The Overweening Power of Labor Unions

By Peter Galuszka

Not that long ago during last year’s presidential campaign — before Bacon’s Rebellion became the mush it is now — brave conservatives were skewering Virginia’s and America’s most venomous threats and holding them high for us all to see.

They were, of course, labor unions and the very unsavory thought that working people had the absolute temerity to think that they had rights as workers instead of bowing gracefully before their employers to thank them for the money in their hands and the pork rinds in their bellies.

Our own James A. Bacon Jr. was having his own little tea party bashing the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (which does deserve bashing, but never mind) for having on its board a former union official. Union man! Bolshevik! Beelzebub! Don’t get him started on right to work laws or public employees unions.

The Wall Street Journal all but buried a revealing story this morning. At the bottom of A6 comes news that union membership is at its lowest level since World War II. Private sector organized workers have dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.6 percent of the labor force.

The big issue was public service workers unionizing but they have also slipped from 37 percent to 35.9 percent of the total. One reason the Journal says is state-level bargaining battles such as ones in Wisconsin and Michigan cheered on by the conservative commentators we all know and love.

So, let’s give this a rest. I don’t what to read another Chamber of Commerce diatribe about the wonders of right to work. I’ll go ballistic if I have to read another puff piece about how right to work has made Virginia  the No. 1, 2 or 5 choice for business as if we really give a damn what some trade magazine in bed with the bosses says.

Enough is enough. You read it here first.

14 Responses to The Overweening Power of Labor Unions

  1. But don’t forget Unions can screw workers in a non-right-to-work state. While working part-time at Montgomery Wards in Minnesota, during high school and college, I had to join the Union or pay union dues equivalents. Even when I was working part-time, I had to pay full-time union dues. And every February, after inventory, I would get laid off. Making about $2 an hour, I had the choice of paying union dues when I wasn’t working or withdrawing from the Union and paying $75 reinstatement when I would be called back to part-time work in April. I chose the former and often collected pay checks with no take-home pay. I worked to pay taxes and union dues for several weeks. Unions are out for unions. They are evil institutions.

  2. C’mon, Peter… The problem with Dennis Martire wasn’t that he was a union guy, it’s that he was working MWAA to get preferential treatment for companies using a union workforce. If a company like Dulles Transit Partnership (which is finishing up Phase 1 on the Rail-to-Dulles project) wants to use union labor, good for them. No one in Virginia has a problem with that. The problem comes when MWAA enacts policies that discriminate against open shop companies.

    But you know that… You just like to agitate, don’t you?

    • Martire was one vote out of 13. To the best of my knowledge he was the only union Board member. The project labor agreement Martire encouraged was used on phase 1 with great success. So as a Board member is it not prudent to advocate for something that was riven to save the Authority money? If the other Board members thought it was a bad deal or was self serving, why was the vote 11-2? Then on a second vote, the vote was 12-0 with Martire abstaining. Even Congressman Tom Davis voted for a Project labor agreement.

    • Martire was one vote out of 13. To the best of my knowledge he was the only union Board member. The project labor agreement Martire encouraged was used on phase 1 with great success. So as a Board member is it not prudent to advocate for something that was riven to save the Authority money? If the other Board members thought it was a bad deal or was self serving, why was the vote 11-2? Then on a second vote, the vote was 12-0 with Martire abstaining. Even Congressman Tom Davis voted for a Project labor agreement.

    • Martire was one vote out of 13. To the best of my knowledge he was the only union Board member. The project labor agreement Martire encouraged was used on phase 1 with great success. So as a Board member is it not prudent to advocate for something that was to save the Authority money? If the other Board members thought it was a bad deal or was self serving, why was the vote 11-2? Then on a second vote, the vote was 12-0 with Martire abstaining. Even Congressman Tom Davis voted for a Project labor agreement. A Project labor agreement is open to union or non union contractors. It just provides the rules for the project. Non union contractors just don’t like them because it gives them less room to cheat the owner .

      • The problem is not with project labor agreements per se. The problem was that, unlike Dulles Rail Phase I, MWAA voted to make its prime contractor sign a project labor agreement as a condition of receiving the work. In Phase I, the prime elected to use a project labor agreement. There is a big difference. Legislation introduced in the Virginia General Assembly was aimed at keeping things voluntary.

