Skip to comments.Faltering unions
Posted on 03/16/2005 1:18:08 PM PST by rightalien
The American labor movement is in a mess, and the current leadership doesn't seem to have a clue what to do about it. The most recent figures on union membership from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show yet another decline in what has become a decades-long trend. In 2004, only 12.5 percent of American workers and 7.9 percent of private sector workers were members of unions, down from 12.9 percent and 8.2 percent respectively in 2003. Fifty years ago, more than one in three workers belonged to a union, but this is not your father's -- much less your grandfather's -- labor movement. Today's union honchos are more interested in politics than in collective bargaining. And they've hitched Big Labor's wagon to the Democratic Party, to the detriment of both institutions.
Earlier this month, the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the governing body of the 58-union federation, announced it would raise the dues it charges affiliates in order to pay for a huge increase in political spending. The AFL-CIO will now spend $90 million over each two-year political cycle, more than double what it spent in the 2004 election and equal to three-fourths of its entire yearly budget. But that money is only a drop in the bucket of what unions spend overall on politics. In 2004, one union alone, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), spent $65 million -- most of it aimed at defeating President George W. Bush -- and a single local affiliate of the SEIU spent an additional $35 million. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Unions spent $48 million; and the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) spent $8 million -- and these unions represent only the biggest spenders in the AFL-CIO.
Nor does this money even count what unions gave to candidates through their political action committees (PACs). The National Education Association (which is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO) spent almost $4.4 million; the American Federation of Teachers (which is an AFL-CIO affiliate), almost $6 million; and the Teamsters spent nearly $10.5 million -- and these are just three unions. In all, union PACs contributed over $52 million to candidates in the 2004 cycle, 86 percent of which went to Democrats. That percentage, while extraordinarily high, is actually down from previous years.
With Republicans in control of the White House and both branches of Congress, some unions decided that it might be time to "invest" a little money in union-friendly Republicans, like Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who, with labor's help, beat back a primary challenge from a conservative congressman. Unions also manned the barricades for liberal candidates. In the 2004 election, the SEIU claimed 50,000 part-time "volunteers" nationwide, many of whom were being paid their full union salaries while they campaigned. In addition, the SEIU dispersed 2,000 full-time union activists into battleground states for the last few months of the campaign -- at a cost to union members of $35 million, a hefty sum for a supposedly "volunteer" force.
So what has all this money and manpower bought? It certainly has purchased influence in the Democratic Party, which could not survive without Big Labor's largess and therefore kowtows to the unions on most policy issues. The Democrats' willingness to block Social Security reform, for example, is a direct payoff to the unions, which have long considered the program sacrosanct. But at the polling place, the returns have been decidedly less profitable.
Despite an unprecedented political spending frenzy, unions lost big in last year's elections. Not only did President Bush easily win re-election with 51 percent of the vote, he won 43 percent of votes in union households as well, one of the strongest showings by a Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. And of course the Republicans retained control of Congress, actually boosting their numbers by four additional GOP senators and four more congressmen.
Not only are unions losing members, many of the big unions are nearly broke. Yet they insist on playing the role of bankers to the Democratic Party. Back when Bill Clinton was putting the squeeze on Democrat donors, the Teamsters gave away so much money they nearly went bankrupt and ended up borrowing $16 million to fund political activism, according to the Center for Public Integrity. If it weren't for their power to tax the workers they represent through forced dues, unions would long ago have had to change their ways.
The AFL-CIO's decision to up the ante in its high-stakes political gamble proves that union bosses will continue to squander their members' money no matter what. No wonder unions are losing members each year.
Linda Chavez is President of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Townhall.com member organization.
perhaps if the unions started advocating for their membership rather than being in bed with the liberal democrats, people would see some benifit in joining, eh?
These recent dues increases are designed with Howard Dean in mind....and you can bet that they are foremost in Howard's screamin' mind these days.
That is one of the beetter headlines I've seen in a while!
Time to pass the NATIONAL RIGHT TO WORK ACT!
that is the important point from this article. its the concentration of union power in government and municipal and public education workers, because they take money from those of us in the private sector to fund their compensation packages. and as private sector unions decline, so are wages and benefits for private sector workers, whether they are unionized or not. we are going to reach a point in this country where most of the traditional middle class has a government job of some kind - even health care workers are quasi government employees because government pays so much of the health care bills - leaving private sector workers hanging onto the wage scale by their fingertips, while being taxed to fund a base of workers in government who are unionized.
My Grandfather was a Wobbly organizer (Workers of the World), but todays unions lost everything they once stood for and will one day have to fight for again in a different generation.
For today they can go to hell and go broke. They are right there with the ACLU imho.
Know them? They don't need to know them, they just tell them what they should or should not do.
I wonder how much money would be saved if government unions were abolished.
"Time to pass the NATIONAL RIGHT TO WORK ACT!"
Yes, yes, yes. Federal right-to-work legislation would reform unions in that they would finally have to either represent their memebrs or go the way of the USSR. This would be a blow to the lefties that now control the Democratic party.
The union concept is a fading relic of the last century and needs to wither and die. It fosters shoddy workmanship, goldbricking on the job and unneeded costs to companies and consumers. It weakens our competative position as a nation. Unions and their partners in slime---the ratty sordid demoncraps need to go down in flames!
You know it. The union leadership uses and abuses their constituency....they are dues pimps.
same thing here in NYC - they raised tolls on bridges again (one bridge costs $9 to cross) - most of it goes for municipal salaries and pensions. its not the salaries that are so bad, its the pensions. public school teachers go out with 90% pension - on a $100K salary, they take a $90K yearly pension for life. And no politician says a word about it.
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