"Anti-Worker" Label Masks Labor's Real Record of Deception and Abuse
One of the cruelest hoaxes foisted on America's working public (not to mention its employers) is the assertion that if you, as an individual, oppose the policies and politics of today's labor bureaucrats, you are automatically labeled "anti-worker." What's more, if you are an employer and oppose the unionization of your business, you are not only "anti-worker," but are also seemingly "anti-American" solely for expressing your beliefs. This smear is carried out almost exclusively by organized labor and its allies—all of whom use the "anti-worker" slur to great psychological effect in today's public discourse and with the sole intention of chilling any kind of opposition to the radical aims of labor's leaders—whether it be in union organizing or in politics.
By large measure, labor's "anti-worker" mantra has been successful in defeating many of the measures proposed by Congressional Republicans when the GOP won the House in 1994, including the Team Act, the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, and OSHA reform. Yet, when one examines wage increase data, job growth data, and organized labor's real record of abusing individuals' rights, one can only conclude that organized labor has woven an orchestrated tale of deception that begs the question, "Who is really 'anti-worker'?"
As less than one out of every ten Americans employed in the private sector is currently represented by a labor union, organized labor has had a singular choice to "organize or die," as one labor leader expressed. Therefore, in order to survive, organized labor has opted for a militant "scorched earth" agenda of recruitment, damning everyone and everything that stands in labor's way as "anti-worker." Despite organized labor's agenda, some may be inclined to ask: "But, don't unions help individuals?" Not necessarily.
While many people have heard the stories of corruption and abuse of union members at the hands of particular labor leaders, few people realize that not only can unionization be dangerous for some individuals but for many more of the nation's working people, it's also no longer profitable.
For years now, as organized labor tried to tout the contracts it negotiated with America's employers, overall wage increases negotiated by labor unions in the private sector have fallen behind the mostly non-union private sector of the United States—by as much as 1 to 1.5 percentage points. For example, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in the year ending in September 1999, workers in unionized blue collar occupations received wage increases of 2.4 percent, whereas their non-union counterparts received 3.5 percent increases.
The reason for these findings is, of course, due to the nature of labor negotiations. Generally, when an employer is forced to negotiate wage increases that will be in effect for a long period of time (e.g., three years—the length of an average labor agreement), there is a natural tendency for the employer to negotiate more conservatively. Non-union employers, on the other hand, in addition to not having the costs associated with actual negotiations and the potential of labor strife, enjoy the freedom of evaluating and adjusting employee compensation on an annual basis, which allows the employer to provide more significant wage increases. In tight labor markets, such as in the United States today, this phenomenon can be even more profound.
Job growth is another area in which the leaders of organized labor would just as soon ignore. For years now, labor leaders have bemoaned the fact that jobs in the so-called "Rust Belt" have been migrating to the "Sun Belt" states. While job growth in non-union occupations has far outpaced growth in traditional unionized occupations across the nation, a study by the National Institute of Labor Relations Research (NILRR) reports that so-called "Right-to-Work" states have far outpaced the so-called "Non-Right-to-Work" states, elevating the standard of living for those residing in Right-to-Work states. In fact, during a recent 19-year period, Right-to-Work states have gained over 800,000 manufacturing jobs, while Non-Right-to-Work states have lost nearly 2 million manufacturing jobs.
While Right-to-Work states have long been the bane of labor's leaders, the term "Right-to-Work" merely indicates that the law within a particular state preserves the freedom of employees to choose whether or not to join or pay a union when working for an employer that is unionized. Conversely, employees in Non-Right-to-Work states can be forced into paying a union in order to maintain his or her job, if that union was successful in negotiating a union-security clause with the employer.
However, all of this data, pales in comparison to the chilling statistics compiled by the NILRR regarding the extent that some unionists will go, to force their cause on America's working public. Over a 20-year period, the NILRR found that there were at least 8,799 instances of media-reported union violence (some estimates report the actual number may be three times that amount). Consider, for example, the widely reported beating and stabbing of Rod Carter, a UPS driver who chose to work during the Teamsters' 1997 strike against UPS. Or, the reported 52 shooting incidents that occurred during the Amalgamated Transit Union's strike against Greyhound Bus Lines in the early '90s. Or, the severed and bloody cow's head that Shucheng Huang found on the hood of her car before leaving for work at a company being struck by the United Auto Workers—later, Ms. Huang's car window was also shot out. Or, the 1993 shooting death of Eddie York, an independent contractor who met his demise in the middle of a United Mine Workers' strike. Admittedly, these are some of the more horrific examples, yet they are representative of the experiences of thousands of people throughout the United States at the hands of organized labor.
But, you don't have to be beaten, stabbed, or shot to qualify as a victim of a union. Union members are increasingly expressing their outrage at the misuse of their union dues—which are expropriated as if they were payroll taxes—to support union bosses and their political whims that are often at odds with the wishes of the rank-and-file membership. In recent elections, for example, polling has revealed that nearly half of the union rank-and-file voted for the GOP, while the union bosses' endorsements and contributions went overwhelmingly to Democrats—to the tune of $40 million in hard dollar donations in 1996 and an estimated $400 to $500 million worth of "volunteer" time spent on phone banks and door-to-door canvassing. Many workers are also fed up with the overall level of corruption they perceive in their union leadership. Yet, by opposing labor's leaders, even these members run the risk of being labeled "anti-worker" by the union bosses.
This brings us to the fundamental issue in the "anti-union" equals "anti-worker" fraud. The only proper judge of whether an action is "pro-worker" or "anti-worker" is the individual employee. The very idea of a mass of employees that have a single, undifferentiated and unthinking set of interests, is an idea that is as outdated as the socialistic tenets in which it was founded. Employees are, first and foremost, individuals with interests only they can formulate, articulate, and pursue. The facts clearly demonstrate that what unions call "anti-union" can, in reality, be "pro-employee." Still, the final decision rests with the individual employee—which in a free society and a free market, is just as it should be. Thus, the reckless charge that "anti-union" is "anti-worker" is an allegation that is not only false but, in fact, absurd hypocrisy. Instead of maligning those who are critical of labor's failures and strong-arm tactics—whether it be on Capitol Hill or in the workplaces of America's employers—organized labor should be more ashamed of its own record of deception and abuse. Yes, unionists have the definitive right to tell their side of the story. But, so do those who are opposed to the policies and dictates of today's labor leaders. To allow for anything less would be, well...anti-American.