Modern Day Organized Labor Desperately Needs Reform

When the average American thinks of a labor union, they might envision hard working, blue-collar workers who are pushing for reasonable wages, safe working conditions, and fair treatment in the workplace.

In the 1940s, that was indeed the case. Nowadays, not so much.

Today, most union members are government employees with comfortable desk jobs and benefits that a private sector worker could only dream of having.

On top of that, far from exercising discretion and understanding in their negotiations, many modern labor unions demand more and more privileges from employers or agencies, even when those employers or agencies cannot bear the cost of those privileges.

Consider the example of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s intentional delay of the collective bargaining process with Portland, Oregon’s TriMet and their illegal and unreasonable demands of the company. TriMet made significant concessions to the union during bargaining, but ATU was anything but conciliatory, even when their demands would have caused substantial financial hardship for TriMet.

Far from being an isolated incident, this is only part of a larger trend in which many companies and government agencies have suffered under the ever-increasing burden of union privileges

Big Labor apologists may write off this institutional selfishness as an unfortunate by-product of the collective bargaining process. But I wonder if they might change their tune once made aware of the fact that unions often mistreat their own members, deny better wages and benefits to employees because they were deemed “insufficient,” and use conservative union members’ dues money and even nonunion employees’ agency fees to fund radical Progressive politics.

I last wrote on how modern union leaders have been gradually distancing organized labor from the nonpartisan approach of Samuel Gompers, who was arguably the most successful labor leader in U.S. history.

Gompers’ nonpartisan approach led the American Federation of Labor to become the most powerful labor union in the country during a political climate that was skeptical of unions at best. Now, modern union leaders seem to think that by moving in the opposite direction, towards more partisanship, unions can win over a general public that is once again suspicious of them.

Combine the ideas of out-of-touch, radical left-wing union bosses, modern labor unions’ incredibly unreasonable demands of employers, and the abuses that the union rank-and-file experience at the hands of the power-hungry upper echelon, and one can easily see the need for major reform of organized labor’s leadership.

Advocacy groups for workers will always be necessary, but when the advocacy groups not only unreasonably burden companies and government agencies, but do harm to workers as well, they must be replaced or reformed. I’m not sure where that process starts, but I think a return to some degree of nonpartisanship would be a good first step.

To see more evidence for the case that union leadership is hopelessly out of touch with everyday American workers, click here to read about how radical progressives are behind Big Labor’s push to end tipping at restaurants.