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Opinion

Opinion

Opinion: Resentment of unions is boiling over

December 17, 2012

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— Rick Snyder, who is hardly a human cactus, warned Michigan’s labor leaders. The state’s mild-mannered Republican governor, currently in his first term in his first public office, has rarely been accused of being, or praised for being, a fire-breathing conservative. When unions put on Michigan’s November ballot two measures that would have entrenched collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution, Snyder told them they were picking a fight they might regret.

Both measures lost resoundingly in the state with the fifth highest rate of unionization (17.5 percent, down from 28.4 percent in 1985) and, not coincidentally, the sixth highest unemployment rate (9.1 percent). And Republicans decided to build upon that outcome by striking a blow for individual liberty and against coerced funding of the Democratic Party. Hence the right-to-work laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to prohibit the requirement of paying union dues as a condition of employment.

The unions’ frenzy against this freedom is as understandable as their desire to abolish the right of secret ballots in unionization elections: Freedom is not the unions’ friend. After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent. After Indiana’s government in 2005 stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees, the number of dues-paying members plummeted 90 percent. In Utah, the automatic dues deductions for political activities was ended in 2001; made voluntary, payments from teachers declined 90 percent. After a similar measure in Washington state in 1992, the percentage of teachers making contributions fell from 82 to 11. The Democratic Party’s desperate opposition to the liberation of workers from compulsory membership in unions is because unions are conveyor belts moving coerced dues money into the party.

Nationwide, resentment of union power has been accumulating like steam in a boiler. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last four years “nearly every state ... has enacted some form of pension changes” clawing back unsustainable benefits promised to unionized government employees. The most conspicuous battle was in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived organized labor’s attempt to recall him as punishment for restricting collective bargaining by unionized government workers. After Walker’s reforms, Indiana under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels became the 23rd right-to-work state, and the first in the industrial Midwest.

By becoming the 24th right-to-work state, Michigan is belatedly becoming serious about what Daniel Boorstin, the late historian and Librarian of Congress, called entrepreneurial federalism. This is the wholesome competition among states to emulate others’ best practices, and to avoid and exploit others’ follies.

Indiana and Wisconsin are, fortunately for them, contiguous to Illinois, where Democratic power is completely unrestrained and spectacularly unsuccessful. Indiana noticed Wisconsin’s competitive advantage in attracting businesses from Illinois and elsewhere. Michigan also has noticed. Yet unions call what Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin have done a “race to the bottom.” This flapdoodle and folderol come from unions that have contributed mightily to Michigan’s painful acquaintance with the bottom.

If you seek a monument to Michigan’s unions, look, if you can without wincing, at Detroit, where the amount of vacant land is approaching the size of Paris. And where the United Auto Workers, which once had more than 1 million members and now has about 380,000, won contracts that crippled the local industry — and prompted the growth of the non-unionized auto industry that is thriving elsewhere. Detroit’s rapacious and oblivious government employees unions are parasitic off a near-corpse of a city that has lost 25 percent of its population just since 2000. The Wall Street Journal reports that because some government workers with defined-benefit pensions can retire in their 40s, “many retirees living into their 80s are drawing benefits for nearly twice as long as they work.”

Many liberals who, with solemn self-congratulation, call themselves “pro-choice” become testy when the right to choose is not confined to choosing to kill unborn babies. They say the right to choose is not progressive when it enables parents to choose their children’s schools, or permits workers to choose not to fund unions’ political advocacy.

Democrats who soon will celebrate two of their party’s saints at Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners should jettison either their opposition to right-to-work laws or their reverence for Jefferson, who said: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

John McCoy 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, lets be sure and not pay anyone a living wage. The only wage earners in this country who are getting paid enough to live on belong to unions. The misnamed "right to work" laws simply give some workers the right to freeload off union benefits without having to pay union dues. Why do so many responders here seem to enjoy low wages? Mystery to me.

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Pork_Ribs 1 year, 4 months ago

C'mon Merrill!!! Where is your proof that Romney "has made zillions of dollars killing USA industry and jobs." Give us another of your cut and paste novels. I'm all over you on every thread I see you until I see proof with legitimate sources. You loudmouthed libs spout off way too much without a shred of proof. Bring it or shut up!!!

