Shedding light on unions

Union busting is becoming a new national past time for those in office. With all of the union strife in Wisconsin, Indiana and New Jersey, and indications of more to come, it might be time to shed a bit of light on unions.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most union members today work for state, local or federal government. Close to 40 percent of public employees are unionized. That voting bloc represents a powerful political force in elections. If you’re a candidate for the school board, governor, mayor or city councilman, you certainly want the votes and campaign contributions from public employee unions.

The problem arises after that candidate wins the office and sits down to bargain over pay and working conditions with unions who voted for them. Politicians have every reason to grant benefits to their political allies; in this case, it’s public employee unions. The ones picking up the tab are the unorganized taxpayers, who will eventually face higher taxes.

It is not a surprise that more than half of the population said unions had a positive effect on working conditions and benefits, but only a third said unions improved workplace productivity or helped keep jobs in the U.S. This result appears to reflect Americans’ ambivalence toward unions as unemployment rates remain high and many jobs are shipped overseas by companies looking to save on labor costs. It is no surprise that unions have steadily lost union membership, from a high of a third of American workers to a low of one-eighth of workers.

The unions are not the ones to be blamed for this mess. Most of it can be attributed to the leaders of the major national unions. The unions make decisions on what is best for them, not what is in the best interests for all. For example, many Americans understand the need to gradually raise the retirement age of Social Security in order to help balance the budget, but the AFL-CIO is against ANY adjustment to Social Security now or in the near future. This will create insolvency in Social Security and add trillions to the deficit in the future. The political solution is not the right solution.

These unions used to stand up for all American workers. They take easy money from membership dues in public service jobs, but where are they when non-union members need help? Who has been protecting the American worker who is stuck someplace without union membership? Many industries lack any meaningful union presence because it is not worth the money or their time. Ironically that is what most people said about people working in manufacturing at the turn of last century.

In 2005, a Wal-Mart in Quebec was certified for a union. The smiley-faced company felt so threatened that they shut the store down permanently. This company and others like it will fight with every legal means possible. Remember: even state governments would send in the National Guard to make striking workers get back to work.

Many workers lost their jobs, their lives, their families. Now we are living off their success, but if we are not careful, we will lose it.