Thursday, July 18, 2013

Are unions really the bad guys?

Allow no compromise!
The longer I live in America the more I realize that politicians like to take sides.  It seems the culture is one where there are winners and losers but very few opponents, at least in modern day politics, who share success.

Look at Congressional Democrats and Republicans.  They have lost the ability to compromise on most everything.  It takes extreme measures to come to agreement.  Each party is at opposite sides of the political spectrum.   There are very few moderates who can empathize with the other side.  Progress in Washington has become stuck in needless competition for the most political points at the expense of America.  Anything is possible and it seems the important thing to most politicians is to propel their party to success in upcoming elections.  Deceiving the public is no exception.

Republicans stand with the wealthy.  Democrats stand with the middle class and poor.  Republicans support management.  Democrats support workers.  Republicans support a right to life.  Democrats support freedom of choice.  Republicans stand with the NRA.  Democrats want to protect families from gun violence.  Republicans want to end the National Labor Relations Board while Democrats support it as the only means left for American worker's grievances to be heard.  Democrats introduced worker union protections with the Wagner Act.  Republicans reduced worker union protections with the Taft-Hartley Act.

Senator Rand Paul
Today I received a mailing from Rand Paul asking me to petition my Senators, Congressmen, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to support the National Right to Work Act because (and I quote) "union lobbyists, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and their allies are going to use every trick in the book to bury the National Right to Work Act."

Sounds very serious.  Why would the Democrats want to prevent someone from having a right to work?

As I read further into the mailing I soon realized that the real trickster was Rand Paul.  The name of the Act is a misnomer.  The Act deceives the American public into thinking that unions make people pay to work, when its real intention is to weaken employee protections by the further erosion of union membership.  Republicans in government hate unions and since Ronald Reagan have successfully hoodwinked the American public into believing they are the bad guys causing lots of problems with the economy.  Republicans hate of unions rises from the fact that unions protect the labor force.  Labor is a cost to business owners and Republicans in Congress represent business owners.

The Wagner Act became law in 1935.  It established the National Labor Relations Board and legally established the right to organize unions.  Unions were established by Congress as an employee protection against existing unfair practices by their employers.  These practices included such things as harsh working conditions, long hours, low pay, unsafe working conditions, workplace health risks and child labor.  These things really happened and at one time Congress sought to protect American workers from it.  In fact if you don't think it can ever happen again, just look at current working conditions in  factories in China, Bangladesh and India which are used by American manufacturers.  American CEOs are still looking for the cheapest labor and least government labor regulations in order to decrease costs so executive management can profit more.  There is no concern for the safety of employees in those countries and American CEO's know it.

Then in 1946 Republicans won both the Senate and the House.   They acted quickly to reduce employee union membership and further erode the unified voice that American workers had by passing the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 over President Truman's veto.  This act banned "closed union shops" and encouraged "right to work" laws.  The act gave management new weapons while restricting union activities.

Now just based on those two historical events, the reader should understand that Republicans support the management side of the equation and Democrats support the employee.  For Rand Paul to attempt to make people believe anything else is dishonest.  Any labor act introduced by Republicans will only reduce employee benefits in order to protect wealthy business owners.

Yet Rand Paul wants workers to believe that unions are greedy self-interested groups of mobsters and union dues bankroll tax-and-spend politicians and fund a "limousine lifestyle" for union "bigwigs."  How deceitful!

Rand Paul's Act proposes amending the NLR Act (National Labor Relations Act, a.k.a. Wagner Act)  and the Railway Labor Act in several places.  All amendments would change the current law with the major intention of reducing union membership by making it possible for non-union members to be hired in a union shop.  These non-union members would not pay union dues and still work under contracts negotiated by the existing union.  Paul's Act would allow all states to decide whether they should be pro-labor union or anti-labor union.

Senator Paul uses reverse psychology to make current law sound as though it takes something away from employees since their right to represent themselves to management is not present in current law.  This is completely opposite of the purpose of the law and unions themselves.  Employees could not protect themselves from employers in the first place and that is why unions were allowed by law.  Union negotiations and union actions are made much less successful when a large number of employees in a union shop do not belong to the union.  The protections of workers is seriously reduced as a result.

Senator Paul also believes that most workers would be better off if they do not have to pay union dues.  As he puts it workers are forced to pay union dues to keep their jobs.  Apparently he believes having the few dollars more in a paycheck that union dues would represent is better than having union protections for the average worker.

So what evidence do we have that workers in anti-labor union states are better off than pro-labor union states?   How do the anti-labor union "right to work" (RTW) states fair in comparison to pro-labor union states?

Anti-labor union states
The states where Republican legislatures have passed RTW laws is shown in the map and are shaded with greenish color.

RTW anti-labor union states on average have a 3.2% lower wage than pro-labor union states.  Because wages are lower, some manufacturers are moving their operations to the RTW anti-labor union states and so the statistic sometimes quoted by RTW states is that business is increasing its presence in their states.  Do you think the move to RTW states by business is due to more protections for that state's workers?  Or could it be some other reason, like reduced labor costs?  The AFL-CIO says that wages in RTW states are about $5600/year less than pro-labor union states.

Employers that have health insurance plans is about 2.6% lower in the RTW states and amounts to about two million less workers covered by health insurance nationally.  Employer sponsored pensions are about 4.8% lower in RTW states.  If workers in pro-labor union states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions.

Republicans have been working for decades to erode labor laws so that their constituents, big business executives, can increase their share of the wealth in the United States.  They are not doing it for the protection of the labor force and don't let them tell you differently.

UPDATE: As with a lot of their policies, despite their phony rhetoric about saving America, there is an ulterior motive for Republicans desire to remove Unions from America.  Unions are the greatest political lobbying groups that working class Americans have against the vast array of conservative lobbyist groups.  Unions represent working class Americans.  By removing Unions, Republicans are removing all of their competition from the political money arena.   Especially with the Citizens United decision that gave big money the ability to buy politicians, this makes a huge difference in elections and increases the chances that Republicans will get elected.  This is not a coincidence.


Anonymous said...

I was a union steward for years as was my wife, she was for 20 years. The union helps but mostly the union is out to protect the union. When I finished my degree if I had stayed union my wages would have been lower and my dues higher but I would have had seniority and wage protection, I fared much better on my own, on the other hand if you are in a relatively low skilled job seniority is good, I say let the people choose.

Cross Speak Independent said...

Getting a college education is certainly the best way to increase your income but some people can't for various reasons. As you pointed out, people in lower paying jobs are protected from unfair labor practices by unions. My belief is that business owners would revert back to taking advantage of workers just as they did before unions if labor unions were dissolved. Look at Mitt Romney's experiences with Chinese factories where working conditions were terrible, yet American CEO's turned a blind eye because they were cheap workers. Republicans think of workers as a commodity. They are a line on a balance sheet. Their humanity is not of concern.