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William Weissbeck 1 year, 4 months ago

Excuse me, but why shouldn't the right to collectively bargain be in a state constitution? The right was recognized by the federal Wagner Act in 1935, but then watered down by Taft-Hartley in 1947 that ushered in the state by state right to adopt RTW (to avoid the federal right). All that the Michigan unions were trying to do was to uphold in Michigan the right to collectively bargain and avoid the periodic fights (as in Indiana) to adopt and repeal RTW. Even with the right to collectively bargain, the employees still have to conduct an election to adopt union representation. The Michigan GOP erased that right in two ways - unions cannot enforce the collection of union dues by payroll deduction, even in union shops where the employees are willing members of the union. AND the Michigan GOP put in the further provision that prevents their RTW legislation from being reversed by popular referendum. So the only ways to reverse it are by a very unlikely gerrymandered Democratic legislature, or by a similarly unlikely Constitutional Amendment. Yes, the unions may have over played their hand and caused the unleashing of the anti-union hounds, BUT that ignores still the basic issue of fairness. The unions lost at the ballot box to the extent that Michiganders didn't want an amendment to the constitution, but also all of the GOP sponsored ballots measures failed. That doesn't mean retribution by changing the law that no one but the Kochs were asking for.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 4 months ago

Mitt Romney has made zillions of dollars killing USA industry and jobs. What a slob.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 4 months ago

How did blue and white collar workers lose these millions upon millions of jobs?

USA big business people making big bucks killing USA industry and shipping jobs abroad. Anti American I say. Then they blame the unions to distract from their billion dollar enterprise of shipping jobs abroad. And Americans buy into it. AND so has the press that today must believe anything they're told or among the profiteers.

Why does anyone want to work for less plus no company benefits?

It’s not the Unions!

--- 1. Mergers = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 2. Hostile Takeovers = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 3. Leveraged Buyouts = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 4. Free Trade Agreements = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 5. Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan home loan scandal which killed the economy and cost the USA millions of jobs. = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 6. Bush/Cheney Home Loan scandal killed the economy and cost the USA millions of jobs = industry and jobs lost to other countries

--- 7. Bush tax cuts

All of above ultimately translate into millions upon millions upon millions of blue and white collar USA job losses in some cases to dictatorships. Big time layoffs are the end result. These jobs go abroad with tax codes that prevent taxation on profits made abroad from USA big name corporations.

There was a time when becoming employed by corporate America came with long term employment, fine wages and dependable retirement benefits. Those days are gone. Why did congress participate in killing the USA economy and millions upon millions of blue and white collar jobs?

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SnakeFist 1 year, 4 months ago

If you are treated fairly yet work in a non-unionized business, you can thank the work of countless unions and union lobbyists over the many decades since work reforms became a priority in this country. The reason unions came into existence in the first place was to fight abuses by employers. While its true that the pendulum has swung too far, eliminating unions altogether will simply invite employers to return to abusive practices.

Capitalism asserts that greed is the primary human motivator. You cannot expect fair dealing from such a system unless there are checks and balances, and unions are a necessary part of ensuring that workers interests are protected against the otherwise unmitigated greed of their employers.

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KansasLiberal 1 year, 4 months ago

When I saw the title of this opinion piece I knew that it was either George or Cal, since they're both equally clueless. The only resentment of unions is among the millionaires and billionaires that George Will pals around with, because they want to knock wages back down to where $5 a day is good money.

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Liberty_One 1 year, 4 months ago

The Marxist notion that business firms "exploit" their workers for profit was debunked in Marx's lifetime. It was actually quite easy. If it was true that businesses exploit workers for profit, then those industries that are the most labor-intensive should have the highest profit rates. Yet this simply isn't true as all industries tend to have about the same profit rate whether they are labor-intensive or capital-intensive.

So no, it is completely false to claim that businesses make a profit by exploiting their workers.

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Pork_Ribs 1 year, 4 months ago

Thousands of businesses in every industry do just fine without unions. Their workers are happy and successful. The bottom line for this law is that it stops the "coerced funding of the Democratic Party". The left talks about fairness and equality. All they have to do is flip the party of choice. If a labor group was forcing workers to contribute to the Republican party...they would go crazy for workers to have the right not to contribute. If their unions can't survive without extorting money...then they don't deserve to.

