Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

WSJ: Government is “main playing field of modern unionization”

The labor numbers out last month were unprecedented, even if they were not unexpected.  Union members in the public sector outnumbered unionized private sector workers for the first time in history.  For union leaders, it is justification for their shrewd calculation–a choice to focus on unionizing public sector workers and make private sector jobs newly public sector jobs.

It’s reminiscent of the “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Private companies are like ponds or lakes, whereas the government is a vast sea of wealth. Here’s the union version: Unionize a private sector worker and you’ll get dues for a few years, until you over fish the pond and it dries up. Unionize a public sector worker and you’ll get dues for a lifetime.

From the Wall Street Journal:

In private industries, union workers are subject to the vagaries of the marketplace and economic growth. Thus in 2009 10.1% of private union jobs were eliminated, which was more than twice the 4.4% rate of overall private job losses. On the other hand, government unions offer what is close to lifetime job security and benefits, subject only to gross dereliction of duty. Once a city or state’s workers are organized by a union, the jobs almost never go away.

This means government is the main playing field of modern unionism, which explains why the AFL-CIO and SEIU have become advocates for higher taxes and government expansion in cities, states and Washington. Unions once saw their main task as negotiating a bigger share of an individual firm’s profits. Now the movement’s main goal is securing a larger share of the overall private economy’s wealth, which means pitting government employees against middle-class taxpayers.[…]

As we can see from the desperate economic and fiscal woes of California, New Jersey, New York and other states with dominant public unions, this has become a major problem for the U.S. economy and small-d democratic governance. It may be the single biggest problem.

Image courtesy of cobalt123.

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