For Working Families, Joining a Union Can Be a Short-Term Fix that Causes Long-Term Harm

In a meeting strangely reminiscent of the Legion of Doom, the Obama White House, the ultra-Progressive Department of Labor, and the liberal Center for American Progress got together to determine how they could help working families.

The Council of the Wise reached an objective solution for struggling working families: join a union.

Nicole Woo concurs, saying that female union members make 13 percent more than their nonunion counterparts and are “53% more likely to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.”

There are a number of problems with these claims. First of all, unions may increase pay and benefits for many workers, but they often put a cap on how much their members make. Wage ceilings are imposed in collective bargaining contracts on union workers who could otherwise gain individual raises through hard work. In fact, most unions operate on a pay scale based on seniority and not performance. This not only blunts an employee’s motivation to work hard but keeps money from going to the members of a hard-working employee’s family. Nowhere is this attempt to eliminate performance pay better exemplified than in Big Labor’s opposition to tipping at restaurants.

Unions are also firmly behind tax increases, which take a bite out of working families’ income. In March of last year, unions were behind a push for higher taxes in Massachusetts. Later that year, the AFSCME called for $559 billion in tax hikes over three years after the Economic Policy Institute claimed that higher taxes would lead to the creation of 4 million jobs by 2016. In unrelated news, EPI is chaired by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and has received $12 million from unions since 2004

Big Labor was also behind a proposed gas tax hike in New Jersey and unionized Las Vegas Police recently called for new taxes on tourists and citizens while providing unionized culinary workers with a $195,000 break by offering them 226 services for free. In addition, unions are calling on New Jersey governor Chris Christie to raise taxes on citizens so that exorbitant, budget-breaking public sector pensions (which are largely controlled by public sector unions) don’t have to be cut.

Worst of all, increased union membership can depress the wages of nonunion workers because unionized companies don’t hire as many new workers since the cost of labor is driven up by collective bargaining. Workers who are turned away from unionized companies flood nonunion companies and their wages are driven down because the supply of their labor exceeds the demand.

Joining a union might seem like a good solution to financial hardship in the same way that scratching your leg might seem like a good solution to contact with poison ivy: it seems like a good idea in the short-term but it really causes long-term harm. In the case of union membership, that long-term harm is fairly distributed to your fellow tax-paying citizen.