The Double Edged Sword: How Union Leaders Support Policy that Hurts Union Members

In the 2008 and 2010 elections, labor unions were one of the largest contributors and supporters of President Obama and Democrats. Union officials applauded Obamacare and have fought against repeal. Even with their immense financial support, unions, Obama, and the Democratic Congress were not able to pass their signature legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act (card check). But with Obama as president, it has not been necessary with the National Labor Relations Board acting as the union’s regulator. On these two issues, unions have made it clear where they stand:

“A vote in support of this amendment is a vote to raise out-of-pocket healthcare costs for working families and takes away critical consumer protections provided to Americans for the first time,” SEIU urged senators to not repeal Obamacare.

“The Employee Free Choice Act, John, is not just good for unions; it’s good for the economy because it will bring more money into people’s pockets across the board, so that everybody can spend a little more and create an economy that really does work for everybody,” Trumka said. “And that’s where we’re going to go to.”

These statements are clear; unions support Obamacare and EFCA/card check. However, it has been reported that 40 percent of employees at companies receiving waivers from Obamacare compliance are union members. They need these waivers because the union members under Obamacare would lose their health care plans. Did union officials not realize the negative affects the bill would have on its members or was it a matter of incompetence? Neither bodes well for the rank and file union members.

An example of union officials’ lack of understanding of legislation and clear disregard for the well-being of their members is the Employee Free Choice Act, labor’s top legislative priority. Although unable to pass, it can be implemented in certain cases when employer and employees agree to using “card check” as the voting process. Labor Union Report highlights the duplicity of the union officials here:

On Tuesday, a union filed a petition [5-RC-16629] with the National Labor Relations Board office in Baltimore, Maryland. The purpose of the petition was to have the NLRB conduct a secret-ballot election. The employer in this case happens to be the United Food & Commercial Workers, Local 400, based in Landover, Maryland. The petitioning union is the Federation of Agents and International Representatives. [Yes, sometimes union representatives actually have unions represent them against their exploitive employers-the unions.]

So, you might be asking, what’s the point?

Well, apparently the employer (the United Food & Commercial Workers) has not agreed to card check, despite being a huge supporter of card check.

Alongside the hypocrisy of the unions’ legislative agenda, even the contracts they negotiate for members are short-sighted. As with the Big 3 automakers, and now with the government employee unions, they have negotiated unsustainable contracts that will end up costing members their jobs.

This should evidence enough for dues-paying members to question the motives of their local union. Seeing their union dues spent on elections and lobbying that hinders job creation, reduces benefits, and attacks fair voting processes, the rank and file should start questioning their continuing membership.