Adam Graham
Five things I hate about unions
By Adam Graham
September 6, 2011

This Labor Day weekend, liberal union leaders throughout the country will likely be askings, "What is that conservatives have against unions?" The popular culture preaches their virtues, yet conservatives have stood firm in opposing union excesses, and clash constantly with the unions' legislative agenda.

It's easy for the left to stereotype conservatives as callous rich businessmen, Alex Keaton wannabes, or plain anti-worker. The truth is conservatives have five legitimate concerns with modern day labor unions.

1) Unions Tend Towards Tyranny

Thomas Jefferson fought to protect Virginians from being forced by the government to fund Churches. In the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, Jefferson wrote, "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical."

Jefferson's use of sinful and tyrannical fits well with what unions across the country do. The ideal situation for unions is to have a union shop where employees have to join the union in order to work, or at least pay union dues, which makes them involuntary contributors to causes they may not support.

The National Education Association, for example, gave over $13 million to left wing advocacy groups. The NEA took money from conservative teachers living in states where union membership wasn't optional and gave the money to People for the American Way, the Rainbow-Push Coalition, Media Matters, and the Human Rights campaign.

Even with no specific religious or ideological objection, many workers want no part of a union, but find themselves compelled. Such was the case with a sixteen year-old part time grocery store clerk who realized that union membership would be of no benefit to her and was bullied by the Union and threatened with losing her job.

Unions in the 21st Century want to take away the rights of individuals to make their own decisions and to force them to join the Union. Nothing illustrates this more than the failed efforts for Card Check legislation, which would have eliminated the secret ballot in union certification elections and opened the door to more intimidation.

2) Union Corruption

The links between organized labor and organized crime are well documented. These links did not end with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. In January, a grand jury handed down indictments against several union officials alleging mafia ties.

Beyond the Sopranos stuff, there remains a significant amounts of embezzlement unions. A Buffalo, New York Union President just entered a guilty plea this week. Another New York Union leader allegedly took her union for $42 million. In recent years, teachers Unions in Washington, Massachusetts, and Dade County, Florida have suffered major embezzlement scandals.

The sheer volume of union corruption is jaw-dropping. That alone should lead to a re-examination of public support for unions.

3) Encouraging Mediocrity and Shielding Bad Actors:

Unions are notorious for protecting the jobs of people who perform poorly or misbehave at work. Nowhere is this more evident than in New York's public school system. Thanks to the lengthy process to dismiss incompetent and abusive teachers, "rubber rooms" are maintained in which more than 700 teachers sit around and get paid full salary for doing nothing at a cost of millions of dollars per year to the taxpayer.

Teachers unions also oppose merit pay plans, claiming whether students do well in class is entirely out of their control, when studies show teacher quality is the biggest determining factor in how much students learn.

Union attitudes towards achievement are a turn off to people who might otherwise consider the teaching profession. A world where the good teachers make as much as the bad teachers is not one which will attract the best quality workers.

4) Demands that Ruin Business

Unions have contributed to the bankruptcy of several great companies, including GM and Chrysler, as well as United Airlines. Public employees pensions have put many states, such as California, on the verge of bankruptcy. Unions often deem the survival of the business they work for as secondary to getting larger health and pay packages.

The biggest damage done to businesses by unions have involved pensions and retiree health plans, but Union demands have gone beyond that. Thanks to the UAW, while GM was struggling to survive, they had to continue to pay laid off workers for years in a "Job Bank," where they drew full salary to watch television, play board games, and read.

There was a time when unions fought against legitimately poor working conditions and sweatshop wages. In the 21st Century, unions serve mainly to drive up the cost of doing business in America and send jobs overseas.

5) The Opponents of Reform

Want to make government work more efficiently and do a better job providing services? The unions will be opposed. Powerful public employees' unions pour massive amounts of money into campaigns and lobbying to kill efforts to reduce and reform government.

This is particularly noteworthy in education, where teachers don't want any hard reforms passed. The unions are such diehards on opposing reform, they twice booed the President for proposing even the most meager changes to increase educational performance.

The constant opposition of teacher's unions killed D.C.'s opportunity scholarships, taking educational opportunity away from more than 200 schoolchildren. Across the country, many students remain trapped in schools where they will never achieve their full potential, or remain on never-ending waiting lists to get into Charter schools for one reason and one reason only.

The teacher's unions want it that way.

One famous teacher's union president once declared, "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of schoolchildren." Opposition to school choice highlights this point.

The good news for conservatives this Labor Day is that the tide has begun to turn. As union membership declines and union excesses become more notorious, Americans are becoming less favorable in their views towards unions. However, conservatives have a long way to go to counteract the negative impact Unions have on our country.

© Adam Graham


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Adam Graham

Adam Graham was Montana State Coordinator for the Alan Keyes campaign in 2000, and in 2004 was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Idaho State House... (more)

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