Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

IAFF Boss Protests Union Totalitarianism

facepalmOne union boss has raised concerns about the AFL-CIO ballot for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair after AFL-CIO Executive Committee members were given only one name to choose from. Union members were told they could either vote for Rep. Keith Ellison, abstain, or “make no endorsement at this time,” prompting Harold Schaitberger—president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)—to speak out.

“A single name on the ballot more resembles an attempt at a coronation in a totalitarian regime rather than an election within the House of Labor,” Schaitberger recently wrote in an email to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

Schaitberger’s criticism over the lack of choice in representation should be familiar to most dues-paying members of labor unions. Less than 10 percent of union members ever voted for the union currently “representing” them. According to the Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk:

“Unions represent 8 million workers under the NLRA. Only 478,000 of these—6 percent—voted for union representation at some point in their careers and remain employed by the company at which they voted.”

No vote means no accountability—which Schaitberger is surely familiar with. New York Times piece from last year highlighted how the IAFF’s political action committee has grown from $3 million to $18 million in biennial fundraising. The same article referenced Schaitberger’s expensive tastes—he spent over $110,000 on roughly 100 meals in 2010 alone.

If only union bosses like Schaitberger supported the Employee Rights Act (ERA), labor legislation that would protect union employees’ rights to privacy. Among other basic reforms, the ERA would guarantee secret ballot union elections and periodic recertification votes when a workforce has experienced substantial turnover. This would put union leadership up for a re-vote, allowing union membership to reassess the state of their workplace. Furthermore, the bill would prevent big-spending labor leaders from using dues dollars on line items totally unrelated to collective bargaining without obtaining prior approval first.

Before union bosses complain about a lack of representation, they should start practicing what they preach—and support the ERA.

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