24 February 2015


In the formative years of the modern American labor movement, employers—especially in steel, mining, and auto manufacture—would hire “goon squads” to quash, even terrorize, workers who were seeking to voluntarily unite to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Sometimes, these squads would be uniformed National Guardsmen, but more frequently, they would be Pinkerton agents or just local thugs hired by the owners and management of target industries.  And it was just plain wrong—unAmerican and contrary to the freedom of association implicit in the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Laws were passed to ensure that workers were free to join unions without fear or physical harm or other forms of intimidation.

This morning, I was listening to the American Left’s most effective propaganda arm: National People’s Radio.  From the scandal in 1999 when it was revealed that many PBS stations routinely “rented” their donor lists to the Democratic Party, to the programming of PBS’s three major stations, WGBH (Boston), WNET (New York City) and WETA (Washington, DC) which is hopelessly intertwined with the Democrats'  party line, to stations in Philadelphia, Chicago, and others which rebroadcast materials from those three stations, “Public Broadcasting” and “National Public Radio” are accurate descriptions only if “Public” is redefined to mean the left-wing of the Democratic Party.  I defy anyone to listen to NPR and hear any fair representation of conservative America. 

So, what does this have to do with labor goon squads.

On this morning’s “Morning Edition”, one of the lead stories was the upcoming vote in the Wisconsin legislature to enact a law that would ban contracts between businesses and unions in which workers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Violation of the law would be a crime punishable by nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.  

Wisconsin is currently a “closed shop” jurisdiction.  If a union manages to get enough employees of a business to form a local, it can then require ALL similarly situated employees in that business to pay union dues whether they join the union or not.  Oh, there are some “safety valves” that allow non-member workers to pay only a “portion” of the full dues (usually, the portion used for political lobbying and donations to the Democratic Party), but it is amazing how low that portion is after the lawyers and accountants are done with the computations.

Well, as one may well imagine, this move in Wisconsin is anathema to the AFL-CIO and its leadership.  These big boys are millionaires thanks to their members and they just love hobnobbing with liberal multi-millionaires and movie stars and Democratic politicians, all on the workers’ dime. And the fact that it is Wisconsin, where, only a few years ago, big labor (such as it is) took its worst drubbing in decades just makes it worse.

You see, big labor isn’t all that much anymore.  More than half of all union members are employed by government.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, some 14.6 million American workers were members of a union, about 11.1% of the work force.  By way of comparison, in 1983, 20.1% of American workers were union members.  In 2014, another 1.6 million workers disclaimed union membership, but their jobs “were covered by a union contract.”  In other words unions were able to extract payments of “dues” workers who amounted to more than an additional 10% of union “membership.” 

At the same time, only 7% of private sector American workers are union members, compared to  36% of government workers.  In other words, if you produce something, you are very unlikely to join a union, but if you suck at the government teat, a union is the way to go.  And the trend has been underway for half a century.  Fifty years ago, one American worker out of three was a union member; today it hovers at one in ten.

The big boys in the AFL-CIO are getting scared. The goose that lays their golden eggs is getting thin and old.  Wisconsin is their new battleground.

So, National People’s Radio “reports” on this issue right along the party line.  Rich Trumka, national President of the AFL-CIO wails that “This is a blatant attempt to silence workers’ voices to stop us from speaking out about lower wages and mistreatment at work. … Unions and collective action are a powerful line of defense against this aggressive attack on our working families.  We need to use this fight to help all workers – union and non-union – unite in their collective voice and in their demand to raise wages throughout our country.”
Really?  Does he think we are all stupid? 
A right to work law does nothing to silence workers’ voices, although it may require their mouthpieces, like Trumka and his ilk to do so for a lot less money.  Right to work laws protect workers from extortion.  If a person wants to work, and an employer wants to hire that worker, that should be it.  Why should a union be allowed to extort from the employee a fee for that privilege? 
No, the 21st Century “Pinkertons” are the unions that want to threaten and coerce and extort and terrorize.  They are the new labor goons
The bottom line is that if union representation is such a good deal, the unions would have no problem signing up new members.  When 90% of the workforce sees no benefit to union representation, that is not the fault of industry or government.  It just means that, like the buggy whip, union representation is obsolete.
And the AFL-CIO and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Democratic Party, and its propaganda wing, NPR, would better spend their time and money figuring that out.

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