9/8/08

The darker side of labor unions

Outdated: Forced-labor unionism model relies on threats, intimidation

In the Aug. 31 Orlando Sentinel, Bruce Nissen, an employee of a union think tank funded by public tax dollars at Florida International University, wrote an eloquent apology for advocating the elimination of secret-ballot elections because in the war of ideas, unions have lost.

He wrote that Florida union workers "earn 36 percent more than nonunion workers." How many of those highly compensated union workers are government employees? Public workers in unions are, indeed, three to four times more prevalent than those in private industry as a percentage of the workforce. Let's have that discussion.

If unions, as Nissen states "start with 60 percent to 80 percent support from workers, only to lose elections," how weak is the union position in the first place? What do they promise workers (please note there is no unfair-labor-practice violation for union lies to workers) to get them to sign a card asking for an election?

My guess is that they are not accurate about what the union benefits are. Merit employers pay and benefits packages compare very well with union benefits -- with none of the baggage.

Union organizers do not disclose union fines and sanctions against a member who goes to work for a nonunion company to feed his family, or that he or she may forfeit accrued benefits as punishment.

They do not disclose mandatory union fees and assessments for political-action funds to support liberal candidates that a worker may not like.

They do not disclose that unions will protect the jobs of the lazy and careless as well as the hardest-working and safest worker.

They do not disclose that as a union member, you cannot hammer a nail if your job description is a plumber. You have to wait for the carpenter. Multiskilled workers are frowned on in a union environment.

They do not disclose that unions in the largest unionized industries in this country have priced their labor so high that the only thing to bargain for is to cut the wages of the newest union members, creating multiple tiers of wages for the same work. That really encourages brotherhood.

They do not disclose that union retirement benefit programs are upside down -- like Social Security -- with far more retiring workers pulling money out than twenty-somethings putting money in. Will the union benefit really be there in 20 years?

Strike and cripple your employer or choose to work for fair wages? The majority decides, right? Get ready for another "secret" union ballot.

There is a great reason why the economy in the right-to-work states of the South has been so robust and the Rust Belt states, like Michigan, have experienced unemployment rates in double digits. It is because of the secret ballot, the exchange of ideas and workers freely choosing to be paid competitively based on merit.

Forming a union should be a basic freedom in the workplace. On that, I agree with Nissen.

Here is where we part company: That decision should also be personal and private -- a decision not made under false pretenses, coercion and threats by either side.

- Mark P. Wylie is president and CEO of the Central Florida Chapter Associated Builders and Contractors in Orlando.

(orlandosentinel.com)

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