This week’s Wisconsin recall election inspired me to examine the phenomenon of working class folks supporting the destruction of unions.
The argument I hear the most is that it is somehow unfair that people in union jobs get job security and “cushy” benefits, while other nonunion workers don’t.
This argument is bizarre. Because you don’t have those benefits, they say, it is obvious and only fair that those union folks shouldn’t have them either. NO, NO, NO, you idiots! Instead of demanding they be taken away from others, why don’t you demand them for yourself. You deserve the benefits, too. This is like saying that because someone stole your car, your neighbor shouldn’t get to keep his car either.
Many people are susceptible to being persuaded by this nonsense because of their emotional loyalty to their partisan team. This makes them generally adverse to facts and very likely to believe and regurgitate whatever the team’s opinion leaders say.
The only mildly reasonable argument against unions I’ve read concerning the Walker recall is that public employee unions operate in a tainted collective bargaining process because they negotiate with elected officials. Thus the public unions have undue influence over the management side of the equation because they can pour money into campaigns. The argument goes further (salt in the wound) that the politician/manager no longer puts the interests of the shareholder first, who in this case is all of the taxpayers. So they argue unions get public employees unfair access to tax dollars.
This, perhaps the best argument union-crushers have, is a flawed position. If you ban public employee unions it doesn’t solve the problem you are concerned about. In fact, it might make that problem worse. First, without a union, public employees would feel more insecure about their position and more individuals would become politically active without having a union to do it for them.
Second, banning unions won’t stop the employees from having the ability to dump money into a campaign. We have this thing called the First Amendment. Employees are free to associate and work together in the political process. They could set up a PAC, perhaps more easily than a union. Now, under Citizens United, they could set up a Super PAC and spend unlimited dollars in favor of a particular candidate.
So long as elected officials are in the position of employer, the employees will use the political process to pursue wokers’ interests.
How did the working class get turned against unions? It looks like the anti-union crowd tapped into partisan loyalty, jealousy, and ignorance to set up the divide-and-conquer approach to weaken the power of labor. I wonder how long it will take them to marshal support to repeal the 13th Amendment.