        • So the owner (MWAA) says the project labor agreement saved them millions of dollars on phase 1. Yes, the current contractor voluntarily used it. But the owner, (MWAA) sees that it saved them millions of dollars and the Board voted 12-0 to make it mandatory because it saved millions of dollars. Why would the owner (MWAA) want to make the PLA voluntary after saving millions? So you are saying the owner(MWAA) is better off forfeiting the millions in savings and take a chance that the successful bidder will voluntarily use a PLA. And if the successful bidder does not use a PLA and MWAA loses those savings and tolls rise, what are we going to say then? Politics was at play here and it had no place in deciding how MWAA, the owner, prefers to do the Procruement .

  3. TMT has a burr in his butt about that early life experience and it’s never been removed…. so the mere mention of the word “union” causes the rash to reappear!

    ;-)

    In Va, a right-to-work state – the teachers cannot have a union in name nor can they force dues but a good number of teachers willingly join the VEA and pay dues and do you know why?

    because the VEW protects teachers who are dealt with unfairly by having legal assistance available when needed.

    and this works for both teachers and school systems because it encourages the school administration to ride herd on their own administrators to insure that they are not causing problems with teachers.

    my point here is that without that protection – some employees would be mistreated by incompetent or unethical administrators.

    that’s one thing that unions bring to the table. A level playing field for workers so that nepotism and favoritism is recognized when it occurs and when a worker is treated unfairly – the union steps in to intercede.

    Are there bad guys in unions and bad unions? Yes. Are their bad guys in companies and bad companies? Yes.

    do workers need to band together to protect their rights? yes.

  4. I have no trouble with the idea that people can elect to join a union, either through organization or on employment. I have no problem with unions bargaining with employers over wages and conditions of employment in the private sector. I have no problem with unions bringing grievances or using mediation or arbitration to resolve them. I have no problem with unions going on strike in the private sector.

    I have a problem with forcing a person to join a union or pay a dues equivalent as a condition of employment. I also have a problem with elected officials bargaining with unions when the unions give campaign contributions. In the private sector, both parties have an incentive to bargain aggressively in support of their positions. Elected officials don’t have the same incentive, especially when they receive campaign contributions from the unions. I’m with Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt on public sector unions. They don’t fit well.

  5. Jim,
    Love to agitate? DAMN RIGHT! You need to have your presumptions stirred up.

  6. I’ m okay with TMT’s attitude towards unions and would agree to keep union money out of elections if TMT would agree to keep corporate money out of elections.

  7. I would support a constitutional amendment that would limit campaign contributions to natural persons who are citizens of the United States and prohibit contributions from any corporation, labor union, nonprofit or any other created entity, as well as bundling. No PACs or SuperPACs.

  8. It would be relatively easy for TMT and I to reach an acceptable agreement on campaign money in politics.

    I agree with TMT’s restrictions and would only add that we have a National Version of VPAP and that all money be immediately reflected on the web and not allow paper transactions that delay the information and require someone to transcribe it to the web.

    Our two party system combined with the money environment has morphed into a disastrous governance where both parties fully
    believe (with some justification) that the average American is pretty much ignorant of real facts and can be influence successfully with propaganda, misinformation and disinformation.

    we are in big trouble.

  9. The irony of the Anti-Union, Anti-PLA argument when it comes to Phase 2 of Dulles Rail and MWAA is that the CEO, Chairman and an MWAA board member ALL agreed that the PLA on phase one saved the project money and has kept the project on time. These comments were not made by the labor person on the board, Mr. Martire, but surprise by PRO-BUSINESS representatives from MWAA.

    Here is the actual audio:
    https://soundcloud.com/stopthenonsense

    Nowhere are those comments coming from the Union representative! So please tell me again who was advocating for a Project Labor Agreement?

    While folks like the ABC and their Corporate goons were scaring away tax payers with the big bad word, Unions (Protection for workers), MWAA’s original intentions were to keep the project under budget utilizing local qualified workers.

    This whole argument against unions is basically led by one entity in the state, the ABC, and their right wing allies who would rather import cheap unskilled construction labor from outside of the state and area to do the work. Galuszka has it right and it’s too bad that others from both sides of the aisle are not brave enough to call it what it is, an attack on average working people and their right to join and have job protection on the job.

Leave a Reply