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CWGOKU 1 year, 4 months ago

I thought the Union beat the South a long time ago?

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tomatogrower 1 year, 4 months ago

I say let the conservatives have their way. It will lead, and has already let us to companies who make a lot of money, but never let it trickle down to the workers. Eventually the workers are going to wake up and see what's happening and realize the businesses can't survive without them. Then they will be going back to unions in droves. Many of the businesses who have taken their companies overseas were not union worker businesses. They just realized they couldn't continue to show double digit growth with an expanding market. Never mind that they were making adequate profit. The business model now is you have to show huge growth. The real problem is too many companies have gone public, so they are more beholden to what amounts to absentee landlords, than to their workers, or even their customers. The bottom will fall out soon enough, but a lot of hard working people are going to suffer before then.

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 4 months ago

Clint Tarver’s hot dog cart is another casualty of the union protest against the right-to-work law. Union members destroyed the cart and called Tarver an “Uncle Tom,” for serving right-to-work proponents.

http://washingtonexaminer.com/mi-union-destroys-hot-dog-cart-calls-owner-an-uncle-tom-over-right-to-work/article/2515746#.UM895eQ1nTo

Yet another example of why resentment of unions is boiling over!

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jayhawklawrence 1 year, 4 months ago

Unions make up a very small percentage of the US labor force. The reason the right wing is focusing on them is because they need to create a bogeyman and because they are attacking any organization that can stand up against their assault against the American worker.

It is a race to the bottom in regard to wages and benefits for most Americans.

I think the truth is rather hard to comprehend and that is that the Republican Party is dominated today by people who are completely clueless about what to do to help the United States compete in the global economy. It is not about providing leadership anymore it is about doing what you are told by the people who have the most money to spend and the Christian right has swallowed their rhetoric hook, line and sinker.

I imagine we will see more calls for prayer and fasting but none for better health care and wages from these Republicans.

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 4 months ago

"Highest-Paid California Trooper Is Chief Banking $484,000."

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-17/highest-paid-california-trooper-is-chief-banking-484-000.html

Union benefits and overtime can exceed regular pay. Lax enforcement of limits on accumulating unused vacation, allow some troopers to double their annual earnings and retire as young as age 50. This is why big union states like California are going bankrupt.

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jaywalker 1 year, 4 months ago

While I do believe unions, in many cases, are wholly unsustainable without major reform, Will's piece here is woefully void of critical thought on the issues at hand. I'm sure there are union members that would prefer to opt out based on political and/or organizational concerns. But I'm willing to bet the huge percentages Will provides that seemingly prove "resentment of union power has been accumulating like steam in a boiler" should be considered in a more common sense light; chiefly, in this era of struggling economy, it should come as little surprise that people would rather hold onto to any and all money they can rather than fund what's basically a PAC. Call it a lack of cognizance toward delayed gratification or security for the future, even still too many need those dollars today. I imagine their feelings will change the next time they feel they deserve a raise. In any case, things couldn't possibly continue the way they have.

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Cait McKnelly 1 year, 4 months ago

Wait. Tell me again what's "boiling over"? This was taken in Lansing, MI five days ago outside the capital.

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disappointed_regressive 1 year, 4 months ago

Does bozo condone that sort of behavior on the job? Wouldn't surprise me one bit that he does.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 4 months ago

Cars are still being built and sold-- it's just that the corporate elite chose to go where exploitation of labor is allowed. The race to the bottom did not have a virgin birth.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 4 months ago

George wades in in the war against workers and the middle class and for Corporate Servitude.

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disappointed_regressive 1 year, 4 months ago

Has anyone ever seen a union handbook? It is a joke. Unions need to clean up their act before they can expect to be taken seriously going forward. Corruption and an "us vs. them" mentality toward the company they work for. How good is that for business? Not too.

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Pal 1 year, 4 months ago

Unions need to evolve, and allow America to become competitive on the world stage again.

Once Unions have transformed, businesses will start building products in America again...to sell to China.

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