Who do the words “union members” bring to mind? United Auto Workers building cars in Detroit? Teamsters truckers hauling freight? Steel workers in Pennsylvania?
Not any more. Newly released numbers show that the actual face of today’s union movement is the teller at your local Department of Motorized Vehicles.
Preliminary estimates of union membership this year show that most union members now work for the government. The overall unionization rate between January and September 2009 stood at 12.4%, unchanged from last year. However, this difference masks a large difference between unions in the private and public sectors.
Union membership has fallen to 7.3% of private sector workers – the lowest rate since Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act into law. But it is a completely different story in the public sector: 37.6% of government employees belong to unions, up almost a percentage point since last year. Those 7.9 million unionized government employees are 51% of all union members nationwide. Most union members today now work for Uncle Sam.
So when unions start lobbying, taxpayers should hold onto their wallet. Government employees don’t strike to get higher wages from a private business – they strike to get higher wages from you. Their pay is funded through your tax dollars. For government employee union members to get more your taxes need to go up. So that is what unions now lobby for. Just take a look at what the labor movement is doing to taxpayers on the Pacific Coast:
- In Oregon the labor movement is donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund two ballot initiative campaigns to raise personal income and business taxes. The unions want tax hikes instead of cuts in the gold-plated medical benefits for state workers.
- In California the Service Employees International Union spent $1 million on a television ad campaign pressing for higher oil, gas, and liquor taxes instead of spending reductions.
- Washington State Democrats, however, have so far resisted the labor movement’s call for higher taxes. In response labor unions are threatening to fund primary campaigns against the Democrats who oppose the tax hikes.
This is not your father’s labor movement. Unions today want higher taxes and bigger government because they are the government.