from striking. They did so anyway – without any repercussions from prosecutors and courts. In other words, public sector unions are able to ignore the law.
- Because public sector unions represent government bureaucrats, they are very political. The union leaders use their influence to engage in political activities far beyond their responsibilities to members and job-related issues. You will see the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) participating at a wide range of Democrat and leftwing demonstrations and protests – from abortion to voting issues. They are essentially a lobbying organization for big government/big spending Democrats – those who give the unions all those unearned benefits.
Unions are often believed to be important to protect workers rights, safety and compensation. Maybe so in the past, but they have evolved into a negative force in the marketplace. A good example is the auto industry, where aggressive union tactics – and pressure on management from Democrat politicians — made auto workers among the highest paid in the world. Good news … eh?
It also made American cars the most expensive in the world – and led the growth in the sale of foreign cars. To keep competitive, American automakers turned to robotics – significantly reducing the number of employees. The auto union’s “success” has all but destroyed the American auto industry. Remember how Chrysler and GM had to be bailed out by Uncle Sam. That was thanks to the auto unions. Not so good even for workers … eh?
Because workers are generally served well by employers these days, unions are limited to creating a self-serving political power base from the money they extract from workers. In many cases, workers are forced to pay union dues even if they would prefer to not be a union member. They resent their dues being used to finance political campaigns and causes with which they do not agree.
Unions are punching far beyond their weight. They represent a minuscule number of American workers. That is why every time Biden promises to create “jobs, good union jobs,” I cringe.
So. There ‘tis.