by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef turns his attention to labor unions’ membership woes for his latest Forbes column.
The latest figures on union membership from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the long decline has continued to the point where the percentage of Americans in unions is lower now than at any point in the last century.
That decline has not been arrested even by the extraordinarily pro-union actions of the National Labor Relations Board … and union efforts at greasing the rails for election victories, as occurred with Volkswagen management in Chattanooga. Big Labor is obviously addicted to the old-fashioned tactics of dragooning workers into their ranks by hook or by crook, then relying on coercion to keep them there.
Whereas the prospect of union representation seemed very alluring to many workers back in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the promises of union organizers today largely fall on deaf ears. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk was correct in saying, “They’re selling a product that hasn’t changed that much since the 1930s when America’s labor laws were founded. Today’s workers simply aren’t that interested in purchasing what unions have to sell.”
One big reason why many don’t want unionization is that they know much of the money they’ll have to pay in will go to support political candidates and causes they oppose.
It’s crucial to understand that workers do not “join” unions the way Americans join any other sort of organization. Ever since the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, unionization has been a tug of war in which Big Labor’s goal is to get a majority of the workers to declare at a moment in time – the certification election – that they want a particular union to represent them.
If they get that majority, all of the workers will have to accept the union’s exclusive representation and will not be allowed to deal with the company on their own. And they will have to continue to accept that union until such time as another election might be held to decertify it. (Unlike political elections, there are no regular union elections under federal law.) All of the workers will have to pay the dues the union sets or face termination if they don’t – except states with Right to Work statutes.
Decades ago, entering into such a quasi-political relationship with a union might have sounded all right to many workers, but today most Americans are leery of locking themselves into unionization.