Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Stay Classy, Big Labor

fistsIt’s been a rough week for union bosses and their political patrons: On Monday, Wisconsin enacted a right-to-work law that forbids the conditioning of employment on the payment of union dues or fees, meaning that half of the states now forbid the so-called “agency shop.” Union bosses, activists, and union-funded politicians are taking the news about as well as would be expected, plumbing the depths of obscene references and insults, as the nonprofit MacIver Institute has chronicled here (mild content warning for obscene language).

Now, the lack of decency goes all the way to the top. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at the national convention of the International Association of Fire Fighters, criticized people who oppose the National Labor Relations Board’s recent “quickie election” labor favor in some very bold words:

Biden denounced those blocking the National Labor Relations Board’s attempts “to enforce the basic rules of the road,” saying, “They’re not looking for striped shirts, guys. They’re looking for blackshirts, not referees.”


The blackshirts were paramilitary forces loyal to the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

This comparison of sincere critics of Administration policies concocted to serve the President’s big-money union backers to war criminals can be expected from union bosses used to hyperbolic attacks on popular employee rights reforms. But a closer analysis reveals that the real assault on employee rights is coming not from those trying to hem in the NLRB’s overreach but from the Board itself. Consider the recent NLRB labor favors:

  • Forcing employees to hand over personal private telephone, email, and other contact information to union organizers and union bosses;
  • Accelerating election processes so that employees only hear the union side before voting; and
  • Opening the door for card-check unionization of chain restaurant workers through a questionable theory of “joint employment” with national brands that would overturn 35 years of legal precedent.

These all empower union bosses at the expense of employees, making it easier for organizers to turn employees into dues payers. But on matters of discourse, Biden—and his supporters in Big Labor—should take some advice from a prominent person who spoke to Drake University students last month. That person said, “I want to be clear […] our opponents are not bad guys.” In short, he argued that people can disagree without being disagreeable.

That person was Vice President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActNLRBRight-to-Work