When unions first came on to the scene in the mid-19th century, they had a real purpose. The industrial revolution was ripe with unsafe working conditions, wages were low, and the average worker was left without a voice. One of the early pioneers of organized labor was Samuel Gompers, the founder of The American Federation of Labor. Unlike modern day leaders of the labor movement, Gompers was a conservative, and he strongly believed in capitalism. One of his primary considerations was to increase wages for skilled workers, but to do so without a radical restructuring of America. Contrast that with what we’re witnessing today and one can only assess that Samuel Gompers was one of that last examples of union leadership to put his membership before politics.
In the last 50 years, union membership has dwindled from 33% of the labor force, down to a meager 10%. While public sector union membership continues to outpace those working in the private sector, it’s clear that the once mighty American union movement is paying a steep price for putting politics before the membership. There was a time when these financially powerful groups supported candidates from both the Republican Party, as well as the Democratic Party, but those days are now a distant memory. For example, the largest public employee union, the AFSCME contributed nearly $65 million dollars to liberal and progressive politicians, lobbyists, and activist groups in 2014 according to a report by Watchdog.org.
When AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on the passing of Obamacare, his audience was the Labor Caucus at the California Democratic Convention in 2010. Trumka bragged about how they “drove it down the Republicans throat.” Unfortunately for Trumka and the members of the AFL-CIO, even this has come back to bite them. According to a recent article in Politico, union members are desperately fighting back against the “Cadillac Tax,” which basically penalizes health benefits which are deemed “excessive,” by Obamacare standards. I can only imagine that Trumka was just a tad overconfident that the man whom he helped get re-elected would pull out his pen, and bow to the will of the AFL-CIO President. How’s that working out Richard?
In yet another blow to American unions, Illinois and California court cases are both reviewing the practice of “fair share” payments that are currently forced on employees who are in many cases, not even technically part of the union membership. These forced dues are said to cover the costs associated with collective bargaining, and in many cases come as a shock to the employees. Child support specialist Mark Janis recently detailed his experience to Fox News, “I really found out about it when I got my first paycheck and there was the fair share that was pulled out.” Over the last 8 years, Janis estimates that he’s paid over $4,000 to the AFSCME in the state of Illinois. So much for the left being the party of “pro-choice,” at least when it comes to paying off unions.
Whenever the leadership of an organization decides to throw all-in with a political party, there will always be consequences. There isn’t a single factory in America where the labor force is made up entirely of one political point of view; it’s one of the things that I love about this country. So when union leaders like Richard Trumka spend millions of dollars backing the left, there should be no surprise that those on the right will fight back, and do so with great vigor. The unions are finally starting to pay the price for exclusively supporting the liberal agenda and you’ll have to excuse me for not shedding a single tear. Perhaps unions should think about taking care of American workers and leave politics to the citizens. Just a thought.
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