by Warner Todd Huston | April 13, 2010 3:00 pm
Unionism is failing miserably in this age of a greater world market and an increase in competition for business across the globe. More nations than ever have left behind the 18th century and are taking bold steps into a world made smaller by technology. No longer is but a handful of nations leading the world in manufacturing while the rest wallow in abject poverty. This greater competition is increasing the standard of living in nearly every corner of the earth but because there is so much competition, unions in the U.S. are dying out.
American unions are not conducive to the 21st century and companies shackled by them are finding that either unions have to lose their once overpowering control over production or the businesses simply have to shut their doors as foreign competitors beat them up in the world market place.
But these antiquated, jobs killing unions won’t go quietly into the night and they’ve found their path to existence: government. Unions are growing wildly in the public sector because there are no market forces to curb their excesses.
The latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that overall unions lost 771,000 members in 2009 and the percentage of private sector jobs held by union members fell to 12.3 percent, the lowest since unionism became de rigueur in the U.S.
But while they are falling to new lows in the private sector, unions are growing rapidly in the public sector. Government is unionizing at an increased rate.
On private payrolls unions lost 835,000 members and union density fell from 7.6 in 2008 to 7.2 percent, but in public employment unions gained 64,000 members and union density increased to 37.4 percent from 36.8 in 2008.
This is an alarming fact where it concerns the right of the voters to control their own government. As bad as unions are for productivity in the private sector, shy of government interference, at least market forces ultimately serve as a check on union over reach. But when wholly ensconced in the not so real world of government unions have little check on their power.
Unfortunately for the voters, unions wield the great power of deep-pocket, political contributions and their large donations affect lawmakers in a much greater way than the mere vote of individual citizens. It is a vicious circle. Unions donate to politicians to get favorable laws passed and friendly rules put into effect, politicians then acquiesce to union demands in order to get those contributions, then unions turn back around and give even more to politicians who respond with even more favors, all in a never ending cycle of money, power and special interest favors. This continues without end because neither the unions nor the politicians ever pay any price for this incestuous upping of the ante as it is the taxpayers, the ones without any power in this cycle, that pay the price.
In fact, even when voters do attempt to elect politicians that campaign on putting curbs on the power of public employee unions their will is thwarted by the courts to which unions run for cover. California is a perfect example of this. Voters threw out Governor Gray Davis for Arnold Schwarzenegger who told voters that he’d rein in the budget. But even the modest checks on unions Schwarzenegger has tried to implement to solve the Golden State’s budget problems have failed. When he tried to give some public employee union workers furlough days to lower the cost of government the unions ran screaming to the courts, courts that immediately backed up the unions acting against both the will of the voters and of common sense.
Like a criminal racket, the taxpayers are constantly being robbed by politicians to pay unions so that unions can give donations back to politicians only to repeat the cycle. It easily invokes the old idiom of Robbing Peter to pay Paul. And the taxpayers are poor, put upon Peter.
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