Let’s be honest. There’s no dearth of slimy tactics on either side when it comes to the history of unions in this country. At their inception, unions were a necessity, a counter-balance in the burgeoning industrial economy to the ‘robber barons’ and the miserable working conditions they required. The grim union battles in early industrialization restructured the landscape of working conditions in the United States, and that was necessary.
But we’re a long, long way from the 1800’s.
The massive, cash-wallowing megaliths of industrial and government unions have now run amok. Their lockstep support of (and by) Democrat politicians has zero to do with protecting the working stiff, and everything to do with the out-sized cash influence of those coercive organizations on election wallets. Add in the disproportionate influence of ‘public sector unions’, negotiating for goodies with the very people they bankrolled to election, and the corruption spreads its stain to the entire political system.
What was once a grass-roots movement of working individuals has become a stinking morass of forced membership, graft, corruption, and radical left-wing political thuggery, with little or no relevance to either the wishes or the needs of an enslaved membership. And that is factually, and statistically, demonstrable.
Post-WW II, union membership was a full third of the US workforce. Between 1983 and 2012, labor union membership decreased from over 20% of workers to just over 11%. It should follow that the political influence of unions should have fallen commensurately. Nothing could be further from the truth: the union membership of 11% of workers somehow, incredibly, constitutes over 55% of all of the political donations in the entire country.
And lest one be tempted to imply a moral high ground of voluntary groups of workers banding together in solidarity, those union political donations do not, in any way, reflect the wishes of the membership. Less than half of all union members are Democrats. But 91% of all union political donations went to Democrat politicians.
Here’s a calculation for you. 46% of union members are Democrats. 11% of people are in unions. So, 5% of the country are union Democrats. That 5% of the country controls 55% of all political donations made in our elections.
If you don’t see a corrupt influence there, your sense of political morality is seriously impaired.
Union political donations come very disproportionately from ‘public sector unions’: the unions who donate to the very individuals who will negotiate their perks. Public sector unions alone are responsible for a staggering 55% of the top 25 political donations – of any type – in the United States. And if you believe any of the beholden ‘bosses’ will negotiate with the unions who bankrolled their way to power in any way that will benefit the country, rather than the unions who pay them, I have a bridge I can sell you. And some very expensive diet products.
Even Franklin D. Roosevelt, a leftist ideologue who single-handedly moved the United States from laissez faire capitalism toward welfare-state soft-socialism, saw public-sector unions as an abomination. “All government employees,” FDR warned, “should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as it us usually understood, cannot be transplanted to public service.” Government functions through its employees, and hence nobody in government could reasonably act as negotiator on behalf of the country against their own union. It was “impossible”, he insisted, “for administrative officials to negotiate or fully bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government Employee organizations”.
Roosevelt was worried about government employees trying to negotiate with a union that controlled their wages. What he missed was the political cash unions would one day funnel directly to politicians. If old FDR could see the abomination of ‘public sector unions’ suckling greedily off the teats of their elected shills in the US Congress, he would roll over in his grave.
The counter-balance to any corruption of the federal system, in our Constitutional structure, is a combination of state legislatures and the federal court system. In recent years, 28 states have enacted “Right to Work” laws, which in various ways limit the ability of unions to require membership or to coerce political contributions from members.
Predictably, Right to Work laws passed by the states immediately come under federal court challenge by the affected unions, and the wheels of federal justice grind exceedingly slowly.
One of the most nefarious ways unions end-run the Right to Work restrictions on mandated union membership was by the imposition of fees on non-union employees in public sector jobs. While “dues” could no longer be coerced by union from everyone employed in a certain profession through forced membership, those individuals could be charged “fees” for getting the purported benefit of collective bargaining. The union, this assumes, is the effect “agent” of employees who don’t want to join them: hence “Agency Fees”. This imposition of membership dues by any other name is a major funding source for government employee unions, and hence a major funding source for Democrat politicians.
In 2016, a major challenge to Agency Fees died in the Supreme Court, when the death of Anton Scalia left only 8 justices available to decide a challenge to the scheme. The Court deadlocked 4 to 4, leaving a lower Court ruling that permitted Agency Fees in place, a decision trumpeted as a massive victory for public unions and their out-sized influence in the US politics. But the United States Supreme Court is designed not to deadlock; that's why it has 9 members. Any victory, by either side, via a deadlocked Court lasts only so long as it takes for the next sitting president to nominate a ninth member.
Enter the 2016 surprise election of Donald Trump.
In one of his first major acts in office, he nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a nomination that was approved in 2017, restoring the Supreme Court to it’s full 9 member contingent and generally weighting the conservative – liberal divide to 5-4, with Justice Kennedy serving as the central swing vote.
In 2018, the Supreme Court will hear two seminal cases addressing the systemic corruption that arose as we ignored the warning of Franklin Roosevelt: Janus v AFSCME, and Yohn v CTA. Both are likely to be 5-4 decisions against the unions. The swing voter, Justice Kennedy, had no qualms in oral arguments in either case about expressing his disdain for public union tactics.
Janus challenges whether Agency Fees are constitutional. They will be found unconstitutional.
Yohn challenges a union trick, where employees must ‘opt out’ of joining a union within a narrowly limited time frame –- usually a couple of weeks in August, when most public employees take their vacation –- and are otherwise deemed to have voluntarily joined the union. That will be held unconstitutional.
The twin hammers of Janus and Yohn are likely to reduce public sector employee membership by between 40 and 60 percent, if history is any guide. But the real impact will be the restore the rights of individual workers to contribute to the causes, political and otherwise, that they honor… without losing their livelihood over it. That will go a long, long way toward ending the systemic corruption that became entrenched over fifty years by ignoring the warnings of Franklin Roosevelt.