Big Labor Is Losing Big Money
Unions are losing members, dues, and influence. They have only themselves to blame.
The Left is still stinging from Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, made possible by blue-collar Democrats in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. These voters took a chance on a wealthy New York businessman who spoke their language, and he rewarded them by fighting to stop the outsourcing of American jobs and to reverse decades of industrial decline.
Heading into the 2020 campaign, two conditions might keep those same voters in Trump’s corner. First is the fact that unemployment has reached a record low, and some segments of America’s industrial base have begun to recover. Second is the very real threat that many workers feel from wave after wave of (illegal) immigrants who compete for their jobs and drive down their wages.
So what’s a Democrat to do when union workers start voting Republican? Bernie Sanders has a plan, and it’s all about restricting their freedom by trashing all right-to-work laws.
But let’s take a step back and see how we got to this point.
In the wake of last year’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling, workers who weren’t members of a union no longer had to fork over fees for collective bargaining and other expenses unless they voluntarily chose to do so. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito concluded that forcing workers to pay union dues “violates the First Amendment and cannot continue.” Moreover, he wrote, “Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a non-member’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”
Fast forward one year. If unions had been providing these workers with so many benefits in return for their mandatory fees, they’d still remain members even after the Janus ruling, right?
Instead, they left in droves.
Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw asks, “What did anyone really expect? If those non-members were fully in support of the unions and didn’t object to kicking in for their political efforts they’d already be members of the union. If they agreed with all of the blatantly partisan political shenanigans the unions are constantly up to, they likely wouldn’t have minded kicking in toward the cause. Anyone shocked by these numbers really needs to pull their heads out of the sand.”
And the numbers don’t look good for unions. CBS News reported earlier this year that union membership in the U.S. hit a record low in 2018.
Of course, these unions have only themselves to blame. Even those who generally oppose what unions have become today have no issue with the principles of safe working conditions and good wages. But many of the issues that led to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which gave employees the right to organize into labor unions and bargain with employers, have been resolved over the years. For example, we now have the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Consequently, unions have become little more than Democrat Party political machines, often forcing workers to fork over their hard-earned money to support issues they oppose. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, labor unions gave nearly $60 million to the Democrat Party in the 2016 election cycle. No wonder those who oppose right-to-work laws seem to care so little for the constitutional rights of workers. Instead, what they’re really upset about is how the Janus ruling has eroded their membership rolls and balance sheets – so much so that union-backed Democrats are desperate to stop the bleeding.
Unfortunately for these unions, they have very little to offer potential members. As Stacey Lennox notes at The Resurgent, unions have become “far less effective in negotiating wages and benefits.” She adds, “Most members of industrial unions contribute to their health insurance. Pensions have been converted to 401K’s. And annual salary increases do not exceed the market. Unions also cannot prevent job loss. All they can do is bargain the effects, or what laid-off workers will be entitled to in severance and other items.”
Which brings us back to Bernie Sanders, who wants to abolish right-to-work laws at the federal level. Zack Budryk writes, “Sanders said as president he would push legislation in Congress to prohibit the laws. Right-to-work laws bar unionized workplaces from negotiating contracts under which all members who benefit from the contract must contribute dues. Twenty-six states currently have right-to-work laws on the books.”
What to make of all this? Maybe unions should go back to the basics of fighting for the needs of workers instead of stealing their wages on behalf of the Democrat Party. If not, the Republican Party will be more than happy to welcome them aboard.