With the news that labor unions have shrunk to their lowest level in decades, many media outlets looked to the Center for Union Facts to weigh in.
The activist group Center for Union Facts, which is critical of the labor movement, said unions have made salary and benefit demands that have hurt the budgets of corporations and the public sector.
“No one is surprised by the numbers,” said J. Justin Wilson, managing director of Center for Union Facts in Washington, D.C., an interest group that criticizes unions. “It has been a slow and precipitous decline since 1979.”
In one respect, “unions have been too good at their job,” Wilson said. They fought for safety, anti-discrimination and other rights that have since become protected by the federal government.
But on the negative side, “they have become non-responsive to their members,” said Wilson, who receives many calls a day from union members who feel leadership is not looking out for their interests.
Richard Berman, executive director of the business-backed Center for Union Facts, said in a statement: “The continued decline of union membership, even during four years of a labor-friendly administration, is a sign that organized labor is no longer serving the best interests of its members.”
But most people don’t want to be union members, countered J. Justin Wilson, managing director of the Center for Union Facts, an organization funded by corporations, foundations and individuals.
That’s partly because today’s workers “are expressing a greater interest in autonomy and ambition on the job and want the ability to negotiate for themselves,” Wilson said.
It’s also because much of what unions fought for in the past “has now been codified into federal law,” Wilson said, pointing to standards required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and wage and hour laws.
Furthermore, federal health legislation sets health benefits standards for employers, minimizing the need for collective bargaining in that respect, he said.
“So the bargaining power of unions comes down to wages, and companies are saying it’s just not feasible to continue to pay more,” Wilson said, citing increased “givebacks” — wage concessions — by unions.
California is a state that is dominated by labor-friendly politicians, said J. Justin Wilson, managing director of the Center for Union Facts, an anti-union group in Washington, D.C.
“The private unions in particular spend a great deal of money and have proven they will continue to do that, and in turn they receive sweetheart deals and have a seat at the table – this gives unions power and keeps them strong, together,” he said.