Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

MSNBC Labor Writer: Union Officials Can Exploit Union Members

Everyone knows that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, but did you also know that union bosses need to exploit a few union members to keep the labor movement strong?

That’s what MSNBC’s labor writer argues in the latest issue of Jacobin (an appropriately-named outlet for such a statement, given the Jacobin connection to the Reign of Terror). MSNBC’s Ned Resnikoff writes:

“Pro-labor sentiment demands that union employees tolerate their own exploitation as a necessary condition of working to free others from exploitation.”

This is a remarkable statement. Usually partisan union activists make the case for labor reform through their actions, rather than their words. As we’ve noted in our previous research, union coercion of employees is astoundingly widespread. In 2010, for instance, unions faced some 6,338 allegations of violating labor law—80.6% of which concerned a union attempting to “restrain or coerce employees in the exercise” of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Now we have a prominent pro-union opinion writer arguing that such coercion and exploitation is sometimes justified—and even laudable.

For our part, we can’t think of a better way to show why the country’s employees desperately need reforms that will empower them while limiting the power of union officials.

That’s why the Employee Rights Act is more necessary than ever.  From the secret ballot to the criminalization of threats of union violence, there are a number of reforms in the ERA that would make the workplace both fair and democratic for all employees. Nowhere is this more needed than in the union hall, where apparently the Golden Rule can be sacrificed for the “Greater Good.”

Categories: Employee Rights Act