What happens when the going gets tough for unions? They protest, even if they don’t have a legitimate reason to do it (other than an inability to compete and their plummeting membership rolls).
Take the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters (MRCC), for example. As The Mackinac Center for Public Policy reports, the union has been protesting Ritsema Associates, a Michigan construction company since last summer – even though its members don’t work there. Why? The union claims that the company pays “substandard wages and fringe benefits,” but they don’t offer any evidence of their claim.
The protest is taking a highly visible form – protesters and banners at sites where the targeted company is doing work, on top of letters to the company’s customers asking them to kick the company off the job. The MRCC goes so far as to claim that the union has a labor dispute with the company, even though no such dispute exists. See the full story in the above video from the Mackinac Center.
But the MRCC isn’t the only union protesting businesses where it has no dispute. In January, several members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) chained themselves together in protest at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Minneapolis. Their reason? Well, Chipotle fired a substantial number of its Minnesota employees after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement informed the company they were illegal workers. The SEIU, which did not represent any of the workers, reportedly didn’t like the way in which the employees were fired. Notably, the SEIU didn’t claim that any of the employees were legal workers.
Unions typically resort to these aggressive tactics against non-union companies to either try and organize the company or, if the unions represent workers at a competing business, to financially hurt their competitor. If the boycott drives customers away from the nonunion company, or discourages clients from hiring the nonunion company for fear of protests, that business goes to their members.
We’ll see more of that come along in a big way as the United Auto Workers launches its campaign to target non-unionized transplant factories (e.g., Asian and German automakers). Strangely, the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH coalition, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee have expressed an interest in coming to the UAW’s aid.
But protests aren’t the only form of union activism. As Heritage’s James Sherk writes, public sector unions, which now account for more than 50 percent of the union membership in the United States, are seeking increased political power to effect change for their members. And with their higher pay scale and benefits, that’s going to impose a high cost on taxpayers.